The lost city of Petra is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.
The history behind Petra stretches back over 2,000 years. The city was built by the Nabatean Kingdom, who were well-known for their innovative methods of harvesting water. This made Petra an oasis in the desert, and one of the main stops on the trading route.
Equally impressive was their talent in rock carving, which led them to create opulent tombs, temples, and religious sites. Petra would soon be known as the Rose-Red City, for the gorgeous pinkish hue of each stone facade.
In the first century Petra was taken over by the Roman Empire. Shortly after, the city experienced a devastating earthquake, which crushed their coveted water supply. That, along with changes in the trading routes, led the kingdom to crumble, and city to become abandoned for the next 1,500 years. 😮It was then, in 1812, a Swiss traveler named Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, heard rumors of Petra, and decided he wanted to find and expose this abandoned city. Since the Arab nomads knew the way to Petra, he needed to figure out a way to ask them for a local guide. He decided the only way was to lie to them, telling them he wished to make a sacrifice there, in the name of religion. They cautiously led him to Petra, but Burckhardt knew this deceitful journey could easily risk his life.
Once Petra was re-discovered by Burckhardt, this city became famous around the world. In fact, the city has made numerous debuts in Hollywood, most notably in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. In the final scene of the movie, Harrison Ford and Sean Connery burst through Petra on horseback, in search of the Holy Grail.
Luckily, exploring Petra now-a-days is much less dangerous. In fact, the country considers it one of its most visited tourist sites. 😀
From Amman to Petra, I took a Jett bus, which cost 10 JD (14 USD) and took 3 hours. The bus only leaves once daily at 6:30 AM, so be prepared for an early morning start. 🙂
In order to preserve the city of Petra, most visitors stay in nearby Wadi Musa. My hotel, Petra Gate Hotel, was a cheap 8 JD (11 USD), which was great! Petra is notoriously known as one of the world’s most expensive attractions, so at least the place fit in my budget. It was seriously no frills though, with no soap, no toilet paper, no drinking water, and no hot showers, so if you choose this place, make sure to bring supplies.
The Lost City of Petra
Luckily, the main attractions in Petra, lie along a direct route through the Petra National Park.After leaving the visitor’s center, you begin to walk towards The Siq. The Siq is narrow gorge of natural rock splitting. The rocks lining the gorge showcase both natural and man-made carvings.Additionally, walking through The Siq reveals both the geology of these vividly colored rocks, and the stunning monuments carved into the cliff side.
One such monument is the Obelisk Tomb, which is said to house the remains of five burial tombs.As the journey continues through The Siq, The Treasury slowly unveils itself, through a small slit in the rock. The Treasury is decorated with Corinthian columns, figures, and a funerary urn. It is believed to have been the final resting place for a Nabataean King, and legend has it, that the urn conceals a pharaoh’s treasure.At the entrance to the Treasury is currently a caravan of camels. They were historically one of Petra’s working animals, used to help carry goods across the desert to trade.While there, I attempted to sit on a camel, which was hilarious considering the fact that I was wearing a dress. 😛My camel’s name was Daisy, which seemed fitting since I once had a Beagle named Daisy, and I found this sweetheart was graceful to both stand and sit for me, as I posed against this beautiful backdrop.
Getting around: working animals
If the idea of all this walking sounds exhausting, don’t be discouraged about visiting. Petra is well-equipped with herds of working animals, ready to carry you throughout the city, without even breaking a sweat.
Horses and carriages are available at the main entrance, and later donkeys are available to climb uphill.Just be sure to consider whether the animal is able to bear your weight. As a rule of thumb, a standard 500 lb donkey can carry up to 25% of its weight. If you are over 125 pounds, please consider the stress and impact on that animal. 🙂
There are also plenty of street puppies in Petra, that are more than happy to join you on your hike. 😉Anyway, after The Treasury lies The Street of Facades, a row of Nabatean tombs carved into the mountain, and embellished with crowned and concave molding, known as Egyptian cavettos.Further along is the Roman Theater, which can accommodate up to 4,000 spectators.
