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Petra - An ancient wonder of the world

Petra is undoubtedly one of the main tourist attractions in Jordan and after visiting it in 2015 I can easily see why – It is a truly fantastic place with so much to offer in terms of history, culture, beautiful scenery and impressive landscapes. If you are visiting Jordan you must visit Petra – Yes many other people visit this ancient sight too, but there is a reason for its popularity – It is one of the ancient wonders of the world and a magnificent place to see.

Outside the Treasury

Location – Petra is located in the South Western part of Jordan next to a small town called Wadi Musa – The town has been developed over the years and mainly contains hotels catering for tourists visiting Petra. The entrance to the site is on the western side of Wadi Musa – There are some shops and a café to eat at and then kiosks to buy tickets. After that there is a winding track that leads to the canyon entrance – This in itself is an impressive walk and the roadside rocks are scattered with various tombs and carvings. We stopped in the " " Hotel which was less than a 10 minute walk to the entrance of Petra – It was a perfectly good quality hotel with quality rooms, decent food and free wifi.

Tickets – My entrance fee was included in the price of my tour with G Adventures but you can purchase tickets on arrival at the entrance – For a one day pass an adult ticket is 50JD and for two days the fee only rises to 55JD – So I would say it's worth paying the extra 5JD either way, then you can go back for the second day if needed. Petra at night was an additional 17JD, full prices and information about opening times can be found on the official Petra site here - http://www.visitpetra.jo

Useful tips for Petra

When visiting Petra I believe that if you want to make the most of your trip you need to be prepared! Listed below are just some useful bullet points to consider.

  • Wear sturdy footwear – I wore hiking boots – It's a tough trek
  • Take plenty of water – It will be hot and dry, you'll need it!
  • Arrive early – We arrived at 6:30am and there were no crowds at all
  • Allow at least a full day to see everything properly without rushing
  • Don't miss out on Petra at night
  • Make sure you put plenty of sun cream on
  • Stop at one of the stalls and have some Bedouin tea - Delicious!
The iconic Treasury building at Petra

Petra by Night – Unforgettable

On select nights, there is a special event at Petra, simply called Petra by Night – And as you can guess, you get to visit Petra at night (Makes sense really!). This doesn't sound overly exciting I must admit, however it's what they do to Petra to make it visible that really makes this evening a magical one. Basically the whole canyon leading up to the Treasury is lined with hundreds of candles which create a beautiful glow and give Petra a totally different feel.

Candles light up the Canyon

You have to book tickets for the event beforehand – It is extremely popular and only a limited amount of people are allowed access. The gates open at 8pm, we arrived a little later and the place was packed. The basic format is as follows – Enter Petra, walk through the candle lit canyon, sit down outside the treasury, listen to a speech and Bedouin music and then walk back through the canyon. The whole event took around 2 hours.

I loved every second of it, the candles created such an amazing glow and diverse shadows on the canyon walls, it gave the place a totally different feel and mood to the daytime. I could have spent hours just wandering through the canyons and taking it all in, it really did look fantastic. At the Treasury there were candles all lay out in front of the monument and some floodlights to light it up fully. We sat down on rugs surrounding the candles and some of the local Bedouin's performed a speech and also played some traditional music. I felt so peaceful at that moment, the music was soothing and the setting of the candle lit Treasury was perfect. If you are visiting Petra during your stay in Jordan, make sure you do this!

The Treasury

If anyone has seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade you will have seen the Treasury; was this one of the reasons I wanted to visit Petra? Yes, yes it was! This building is undoubtedly the iconic building of Petra - Most people will recognise it. Carved into the rock itself, the Treasury is simply magnificent, the detail and craftsmanship put into this structure is unreal. The fact that it is sheltered by the canyon walls means that the Treasury is extremely well protected and has not been worn away by the elements like the Monastery. We spent quite some time here just admiring the structure and learning about it's history - Unfortunately you cannot go inside the Treasury anymore due to vandalism. There are some stalls and also plenty of vendors trying to sell camel rides, jewellery or postcodes - They are not overly aggressive or pushy so just be firm and tell them your not interested.

