Petra, Jordan – Worth the Time and Money? Definitely.

Where did the ancient city of Petra come from? It is believed that it was created by the hands of Nabateans, who carved their city into the mountains of Jordan in approximately the 5th and 6th Century B.C. then lived there for several centuries in numbers upwards of 20,000 before moving on for unknown reasons. After they departed, this majestic mountain city was lost and forgotten until rediscovered by a Swiss explorer in 1812. I personally had never heard of Petra in my life until recently, when it seemed millions of people suddenly began talking and writing about it. Why the sudden onslaught of Petra talk? Because it was named as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World on July 7, 2007. And because, as I discovered firsthand, it is one of the most unbelievable ancient man-made structures on earth.

Ancient homes carved into the mountains of Petra, Jordan

I’ve heard that people visiting Petra should allot three days to adequately appreciate all of its meticulously carved majesty. Unlike being personally satisfied in one day by the ruins of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, which also has a reputation of needing three days, I do think Petra needs two or three. I was there for one, which was enough to see the surface of all of it but not nearly enough to explore it fully.

Small group of donkeys in Petra, Jordan

Most, most unfortunately my camera battery was nearly depleted and my adapter wasn’t working, so I couldn’t charge it. So, reminiscent of my wanderings around Chichen Itza, Mexico with no camera whatsoever, I committed much of Petra to my personal memory rather than my memory card.

Multi-colored rock wall of the Siq at Petra

I’ve already seen so many photos of Petra’s most famous sight, the Treasury, that I didn’t feel a need to take many photos of my own. I have no regrets.

The Treasury at Petra

The Treasury is the first building you see upon exiting the siq, a tall, long, narrow canyon of the most beautifully colored rock I’ve ever seen. The siq was actually my favorite sight in Petra.

The siq at Petra, Jordan

Of course, Petra wasn’t without the quirky surprise sight either.

Goat or donkey hoof lying in the sand at Petra

If you’re in good shape or not afraid of riding on the back of a donkey, you need to go up the 800 steps carved naturally into a mountain in order to see the monastery. This structure I thought was much more impressive than the treasury.

The Monastery at Petra, Jordan

As my guide explained, the names of these buildings are misnomers, as no one knows for certain which buildings was used for what purpose centuries ago. It is believed that the treasury and the monastery were actually not treasuries or monasteries at all, yet their new monikers stick.

The Monastery at Petra, Jordan

Petra is not all about ancient people living in an ancient city. Modern people still live there too. In caves! After I walked back down the 800 steps from the monastery, I ran into a Bedouin man smoking shisha who invited me to his mother’s for tea. I accepted his invitation, climbed aboard his donkey, and traveled up the mountain to his mother’s… cave! But I’m leaving that story for an upcoming post. :)

Arriving at a cave in Petra for afternoon tea

My trip to Jordan was sponsored by the Jordan Tourism Board, but all opinions are honestly my own.

10 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Steve says:

    Petra is on my absolute list of must-see places. It seems like it would be such a cool place to see first hand. I’m glad you mentioned how much time to spend since I also thought Angkor Wat was fully explored in only one day. I also got to see everything I wanted in Tikal in one day too. So now I know that I have to allocate at least a couple of days to this wonder.

    I can’t wait to read your story of tea in the caves. Sounds like it would be a great experience.

  2. Sabina says:

    Steve, yes, Petra is a must-see. It is simply incredible seeing those buildings carved into rock. That tea in the cave experience is one of the most interesting things that’s ever happened to me while traveling :)

  3. I’ve become very interested in visiting Petra after starting to read travel blogs in recent months.

  4. Sabina says:

    Hi Samel – if you’re ever in Jordan you absolutely have to see it. There’s tons of other interesting sights to see in the country too, though.

  5. RetroJetGirl says:

    Hi Sabina,

    I have 4 days off this week & was thinking to visit Petra. Do you think I’d be able to also visit Dead Sea if I arrived in Jordan 22nd and left 24th? I know it would be tight on time, but I guess I could save the Dead sea for another trip (close by and all)

    Also, did you feel safe there on your own? I know solo travel is your ‘thing’, but I’m still not quite sure about this area. Although tea with the bedouin mother sounds fun!!

    Any suggestions/recs for tours etc would be great! Definitely want to do Petra by night tour

  6. Sabina says:

    Hi Greta,

    Thanks for asking. I apologize for the delay in responding. I was traveling for 24 hours and didn’t have internet access.

    I was not alone for the most part in Jordan, as my trip was sponsored by the Jordan Tourism Board and I was with a guide and driver most of the time. However, I did spend my first morning walking around Amman alone and felt 100% safe. And of course I was alone with the man and his mother who lived in a cave and felt safe (and thrilled) to be there. I am positive I would have been completely safe elsewhere in Jordan too. This is the most modern, westernized Arab country I have ever been to. Many, many local women are alone in public, often in Western-type dress without their heads covered. The men are gentle and polite. You will be safe.

    I think if you want to feel satisfied with a visit to Petra, you should give it two full days or almost two full days. On the other hand, if you want to see the highlights, as I did, one day is enough. If you want to be satisifed with a visit to the Dead Sea, I think you should spend three hours minimum at a beach where you can relax for a while and float in the water.

    I do personally know and have met with one tour operator in Petra, Jordan Inspiration Tours, which I would recommend. I know Adeeb and Mohammed there. They can help you with advice and any tours you want to take anywhere in Jordan. And they can definitely take you on the Petra By Night tour. They are located in Wadi Musa, City centre, Al-SA’AD Commercial centre, opposite the Housing Bank. Their phones are 962 32157317 and 962 776 532 192.

    If you have any more questions or concerns, please ask. I hope you have a blast! Please let me know how it goes! :)

    Sabina

  7. Andreas says:

    I really liked this.
    Jordan was and is on my list :)
    What would you do in Day 2 and 3 in Petra?

  8. Sabina says:

    Hi Andreas – if I was to spend more time at Petra, I would see it by night as well as explore all of the sights more thorougly during the daytime. One day is really definitely not enough.

  9. sianly says:

    like this place so much :D .To arrive on Petra stone wall hills location, it’s not an easy journey, we should walk less than 30 minutes. Nice pics

  10. Sabina says:

    Petra is an unbelievable place. I’m glad you like the photos.

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