Inhabited since prehistoric times, this Nabataean caravan-city, situated between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, was an important crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Syria-Phoenicia. Petra is half-built, half-carved into the rock, and is surrounded by mountains riddled with passages and gorges. It is one of the world’s most famous archaeological sites, where ancient Eastern traditions blend with Hellenistic architecture.
Petra one of the 7 Wonders of the World
Petra, the desert town of Jordan
Petra has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985 and in 2007 it was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Named “the rose red city” Petra is mainly about some great temples and tombs: The Treasury, The Siq, The Monastery, The Roman Theater. Besides these ones you can easily spend your days here hiking the mountains and exploring the remote trails.
Petra was entirely carved in stone some 2300 years ago. It was built by the Nabataeans, an Arab tribe that established here the capital of their kingdom as an important and strategic place for the trading routes of that time. Visiting actually seeing with our own eyes these astonishing constructions was a dream come true.
Most people might think that Petra is all about the impressive carved mountain named The Treasury. This picture is all over the internet, Instagram and Facebook as the representation of Petra. Well, Petra is more than just one place, it’s a whole city that amazed us with every step we took along its dusty roads.
We did our research before our trip to Petra. This is a must when you are a travel blogger and need to do all these things at once: take pictures, videos, gather information and enjoy the walk as well. The first advice when visiting Petra is to avoid the crowds. So, an early morning start of the visit is the way to do it. We made our plan and woke up at 06:30 a.m. At 08:00 a.m. we were in front of the ticket office and our adventure was about to begin. The sun was shining with a high of 15 degrees Celsius. We had all the ingredients for a perfect day.
We started our walk with the Main Trail of Petra that leads to the most famous places: The Siq, The Treasury, The Viewpoint for The Treasury, The Roman Theatre, The Royal Tombs and The Monastery. We managed to see them all in 2 days. Except for the Viewpoint, we actually made it to each place twice. We were not angry on our feet J)) We just needed to take the perfect pictures and videos. Perfection asks for some sacrifices. The sun shining on the carved mountains has to be just right, as Pingu wishes: ) It was quite a marathon for 2 days. If you are not well fit we recommend walking slowly and enjoying all these sites in 2 days.
As soon as we entered Petra we could see the first carved caves into the mountain on our way to The Siq. The walk to The Siq takes around 15 minutes from the Main Entrance. The Siq is actually a 1.2 km long Canyon and it was used as the main entrance point to Petra town. As soon as we saw the entrance to this canyon we were amazed by its impressive size and beauty. So, we stopped for some tens of photos, not knowing that the best was yet to come.
As this ancient city was flourishing the Nabataeans people used the route through the Siq to reach the city center of Petra. This was the way to lead the caravans to the city for trading goods. You can still see the original pavement of the street and the old water channels carved into the mountain and used for the water system.
The Siq Canyon was a result of the tectonic forces that split the fault and later on it was further shaped by the water forces as well.
Before reaching the Treasury we enjoyed an amazing walk through The Siq. It took us around 30 minutes to pass the Canyon before this incredible red-pink and carved mountain appeared before our eyes. The Treasury is probably the most famous place of Petra. This monument was built by the Nabataeans people around 2000 years ago. The well preserved mausoleum is 39.5 m tall. What makes it so beautiful is the sandy pink color of the stone.
The legend says that this place was built to hide the treasures of some wealthy people. This is why they called this place The Treasury. In fact the legend is all wrong. The Treasury is actually a mausoleum and a crypt. This place is the most crowded around the whole city of Petra. If you need a camel ride you can find it here. If you think of taking a picture with a camel or donkey in front of The Treasury there’s no need to ask, you will have an offer in no time once you get there. Most of the local guides will be offering the unique trip to the Viewpoint. This is located some 10 minutes hiking distance from The Treasury. A trip there with a guide costs around 10 JOD.
The Roman Theatre.
The theatre dates back from the 1st century AD. The theatre seated 6.000 people and it was being carved from a single rock. This makes it so unique and special and the only one being constructed this way in the whole world. The theatre was built by the Nabataeans people and is a Greco-Roman design.
The Royal Tombs.
To get to the Royal Tombs we followed the main path from The Treasury and ended up in the center of Petra. From there we had to hike up a little more. This time it was an easy job, as the hike only took us 5 minute. Such a piece of cake J))) The most important and impressive of them all is the Urn Tomb. Its façade can be looked up right from the main trail in Petra. But it is more impressive if you hike up and stand right in front of it. The archeologists found out that these tombs were designed for the uppermost social stratum or royalty in Petra.
Many of Petra’s visitors find it difficult to follow and complete the trail to the Monastery. For us it has been a great experience. We cannot say we completely seen Petra without reaching for this last monument. The hike to The Monastery took us around 45 minutes. There are 850 steps carved into the mountain. The hike is an easy one but with the sun on you all the time it may take a while to get used to the effort.
