Most of us know of Petra from the scene in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” where Indy rides through a narrow passageway surrounded by stone only to arrive at an ancient building carved right into the mountains. How amazing for a young boy to later discover that this place really existed.
What we saw was Indiana entering the Lost City of Petra by the Siq passageway that ends at the entrance to the Treasury, the most famous of the rock cut architecture. What most people don’t realize is that this is just the the beginning of what Petra has to offer.
Beyond The Treasury
Home to the Nabataeans thousands of years ago, Petra is a spectacular achievement of the ancient world. Through it’s history, the city has been occupied by the Egyptians, the Romans and the Byzantines before it was lost to time and hidden away from most of the world. In 1812, Petra was rediscovered and introduced back to the world by explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt.
What amazed me most was that there was so much more to Petra than just the well-known Treasury and the Siq.
Visitors can purchase up to a 3 day pass for 60 Jordanian Dinars (~85 USD) and you really do need 3 days to see everything Petra has to offer. Petra isn’t just a building or a monument. It is an entire city. My friend and I spent the better part of 8 hours just exploring the nooks and crannies of this place and we only scratched the surface.
Beyond the entrance and the flanking canyon by the Treasury, an entire valley revealed itself. Archaeologists believe that most of Petra is still hidden underneath the soil and is only being discovered bit by bit even today.
We chose to hike the 800 steps up to the Monastery, another of the large carved monuments in this city. It is unbelievable how well preserved these buildings are having survived natural disasters over the centuries, the last earthquake completely devastating the city and crippling the water system that enabled the people to survive here.
From there, we trekked the last bit leg of the trail to the “End of the World” and the last tea shop there. From that vantage point, it did feel like we were standing at the edge of the world staring down at the valley below.
How To Visit Petra
Visitors can opt to see Petra on a day trip from Israel or Egypt without spending the night in Jordan. The fee is 90 JOD (~127 USD). Surprisingly, it is cheaper if you are staying at least one night in Jordan. Those visitors pay 50 JOD for a day pass and can add one or two extra days for 5 JOD per day. I highly recommend getting at least the 2 day pass if you have the time.
Petra is located 1.5 hours from Wadi Rum by bus and about 3 hours by car from Amman. Public transportation in Jordan is quite cheap, but they do not run on a schedule. Buses will leave when it is filled up, which means you can just as easily miss your bus or wait around for a while until it departs. Hired cars, while more expensive than buses, are the most reliable way to get around.
Petra is quite easy to explore on your own, but you can also find a guide inside for around 50 JOD if you would like someone to walk with you and explain the history of some of the buildings.