Petra – Know before you go

Like any other place, we did read and travelled virtually before going to Petra. Not every tourist who goes to Petra wants to experience it. Though we spent three nights and two days in Petra, we missed a few things because “What we knew before going to Petra wasn’t enough”. Here is a list of things you should know if you want to experience Petra beyond just seeing it.

Read our post “Two days tales of Petra” for our solid 28km hiking stories on the ancient Nabatean trails.

Index

What is so WOW about Petra

Before and Afterthoughts – 

An architect will dream of going to Petra. Right? But I was not so keen. “ Jordan is expensive; is it worth spending so much on Petra?. Petra is too touristy, just like Oia in Santorini,” I said sceptically.  Ashrith’s dream was to see the magical Nabatean walls; somehow, he convinced me to travel to Petra.

What do I think of it after visiting – I loved hikes and walks! The sense of satisfaction and contentedness you get after the hike to reach a particular place here is unbelievable. The uphill and downhill walk on the Nabatean trail reveals different views often. The view from the top, sides, right in front of it – Every drop of your sweat and that strong breath you took takes you to the womb of magical Petra. 

Let me explain to you a few of the most used phrases to describe Petra on the internet.

” Magic walls of Nabateans” – Nabateans built Petra in 5th-century as a trade centre for Europeans and the Locals. So the magic happened when ancient Arabs tried to make the West meet East. The Treasury’s outer facades resemble Pantheon. Now, which Nabatean travelled to Europe to see how Romans built their temples and returned to make something similar from carving rocks? He must have sketched sitting in front of some building in the West. Otherwise, imitating it to this extent isn’t possible. But why imitate them? – to please the western traders and make them feel at home?

“Rose city” – There are no rose gardens, but the colour of the rocks is rose. The way Petra’s sandstone changes with sunlight is something incredible.

“Hidden city” – Is it hidden really? When you arrive at Wadi Musa, all you see is the rocky mountains. Nobody can guess that a place like Treasure or Monastery exists secretly in those mountains. The narrow sandstone walkways between rocky mountains keep you shaded and hide all its wonder at its end. Every trail’s end surprises you with something phenomenal – either with architectural beauty or natural wonder. 

Is it touristy – Of course, Yes! Who wants to miss out on something this magical? But the secret is – The hiking trails are endless, and Petra is vast. It is easy to move away from the crowd and find your solace as a hiker. There is nothing in the world that you can compare Petra – Hiker’s and walkers dream, Historians treasure, Explorer’s delicacy,

How to Reach Petra

The only option is by road. The private taxis are best though costlier, but the road trip between Amman-Petra via Madaba and Mt.Nebo is fantastic. Wadi Rum– Petra is equally beautiful with the rugged mountains, deserts and broccoli fields.
Jett Buses and minivans get to Wadi Musa (the town where Petra is located). The minivans are cheaper but aren’t trustworthy because they won’t leave unless the bus is full.

Staying in Petra

You might have read it many times in our posts now; Jordan is expensive. We planned to book a cheaper  Petra View Flat. 
Unicef states that Jordan is the second most water-scarce country in the world. Plus, we understood we were about to go on a long hiking adventure. So we decided to go more comfortable. The Petra guest house” – the closest to the Petra gate, and They are very famous for their cave bar. Unfortunately, their prices are out of our reach.

So ultimately, we chose. The Old Village Hotel & Resort. Do I recommend – Not sure! The spacious rooms, quiet and peaceful friendly staff, a long spread of delicious breakfast was perfect, but it is 3km away from Petra gate.  Their restaurant food tasted OK and was pricey. However, they have shuttle bus services for their guests at 7 AM every day and 5 PM complimentary.

Staying inside the archaeological site of Petra after 6 PM is illegal. But you spot a few tents and caves maintained by Bedouins while you hit the trails like Ad-Dier and Al-Kubtha. So it must be awesome to stay there in the caves, but keep in mind- it is a big scam and illegal thing run by Bedouins who got relocated to a new village from the Archeological site.

The General info

Buy Petra pass in advance. You may have to wait for an hour to get the pass in peak tourist season.
The Best time to visit Petra is September- March.

