- 1 Crownpoint (Tʼiistsʼóóz Ńdeeshgizh)
- 2 Shiprock (Tsé Bitʼaʼí, "rock with wings" or "winged rock"), near Farmington
- 3 Window Rock (Tségháhoodzání) – Navajo Nation capital
- 4 Chinle (Chʼínílį́)
- 5 Kayenta (Tó Dínéeshzheeʼ)
- 6 Tuba City (Tó Naneesdizí) – the largest Navajo settlement
- 7 Cameron
- 2 Bowl Canyon Recreation Center
- 3 Canyon de Chelly National Monument – a gorgeous canyon dotted with the ruins of ancient buildings
- 4 Four Corners – where four states meet at a point, a popular photo opportunity and the best-known attraction in the Navajo Nation (though far from the most beautiful)
- 6 (Tsé Biiʼ Ndzisgaii, "valley of the rocks") – park known for famous buttes, mesas, and spires that were shows in many Western films
Covering 27,000 sq mi (70,000 sq km), the Navajo Nation is the single largest Native American reservation in the United States.
Note that the Navajo Nation observes daylight saving time throughout its territory—even in Arizona, which otherwise does not use daylight saving time. This means that time in the Navajo Nation will be one hour ahead of the rest of Arizona, but only from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November.
The best way to enter the reservation is by car. Visitors do not have to clear customs or immigration upon entry and exit from the Navajo Nation. No visa is required for entry, and permits are only required for restricted activities such as backcountry camping and commercial photography.
The reservation is far from major airports, and commuter air service into Farmington and Gallup on the New Mexico side is marginal and leaves you a long way from most of the reservation. Rail service is similarly marginal and distant, although the Amtrak line between Albuquerque and Flagstaff passes through Gallup and along the southern side of the reservation.
Window Rock, administrative center of Navajo Nation, is relatively close to Interstate 40 near the New Mexico-Arizona state line. It and the other major settlements on the reservation (Ganado, Chinle, Kayenta) are reachable by good roads.
Given the vast space of the reservation, the best way to get around quickly is by car.
Public transportation is provided by the Navajo Transit System; fares are $2.00.
- See also: Navajo phrasebook
Navajo is the native language of the Navajo, but most people are fluent in English.
- Monument Valley – buttes, spires and mesas form a landscape which has been the backdrop of many films about the Old West.
- Window Rock- the natural stone arch here is of great spiritual importance to the Navajo people
- Canyon de Chelly National Monument – historical settlement of the Anasazi
- Four Corners – Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico meet at one point. Nothing special visually, but where else can you have a limb in four states at one time?
- Shiprock, southeast of Four Corners near Farmington, is another fantastic bit of desert scenery.
- . The largest fair of the Navajo Nation takes place during the fall in Shiprock, New Mexico. If you are in the area, it can be an interesting stop with a market fair. Not all that is sold at the market fair is Indian art, in fact, you'll find a lot of rap CDs and t-shirts harboring the name of bands loved by those below the age of 20. Nonetheless, there is Indian art to be found in some respect. You'll also find standard rides that should keep the younger entertained. Of more appreciable cultural interest are the rodeos and Indian dances. While not warranting a 2-day detour to the area, it may be worthwhile to take a day, if you are reasonably close, and time your visit with the traditional dance contest and the pow-wow. Both events consist of traditional Navajo dancing and singing. You'll also be able to enjoy Navajo burgers while you're there.
The characteristic folk art of the Navajo is the Navajo rug (or blanket). Each region of the reservation has its own characteristic style of weavings, with a few patterns that can be found reservation-wide. As with other folk art, quality and prices vary wildly; small items for the tourist trade can be had for as little as $20 or so, while a gigantic, museum-quality (but brand-new rather than antique) rug from the prestigious "Two Grey Hills" region sold for $60,000 at a Santa Fe Indian Market a few years ago. The key thing to remember is that the value of a particular weaving is the value you place on it. If you see a piece you like, haggle over price if you wish; if you don't get the price you want, look for another one.
Beware of non-authentic imports from Mexico and overseas carried by unscrupulous "dealers" that have tried to capitalize on the market for Navajo work. Many of the "tourist traps" of the region, particularly those just off the reservation, are plagued with these, but most sources on the reservation itself are entirely aboveboard. Some reliable sources of rugs:
- 1 Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site. In Arizona, is a unit of the United States National Park Service that preserves a historic trading post on the reservation, and is a good starting point for looking at rugs. There is often a weaver on the premises who will be actively working on a rug (and should not be disturbed while at it -- she's likely to speak only Navajo) along with interpretive exhibits. The post also has a reasonable selection of rugs for sale at competitive prices. (They're in a back room that may not be obvious amid the usual tourist paraphernalia; ask.).
- There are several other trading posts on the reservation that still are "working" posts, in the sense that they function not just as distribution points for goods bound into the reservation, but also places where weavers and other artisans can trade their rugs for goods or put them up for sale on a commission basis. Selections tend to be small, but the quality is usually very good (the trading-post operators don't bother with junk) and prices are better than in the galleries of off-reservation art centers like Santa Fe. Many of the reputable posts are off the beaten path -- sometimes far off it. Three worth visiting are at Two Grey Hills and Crystal in New Mexico, and the extremely remote Shonto in Arizona.
- For the less adventurous, most of the towns on the reservation have galleries with good reputations for authenticity, although you'll pay more for a given rug there than at the posts. Selections tend to be broader than at the posts. Reputable galleries are in Ganado, Kayenta, Monument Valley and Teec Nos Pos in Arizona, and Bluff in Utah, among others.
