Jordan - Petra / Йордания - Петра

Three days are a bit for a colorful and diverse country like Jordan, but still give tourists a chance to touch some of the main attractions… Our base point was Aqaba, and when it comes to sights in Jordan, without a doubt the main one is one of the 7 modern wonders of the world – the ancient city of Petra!

Where is located and how to get there

Petra is located in the valley of Wadi Musa – “Valley of Moses”. The location is extremely strategic, located at the crossroads between ancient trade routes – to Gaza in the west, Damascus in the north, the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf on the other side of the desert. The capital Amman is 230 km, and our location (Aqaba) is only 125 km. The Israeli city of Eilat is 135 km away. The flights of low cost airlines to Eilat and Aqaba make visiting Petra very easy and desired by European tourists!

The most convenient and short trip is from Aqaba. There is a regular line of local JETT buses, which depart around 7-8 in the morning in the direction of Petra, and the last course back is around 16:00 – 17:00… depending on the season. A one-way ticket is 12 JD, a two-way ticket is 18 JD, and the trip lasts about 2 hours and 30 minutes… The faster and better option is by taxi! Their fare for a two-way trip is around 80 JD and if you are 4 people… it’s the same like the bus. I will tell you more information about transport and stay planning soon…

We go to Petra

We arrived in Jordan the night before and this was our first full day. We planned an early departure, around 6:30, so that we could be around Petra at 08:30. And so it happened, our driver (Mahmoud) was extremely punctual, exactly 6:30 waiting for us at the entrance of the hotel. He decided to slow down a bit by taking us hot tea and freshly baked traditional snacks of dough and spices. I had to eat most of them because the other 3 people didn’t like their unusual taste and the fact that they were quite soaked in fat, and I was in the front seat and Mahmoud kept telling me in broken English: “Eat my friend, eat…”. And I didn’t want to offend him with the first impression… It turned out to be a very colorful figure, which brought a lot of variety to our trip… that’s why later…

A very thick fog fell on the road, which made Mahmoud stop for a few minutes… In addition, the temperatures were about 10 degrees… I was aware that summer could not be expected in February, but it was really cold… Fortunately, the fog cleared and in the parking lot in front of Petra’s entrance the weather was just chilly!

We arrived on schedule, around 08:30 and there was still not a large flow of tourists. In their tourist website is written that they work until 16:00 hour and we wanted to use the whole time. I had written in advance to Mahmoud on WhatsApp that we would be in Petra from 08:00 to 16:00. We explained to him several times in the parking lot that we would be back at four o’clock… His vague look raised a slight suspicion that he understood everything, but the emphatic “Okay, okay, my friend, no problem” made me hope that everything would be fine…

Entrance and the first impressive

So… the entrance for Petra is 50 JD. It’s not low, but it’s totally worth it… There weren’t queues, everything happened very quickly. As soon as you enter, there are several stalls whose sellers are just waiting for you to enter and they attack from a distance. We wanted to get towels for our heads, because the sun and the wind in combination would certainly be reflected… And it’s cool, you feel a little more like a Bedouin…

We slipped into the first shop and the bargain started… Putting on towels, without asking us want it or not, changing a few models… And after he told us the price of 15 JD… everyone came out… and they left me alone inside with the Arab, who was tying the towel more and more furiously, and I had the feeling that he was pulling a nice swearing… He was inclined to lower the price of 8 JD and I came out with a towel on my head… but at least he tied it to me in a pretty good way. The others bought from the first stall on the way to the canyon… for 5 JD! The mens we took black and white (Palestinian colors) and the women red and white (traditional Bedouin colors).

First steps in Petra

There isn’t exact information when the ancient city was born, but recent research proves that there was life in these lands since the 6th century BC. The heyday of Petra began with the proclamation of the city as the capital of the Nabataean kingdom in the 1st century BC. The Nabataeans were mostly cattle breeders, but the favorable location of the city forced them to adapt and become security guards of merchants, and Petra in a huge trading center! The prosperity of the place is spread by word of mouth, and those passing through it are impressed by the beauty and the oasis in which they fall…

The Nabataeans use the Wadi Musa Valley as natural fortifications around the city, and their engineering thought is so good that they managed to make a system of canals, which drains and stores rainwater in huge reservoirs, exceptional for their time and for today. In addition, they purified it and used! This people is as interesting and mysterious as Petra itself…

At the very beginning of the road we see several tombs that only hint at what awaits us inside… The dusty road is wide enough for the flow of tourists, but it’s good to be careful with passing Bedouins, who think they are Indiana Jones. You should know that the ticket includes donkey riding, but if you get on one of them, the locals will not let you get off until you pay them extra… We don’t particularly like the idea of riding exhausted animals, which already suffer enough from the sticks of their owner…

The Canyon Siq

After a short walk we reach the beginning of the Siq canyon, which leads to Petra… Standing in front of it, shivers go through us… The majesty of nature is visible! The rocks reach a height of around 100 meters, and the hole is usually about 3-4 meters, and in some places it becomes a little wider. Natural processes have left their mark on the rocks themselves, and the acquired colors are impressive! In their lower part, the carved canals of the Nabataeans, for which I mentioned to you, are clearly visible… Its length is about 1.2 km and the canyon itself can be considered as the first landmark in Petra!