The Treasury

The Canyon Entrance

I don't think I realised beforehand that Petra was more than just the iconic Treasury building, it was only when walking through the canyon that I grasped it's full extent. One of the most interesting parts of the tour for me was walking through the Canyon that creates the entrance to the Treasury. Leading up to the treasury is a natural rock canyon carved out by the ages and elements – It's simply stunning! The colours of the rock were so vivid and ranged from oranges to dark reds and purples, and the curves of the rock faces created beautiful shapes and shadows with the sunshine spilling through. It was so quiet and peaceful and the relative shade provided a welcome break from the heat.

Indiana Jones!

Ayman our guide also provided some insight into the history of the Canyon, and how the Nabateans created channels in the rock for running water to flow through – You could still see the channels, and I found it fascinating to learn about the various technological advances they made. One of the most exciting parts for me was getting the first glimpse of the treasury through the canyon – I really did feel like Indiana Jones! I wish I took my hat and whip!

The Monastery

Petra consists of several different main sights with other interesting monuments and buildings scattered along the way; one of these main sights is a building called the Monastery – Similar in design to the Treasury it is another fine example of the Nabateans ingenuity and building prowess. The path to reach the Monastery is one of the most gruelling hikes I have done and I would not recommend it if you have any breathing problems or bad legs. Basically you have to climb 800 rough and uneven steps through the rock in the baking heat. Its hard work! There are various stalls along the way where you can have a rest and also buy snacks, souvenirs and more importantly, water! Make sure you take your time, and stop regularly to have a rest and to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

The Monastery at Petra

I really did feel relieved when I reached the top and saw the Monastery – It made it that much more special and memorable due to the effort I put in to reach it. The building itself is fantastic and such an impressive sight, it is more exposed to the elements than the Treasury so the edges are slightly worn but you can still see the immense detail and intricacy on the stonework. There are also some high viewing points around the Monastery that are worth visiting – Aptly named "The best view" and the "End of the world view" – They both require additional hiking, but you are rewarded with stunning views of the surrounding desert and canyons.

Other sights at Petra

There are so many sights to visit at Petra, it's quite difficult to remember them all – There are tombs built into the rocks of varying degrees of grandeur, souvenir stalls, temples, mosaic floors still intact and so much more. My best advice is to just take your time and fully explore everything Petra has to offer – Get a map from the ticket stands, mark of the places you want to see and get exploring!

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I heart this place because

I think I loved Petra so much because of the physical effort I had to put in to actually see the place and witness it properly. You have to earn the sights and the history, I felt every one of the 850 steps that I climbed in the baking heat to see the Monastery. I found it so much more rewarding and enjoyable, knowing what I had persevered through to see Petra.

Dont miss out on

The hike to the Monastery – The Monastery is a similar style building to the Treasury and takes a gruelling hike to reach. Although there is quite a deal of physical exertion required the hike is through some really interesting canyons and stairways and it is so rewarding when you reach the top and see the Monastery. Make sure you take plenty of water and wear some sturdy trainers or hiking boots.

The Monastery at Petra

Information and resources for Petra - links will open in a new page

Petra on Wikipedia

General information on Petra - Link

Petra UNESCO Heritage site

Official UNESCO designation for Petra - Link

Petra on Wikitravel

Useful travel information about Petra - Link

Photos taken using a Canon EOS-M with 18-55mm EF

Some parts of Petra were really challenging to photograph, and with a little more forethought I think I could have produced some better results. This held true particularly for the canyon shots – The light in the Canyon was difficult to gauge and it went from extremely dark at the bottom to overly bright at the top where the sun broke through. The other shots of Petra were much easier – There was simply so much to photograph and the colours of the rocks, and canyons were fantastic.

Candles light the Canyon at night Candles light the Canyon at night Rock formations en route to Petra The Canyon walkway The Canyon walkway The Treasury at Petra The Treasury at Petra The Treasury at Petra Camel outside the Treasury The Treasury at Petra Tombs carved into the Rocks Local Bedouin dressed in traditional clothes Temple entrance at Petra Bedouin child selling rocks from Petra Donkey on the Monastery trail 800 steps up to the Monastery Wild dog at the Monastery Resting point at the road to the Monastery The Monastery at Petra Surrounding scenery at the Monastery The Monastery at Petra Rock Canyon formations Camel outside the Monastery Roman temple columns Indiana Jones canyon entrance!
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