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Petra District, Jordan

Explore the Ancient City of Petra

1.2 Miles Total - 0 ft gain - Out-and-Back Trail

Originally added by Alex E

Explore the crossroads of history and religion as you visit the ancient city of Petra. This massive city carved from the canyons and sandstone of the desert is definitely a bucket list trip.

I'm sure we all know and recognize Petra or the "treasury" from the Indiana Jones movie, but did you know its not a stage but an ancient city you can explore and enjoy. This ancient city was built over 2,000 years ago and wasn't found by western man until 1812. The city was built by a nomadic Arab tribe known as the Nabataeans for trade in the desolate desert. Its nickname is the rose city for the color of the rock in which the city is cut from.

Park in the Petra Visitor Center Parking Lot and head west into the "Siq" which is a beautiful but narrow canyon that winds its way into the depths of this ancient city and towards the main attraction. The beautiful Siq canyon is worth the trip by itself. The amazing colors in this 1/2 mile long gorge with 250 meter high cliffs are stunning.

At the end of the gorge is the most iconic building in the city of Petra. Al-Khazneh or the "treasury" is best know for its appearance in the famous Indiana Jones film, but it is much more impressive in person. The beautiful building carved out of the rock face stands tall at over 90 feet and 120 feet wide. One of the largest structures, this building served as a tomb to an ancient king.

Unfortunately the treasury doesn't have an elaborate internal structure that holds the holy grail as we all thought from Indiana Jones. The building is actually very shallow with only a few rooms inside. You cant actually enter the structure, but there are plenty of other structures you can enter and get a full appreciation for the sandstone colors. From floor to ceiling, reds, orange, browns, and light pinks flow and twist together in a stunning display of color. It looks like water flowing across the wall.

As Jordan's main tourist attraction, don't be surprised by large crowds, especially at the treasury. The city is much larger than just the treasury, and it would take days to explore the entire city. It is perfect for just a short day trip or as a multi day trip if you want to find the more secluded attractions. Other great attractions are the Monastery and Byzantine church to check out the beautiful mosaic.(pictured)

Near the start of the Siq canyon, camel and donkey rides for handicap or elderly individuals are offered. It is roughly 70  dollars for a one day ticket. If you get a two or three day ticket and stay in a local hotel, the price greatly decreases. The visitor center offers a history museum, restrooms and cafes. Have a couple Jordanian Dinar for the bathrooms. Although the entry fee is pretty expensive, I still think its worth it.

From Amman it takes about three hours to drive south to Petra. Many hotels also offer bus transport that take about 4 hours. I recommend getting to Petra as early as possible, in order to beat the large crowds. The ancient city opens at 6am and during days with night events, it can close as late as 1030pm. The weather is the same as any desert. Very hot during the day with chilly nights in summer. Warm days and very cold nights during winter. The walking distance have listed, is only from the visitor center to the Treasury Building. You could walk for miles and miles depending on how much of the city you explore. 

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Overall rating: 

Magical ancient city

It feels like there are hundreds of different attractions, caves, theater, churches and canyons you can visit while hiking around the ancient city of Petra. If you are into it and you are willing to pay a bit more, you can ask for a local guide to show you around as there are so much to see and so much to learn. I went in a morning in early December and only a few tourists were around. If going offseason, I would suggest wearing good waterproof hiking shoes as we were caught in a pretty spectacular rainstorm. My experience had mud everywhere but was magical for the eyes.

Great if you go early

I'd give the ancient city of Petra 5 stars, but the overall experience just 4 stars. Visiting the Treasury and Monastery are bucket list items for sure, especially if you go early in the day before the crowds and the mid-day heat. Try to be at the visitor's center between 7-730am at the latest. The reason I'm giving the experience 4 stars though is the animal situation. There are a ton of malnourished and overworked donkeys struggling up hills under the weight of riders. It's a really sad situation and I'd encourage anyone who visits to avoid riding the animals here. Also all the donkeys mean the trails become a poop minefield...

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