Petra, authentic jewel of Jordan
Petra is the most known historical site of Jordan and one of the seven wonder of the ancient World. Built in the heart of Shara Mountain by Nabatean, it prospered between the 1st century BC and the 1st Ad, becoming a vital part of a major trading route, connecting ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt.
It was later annexed to the Roman Empire but a strong earthquake in 4th century AD and a change of the trading routes, brought the inhabitants to abandon the city.
In 1812, a Swiss explorer and geographer by name Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, “discovered” Petra and since that moment, the “lost city” has become increasingly known starting to attract visitors.
Visiting Petra is very easy and it satisfies a wide range of passions like archeology, trekking, photography but the site is very huge and it takes time to complete your trip.
From the entrance gate, after 10 minutes walk along the “Main Trail” (almost 4 km long, quite flat), the first thing that will take your breath is the Siq, a narrow gorge leads visitors into Petra.
The Siq resulted from a natural splitting of the mountain and it’s 1.2 km long, between 90 – 282 mt high and in some points no more than 3 mt wide.
At the end of the gorge, you’ll start sighting the most famous and known monument of Jordan: the Treasury. This magnificent facade, called “Al Khazneh” and mostly known as the Treasury (pic nr. 1), is almost 40 mt high and intricately decorated.
It’s crowned by a funeral urn which according to local legend conceals a Pharaoh’s treasure.Continuing on the right side along the outer Siq, there is the Street of Facades, a row of Nabatean tombs carved into the cliff on both sides.
It is believed that these interfaces represents some of the senior officials in the city or princes but unfortunately most of them are badly damaged.
At the end of the Street of Facades, on your left, starts a rock – cut steps to reach the High Place of Sacrifice (see the trails below). Going on along the main trail you’ll get to the Theatre. Carved into the side of the mountain and built more than 2000 years ago, it consists of three rows of seats and could accomodate almost 3000 spectators.
On the opposite side there are the Royal Tombs, four magnificent facades carved into the cliff, adjacent to each other. From right to left you’ll first meet the “Urn Tomb“, reachable through a rock steps, its name come from the jar that crowns the pediment.
Next to the Urn Tomb there is the “Silk Tomb” with its swirls of different colored rock and one of the most dramatically colored tombs in Petra, then the “Corinthian tomb“, that combines various element of both Nabatean and classical architectural style, and finally the “Palace tomb“, dated back to 2nd century with its 12 decorated columns and four gate.
Leaving the Palace tomb, going on along the path always lining the cliff, you’ll find a junction: on the left you can reach the Byzantine Church or the Main Trail, on the right you’ll reach the steps of Al khubtha trail that lead on the top of the cliff until you get its edge to see the Treasury from above (see the trails guide below).
Back on the Main trail, it starts the roman part of the site. Once left the Nymphaeum, a semi-circular public fountain decorated with six columns and now shaded by a juniper tree said to be 450 yars old, you’ll walk through the Colonnade street, one of the principal shopping street of the ancient Petra. Originally built by Nabatean, it was later refurbished during the period of Roman occupation.
The street was paved in horizontal and vertical ways in order to facilitate the movement of vehicles as it curved from the middle to allow the draining of water.
On the left side there is the Great Temple, built around the 1st century AD by Nabatean, estimated to cover an area of 7000 square meters. At the end of the colonnade, takes place a triple gate that leads you to a temple dedicated to Dushares (daughter of the Pharaoh): Qasr al Bint. It was the the main and most important temple of Petra, approachable by a flight of 26 marbles steps.
On the other side there is the Black Winged Temple, which is dedicated to the God of Lat and Uzza, who is the mate of the major Nabataean gods. The main trail end up here after 4 km. Close to the temple you’ll find the sign indicating the beginning of the “Ad Deir trail“, know as the Monastery and the only restaurant of the site, the Crown Plaza Basin.