- Possibly the most entertaining way of getting a rug, and one that can offer excellent value for dollar along with a fascinating cultural experience, is at a rug auction. If you're in the area on the second or third Friday of every month, Crownpoint, a tiny town between Farmington and Grants, hosts the Crownpoint Rug Auction. The Crownpoint Rug Auction gives buyers the unique opportunity to purchase Navajo rugs directly from the weavers themselves, at prices well below retail. Before the actual auction, you can hold rugs in your hands and appreciate them up close. Some sell for $50 or less, and some sell for thousands of dollars. Value for dollar is particularly good during the spring. Weavers come from all over Navajo Nation to sell rugs at Crownpoint. Even if you don't buy anything, you are in for a treat. No two rugs are alike!
Pottery and jewelry
Most reservation centers that sell weavings also sell pottery and jewelry made in Navajo Nation. Navajo silver work, including concho belts, tends to be of a very high quality. The pottery is quite different from that of the Pueblo Indians to the east, but good Navajo pottery is still an art form and well worth collecting. Two warnings are necessary, however. First, you don't have to get very far out of Navajo Nation to encounter bogus "trading posts" in which the goods are not Navajo at all, but rather cheap imports. This is particularly a problem with jewelry. Second, removal of "prehistoric" pottery from Navajo Nation is strongly discouraged and likely illegal; it is certainly illegal to obtain such work from excavations of archaeological sites, whether acknowledged or not. Settle for the modern stuff; it still qualifies as entirely authentic Navajo arts and crafts.
One of the characteristic food items of the Navajo Nation is "frybread." This is a flat bread about the diameter of a common tortilla, but quite different from a tortilla in that the process of preparing it (via frying rather than baking) causes it to become crisp and develop bubbles and pockets, so that it more closely resembles the sopaipilla of northern New Mexico. Frybread is eaten alone, with powdered sugar or honey as a dessert, or piled high with lettuce, tomato, cheese, ground beef, chile and beans; the latter form is commonly called a "Navajo taco," although it has little to do with a conventional taco beyond the fact that it shares many of the same ingredients. Navajo tacos and other frybread dishes can be found at restaurants, and roadside stands, throughout the reservation, many of which also feature distinctive mutton dishes.
Alcohol is prohibited. If you simply must have a beer, Flagstaff (Arizona), Farmington (New Mexico), and Gallup (New Mexico) are just outside the borders of the reservation. Don't expect to be welcomed with open arms at bars in the latter two, as bars there have serious problems connected with alcoholism on the reservation. The presence of Northern Arizona University at Flagstaff makes night life in town somewhat more convivial.
- Kayenta has several motels and motor lodges, of which the Best Western Wetherill Inn is notable for the attached gift shop/gallery with a surprisingly good and reasonably-priced selection of Navajo rugs. On US 163, phone (928) 697-3231; rooms from $55.
- Goulding's Trading Post and Lodge, in Monument Valley, Utah, is in a beautiful location, also offers Navajo rugs on-site, and has a good reputation. Try it and write a review here.
This is a Native American reservation. What may be seen as appropriate in the rest of the United States won't necessarily apply here.
Backcountry hiking, camping, and commercial photography in tribal parks require the purchase of a permit. Drones (quadcopters) and aircraft are prohibited.
The Navajo place a huge emphasis on personal privacy. Do not take pictures of people without their permission, and be careful of what you photograph.
Since this reservation, which observes daylight savings time, is unique and has its own government, these tips in order to follow in this land in Arizona definitely include:
- Learn about Navajo culture and history. The Navajo people have a unique worldview and a set of values that are very different from those of mainstream American culture. Taking the time to learn about Navajo culture and history is essential to understanding and respecting the Navajo way of life. There are many resources available to help visitors learn about Navajo culture, including books, articles, websites, and museums.
- Respect the land. The Navajo people have a deep reverence for the land, which they consider to be sacred. When visiting the Navajo Nation, be mindful of your impact on the environment. This means packing out all trash, leaving no trace of your visit, and being respectful of wildlife. Avoid disturbing plants, animals, or rocks, and do not climb on sacred sites.
- Obey Navajo law. The Navajo Nation has its own government and laws, which are distinct from US law. Visitors to the Navajo Nation are subject to Navajo law, so it is important to familiarize yourself with the rules before you visit. You can find information about Navajo law on the Navajo Nation website.
- Be respectful of Navajo people. When interacting with Navajo people, be polite and respectful. Avoid making assumptions about their culture or beliefs. If you have any questions, ask politely. Navajo people are generally very welcoming to visitors, but they appreciate it when people take the time to learn about their culture and respect their traditions.
- Be supportive of Navajo businesses and communities. When you visit the Navajo Nation, make an effort to support local businesses and communities. This helps to ensure that the benefits of tourism are shared widely and that Navajo culture is preserved. There are many ways to support local businesses, including eating at locally owned restaurants, shopping at local stores, and booking tours with local companies.
- The Hopi Indian Reservation is embedded in the western part of Navajo Nation. The Hopi are ethnically distinct from the Navajo; continuing land disputes between the two tribes led to the creation of a curious "reservation within a reservation" now occupied by the Hopi. Hopi pottery is particularly fine, and the collector of folk art may want to make a side trip to Polacca or one of the other Hopi settlements. Photography, sketching, etc., may be restricted; inquire locally. Note also that the Hopi Reservation follows Arizona's non-observance of DST, meaning that during the DST period, Hopi territory will be an hour behind Navajo territory.
- Several United States National Park System units are in or near the Navajo Nation, including Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, Canyon de Chelly National Monument and Navajo National Monument in Arizona, Hovenweep National Monument on both sides of the Colorado/Utah state line, Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, and Chaco Culture National Historical Park and Aztec Ruins National Monument in New Mexico. The Grand Canyon, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Vermilion Cliffs National Monument are also fairly close.