Coming in the morning, it is good to wear an outer garment, because the temperatures between the high rocks are low… It is also good to beware of high-speed rickshaws, driven by locals and driving the lazier tourists in this section…

At times, beautiful side views are revealed, and the bizarre shapes of the rocks accompany the entire route through the canyon. Interesting is the rock “elephant”, resembling, as you can guess from the name, elephant… Fortunately, there were still no huge crowds of tourists and in some places I managed to stalk the lonely rocks for a few photos… Would we have had access to this ancient city if the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, who rediscovered Petra in 1812, had given up somewhere about 200 meters before the end of the canyon, not believing that so deep in the desert and among these high rocks, can hide such a place…?

The moment for sighs

“Life isn’t measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away”… Right? Well, this one is definitely like that… I don’t think there is another moment in the whole journey to Jordan that can be compared to leaving Siq and the appearance of the amazing treasury Al-Khazneh. Guides around us make their groups close their eyes, then give them a signal when to open them and sighs of astonishment echo through the canyon… But even this isn’t entirely necessary, because the high rocks play a very good natural role of hiding place and to the last conceal the beauty of the Nabataean creation in the reddish rocks of the valley…

The treasury Al-Khazneh

There isn’t other building in the ancient city that can be compared to the treasury Al-Khazneh! This perfect architectural marvel is about 30 m wide and 40 m high! The facade is in Roman-Hellenistic style, decorated with various intricate figures and deities. All this is not built, but carved directly into the colorful rock… And to make it even more complicated, the process took place from top to bottom! Imagine what accuracy and what engineering genius it is when you hang 40 meters above the ground and you have to be precise in every action, because you haven’t right to make a mistake and a second attempt… And that more than 2000 years ago…

According to some legends, the pharaoh’s treasure is hidden in a pot on top of the facade! Traces of bullets suggest many attempts to find it. To this day, this hasn’t happened… The official claim is that the treasury has the function of the tomb of Aretas III. The interiors also point to this statement. The main hall is about 10 sq m and a height of nearly 13 m. Can you imagine how they were carved inside the rock…? And all the material extracted from them was used to make the colonnades in the central part of the city… Another demonstration of genius by the Nabateans!

The area in front of the treasury

In front of the treasury the jiggery-pokery is seething in full force! All kinds of souvenirs are sold, which the locals launch as archeological relics, but they certainly have no antique value. Renting camels and donkeys is the other most common activity and it is difficult to walk 10 meters without being offered to spend a little local currency… And the poor camels look so harassed, and at the same time they are extremely colorful… Here is the first option to buy a drink or something to eat. We bring enough water and food for the day and don’t need recharging.

The best place for photos

I will give you the best place for a photo to the treasury. After exiting Siq, turn right and the small rock, which serves as a scene for taking pictures, is located directly opposite the path to the other sights in the city…

The view from above

Yep, this is the best place below, but undoubtedly the view from above is the dream of every tourist who came to Petra! And we were no exception… We headed to the steps to the left of the treasury, which lead to the high opposite rock! Well, it turned out that we can’t get there easily… The local boys, who want money from the tourists to take them up the path, had surrounded the beginning of the stairs and didn’t let anyone without their guide… The bargain started from 20 JD and we managed to drop to 10 JD for 4 people…

The climb took about 10 minutes on extremely dangerous trails! I didn’t expect it to be so extreme, but it’s good that we took the little Bedouin, who was about 15 years old… He climbed with amazing ease and helped us in the steepest sections. And the views below were chilling and breathtaking at times… There were parts where you literally have space just to step… Now I understand why there are cases of tourists falling off the rocks…

Well, we climbed… And… 2 more JD to sit and take pictures on the red carpet… They orientated how to earn from tourists… But… worth it… the most stunning view… Your feet hang from the edge of the sheer rock, and below them the amazing Al-Kahzneh…

At the streets of Petra

We spent a lot of time on the treasury, but there is no way… this is the most beautiful and captivating part of Petra! Some tourists only get here and go back… which is unthinkable for us! Our destination is the final point of the tourist route through the ancient city – the monastery Ad Deir. But there is still a long way to go… Or around 1 hour and 30 minutes to be more precise. And there are more beauties that are revealed to the eyes of visitors… The buildings date from different eras and rulers of the city… Starting with the first – the Edomites and going through the most preserved creations of the Nabataeans and reaching the Romans, Byzantines and Arabs…

The amphitheater

The first landmark that catches our attention is the amazing amphitheater… I have seen a lot of Roman amphitheaters (Volterra, Taormina and others), but this one impresses with the fact that it is not built, but carved into the rock! Another amazing creation of the Nabataeans, built in the heyday of the kingdom under the rule of Aretas IV… The facility gathered about 4,000 people! We decided to climb the opposite rock to get a better view…

The royal tombs

We enjoyed a little more of the view from above and continue on the main path. Many mysterious holes began to reveal on our right side… There are over 500 rock carved tombs on the territory of Petra! Suddenly the same type of crevices in the rocks became extremely impressive… We reached the Royal Tombs!

