The enormous tracts of lands in the American Southwest that belong to the Navajo Nation include some of the most scenic and sacred places on earth, including Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly, and parts of the Grand Canyon. It's impossible not to be awed by these places as you learn about Native American culture, history, and modern way of life.
For family travelers:
- This is an opportunity for a learning vacation as you explore Navajo culture
- It's easy to add in activities such as rafting, hiking, or houseboating
The Navajo Nation is the largest tribe in the US, and has the largest reservation, which covers 27000 square miles in Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico, and is bigger than 10 of the 50 states. The Navajo people number over 250,000 and have a tribal government.
Nowhere in Navajoland is more sacred to the native people than Canyon de Chelly National Monument. The Navajo people have a strong bond to this redstone canyon that cuts an almost tropical path of trees and flowers through the desert. The canyon is home to several periods of Indian culture dating from 350 A.D. to 1300 A.D., as well as hundreds of Anasazi (Navajo for "enemy ancestors") ruins, in addition to modern Navajo homes and farms.
Another hub of ancient Indian civilization is Chaco Culture National Historical Park, where you'll find more than a dozen important Anasazi ruins that once housed more than 7,000 people.
The network of roads and the irrigation system reveal a sophisticated society. You can access the ruins via self-guided trails.
A good starting point for visitors to learn about Navajo culture is the Explore Navajo Interactive Museum, in Tuba City, whose exhibits are said to be the first time the Navajo people have told their own story to visitors.
There are other Navajo museums to explore, too.
Looking for authentic souvenirs? The Navajo Nation has preserved some of the Old West with original trading posts that have been in business since the late 1800s.
- Souvenir shopping at an authenic Navajo trading post
- Explore Monument Valley Tribal Park
- Learn more about visiting Navajoland
- Discover the many native arts such as silversmithing, pottery, basketry and rug making
- Check out the Help A Navajo Elder volunteer program
- Read the Tony Hillerman series of mystery novels with two Navajo policemen as protagonists
Where to Stay
It's also possible to stay in an authentic hogan, which is a traditional eight-sided, one room pueblo home that reflects a traditional, rustic way of life. Options include locations in Canyon de Chelly National Park and Monument Valley. These earthen abodes are not luxurious but they offer a truly authentic and memorable experience.
- Edited by Suzanne Rowan Kelleher