The Gem of Jordan, one of the ‘’New 7 Wonders of the World’’ and UNESCO’s valuable Heritage Site. If you are not impressed yet, then I am sure that the magic scenery of the half-carved-into-the-rock city and its history will charm you as they did to me. Besides, there is a reason why it is called City of Mysteries.
Petra is linked to the Nabataeans, a nomadic tribe from northern Arabia, the ones who built most of the monuments in the Ancient City maintained until today. The city was originally known as Raqmu but the name ‘’Petra’’ (large stone) was given by Greek merchants. Nabataeans arrived in the region around the 6th century BC and in the following 500 years they built the city of Petra from all the wealth gained from trading. Because it became the focus of wealth in the region it also attracted the attention of the Greeks and later on of the Romans who dominated Petra until the first century AD. By 551 AD and after many devastating earthquakes, it became forgotten, a lost city known only to local Bedouins. It was rediscovered in 1812 by a young Swiss explorer who brought to light the existence of the great Rose City.
My visit to Petra
In total there are more than 800 registered sites in Petra but the best things to see are relatively easy to find and reach. Exploring the whole city in one day can be exhausting so you need to find your own pace and personalise your visit by determining in advance what you don’t want to miss, especially the highlights such as the Siq, the Treasury, the High Place of Sacrifice, the Theatre, and of course the Monastery. Some people prefer to split the visit in 2 days but our plan only allowed one full day there.
I managed to walk all the way up to the Monastery as I really wanted to witness with my own eyes one the most legendary monuments in Petra. And for sure the most difficult to reach. My whole tour of the site lasted 6 hours, I walked in total 18km and climbed more than 1,000 steps but I can say with confidence, it was all worth it. The City of Mysteries left me in awe, the beauty of these vast desert mountains and the city carved into these red rocks is overwhelming especially when thinking all the history that lies behind them. It absolutely justifies its title as one of the Wonder of the World.
How to make the most out of your visit
It’s a fact that Petra appears on majority of travel lists globally, in every ‘’top 10 places to visit in your lifetime’’ and it is justifiably in many people’s bucket list. This is why thousands of tourists from all over are ‘’flooding’’ the site especially during Spring and Autumn, when it is the best period to visit. I visited in the end of September and if I had to do it again I would probably plan it for late October when temperatures during the day are more pleasant (below 300C).
The heat was one of the reasons why I decided to start the tour as early in the day as possible, at 6:00 am when the site opens. The second reason was to avoid the crowds and the big tour groups that normally arrive around 10:00 am. It was actually quite spectacular to be among the first people to visit it on that day, see the sun rising behind the huge rocks and be able to peacefully capture the moment. The highlight of the whole trip in Jordan.
Petra is more than 3 hours far from Amman and since the whole tour takes time and requires you to be well rested we decided to spend the previous night in the town developed around Petra, Wadi Rum. It’s a town built around the historical site full of hotels (for all budgets) and restaurants. Our hotel was only 5 mins away from Petra’s visitor center which gave us absolute flexibility and we had no need for a ride.
Entrance tickets can be purchased upon arrival and the cost for one day is around 60 euros/person. There are some discounts if you want to visit Petra for more days, however I chose to buy the Jordan Pass (86€) in advance of my trip which includes the visa and free entry to multiple sights in whole Jordan (Always like to be prepared in my trips).
Another plus is that you don’t have to wait at all at the visitor center, showing the electronic pass is enough to guarantee you access in few seconds.
There are many ways to experience the tour in Petra but of course it depends on your needs, the time you have available and your physical limits. Don’t forget that Petra used to be a whole town stretching over more than 60 square klm, so yes be prepared for a lot of walking. Of course, there are alternatives (traditional) ways to move around such as using donkeys, camels or carriages with horses and there available at every corner, at all times as long as you can negotiate the price.
The big downside is that there have been incidents of local handlers mistreating their animals so be aware of this and check if the animals look healthy and well-cared-for. I chose not to use them at all as I don’t feel comfortable riding these adorable animals, plus I considered the whole walking as a personal challenge.
And since we are talking for a lot of walking it is important that you come well equipped bringing along water and snacks. But even if you forget to don’t worry! There are stands with cold water, refreshments and snacks all over the place even in the most remote hills around the Monastery.
Once arriving at the Treasury there are many Bedouins offering to guide you through secret trails, shorter than the rest, to get the best view from above.
But be careful of scams and be prepared!
What we were offered was a 10 min hike up to the view point for 10 Dinars for 2 persons (after long negotiation because apparently the initial price was 20 Dinars pp).
What we got?
1)It was more than climbing up some dangerous rocks rather than a hike,
2)It took half an hour instead of 10 mins to get to the viewpoint and
3)In the middle of the route, when we had no idea where we were, the kid asked for additional money in order to help us reach the final destination and to guide us back. Obviously, at that point we didn’t have much of a choice so we agreed to the extra charge of 10 Dinars.
Nevertheless, the view of the Treasury from above was stunning and felt really proud at the end when I managed to climb down these rocks intact.
WHAT TO WEAR
It might be warm, however Jordan being a conservative Islamic country it is advisable for women to respect the local culture and not bare too much flesh. Although in Petra there are so many tourists, it is highly likely that you will see all kind of outfits but the vast majority dress respectfully choosing to cover up and avoid the staring from locals.
- Hat or any kind of headband or scarf to protect your head from the sun
- Comfortable shoes that you don’t have to worry about getting messy. Avoid sandals if your visiting in warm months because the sand can get pretty hot
- Long dresses, T-shirts and loose pants are perfect for the occasion