Sun was barely getting up on the sky, moments after the sunrise. We decided to start our hike to Petra as early as we can, to get ahead of the crowd. Parked the car near the entrance, paid the hefty ticket price, and we were on our way.
Being one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, and one of the main locations where Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was filmed, Petra is widely known tourist destination. It was used as a capitol city, an important trading stop and the buildings were used as tombs.
We started our trip early in the morning from Aqaba, which is about 2 hours drive to Petra.
Right at the entrance, there are people with donkeys, horses and carriages, asking you to get to ride with them. What was really weird about it was the fact that even tho it says horse ride is free with the ticket, you still need to pay the person whose horse it is! We found out about that couple of days prior to getting to Petra, from people we met at the Wadi Rum Bedouin camp.
The area you have to walk through is gorgeous, and we noticed that as soon as we got in the area, so we decided to walk to the Lost City. Paved road that takes you to el-Siq is surrounded by Djinn Blocks, Obelisk tomb and several stone carved tombs. It follows the Wadi Musa, “Valley of Moses”, which surrounds the Ain Musa, “Spring of Moses”. It is Bedouin belief that when Moses smote the rock here, the spring gushed forth in this place in Biblical times.
When getting to the Lost City, you have to pass through the this gorge. The views are breathtaking! It is fairly short, only 1.2 km, but the rocks and colors… they left me speechless. Being here alone, with only several other people gave us unique opportunity to explore the Siq on our own time, not being forced to move by other people because they want to take a specific shot of the gorge.
On the both sides of the path, you can see the canals, at places completely destroyed, which were used to bring water to the city. It was both bringing water from the river and collecting water that was pouring down the gorge walls!
The gorge was formed after a massive earthquake, when the path formed by splitting the rock inside, and then for thousands of years, the wind that blows through it shaped and smoothed the rocks inside. Inside, you can find this red sand everywhere, looking almost the same as the one from Wadi Rum.
THE TREASURY – AL KHAZNA
After some time, when you walk to just the right spot, you will see it, hiding just behind the next curve in the gorge – The Treasury.
The entire area is named Petra, but when people think of Petra, this is what they see. The huge entrance to the tomb, completely carved out of stone, it was featured in many movies and fictional stories. It is influenced by the ancient Greeks, and the Nabataeans, people who carved houses, tombs, even amphitheaters, built is out of single rock.
There are a couple of ways to get above the gorge and above the Treasury. One way is the way where Bedouins and Jordanian people will pull your sleeves and point you to. It is easy – you climb few stairs, you go on few turns, (you pay the fee, of course) and you are there! The view is breathtaking! But, there is a way to get the same view, arguably even better, all without paying a single dinar!
The other one is to follow the road that takes you through Nabataean settlement and finally, takes you to the ancient Roman part of the city. There, if you follow the trail carefully, you will get atop the gorge and have this view for yourself! Not many people take the hike, because it takes you a while to climb up (about 1.5 hours), but also, if you are short on time, you really need to find another way.
Nabataeans absolutely adored carving the rocks. I don’t know if that is true actually, that is just my personal opinion. But seeing all the tombs, houses, even the Palace they carved into this gorgeous red sandstone, you can’t say otherwise.
After leaving the Treasury, souvenir shops, small restaurants start to appear. You can find everything there, from food to copper fridge magnets. Everything your heart desires, it is there. All for a pretty penny, too.
One of the most impressive things in the Nabataean part of Petra, at least for me, was the amphitheater. The whole thing was carved out of stone, just like any other building here. It was remodeled by Romans and expanded upon in those times, and it could hold up to 6000 people!
Colonnaded street, the first part of the road to the Roman forum, used to host merchants all over the Arabia and other parts of the world. It was paved in Roman times, which replaced the Nabataean dirt and rock road.
Before entering the forum and going through the Temenos Gate, there is the Great Temple complex, which covers a huge area of the land. Along with the structures outside of Qasr al-Bint temple precinct, it is thought that it had secular, as well as religious purpose. You have to see and think how huge this complex was – with at least 60 columns… it’s impressive as it is, I can’t think how much more it was when it was in peak of its glory.
Temenos Gate is, just like everything else in this city, huge. You can see Agata standing right next to the gate, and being tiny in comparison (not that she is not tiny, but she looked even tinier here!).
After the Roman forum like square, you end up next to Qasr al-Bint, impressive temple complex, visited by many pilgrims even to this day. This temple, as almost every other structure in the city, was left in ruins after the earthquakes.
Wildlife and recreation
Petra, apart from being a place where you can see and learn about history about Romans, Nabataeans and even Bedouins, is a great place for wildlife watching! Birds are easiest to spot, and they follow you everywhere, some literally, some figuratively.
On a day where there is not too many people, you can see Hume’s Owl right on the Treasury, Arabian red fox wandering around the area and hiking trails, and Steppe Eagles soaring above your head.
Around the area, you have several hiking trails, where you can go and explore the desert around the City. They vary from an hour to several hours, so keep that in mind when planing a hike, especially if you are on a tight schedule!
On the way back…
Being here, and walking next to all this buildings that tower you several times over, you really start to wonder, how it was all made. I was amazed by the architecture and the dedication of the people who built this entire city, from the beginning to the end. And regardless to the fact that we did not have time to go and see the Monastery Al-Deir, I knew imediatelly that we will be back here one day, for sure.
Cost and Tips
As we said earlier, there is a way to see the Treasury from the top. We didn’t want to pay because the price was ridiculously high so we decided to find our own path. We manage to take beautiful pictures without the crowd and the views…see by yourselves! If you want to pay to go up their way – 10 JOD.
- entering Petra – 50 JOD/person
- souvenirs – 10 JOD /person (our experience)
- WiFi – FREE!
- horse/donkey ride: depends on who you get, but anywhere from 10 to even 100 JOD for half an hour!
- Food and water: we suggest bringing your own, if not, expect the prices to be spicey
- camel ride: 20 JOD/person
Bring plenty of water, especially during summer months – you will need it!
Walking is much better than paying who knows how much for the horse/donkey ride. They will say it’s free on your tickets, and people will also say that while you’re walking down the road. But then again, on another place, it says the ride is NOT free. Are you confused? We are too!
If you can, we definitelly suggest to start your hike early in the morning, as early as you can, to avoid the heat and also avoid the hordes of tourists that will come your way!
Follow our footprints to the Dead Sea, soon! In the mean time, check our blog about Sarajevo city break!