Grand Canyon: Is it worth booking a helicopter tour?
By Helen Wright
Stepping off the chopper, Champagne in hand, I felt on top of the world (and a bit like I was holidaying with Jay Z). I was actually standing on the bottom of the Grand Canyon feeling pretty small looking up at the towering red rock cliffs that surrounded me.
The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long and up to 18 miles wide so on my short trip to Arizona, there was a lot to see. When it comes to getting the most out of the canyon it’s hard to know where to start, especially if you only have a day to take it all in. There are so many tours offered, choosing one can be a complicated mission and unless you seek a good deal they can be expensive. Try Attraction Tickets Direct who have a range of options to see the canyon from land or from the skies. It was a special occasion for me and my boyfriend Henry, so we opted for the all bells and whistles tour that actually touches down inside the canyon for a breakfast picnic and the all-important celebratory bubbles. It was around $800 (£520) for two people, including tax but there are more options that incorporate the canyon and circle popular sites such as Las Vegas and Hoover Dam but don’t land. It all depends on what you want to see, your time and budget.
Feeling like a rockstar with the sound of the propeller humming behind me, I felt a shiver run down my spine. I sipped on my Champagne and tried to take in how cool it was to be stood inside the Grand Canyon – a once in a lifetime opportunity. Our pilot knew everything you needed to know about the canyon, its history, wildlife and surrounding areas and happily obliged as we bugged him with questions. The area we landed on is actually owned by the Native American Havasupai tribe who have lived there for over 800 years. It is the only place you can land in the whole canyon, much of which is owned by the US National Park system. The tribe also owns and manages the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a glass floor walkway, 4000ft over the canyon. Not for the faint hearted!
The sun had just risen as we posed for selfies and our captain was busy setting out breakfast on foldaway picnic tables under a shaded canopy. Our helicopter only sat five people and everyone was awed by the trip and the spectacular scenery – how could they not be? The 70-minute round trip also flies over Hoover Dam and Lake Mead and circles the canyon widely allowing an unspoilt view of the crater in its full glory. Plus, I discovered helicopters are calm and gentle and not in any way the scary rollercoaster experience I was expecting!
Before my trip I had Googled whether it was worth doing a helicopter tour of the canyon but now I can answer my own question – definitely. There’s nothing else quite like it. Plus, I got to stand inside one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. That’s pretty special.