Petra, the great Ancient City is a wonderland of an ancient civilization! It lies half-hidden in the wind-blown landscape in southern Jordan and is one of the world’s most treasured Unesco Heritage Sites. Voted by popular ballot in 2007 as one of the ‘New Seven Wonders of the World’, it is carved into the rock face by the nomadic Bedouin tribe and remained hidden from the West until 1812. As much hard I try, I do not think I can ever describe what I feel for this city! Its a miracle – trust me! Its epitome of beauty and magic. I have never ever seen anything like this place in my entire life. It’s beyond words!
Petra is a massive site that stretches over 60 square kilometers. yes, it’s huge! It’s going to take some time getting from each of the main sites. The most popular ways to get around Petra are:
Walking: I wanted to see everything – so I walked down. Though it was very very tiring but I wanted to cherish everything. All you have to do is wear a comfortable pair of walking shoes and try not to carry much luggage. It’s free, and you’ll get to wander around at your own pace.
Take a Carriage Ride: If you want to save time, you can get a carriage ride from the visitor’s center to the Treasury. The trip costs 20 JD ($28).
Hire a Camel: There are camel handlers around all the major sites of Petra, you can hire one!
And yes, do not forget to carry enough water!
The site is open from 6 am to 7 pm in summers and from 6am to 5 pm in winters. A one-day ticket costs JD50 ($70) per person, but a two-day ticket is JD55, and a three-day is JD 60.
The tickets can be bought at the visitor’s center. You can also buy maps and tour guides for easy access through the site.
They say the best time to visit Petra is during cooler spring that is from March to May and autumn from September to November months. On the contrary, I went in July and I think it was fine. There was not much crowd (thank God!!) and I could see everything at my own pace. If you can handle the summer heat, I will suggest going from June – July – the place is not crowded and you’ll have this beautiful lost city all to yourself.
Start early so as to avoid the heat and crowd.
Now what all to see while in Petra, I am listing it down:
- Siq: It is the ancient main entry to Petra, and is a mile long, narrow valley. The walk through this magical corridor is magnificent! It is a passage that goes into a sacred way, filled with sites of spiritual significance.
- Treasury: The siq opens up onto Petra’s most magnificent façade – the Treasury, or Al Khazna. This is the place that will take your breath away. It’s beautiful – I could not help but stare it for mins together. Its beauty will leave you awestruck! It is almost 40 meters high and intricately decorated with Corinthian capitals, friezes, figures and more. The Treasury was probably constructed in the 1st century BC, The Treasury consists of two floors with a width of 25.30 meters and a height of 39.1 meters.
- Theatre: Originally built by the Nabataeans more than 2000 years ago, the Theatre was chiseled out of a rock, slicing through many caves and tombs in the process. It was then enlarged by the Romans to hold more people soon after they arrived in 106 CE. It was badly damaged by an earthquake in 363 CE, but it remains a Petra highlight.
- Royal Tombs: Sculpted out of the western slope of the Jabal al-Hubta rock massif, majestically overlooking the center of Petra, are The Royal Tombs. They can be reached via a set of steps that ascends from the valley floor, near the Theatre. It is definitely a worthwhile hike. It gives a spectacular view of the Treasury.
- Urn Tomb: The first of the Royal Tombs is the Urn Tomb. This tomb is built high on the mountainside and requires a lot of climbing. The most distinctive of the Royal Tombs is the Urn Tomb, recognizable by the enormous urn on top of the pediment.
- Monastery: Hidden high in the hills, the Monastery is one of the legendary monuments of Petra. Similar in design to the Treasury but far bigger. It was built in the 3rd century BCE as a Nabataean tomb.
- High Place of Sacrifice: A diversion off the main path, lies the way to the high place of sacrifice – it’s a huge climb! So, be prepared before you start the journey. But this is worth the climb, about thirty or forty minutes – there’s no mountaineering involved – just climbing. The amazing view from the top and some of Petra’s most extraordinary rock-coloring make the hike worthwhile.
Now let me give you a brief about the history of Petra (It is important!). Nabataeans, a community of master builders whose skills included hydraulic engineering, iron production and copper refining, use to work from Petra. It was a trade route from Damascus to Arabia from where caravans used to pass.
The city was destroyed by an earthquake in AD 555, they say. But most of Petra’s most impressive structures remain intact, making it a treasure trove of architectural sites, hidden along the Siq
The Ancient City is approached through the 1.2 km-long, high-walled Siq. When you walk there, you feel its unending! But then the moment you catch breathtaking glimpses of the most impressive of Petra’s sights, the Treasury, you feel alive!
From the Treasury, the way broadens., riddled by more than 40 tombs known as the Street of Facades. Just before you reach the Theatre, there is the way to climb up to the High Place of Sacrifice.
Just opposite to the Theatre, the steps go to the Royal Tombs, where access city’s mystic high places lie.
There are the Great Temple and the Temple of the Winged Lions on the opposite side of the wadi. At the end of the colonnaded street, is the imposing Nabataean temple known locally as Qasr Al Bint – one of the few free-standing structures in Petra.
There are two restaurants there: Nabataean Tent Restaurant and Basin Restaurant.
Beyond the restaurants likes Wadi Siyagh and the path the Monastery. From there you can see the magnificent rock formations of Petra, Jebel Haroun, and even Wadi Araba.
So this was all about how to travel to Petra. Do comment if you are planning a trip there!