As soon as we started talking about our trip to Las Vegas we all agreed there was no way we were not visiting the Grand Canyon. There were so many tour options out there, ranging through all sorts of prices, with helicopter rides, raft rides, MULE rides and bright pink hummers.
After much discussion and many a google, we went with the Platinum South Rim Tour of The Grand Canyon – booked through Papillon Tours but in the end the actual tour operator was Gray Line. Our tour came in at £140 but as you can see through the links above, it pays to shop about as the same tour can cost a lot less on different sites. (Especially if you were on a tight budget like I was)
Our guide picked us up a 6.15 from the hotel and we stopped off at the WELCOME TO FABULOUS LAS VEGAS sign on our way to the Gray Line bus depot. Once we where signed in we were taken to the VIP area. There was lots of seating and tea, coffee and juices, as well as hot pastries, lots of fruit and snacks. It was a nice place to chill whilst we waited to be loaded on to our van.
It was then that I realised just how happy we were that we had chosen the VIP tour. Seeing the amount of people per coach and having been on HUGE coach trips before, this would have totally slowed down our day. Our group consisted of 8 people in a 12 seater Mercedes Sprinter Luxury Van. We had plenty of space to spread out, the van had single seats on either side so no one argued over who got a window seat. As a group we were very quick in stops so the four and half hour journey only took about four hours.
Not long out of Las Vegas we pulled in to the O’Callaghan-Tillman Bridge, which overlooks the Hoover Dam. Having only been walking on the Dam yesterday it was interesting to see it from a different perspective. (it’s a long story, I’ll tell you about it at the end of this post)
Back on the road we soon over took a lot of the coaches that had left before us and arrived at our rest stops before them too, making it a faster journey. ( It also helped that our party all wanted to get there as fast as possible so we only had the one stop on the way there and on the way back.) Our bus driver ( I believe he was called Gary – I will check with the ladies to confirm) was BRILLIANT, full of information and fun facts. To pass the time (and save his voice) he also supplied some interesting documentaries about the history of Vegas. Not going to lie though, I slept a bit too.
We arrived at the National Geographic Visitor Centre at 12.30 just in time to catch the IMAX movie about the Grand Canyon. A 45 minuet film about the history of the discovery, and the people who called it home years ago.
It was *Very* Dramatic and beautifully shot. But it’s true what they say- no picture can truly give you any idea about what the Canyon looks like. After a quick lunch and a snoop around the gift shop we were back on the van and off to the rim. Another plus point of this VIP tour was that you get to stay in the van and not have to deal with the shuttle busses that go around the points of the Canyon. Big coaches are not allowed on the roads that way – just small ones so we didn’t have to think about our stuff and what we needed as we travelled between the points.
Our first drop off was Mather point, and our driver gave us just under an hour to explore, so we grabbed a bottle of water and our cameras and were off.
As I said before, you can see as many pictures as you want of the Grand Canyon but nothing prepares you for the scale of it all. At Mather Point it was 10 miles across to the other side. My main thought when I walked up to the edge was “ I just don’t understand” and HOW did this happen. Safe to say when I got back to the UK I did a little bit of documentary watching.
Mather Point was the busiest – it’s a lot of peoples first stop of the day but it really does pack a punch when you turn the corner and BAM! We spent the time wandering around near the edge, taking some pictures and generally just staring out going WTF before heading back to the bus to go around to the next point.
The second point was called Yavapai Point and this is where other people got rather adventurous. There were less barriers in place and you were able to climb quite far out if you wanted to.
I did however , take my version of a picture I saw on Instagam of me “hanging off the edge of the canyon,” but from a safe distance lol.
I did end up calling my mum before putting the picture online as I know it would freak her out. But it was nothing compared to some of the people doing crazy things.
The girls and I took our usual YMCA photo (that I can’t find ☹️) with the help of a tour guide, and refilled our water bottles with some fresh spring water. We watched some of the more adventurous people, and saw a couple from our bus taking a really cute baby announcement photo.
For this occasion we brought a selfie stick. Because there was no way of all four of us AND the view getting in one shot unless we were constantly asking strangers to take pictures. ( I am now the owner of said selfie stick and it will be coming with me to Australia for sure.)
The last stop was at the Verkamp’s Visitor Centre , where we walked along the rim to the beginning of The Bright Angel Trail. It was definitely the more commercial end of the Canyon, with a hotel, gift shops and a bar. (Which we may have utilised.)
There was a traditional Hopi House at the drop off point where you could walk around, but it was also a gift shop (of course) that sold more traditional gifts.
All the time the views from the rim were stunning. You spotted new things each time you glanced down. We saw a flock of massive condors as well as some little rodents that I am pretty sure were squirrels.
Towards the end of the tour we came across some “horse cows” aka Elks. Earlier on we had over heard a guy trying to explain to a ranger what he saw and the description he came up with was horse cow. This name stuck and we were lucky enough to see a quite a few of them as our tour came to an end. They just wander around the park freely, around the buildings and such. They are so used to people that you could get quite close to take a picture. I still don’t see the cow part though… maybe horse camels?? But it definitely entertained our driver.
On the way home we drove through the same stunning scenery, and as the sun set it was beautiful to see. There was a rest stop at an In N’ Out Burger, but we had Chinese planned so just used the bathrooms.
We pulled back in to Las Vegas around 9pm, a very long day but worth it, and so worth splashing out the extra for the VIP Tour. There was a lot less hanging around and a much more comfortable vehicle.
Now I just want to add that this whole excursion didn’t go off without a hitch. We were meant to go on the Canyon tour on the Friday, but there was a HUGE mix up between Papillon and Gray Line when confirming our reservation, and we were booked on the wrong tour. When we finally arrived at the Grey Line depot on the day we thought we were off to the Canyon and the mistake became clear, Gray Line were more than satisfactory in resolving the mix up. They took full responsibility immediately and were very quick to rearrange.
So we hadn’t gone to the depot for nothing they put us on the VIP Hoover Dam Tour for free, and made sure we were booked on the VIP Grand Canyon South Rim Tour the next day- WITH a partial refund. SO whilst there was a rather big mix up, the way the team at Gray Line handled it has not put me off booking with them in the future!
Once back at the Bellagio we ate a lot of Noodles, and Mo and I may have stayed up a bit late on the machines, BUT that is a story for another time!