One of the highlights of Petra are its Royal Tombs. The tombs are comprised of four grandiose buildings lining the hillside, said to have housed the remains of Nabatean royalty.Check out those beautiful color patterns! ❤One of the main public fountains in Petra was The Nymphaeum, which sourced water from the nearby valley, and is now shaded by a 450 year-old pistachio tree.One of the principal shopping areas in Petra was the Colonnaded Street.
One of the main archaeological attractions in Petra is the Great Temple. Its decor showcases intricate floral bands and limestone columns imprinted with Mediterranean leaves. It was actually discovered in the 90s, by archaeologists from Brown University, and their excavations continue to this day.One of the most religiously significant temples in Petra is Qasr al-Bint. In Arabic, it means ‘Castle of the Pharaoh’s Daughter’ and this temple was built to honor the Nabatean Gods.
As a grand finale to the walk through Petra, visitors are left stunned by its magnificent Monastery. It’s one of the largest monuments in the city, and was used as a meeting place for religious groups.Visitors are able to take tea and rest alongside this architectural beauty, and pat themselves on the back for a long, hard hike. For ‘the best view’ of the monastery, you can climb to a tea house atop the mountain rock.I found that the view of the surrounding desert was equally stunning, and made the climb well-worth it. 😀This pathway takes about 4 to 5 hours to walk, including rest stops and photo ops, in order to capture these beautifully sculpted rocks. Luckily, Petra is full of shops and restaurants, so you always have the opportunity to rest. 🙂
After seeing the main sites in Petra on my first day, I went off the beaten path on day two. My first stop was to the viewpoint overlooking The Treasury. This took about an hour of uphill climbing, in addition to the hour-long walk from the visitor’s center. The lookout point was from within this cozy tea shack, which offered a striking birds eye view. 🙂The next hike was to the High Place of Sacrifice, which was originally a Nabatean sacrificial altar. Among the ruins is a circular basin, which was used to receive blood of sacrificed animals, as well as, a water basin for purification.
It also overlooks the city of Petra, and entails around 2-3 hours of hiking.
Side note: Solo Female Travel
A lot of people asked me how it was as a solo blonde female, traveling in a Middle Eastern country. For this, I’ll give you two examples. On my first day I paired up with a guy from New Zealand, who quickly became my partner in crime. 🙂He kept me company on this long day’s hike, and I learned quite a bit about his offshore job in Dubai. We may have been harassed a bit to buy souvenirs, but that’s to be expected in any tourist site.On my second day I went solo to see if I was received any differently. Surprisingly, I found the people to be even more helpful than on day one. 😀
I did a bit of bartering for souvenirs, chatted with the Bedouins for a bit, and locals even helped guide me to the Place of High Sacrifice. Overall, I found it is definitely a safe place for solo female travelers, which I give two thumbs up! 😀
Petra By Night
As a pièce de résistance in Petra, visitors have the option of visiting the ruins at night. The tour costs about 24 USD, where visitors are taken to The Treasury, guided only by candle light. I decided to spend my money elsewhere, but for those with a bigger budget, the nighttime views of the treasury looked absolutely stunning. 😀
Cost: A one-day pass to Petra is 70 USD, which makes it an incredibly expensive place to visit. A two-day pass to Petra is 77 USD, which is only a few bucks more. I think two days is well-worth it, considering Petra is over 2,500 acres, with many hiking routes, hidden caves, and carved inscriptions. You might as well spend at least two days there, considering you came all this way. 😀
Luckily, I pre-purchased the Jordan Pass, so there was no fee for me to enter the site. Other costs, like soda and water, were about 1 USD, and I also ended up by some camel pants for about 4 USD. ❤Overall, I felt the park did a nice job of maintaining the grounds. The walkways were well-equipped with plenty of trash bins to keep the place looking clean, and the guides were very helpful in directing tourists to any site that they wished to visit. Click here for up-to-date information on ticket prices in Petra, and hours of operation.
Anyway, that wraps up my time in Petra. From there, the New Zealander and I journeyed to Wadi Rum, for a night of camping with Bedouins in the desert. Stay tuned to hear all about it. Until then. 🙂