Timings – Winter: 6 AM-4 PM. Summer: 6 AM-6 PM

Entrance fees & Timings –

Petra By Night 24USD/person for 1 Petra by Night show. It happens on three days of a week only -Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.

THIS IS THE SCREENSHOT FROM THEIR OFFICIAL WEBSITE– VISIT PETRA

Navigating inside –Your cellular networks might work fine for calls, but data and internet connection is poor inside. Pick a printed map in the Visitor Centre and follow it – It is super accurate.

Do you need a guide – If you are doing a day trip, hiring a guide is better because he will quickly show you around Petra. However, hiring a guide might not be very useful for people visiting Petra on multiple days because the maps given to tourists have decent information.

The Natural posers – I think they know the best-kept secret trails than anyone else.

Still, We did hire a guide. He accompanied us to the Treasury, briefing us about Nabateans and why they were built. He showed us the routes and explained the different trails- I won’t say it is a waste, but it didn’t add value to the experience. Except he asked us if Indians go to work on Elephants every day.

If you don’t want to walk in Petra

The Visitor centre to the Treasury is a 3km one-way walk. This is inevitable. If you don’t want / can’t walk at all, you can hire horse carriages or mules after the ticket counter. From the Treasury, you can go for a camel ride to see the theatre, collonaded streets till the Basin restaurant, but can not use camels for any uphill hikes. Mules take you even to the Al-Kubtha trail. We saw a few tourists using mules at the Ad-Deir trail. The tourists were struggling to balance on the uphill.

MULES AND TOURISTS – BOTH ARE TIRED

Amenities inside archaeological sites– Restaurant “The Basin” served only Buffet meal for 17JD or 1700INR for a meal. Good food came with a high cost. After tearing our wallets on the first day at this restaurant, we got lunch boxes packed for 5JD each next day from our hotel – Peace! Toilets are near the Basin Restaurant and are for public use.

There is a small cafe near the Monastery. One glass of Orange juice cost 1JD (100INR), but you won’t regret paying after the sweaty hike of the Ad-Deir trail. At Monastery’s end of the world viewpoint, a Bedouin runs a tea shop. Again 1 cup of Hibiscus tea cost 1JD. But worth the view and the energy it gives you. 

There are a few Bedouin tents selling Water bottles and tea. But it is good to carry your own to be on the safer side. 

Monastery trail – petty shops on the way

What to wear and carry

We went in winter (January). The weather was strange there—an afternoon with glaring sun and chilling winds. So heat is the main thing you must consider when you go hiking in Petra.

I LOOKED FUNNY WITH THE HAR, BUT THAT SAVED ME FROM SUNSTROKE AND THH JACKET INSIDE THAT BACKPACK IS WHAT KEPT ME ALIVE IN THE FREEZING EVENING

  • Footwear – Comfortable closed hiking or running shoes and not flip-flops – You will walk a lot on dusty trails.
  • To save from sun – Sunglasses, sunscreen, hats and Scarf.
  • Clothing – Wear layers so that you can remove them when it gets too hot. In winter, you will need thermal wear, gloves, full sleeve T-Shirts and stretchable Denim. Or long gowns over the thermal wear. You will need a backpack to dump your gloves and winterwear in the afternoon.
  • In summer, keep it light cotton or Lenin clothing that aren’t transparent, covering your body and not flaunting the curves.

Whatever is the season – choose to be colourful in Rose City. I wore a red flowing gown for a day and saw many girls wearing cyan, pink, white flowing gowns with other bright colours.

Why you should never make a Day trip to Petra

Amman to Petra distance is 230km(3hrs). So you may get a maximum of 2 or 3 hours in Petra and rush back home! Petra is a vast complex with approximately 65 acres. The minimum walking distance itself is 4km (To & fro) Entrance to Treasury. You miss the real Petra when you make a day trip-You rush, and you won’t pause. You can’t people watch, and you won’t have time to sit beside a Bedouin man who looks like Jack Sparrow to say Hi Hello. – You can see the main spots of Petra in two hours but can’t experience its magic.
Bedouin’s flute music performance in front of the Treasury at Night is captivating. Seeing the Treasury in candlelight is an out of the world experience. So do not make a day trip.

Happily took our own sweet time to hike – Picture courtesy: A fellow hiker and a stranger at Monastery.

