We wanted for so long to visit Petra and this year we had the chance to do it.
We had two days to visit the famous city.
The history of the Ancient city of Petra dates back to 300 BC. Back then it was one of the richest and largest cities in the world.
It all began with the Nabateans, a desert Bedouin tribe, very skilled in commerce. They took advantage of the trade route between Asia and Europe.
And transformed the place to a great hub for endless caravans transporting frankincense, myrrh, and spices.
Hidden in a huge canyon of red stone, Petra, the capital of a Nabatean Kingdom, appeared.
Petra rivaled Rome or Jerusalem. At that time more than 30,000 people lived in houses dug in the rock, surrounded by majestic monuments and amazing infrastructure. Later, Petra was annexed to the Roman Empire and continued to rise and flourish until a large earthquake destroyed much of the city in the 4th century.
The earthquake combined with changing the trade routes eventually led to the downfall of the city which was ultimately abandoned.
Although good times have gone, some Bedouin families remained in Petra till today. The Bedouins have never left their seats. Petra is called “the lost city” because it was forgotten by the world and re-discovered 200 years ago by a Swiss explorer.
Soon after, Petra became increasingly known around the world as a fascinating and beautiful ancient city, and it began attracting visitors and continues to do so today.
It is one of the Seven New Wonders of the World.
The most awaited moment of our entire 16 days in Jordan was not hard to guess, no matter how beautiful and interesting Jordan would be. Petra is unique!
First day in Petra
Main Trail + the hike to the Monastery.
We planned to spend two days in Petra so we bought the Jordan Pass for 75JOD+8 JOD for Baptism Site, which is about 103 Euros. The Pass included visa, 2 consecutive visit days to Petra and Free entry to over 40 attractions in Jordan.
You can check the official site, www.jordanpass.jo
We wake up very early in the morning and started our adventure in Petra.
It was raining. But we were eager to discover Petra and we didn’t give it up and continued our journey of discovering this amazing ancient city.
Petra has several trails that you can take, but for anyone who gets to Petra for the first time, it is recommended to get an idea of the city on the Main Trail, where the main points of interest are.
For the first day, we choose Main Trail + the hike to the Monastery.
We were about to see the main points of interest (The Treasury, the Amphitheater, stone-carved houses, Royal Tombs and the Monastery).
Tomb of Obelisks
Right from the entrance on the right and left side of the road, there were beautiful monuments that reminded us that Petra was the perfect mix of different styles and cultures. On the left, we saw the Tomb of Obelisks, which is one of the more unique buildings in Petra. Dating back to the first century BC, the Egyptian styled tomb had five graves. The ground floor represents a funeral hall that was used for holding celebrations.
Soon we entered the Siq, which was the ancient main entrance leading to the city of Petra.
It was a narrow corridor, a split rock with a length of about 1200m and a width of 4 to 12m.
Most of the corridor is made by natural erosion and some parts were sculptured by the Nabataeans.
On both sides of the Siq, there were channels like aqueducts, to transport water from outside the city to the inside. Water was among the most important resources of the ancient city, so they created an ingenious water supply system for the whole city, based on rock-drained canals that transported water from tens of kilometers away.
At the end of the Siq, we reached the amazing Treasury, which is one of the most beautiful buildings in Petra. It was named the Treasury because the Bedouins used to believe the urn sculpted at the top contained great treasures. However, in reality, the urn represented a memorial for royalty.
The structure is simply amazing.
The first time when you lay eyes on the Treasury is breathtaking, even though you know what it looks like from all the photos. There is something about finally seeing it with your own eyes.
It seems that we were not the only ones that thought so, because it was very crowded. All tourists stop here.
Street of Facades
Soon after we exited the Treasury, the trail begins to widen gradually as it reaches into an open area. This is the Street of Facades.
On both sides, there are beautifully decorated Nabataean tombs. It is believed that these tombs belonged to some of the officials of the city.
As you enter the open area, which is the heart of the Nabataean city, we found the Theater.
The theater was first constructed by the Nabateans in the natural curvy rock and enlarged by the Romans to accommodate 10 thousand people.
Soon after we climbed some stairs to the Royal Tombs, heavy rain started again, forcing us to find shelter in Urn Tomb.
It is believed that this was the tomb of Nabataean King Malchus II who died in 70 AD.So we stayed here for a while till the rain stopped, then continued the trail to the Colonnade Street, which was the administrative center of the city.
