If there is only one thing one can say about Petra is that it will always meet your expectations and most often exceed them. Petra is a magnificent ancient archaeological site in Jordan, a testament to humanity’s imagination, perseverance, talent, and ambition. Situated between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, Petra seems like the land-version of the Atlantis. Except this city is real and still standing tall and proud, eager to prove the world that contemporaneity has nothing on antiquity.
While Petra’s fame is reduced to the majestic Treasury sculpted into rock, a breathtaking structure that has been around since 300 BCE, the destination has much more to offer than this. Explore Petra and spend at least one day and one night there for a chance to witness the delicate dance of light created by the sunrise and sunset over the site. Besides, if you get there early in the morning, you’ll probably admire this fantastic Nabataean city in solitude.
What’s so special about Petra?
Everything! The Rose City of Petra is one of the new Seven Wonders of the Modern World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This means that you won’t see anything like it anywhere on the planet. Petra was the capital of the Nabataeans, a nomadic Bedouin tribe, from 300 BC till 100 AD, when the Romans conquered the place. After several earthquakes, the inhabitants decided to abandon the city and Petra was left all alone for many centuries to come. The West first heard about Petra in 1812 when a Swiss explorer came face to face with more than 30 outstanding sites spread over 60 square kilometers.
How to get to Petra?
Most travelers fly to Amman airport and make their way to Petra by car. The drive to Petra takes about 4 hours. However, if you don’t want to spend too much on car hire, you can always take the bus that connects the Amman bus station to Petra. If you prefer to spend a night or two close by, you’ll have to find accommodation in Wadi Musa, a lively town that grew around the ancient city.
Considering that summers can be pretty brutal in Petra because of the really high temperatures, the best time to visit Petra is from March to May or September to November when the heat won’t sabotage your journey of exploration. And don’t worry about food and water! You’ll find stalls outside the entrance and inside the site, fully equipped with drinks and snakes, as well as Bedouin tea stalls and even a restaurant.
What to see in Petra?
So many magnificent man-made creations! You’ll be entering the archaeological site through the Siq, a rocky passage with intimidating high walls. Travelers can visit the site either by foot or on the back of a horse which you can hire at the visitor center. If you get tired along the way, you’ll see numerous donkey and camel handlers ready to help out with a ride but do pay attention to the animals and see if they look healthy and well-cared for before jumping on their backs. There have been reports of people mistreating the animals so it’s best not to encourage them.
A walk through the gorge of Siq is an exciting experience itself and a great way to set the tone and add suspense to your incredible adventure. As you end your walk through the Siq, you’ll find yourself face to face with the breathtaking Treasury, the famous stone-carved temple and resting place of King Aretas III of the Nabateans. Your next part of your journey will take you along the Street of Facades lined with dozens of buildings and caves carved into rocks.
Along the way, you’ll also discover a Roman amphitheater built in the 1st century AD. Continue your walk and witness the grandiose royal tombs, eccentric structures like the Obelisk, Urn, and the Silk Tomb, but also more modest tombs of regular mortals. Your next stop is the majestic Monastery, a building that requires a sacrifice of hiking up 822 steps to unveil its splendor. Carved out of the mountain, this large structure boasts a spectacular façade and offers fabulous views over the valleys.
Tip: If you spend the night in Wadi Musa, don’t miss the Petra by night tour to witness a superb lighting spectacle. The Siq and Treasury are lit by candles and the atmosphere suddenly is enriched with a divine aura.
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