The entire journey can be done on the back of a donkey as well. There are plenty of donkey handlers around the site that will offer a ride. We did not ask for the price of such a journey as we were not interested at all. And another reason for that was that we didn’t want to start a negotiation. People here can be very annoying sometimes and don’t understand the meaning of “No”. We asked for the price of a camel ride at some point and the boy riding it just walked by our side for 30 minutes trying to talk us in.
The best time to start your hike up to the Monastery is around 10 -11 pm. This is the best time for taking pictures along the way as the sun rays light up the mountains. The entire way to the Monastery is paved with souvenir stalls. You can take a break once in a while and buy something to remember you of Petra. Everything here is marketed as paying only 1 Dinar for. Once you stop at some shop you find out the prices are different. Try to negotiate everything at half the initial price.
The Monastery is the most impressive monument of Petra. The great view that awaited us after the 850 steps’ climb made our day. The carved mountain is 48 m tall and 47 m width. What surprised us here is the lack of crowds. We could easily find a moment to take a photo of The Monastery without people roaming around in front of it. We’ve enjoyed a relaxing moment here for about an hour, drinking a great cold smoothie at the only bar in the area and just staring at this beautiful sight.
It was our unique moment and our authentic experience at Petra. Don’t leave this place without spending half a day and visiting The Monastery.
The Viewpoint for The Treasury.
The famous picture of The Treasury from up above, that is so wide spread on Instagram is a must when in Petra. Once we arrived in Petra we kept thinking about the best time to go to The Treasury and to the Viewpoint to take the best picture. There are two main Viewpoints for The Treasury. The first one is easily accessible and is just a 10 minutes’ hike from The Treasury. But, in order to take this trail you must pay around 10 JOD for a guide. The other option is less touristy but it involves a lot of effort for the 45 minutes’ hike.
After visiting the Royal Tombs we mistakenly discovered The Al-Khubtha Trail that ends at the Viewpoint for The Treasury. At first we didn’t knew that information. On the map we received at the ticket office this trail is marked as being the trail that leads to the Royal Tombs. It says nothing about the Viewpoint. Only after a few minutes of walking did we discover a sign “To the top of the world. Viewpoint for the Treasury”. So, we decided to take our change and started hiking. After 10 minutes some tourists that were coming down from the mountain confirmed that indeed that was the way to the amazing Viewpoint for The Treasury. As we hadn’t been already walking for about 6 hours we couldn’t get enough and we chose to follow the trail. J
This was by far the toughest climb, but the breathtaking view from above was the coolest ever. Right at the Viewpoint there is a local guy with a tent that will offer you the opportunity to take the best pictures from his cliff and you can enjoy a nice tea at a reasonable price of 1,5 JOD.
Petra by Night.
One of the unique experiences when visiting Petra is to have the opportunity to go to the Petra by Night event. This takes place every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday between 8:30 pm and 10 pm. We were lucky enough to arrive in Petra on a Wednesday and started our visit on Thursday. We gave it a thought before actually deciding to buy the ticket for Petra by Night. After a long day of walking at Petra we were not sure we wanted to do the walk again by night. We were pretty tired. But, in the end we chose to flip a coin to make our decision. It was a “yes” for Petra by Night.
We paid another 17JOD (20EUR) for the ticket to Petra by Night. What is so special about this event is the fact that the entire path from the entrance, along the Siq and in front of the Treasury is paved with candle lights. At 08:30 pm people start the walk to The Treasury and around 9 pm the event starts. Everybody sits down in complete silence while a Bedouin band sings traditional songs. There is tea for everybody to warm up, as the nights in Petra in February can get chilly. Then a man started walking towards the crowd and telling a little story about the mystery of Petra and its beginnings. He truly could paint a perfect picture of this place in the ancient times and it made us feel so special being there and being able to see what some people built a 2300 years ago.
In the end colored lights lit up the Treasury’s façade making it perfect for the hundreds of people gathered there.
The archeological site of Petra is made of a lot of other temples, tombs and caves spread over the 60 square kilometers area. Some of the them are still well preserved while others remained just ruins: Bab Al Siq, The Street of Facades, The Colonnaded Street, The Great Temple.
Tips & Tricks.
- The best time to visit Petra is during spring or autumn. The temperatures of 20 degrees Celsius, during these seasons, can be bearable which makes it for a nice experience. Otherwise, during summer it’s too hot for the climb to several main attractions or too cold during the winter.
- Wear some comfortable shoes as there is a lot of walking in Petra.
- Don’t miss visiting the museum at the entrance. You will spend here around 1 hour but you’ll gather so much information about the history of this place.
- If buying souvenirs is a must then try to do it inside the Petra archeological site. You will find a lot of shops all over the place. The prices might seem high but after a few rounds of negotiation you will pay the fair price, almost half of the stated price.
- · Don’t get tricked by the free horse ride included in your Petra ticket. Once you take this ride you will end up paying some money as the free one only takes around 5 minutes.
- Petra is open from 6 am to 6 pm in the Summer and between 6 am to 4 pm in the Winter.