Petra – The Lost city of stone of the Nabateans and an UNESCO World heritage site, had fascinated me since I read about this famed city, located in desert area between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, in National Geographic Magazine as a kid. Although Petra’s claim to popular fame was the Indiana Jones Movie (Raiders of the Lost Ark), I was blissfully unaware of Petra’s ‘popular’ fame and longed to visited this ancient city of the Nabateans for its intriguing history, it’s mind-boggling water harvesting system in the middle of the desert and its being one of the important caravan trading cities in the crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Syria-Phoenicia for centuries.

 

My main inspiration of Jordan Self-Planned Trip from India was visiting Petra and I spent two and half days in the stunning city & UNESCO World Heritage site of Petra, experiencing its various moods, weather and people. If you are a heritage buff or a have been mesmerized by Petra like me, then read on about my detailed 2-day itinerary visit to Petra here.

Petra UNESCO World Heritage site is “half-built, half-carved into the rock, and is surrounded by mountains riddled with passages and gorges. It is one of the world’s most famous archaeological sites, where ancient Eastern traditions blend with Hellenistic architecture.” – UNESCO

We reached Petra on Day 3 of our Jordan road trip (read full itinerary here) in the evening and although we were quite tired after being on the road for 3 hours, when the receptionist at our hotel told us that Petra by night can only be experienced on certain evenings and that day being one of those evenings, we promptly bought the tickets and headed to the Petra Visitor Centre (which is the entry point to the Petra – Protected site) by our car.

Visiting Petra by Night – A special feature for tourists & travellers to Petra is the experience of visiting Petra by Night. Petra by Night runs every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday of each week, starts at 8:30 pm from Petra Visitor Centre and is a show that runs for 2 hours. It takes visitors through the dreamy candle lit pathway of siq upto the Al-Khazneh (Treasury) ~ the most famous monument of Petra. At the Al-Khazneh (Treasury), it’s a stunning sight of innumerable candle lights burning bright against the night sky and the flaming orange hues of the Treasury pillars are visible. It’s quite a tease to view the Al-Khazneh like this for the first time. The Bedouins serve tea to the guests as they regale with their melodious flute renditions and narrate the ancient story of Petra city. It’s a magical experience to Visit Petra by Night and I would recommend experiencing this

Petra By Night Entrance Fees – The Petra by Night Feature costs 19JD per person and it is not included in the Jordan Pass. Therefore, one has to buy the tickets for this separately at the Petra Visitor Centre. Some of the hotels also provide the facility for getting the tickets on behalf of the guests (we got our tickets from the hotel itself to avoid queues at the Visitor Centre).

Petra by Night Feature Tips and Guide for Visitors – As mentioned earlier, the feature runs every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday each week, therefore plan your Petra trip likewise not to miss out on experiencing this while you are there (whether its one day visit or 2-3 days visit to Petra). To truly experience the beauty of the candle lit Al-Khazneh, try to be among the early birds in the queue, as later it gets crowded and the view isn’t the same.

After a magical sneak peak into Petra by Night, we were quite excited for our full day visit to Petra the next day and in my dreams that night, the candle lit dreamy pathway of the evening made an appearance.

Petra full day visit – The next morning was bright, pleasant and sunny, perfect for a full day of exploring the rose-gold city of Petra! We woke up early and after a hearty breakfast, were among the first visitors in line at the Petra Visitor Centre with our Jordan Pass. As we entered the main walkway beyond the Ticket counter, we saw many donkey carts, donkeys and horses tied at their respective stands; there were lots of Bedouin guides soliciting the visitors for the donkey cart, horse rides and guided walks through the siq. We were far more interested in immersing ourselves on the scenery and landscape around, so walked on….till one of the Bedouin guides charmingly came to us (three ladies) and offered a horse back ride through a different route to the vantage point of Al-Khazneh (Treasury) promising us that the route would be as stunning as the view of Treasury. Now we were quite enticed by the offer (as well as the price we bargained – 25 JD total for all 3) BUT we chose to hike all the way!

Yes, we decided to really put our legs to work for our love for Petra and not take a horseback ride through the landscape. It turned out to be the best decision of our Petra experience. The guide took us away from the main walkway (siq) into the desert landscape of Petra’s lost city where we walked through ancient caves carved out of sandstone (which were once inhabited by Bedouins and still serve as rest spots), smaller and medium tombs, viewed many carvings done into the rocks and most of all experiencing the surreal color changing landscape of Petra – which turns from yellow golden to rose-gold to orange to brown as they day progresses. Finally, after an exciting (not to mention tiring) 3.5 hours trek through the stunning rocky desert landscape, we saw a glimpse of the Treasury from above and what a sight it was!!