The stairs up lead to their entrances, but because of the more time we spent around the treasury, we decided for the moment to continue to the monastery and go up to them when we returned. We walked a little further along the road and behind us a great landscape to the four most famous tombs in Petra was revealed. The first from right to left – the impressive Urn Tomb. It is believed to be of Aretas IV. Follow the less attractive Silk Tomb to reach Corinthian Tomb…Its facade is strikingly similar to that of the treasury, but unfortunately it is quite ruined… The latter is the Palace Tomb, which is very similar to a Roman palace.

Petra’s natural beauty impresses in all its forms! Some of the rocks are easily accessible and it is worth climbing for a moment of enjoyment of the beautiful landscapes! The strange shapes and variety of colors make the rocks something unique. The exact size of Petra is still unknown, but it can be said to be more than 6 sq km.

We sit down for a light rest and eat some of the things we bring. We decided to stock up on some fruit and croissants because the food in Petra is only limited. There are also decent toilets, which we take advantage of, because we are about to climb to the monastery! Right next to our stop is the only restaurant in Petra, but to be in this amazing place and waste your time sitting in a restaurant is complete madness!

On the steps to the monastery

Around 800 stone steps separate us from the monastery of Ad Deir… To tell you the truth… this part of our tour of Petra is unique! The stairs meander among millennial rocks, which under the refracting rays of the sun reveal amazing shades of the red-pink range… The colorful stalls with cheeky local merchants and donkeys racing up the steep steps create a magical touch in this place that should be felt… We are careful where we step so as not to get into the fire of a local seller who makes tea near the hiking trail… And the goats don’t bother to climb even the most inaccessible areas…

View of the valley

I will give you a secret place for perfect photos of the Wadi Musa Valley… We leave the main path a few minutes before reaching the monastery and find ourselves on a rocky platform behind one of the stalls… The exact location is HERE. The place remains slightly hidden from the wooden buildings of the locals… And what a view have from there…

The improvised shops are more colorful and picturesque! They contain a huge variety of goods – oriental textiles, colored lamps, ceramics and many souvenirs… Here are some of the cheapest things in all of Jordan! Especially the magnets! The most lucrative magnets are on the stalls, just before the monastery… For 2 JD we took 7 magnets! In Aqaba this was the price of 1 piece…

The Monastery Ad Deir

Finally we reached our final point of the walk… The other rock masterpiece in Petra – the monastery Ad Deir! Its remarkable facade resembles a treasury, but with less detail. Its dimensions reach 45 m in height and 50 m wide! It was built as a tomb, but after the conquest of Petra by the Crusaders it was used as a temple.

Directly opposite it there is a restaurant with several tables where you can sit and drink a tea or juice… We decided to take advantage and relax after the difficult transition. In Petra the range isn’t good and right here somewhere we managed to catch it and the messages from our driver arrived one after another… I’m not sure if he was play dumb or if he really understood that we should leave not at 16:00, but after 4 hours (at 12:30 pm). Somehow we managed to get along, but we certainly had in mind that we could go to Aqaba by bus… Well, we hadn’t given him any money for the moment, which was in our favor…

From the opposite rock

There are several places around the monastery where great photos can be taken… The opposite rock and the panorama from it is one of these places! The ascent is short and not very steep, and the view is to the whole area of the monastery and the new excavations in front of it. Luckily for me, a yellow cat appeared, obediently posing for a few shots. We almost missed the view from the other side … the stunning hills of the valley.

The way back

We can see the end of the tour… It remains to enjoy once again everything seen… With a slight worry whether Mahmoud will be waiting for us, we head back to Petra’s entrance. We don’t go up to the tombs… we didn’t want to take any risks and delay further. There are many more trails and views that are worth seeing, but they take at least one more day… We are satisfied with the main sights and the many emotions that the rock city aroused in us. Here it is again… The Treasury… And again we feel a sense of insignificance in front of her majesty… The afternoon rays of the sun give her a completely different vision…

Last view of the day

Mahmoud was waiting for us in the parking lot… with a huge smile and a ridiculous excuse that he was asleep and was confused… I’m sure he just tried us, to leave earlier… If it happens… On the way back he stopped us at a great view, right HERE. The clear weather allowed us to enjoy the whole valley and the strange rocks in it… Great end to a tiring and very interesting day!