To put it simply: Petra = wow.
You may or may not recall that I spent a week in Jordan last summer, after having run with the bulls in Spain, explored Israel, and before embarking on a grand tour of Scandinavia and Western Europe by bus, boat, and train. (It was a busy summer.)
I travelled to 20 countries last year(!) and Jordan was unsurprisingly one of my favourites, due in large part to Petra. For those not in the know, Petra is an ancient city believed to have been established as early as 312 BC (yes, you’re reading that correctly). Home to the Nabateans, an ancient civilization hailing from Northern Arabia, knowledge of Petra was essentially lost to the Western world until 1812, when it was rediscovered by a Swiss explorer by the name of Bruckhardt.
Now one of the Middle East’s most visited attractions, Petra is enormous, epic, and ridiculously impressive. Liebling and I rented a car in the south of the country (I highly recommend it as rentals are cheap, roads in Jordan are good, and parking is never an issue) and drove it to Wadi Musa, the town nearest to Petra.
We stayed in the aptly named Petra Moon Hotel, which is literally at the doorstep of Petra’s Visitor Centre – we were able walk there in five minutes! Besides the great location, the hotel was relatively inexpensive, spotless, and had a small rooftop pool which provided a much-needed respite from the searing heat.
Which brings me to my advice for visiting Petra: stay nearby and go there EARLY. Petra’s steadily increasing popularity amongst travellers means that crowds are imminent. Luckily, since our hotel was so close to Petra’s entrance, we were able get up early and walk there just as the gates were opening, which meant that we were virtually the only tourists on-site for the first half hour or so. As a result we managed to get some really good unobstructed views!
Another nugget: keep hydrated and slather on the sunscreen. We were there in July and it was hot as Hades – I swear I could have fried an egg on the dirt paths that stretched endlessly before me. We had heard of people suffering heat stroke and horrible sun burns so we equipped ourselves accordingly. Also be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes as you will walk a lot! The grounds are so extensive that we didn’t see everything.
Petra is a massive, sprawling city whose giant buildings will make you feel miniscule in comparison. What struck me even more than the sheer size of the buildings was the fact that the Nabateans built all these structures without modern machinery. How the heck did they do it?
The only thing that bothered me about Petra was the exorbitant entrance fee. I’ve already ranted about how ridiculously expensive visiting Macchu Pichu in Peru was; I was equally dismayed by the hefty $55 USD entry fee to Petra. Food is also insanely expensive inside Petra- I strongly recommend bringing a picnic lunch if you can!
Cost aside, you must go see Petra with your own eyes. I know people often shy away from travelling in the Middle East, but as I wrote a few months ago, you shouldn’t let overblown, xenophobic news reports/ media accounts stop you from seeing the world. Jordan is relatively safe, has stunning sights, and the kindest people you’ll ever meet. Make it your next trip!
What do you think of Petra? Have you ever been to the Middle East? If not, what’s stopping you?