TRAILS GUIDE information
If you like hiking, Petra is the right place. Throughout the huge site there are several trails very interesting from where you can enjoy more tombs but most of all amazing views.
1) Main trail
It starts from the entrance gate ending at Qasr al Bint. It is the path that cross the whole site. It’s 4 km long and quite flat. If you are tired or with mobility problems, you can ride a horse from the gate to the entrance of the Siq or a carriage from the gate to Treasury. From the Treasury to Qasr al Bint you can both ride a donkey or a camel.
2) Al Khubtha trail
Leaving the Royal Tombs on your right side, lining the cliff, you’ll reach the steps that lead to the viewpoint to see the treasury from the top of the cliff. It’s 1.5 km long and it takes you around 1 hour.
The first 40 minutes you have to climb up the rock steps until you get the theatre viewpoint. Here, on your left, starts the descent on a gravel path until you reach the 2 beduin tents located on the edge of the cliff (right side of the Siq).
The view is amazing, seeing the Treasury from above is breathtaking. Taking a rest inside the tent drinking a tasty mint tea while you admire that “masterpiece” is something not to be missed. Go back on the same path.
Even though the trail is classified “hard”, it’s nothing deadly, sure a bit challenging and steep in some points but not hard. Just keep your pace and rest when you need.
3) High Place of Sacrifice trail
At the end of the Street of Facades, on your left side, you’ll see a rock cut steps climbing up the cliff that leads to the High Place of Sacrifice. It’s a place of worship on a mountain plateau used for important religious ceremonies.
At the end of the steps you’ll find a stall and a junction. If you take the left path, you’ll reach in 25 minutes the left side of the Siq where, from the edge of the cliff, you’ll have a breathtaking view on the Treasury (here there is also a beduin tent).
Around the stall it’s possible to find some local guys offering to be your guide (they ask around 10 jd) until the edge of the cliff. That path is quite flat but the last part is not marked and a bit unsafe so i suggest you to be accompanied.
Taking the right path, you’ll reach in 5 minutes another junction beside 2 Obelisks. The left path lead you through the Wadi al Fasara.
Take the steps on your right to get in a while to the High place of Sacrifice. From here go on a bit until you’ll reach a tent located on the edge of the mountain where a Jordan flag is waving blowing by the wind.
Here the view is really really spectacular. Going back to the Obelisks, I suggest you to continue taking the path in front of you to Wadi al Fasara.
It’s a beautiful descending path through the gorge along a trail believed to be a processional route to the high place of sacrifice, used by pilgrims and worshippers. Along the gorge there are many remarkable tombs like the ”Garden temple”, the “Colored Triclinium“, the ”Tomb of the Soldier” and the ”Renaissance Tomb”.
Leaving the Wadi al Fasara you’ll get to a junction: take the right to reach the Main Trail next to the Theatre and in front of the Royal Tombs, go on to reach Qasr al Bint and the Basin restaurant at the end of the Main Trail.
It takes you 50 minutes to reach the High place of Sacrifice, then other 50 minutes to complete the Wadi al Fasara trail to the Theatre. The trail has the same difficult of “Al Khubtha“, bit tiring the rock cut steps, easy the descent through the Wadi.
4) Ad Deir (Monastery) trail
With no doubt the most visited, this rock steps ascent (around 800) lead you to the largest monument of Petra: Ad Deir, known as the Monastery. It measures 47 mt wide by 48 mt high.
The interior is occupied by two benches and an altar against the rear wall. Built around the 2nd century AD during the reign of King Rabell II, got its name by the crosses carved into the rear wall when it was re-used as a Christian chapel.
The trail continues through breathtaking landscapes and magnificent valleys. The trail is around 1.5 km and it takes you 1 hours. As the other trail is a bit tiring but no worry, you don’t have to be a climber to reach the Monastery. Along the trail you’ll find local guys offering you to ride a donkey to get to the top.