You will find many travel agents offering a day trip to Petra from Amman. Unless you are in Jordan for a short Business trip, you have just one free day, and you do not want to go back home without having a glimpse of Petra; only then opt for the Day trip. Remember, all you can see is the Treasury and the Roman theatre if you do this. Plus, these two spots are tourist hotspots. So you can’t really feel Petra when you are there for a few hours.

YOU WILL MISS ALL THESE IF YOU MAKE A DAY TRIP-MULES RESTING IN A CAVE AT THE DAY’S END

Petra Trails and difficulty levels

The map you pick at the visitor centre will be your captain for the coming hiking days, and it does the job perfectly. Eight trails start and end at various spots. Some paths intersect each other.  Sit on a nearby rose sandstone once you are at the Treasury or Roman theatre. Take out the map, take your time and go through the trails and plan.

The Siq Trail -6 km round trip hike.

This flat trail is the easiest and the only way to enter the site— Every visitor has to hike this trail. From here, walking to the facade, collonaded streets, theatre is also super easy.

Ad-Deir trail -3.2KM roundtrip up/downhill trail

Neither easy nor tough trail has a lot of Up and downhill climbing. The trail starts from Basin restaurant. There is an “end of the world” viewpoint 1km from the Monastery for the view of the valley along with hot & fresh hibiscus tea.

Al-Kubtha trail -3KM roundtrip up/downhill trail

For the view of Treasury from above. It is more difficult than the Monastery trail. The trail starts on the opposite side of the theatre. Explore nearby caves to see the natural colours and patterns inside the caves.

Crafting your Petra Itinerary

Depending on how long you are in Jordan and what you want to experience – reserve the days for Petra. A day trip is the most impractical and ruled out option. One day +1 night stay is the least you can think for Petra. 2 Full days and three nights are good. Three full days and four nights are the best where you can see most of Petra.

Option A- 1 Day+1 Night stay

Suppose you arrive at Petra in the morning, head to Petra directly without checking in at the hotel. With that, you will see The Treasury, collonaded street & street of the facade, Nabatean theatre from the road and marketplace. You probably won’t have the energy to explore anything more. The park closes for tourists by 4PM in winterCheck-in at the hotel, give your foot some rest and go out again for Petra by Night with an extra ticket( It happens only on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday of every week)

The Treasury
Collonaded street
The Palace facade
Petra By night

Option B-2 full days+3 nights

This is what we did. We arrived in Petra the previous Night. So we could start early in the morning.
DAY1– The Treasury + Roman theatre from the street + Market + Collonaded street+ Hike to Ad Deir ( Monastery) + end of the world viewpoint + Treasury in the evening + Petra by Night show.
DAY 2 – Started the day early at 6. Took a trail to see the theatre from above + explore caves near tombs + Al Kubota trail to see the Treasury from above + Explored market places and other ruins, exited from the back end to go to Little Petra by car.

The Treasury
Ad-Deir Monastery
End of the world
Palace and tombs
Caves
Theatre from above
The Treasury from above
Little Petra

Option C – 3 full days +4 nights

Follow Option B for the first two days. Then, on the third day, hike to the high place of sacrifice, take trails to see the tombs and street of facades seen from above.

Little Petra and Mount Rushmore of Jordan

The lesser know gem of Petra is Siq al-Barid -A Nabatean thriving village then, a perfect small site to end your day at majestic Petra.

How much time to spend here – The entire village walk would take a maximum of 1.5hrs. You can not expect many sites or spots like in Petra. We could spend just 45minutes, as it was closing. We saw a few backpackers in the nearby camps in tents. So if you are in Petra for a week-long, this may be the cheap & best place to stay at camps.

Timings – Summer- 6am to 6pm. Winter 6am-4.30pm

The Mount Rushmore of Jordan I told you already while sipping hibiscus tea near Monastery, we felt we should have one more day for Petra, and we didn’t know enough. I knew little about little Petra, but what our driver Yusuf showed was unknown to us. We do not know what the place is called among Jordanians, but this crazy place with rocks with human faces resembles Mount Rushmore. Probably a 10-minute drive ahead of the Little Petra entrance gate.

After reading our pst, how many days would you like to spend in Petra? let us know in the comment section below

Published by Sahana Kulur

Traveller | Blogger | Architecture and history

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