The Treasury (Al-Khazneh) vantage viewing point is always teeming with tourists, but there’s always a sense of accomplishment to reach here and my heart was filled with an un-explainable joy, of a fulfilled aspiration of a kid, whose imagination had taken flight many moons ago reading the written words and finally that imagination was a reality in front of her! And the reality was absolutely stunning and magical as the imagination had been all these years – there was absolute match!!

We stayed at the Al-Khazneh viewing point for around 15-20 minutes before hiking down to the ground level of the Treasury area. It was almost lunch time (around 12:30 pm) by the time we were in front of the Treasury and we rested for a bit, took lots of photographs and had a quick bite from one of the shops selling food items.

Our Bedouin guide offered to take us further to the different parts of Petra all the way to the Monastery (another of famous monuments in Petra city). However, our legs were too tired and we decided to take a donkey ride through rest of the Petra protected city – which by the way we had only seen 1/6th (yes it’s that big!).

So the rest of the afternoon was spent exploring Petra on a donkey ride – riding through the amphitheatre, street facades, the roman temple and citadel, Hadrian gate and the royal tombs. I was amazed and surprised by the amalgamation of so many centuries of heritage in one city – truly the Nabateans were a rich culture who adapted from the many civilizations they traded with. The path through the mountains grew narrower and our donkey ride became riskier (for us) as the donkeys took sharp turns and were hell bent on getting everyone in front of it out of the way – It was really quite a ride of my lifetime!

Finally, after an hour of donkey ride, we reached Monastery (or El Deir) which was even more a stunning site, shinning orange hued golden in the afternoon sun! The crowds were beginning to wane here and we enjoyed our time by an eatery gazing at the views and just soaking in our experiences of the day!

Finally, we headed back around early evening as the landscape around us starting turning rose-gold pink, this time we walked back leisurely, chatting up fellow travellers and with the local Bedouins at their shops, buying souvenirs.

Just as I thought the day couldn’t get any better, the heavens above had a treat for me! I had wondered for many years post reading National Geographic article, about the Nabateans famed mastery of the rain water harvesting for the Petra City and how they must have achieved it in this rocky landscape. As I was walking back midway between Monastery  and Al-Khazneh, it suddenly started to drizzle. As we all took shelter in a nearby Bedouin eatery, the drizzle became a hailstorm with thundershowers…and Voila!! In front of my eyes, I saw the desert landscape take on a different look. The dry beds on the side of the road were gushing canals with strong water current, as the various water streams from strategic outlets poured down to the canals. It was as if the travel gods had decided to grant me my most cherished wish to see Petra in its best rain water harvesting show!

We were soon evacuated from our temporary shelter by the efficient crew managing the Petra protected site and we retired for the night after a lazy dinner.

Petra Half Day Morning Visit – The next morning we still had half a day and our Jordan Pass was valid too for another day visit. So we took the route through the Siq, enjoying its narrow pathways. I noticed in particular the narrow stone channels built all along the siq for managing the water and how it was still working beautifully channeling the previous evening water downpour from the gorges around.

Sneak Peak View of Treasury – Al Khanzeh, at the end of Siq is a beautiful teasing experience and that was our last experience of Petra. I would say it was beautiful completion of my Petra experience.

Petra Visit Pro-Tips

The UNESCO World Heritage site of Petra needs full 2 days atleast and in case you want to experience Petra by Night, then the days to remember are – Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Pla, then your visit accordingly.

Petra Entrance Fees is not cheap – its  50 JD per person per day (1 JD = 98 INR/1.41 USD), therefore it is recommended to buy Jordan Pass Online (read here details) which will cut costs. Jordan Pass gives access to all the major monuments in Jordan and includes Visa fees.

There are many Bedouin guides soliciting for donkey rides, donkey cart and horse rides – take a decision based on your requirement. If you feel like walking, then walk. The guides can be a bit pushy at times but never go over the top –  the key is to ignore them and not make eye contact, they will give up and find others to solicit.

There are Convenience (ie. Toilets and Water) at the entrance of the Petra Visitor Centre and mobile toilets at various points within the Protected site. Its best to use the washrooms while going in and carry sanitisers and wipes along. Also food items, including water is highly hiked in pricing inside the protected site, so best to carry snacks and water bottle along.

Where to Stay in Petra – There are many options from backpacker hostels to luxury resorts, depending on budget. Check out my detailed Jordan self-planned travel guide which includes my  hotel options and approximate costing incurred.

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