5) Treasury trail (prohibited)
This is not a marked trail because should be not allowed climbing up. Anyways this route leads to the left side of the Siq where, from the edge, you can admire the Treasury from above. Facing the Treasury facade turn left lining the stalls until you get to the toilets.
Here many local guys will ask you to be your guide until the top of the cliff paying a fee (around 10 JD) though prohibited. It takes you only 15 minutes to reach the beduin tent located on the edge (that you can also reach through the High place of Sacrifice trail).
If you like to climb up, let the guy lead you because the path is not marked and in some points not so safe. Pretty much at half way there is the junction that link this route with the High place of Sacrifice trail, so, once completed the Treasury trail you can continue along the other trail.
In our opinion, the view from the left side of the Siq is much better than the right side but, if you have time, you should try both.
When to go and how long: All year round but the best seasons are spring and autumn to avoid the strong heat of the summer. We visited Petra in December and it was a bit cold during the early morning and at night. Petra could be mostly visited in a day but if you like hiking we suggest you 2 whole days. In a day, without rushing and if you are not that fit, you can do the main trail and the Monastery trail. We spent in Petra 1 day and half, the first day (starting early in the morning at 6.30 am) we did the main trail, the Monastery trail and the Treasury trail, the next half day we did the High Place of Sacrifice trail and the Treasury trail on the left side of the Siq.
How to get there: The best way to enjoy Jordan is by car. You can rent a sedan and go around the country with any problem. From Amman is 230 km, from Aqaba is 120 km. If you want to take the air conditioned Bus check at jett.com. The daily rides from Amman (Jett bus station, Abdali) start from 6.30 am (10 JD). Public minibuses from Amman to Wadi Musa (Petra Town) leave from Mujamaa Janobi station from 9.00 until 16.00 and from Wadi Musa to Amman from 6.00 till 13:00 (JD 5). Next to the Visitor Center you’ll also find a taxi service to the main destinations.
Ticket fee and opening time: 1 day is 50 JD, 2 days is 55 JD, 3 days is 60 JD. The gate opens at 6am to 6pm (summer time), 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. (winter time). You have to leave the site within 5 p.m. (winter), 7 p.m. (summer). I suggest you to spend 1 day an half/2 days to enjoy the whole site and the trails. I spent 1 day an half visiting the whole site and completing the trails mentioned. The first day I completed the Main trail, the Monastery trail and Treasury trail (prohibited); the second half day the High Place of Sacrifice – Wadi al Fasara and al Khubtha trail, then i left the site around 1.30 p.m. to reach the Wadi Rum Desert.
Petra by night: you can complete your Petra experience with a visit of Petra Night Show, a way to see part of the rock city by candlelight (the Siq and the Treasury). It costs 17 JD and runs Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 8.30 p.m. to 10.30 p.m.
Where to sleep: There is a wide range of accommodations. I slept at Edom Hotel, only 5 minutes walk from Petra visitors center and next to Tourism street where the restaurants are located. Close to the visitor center you also find La Maison Hotel, Petra Palace Hotel, Petra Moon Hotel, Venus Hotel, Petra Guest House Hotel, Sharah Mountains Hotel, Petra Bed & Breakfast, Petra Marriott Hotel and some luxury choices such as Movenpick Nabatean Castle Hotel and Movenpick Resort. Next to the visitor center there is a very nice bar ”the Cave” where you can spend your night smoking shisha and drinking a cold beer or cocktail. We booked our accommodation through Booking.com, alternatively you can also check with Agoda.com.
Local guide/tour operator: If you are looking for a local guide to arrange you trip around Jordan I suggest you Shaher Zayadneh (whatsapp:+962 777592772 – FB: Shaher Zayadneh). If you need a local tour operator, 10 minute walk from the Petra gate, along Tourism street, you’ll find the office of Jordan tour and travel agency.
Guide book: Jordan Lonely Planet. Click the banner to get the deal!
Travel insurance: We got our comprehensive protection with WorldNomads.
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