Anyone who has ever watched Indiana Jones, flipped through a National Geographic, or skimmed the Travel Channel knows about the marvel that is Petra. The ancient city lies in southern part of Jordan, and is filled with ruins, temples, caves, and tombs dating back before Christ. It’s nickname, the Rose City, is derived from the color of the stone mountains and buildings. The city is also considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the 28 Places to See Before You Die by Smithsonian Magazine.
I have visited Petra before, but not since I was 10 years old. My parents took my brothers and I on a family trip, and my memories had been a little fuzzy. I remember a lot of donkeys, being afraid to ride a horse, lots of shadows from the mountains, and of course, seeing (and being inside of) The Treasury. I never thought I’d get the chance to visit this ancient city again, and this time with my Petra-obsessed Jody, his mom, my good friend Kathryn, and again with my dad.
To get to Petra from Amman, you can easily take a tourist bus (JETT travel is the big company in Jordan, but don’t try to call them, they will never pick up. Visit them in person for tickets). On this particular occasion, we rented a van and my awesome uncle drove us from Amman, which was about a three hour drive. We checked into the Movenpick Hotel in Petra that afternoon, and drove to Wadi Rum that evening for a separate excursion (more on that in the final blog post about Jordan!).
As you can imagine, the Middle East in July is HOT. Like, crazy hot. So we set our alarms for 5 a.m. to get an early start on touring Petra. We had breakfast at the hotel (I seriously could eat figs every day until I die) before crossing the street to the entrance of Petra, a huge plus of booking at the Movenpick!
Admission for Jordanian citizens to Petra is 1 JD. Admission for non-Jordanian citizens is 50JD, which ends up being about $75. CRAZY. It’s true, Petra is a tourist trap, but we happily shelled the $303 for the four Americans and one Jordanian to see the sites and support the country’s economy (which has taken a hit in recent years due to violence and terrorism in the region).
If you plan to visit Petra and need only one bit of advice, it is this: WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES. And definitely make sure they are closed-toe. While you can ride a donkey, mule, camel, or horse to see the sites, walking is what I think is the best way to soak it all in. But again, you’re going to have to walk a lot. From the entrance to Petra, all the way to the top of the mountain where the monastery resides, I walked a total of almost 10 miles in about four hours. That’s almost 20,000 steps for all you FitBit and Apple Watch-wearers!
A few other good-to-know things about Petra:
- Everything is overpriced, so bring plenty of cash, if for nothing else but bottles of water.
- Most employees or vendors do speak English. If you know some Arabic, you might be able to barter on souvenirs and such a bit.
- There are plenty of bathrooms, but once you get climbing up to the Deir (monastery), bathrooms are more scarce.
- Watch out for donkey shit everywhere. There are folks who do clean it up, but not enough.
- WEAR SUNSCREEN. That should be a no-brainer.
- If you’re particularly sensitive to the sun, bring an umbrella or a hat as there is not a lot of shade.
- Bring a snack. I brought along some RX bars, which came in handy as I was totally famished after a hike.
- Be prepared to be amazed!
Photos of our journey through beautiful Petra, Jordan:
Peach portable toilets!
The Treasury is one of the first manmade structures you’ll see upon entering Petra (about 30 minutes from the entrance).
Me and my dad in front of the Treasury at sunrise.
Before our trek up the mountain, Jody’s mom hitched a donkey. Smart lady!
And half-way up the mountain, my dad hitched a mule, too. Smart man!
Almost there! Pit stop at a souvenir shop and cafe.
At last, the Monastery! We made it!
VIDEO: At long last, the epic hike to the Monastery (“A’Deir”). Worth every blister to see it and hear the goats baa-ing. (Spot Jody?!)
Dad and Theda sipping shae (tea) and chilling with some bedouins on the way down the mountain. Jordanians truly are the most hospitable people. (Photo by Kathryn)
You would think coming down the mountain would be less exhausting than going up, but strangely, it wasn’t. After trying to barter with a few horse-and-buggy operators, a Saudi Arabian man bought Theda, my mother-in-law, a ride back to the entrance of Petra. Of course, I had to accompany her!
Just before we exited, we did a little shopping, naturally.
This was an adventure I will never forget. I am so grateful for the chance to once again visit this incredible destination, this incredible land. Many have said that when visiting Petra, they can’t decide if they marvel most at what God has created, or what man has built. The thought kept running through my mind, “I can’t believe I’m here.” In that moment of disbelief, I closed my eyes and imagined I was home in Cleveland, with its wooden floors and white walls and ceilings. A moment passed, and when I opened my eyes, the walls were gone, replaced by mountains. The ceiling had vanished and instead, above my head was only a clear blue sky. And the wood floors had turned into sandstone, slick from being trekked upon for thousands of years by those who came before me. In that moment of disbelief of what I saw around me, I believed more than ever in this beautiful world. I thank God and man for that.
Up next, we’ll be sharing more from our trip to Jordan, including our visits to the Wadi Rum and Aqaba. Please bookmark our blog and follow us on Facebook and Instagram!