We have planned two days in Petra. The Unesco World Heritage site and 7th wonder of the ancient world spans 45km² and was built around 300BC. It’s carved into rock and impresses not only in size, but first and foremost in craftsmanship, colors, height, and versatility.
We arrive in the early afternoon after yet another Jordanian lunch (Hummus, Pita bread, Fries (?!), Eggplant mash – these dishes start to get a little old after the first week..) and decide on the two-day ticket.
Day 1: Entering Petra through the Siq
As soon as we are through the gate we are hassled by horse-ride sellers. They tell us it’s incredibly far to walk, the ride is included in the ticket price, they can show us things we wouldn’t otherwise see…. and on and on. Well, none of that is actually correct. We do go for a short ride, which is fun. However, they would like a tip of around 10JD per person per ride. The entire entrance ticket is 56JD for 2 days. It’s a bit outrageous. We give the 2JD and are on our way.
After the initial 500 meters the Siq (narrow canyon) commences. The colors are spectacular and it’s amazing to walk in. We walk a solid 20 minutes – always listening up for the horse carriages that thunder by unexpectedly and without slowing down from behind. As the Siq narrows down towards the end, we hash the first glimpse of Petra’s most famous view: The Treasury! It’s awe-inspiring!
As we step out of the Siq, we are greeted by camels, tourists, vendors, donkeys, dogs, cats, selfie-sticks and rising above it all the Treasury.
We take a moment to land and admire. Then we head down towards the Street of Facades and the point where we can climb up to the High Place of Sacrifice. Steps lead up the rocks. After around 40 minutes of hiking up step after step, we reach the holy place. From this vantage point, Petra reveals its true size. It is overwhelming. We can see far towards Little Petra and the Monastery. There are caves dug into the rock as far as the eye can see. When inhabited, this place must have been a bustling city with thousands of people going about their daily business.
We sit a while.. letting our feet dangle over nothing and enjoy the view. The obligatory Bedouin offers yet another cup of tea – this time we decline. We are still sweating from the climb up.
Eventually, we start the descent. It has gotten a bit late, the sun will set soon and we decide it’s time to track down a cold beer and grab a bite. We still have a whole next day to continue our explorations.
We take the long walk back to the visitor center and just outside it the Cave Bar offers all that we’ve been looking for. Albeit the service is slow, we end up having a few beers and food and stumble home slightly tipsy and exhausted at around 9pm.
Day 2: Hiking until the Legs are Shaky
For our second day of Exploring Petra we have decided to take the back entry and start the day from Little Petra. We grab a cab to take us around to the other side and start the day all by ourselves. Gone are the groups of other tourists. We spend the entire morning hiking up and around the Crusader Castle, the Roman baths, the Museum. We stop at an old Bedouin’s little tea shop that he has set up on the terrace of a cave on the backside of a side canyon that leads towards the castle. His tea and date cookie are great and he has lots of insights on the best trails to take.
Around lunch time we start our ascend towards the Monastery. Arguably the most rewarding hike and stunning structure, it pays off to linger and watch it turn pink in the afternoon sun. From here we debate to take a back trail back down, however, several donkey riders tell us the path is hard to find and the hike would be a strenuous 2- to 3-hour affair. We decide against it as we would still like to have time to explore the Byzantine Church and the Royal Tombs.
The decision proves to be the right one. We take hours hiking around the tombs, finding the best spots high up in the rocks to catch a view of the amphitheater and watch the set behind the Monastery.
We originally thought we’d stay inside for the Petra by Night tour, which you can easily do. I had read very mixed reviews and other travelers we had met during our diving adventure at the Red Sea had said it wasn’t magical whatsoever. Thus I didn’t want to spend the extra money but staying inside seemed like a good idea.
By the time they started setting up the first lights, however, we had gotten so tired we decided to call it a day. We got to walk out through the lit candles, which was pretty and probably gave a good idea of what the whole endeavor would be like.
Ending the Day in Petra
Over a delicious dinner at The Oriental Restaurant just outside the gates of the main entrance, we recounted our 19km hiked and climbed and Petra definitely was one of the prime Jordan experiences.