Exploring the hidden city of Petra

Just 10 days earlier I had marveled at the pyramids of Giza, one of those rare sights that live up to their tremendous expectations. The pink city of Petra, immortalized in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, stands to the same test. And our first impression of it, on a dark, starry night and lit up by hundreds of candles, was magical. I definitely recommend planning your trip to make sure that you can enjoy Petra by Night, which runs only certain days. Make sure to get there early (they let people in way before the official 8:30pm start time), and don’t let the high price (17 JD, ~S25), the hordes of tourists, the organizational chaos (if too many people come they just sit them in front of the first row, blocking the view), and the tacky show ruin it for you.

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The next morning, we started the day super early, and energized to hike all Petra’s main sites in one day. We entered before 7am (50 JD, ~$70), and descended through the Siq, a slot canyon that is not really a canyon since it wasn’t formed by a river but rather by tectonic movements splitting the rock. This time we didn’t rush like the previous night, and checked out the sights on the way: tombs, water channels, engravings, etc. After a short walk, the canyon revealed the Treasury. We spent ample time taking in this fascinating Nabatean tomb, carved in the pink rock, and amazingly well preserved.

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For a moment, we were pretty much alone there. When the place started to get crowded, we moved on on the main trail, past the 2,000 year old Theater, and up the Royal tombs, carved in the cliffs to the right. After about 45 min hiking up, we reached the Treasury viewpoint, where we chilled at a tea shop waiting for the sun to light up the façade. On the way down, we stopped at a couple of other viewpoints, with a particularly good view of the Theater not to be missed.

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Down on the main wadi (dry valley), we backtracked to reach the trailhead for the High Place of Sacrifice. Looking around, at so many structures in the rock, I realized for the first time that Petra was much more than the famous Treasury, that it must have been a large, lively town in its time. We hiked up in about 30 min, and after checking off the peak where there wasn’t anything to see, we continued on the Wadi Farasa trail. I really enjoyed this trail, it was quiet and went through multiple tombs in crazy colorful cliffs, and a giant lion carving.

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We reached the end of this trail at the Basin, where we rested and refueled at the restaurant. By then, it was surprisingly hot, a feeling we hadn’t really experienced throughout this whole winter trip in Egypt and Jordan. We then hiked up to the Monastery, stopping to check out the Winged Lions Temple and the vistas in general. The Monastery was similar to the Treasury, but bigger and yellow rather than pink. The views from atop the rocks right in front of it, over the tea shop, were outstanding. We hiked back and checked out the Qasr Al Bint temple, Colonnaded Street and the Byzantine church, before walking back by the Royal tombs, to the Treasury and up the Siq.

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It was about 8 hours after we had entered the area that we walked out into the town of Wadi Musa. We had hiked at a moderate pace and stopped a ton for pictures, so I’d say our combination of trails is perfectly doable for anyone in fair shape, especially if visiting during the longer summer days. We sat down at Cave Restaurant, and devoured a yummy, well-deserved meal for 4 people… between the 2 of us.

2 thoughts on “Exploring the hidden city of Petra

  1. Pingback: Destination guide – Jordan – Bona Travels

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