The archaeological work showed that there was a lush garden and a pond here. A large cistern and canals that distributed the water. It is so difficult to imagine such greenery in the middle of this sandstone place.
Later we passed the Great Temple which used to be the largest building in the city of Petra. It was quite difficult to imagine the building in its golden times.
From the Colonnaded Street till the Monastery it took us around 1-1.5 hours.
There were 800 rock-cut steps to get up there.
The Monastery hike began with a steep climb that seemed endless. But we managed to reach the top and had a wow moment.
The Monastery is one of the legendary monuments of Petra.
It has a similar architecture to the Treasury but it is far bigger.
It was built in the 3rd century BCE as a Nabataean tomb.
It is believed that the tomb was converted to a church in Byzantine times.
It was almost afternoon when we reached the Monastery, and rain started to be intense and we got really cold.
Although the plan was to stay in Petra as much as possible, we were forced to turn back to our camp and stay close to the heater.
Second day in Petra – Treasury Viewpoint Trail
After the first day in Petra was spent mostly walking in the rain, the second day looked promising.
We turned back to Petra, this time for the trail to the Treasury Viewpoint. Again we walked the Siq to the Treasury, where we met a young boy, who asked us if we want to reach the Treasury Viewpoint. We agreed to pay him some money to guide us there.
The climb there was interesting and quite challenging.
It was not a trail, we felt like climbing the mountains.
The young boy climbed the rocks like it was the easiest thing to do and when we looked at his feet he was wearing sandals. He was used to climbing these rocks.
Once we got to the top we saw the beautiful view above the Treasury. It was unbelievable!
Here, in this place, we had the chance to drink a cup of fresh tea and have a small chat with our young guide.
He told us that he was living in a cave not far from here. He was heating the cave with a simple fire in the middle of the cave and he was fine with this heating system. In Petra, we found out that Bedouins are still living in the old caves.
This Bedouin tribe claim to be descended from the Nabataeans and even today the Bedouins live among the tombs and caves of Petra, of course, most of them moved away from the site when Petra became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
They come here every day to act as tour guides or entertainment, with camel and donkey rides.
After the Trail was completed, we continued our journey to the famous Wadi Rum desert.
Best time to visit Petra
The ideal time to come to Jordan is in the spring.
Mach – May is a wonderful time in this country with great daytime temperatures and cooler evenings.
June, July and August, the summer months here are very hot, with temperatures reaching up into the 40 degrees.
Sept –Nov is a good time to visit Jordan as the temperature is typically mild.
In December and February, the temperature can drop to 0 degrees in almost all the areas except the Red and the Death Sea.
Don’t think that in Jordan it is not cold.We visited Petra in late December and it was very cold. Best time of the day
I recommend getting to the site as early as possible. Many big tour groups are visiting the site, so the experience can be unpleasant. And another reason is the extreme heat during the day.
How to get to Petra
By car rental
This is the best way to reach Petra from anywhere in Jordan.
From Amman there are two ways:
Desert Highway: 236 km and about 3 hours
King’s Highway, most scenic road: 255 km and about 5 hours
There’s a free car park close to Petra’s entrance.
We paid 30 Euros/ day for our car and used rentalcars.com
JETT buses connect both Amman and Aqaba to Petra via the Desert Highway.
It costs 22 JOD per person to travel round-trip by JETT bus from Amman to Petra and back.
The bus departs from Amman Abdali station.
By guided tour
There are tours from all the major cities of Jordan. The price depends on the city that you bought, the offered facilities and your bargain skills.
Once in Petra, you have few options of accommodation:
– to stay in Wadi Musa, the city that guarded the entrance to Petra, much developed lately because of tourism.
– to stay in a camp in Little Petra. Our Adventure in Petra started one evening, before sunset when we arrived at our accommodation in Little Petra Bedouin Camp, which is an amazing camp inside one of Little Petra sandstone canyons. Our tents were just spread around this amazing landscape.
Little Petra is owned by a Bedouin Family from Petra and offered us an amazing Bedouin experience.
Opening hours 6.00-16.00
Price entrance:2 days: included by Jordan Pass
Guided tour for the main trail: 50JOD (4km) +Monastery 100JOD (8km)
Patra by night: 17JOD (Monday, Wednesday and Thursday) 20.30-22.30
More information about the Petra site you can find at www.visitpetra.jo.
Be prepared for a lot of walking and hiking
Petra stretches over 60 square kilometers so you’ll end up walking all day long.
There are donkey and camel rides with extra cost all around the site if you need some help.