Petra has been a dream of mine for a very long time. In fact, I remember, as a little kid, going through my grandma’s travel guides and being astonished by the beauty of the Treasury photos. But I had to wait for almost my 30s to do my first Jordan trip. No need to say I wasn’t disappointed! On the contrary, I was pleased to see Petra is much more than the Treasury. With no further ado come to discover with us what to see in Petra.
What to see in Petra:
1. The Treasury, “Al Khazneh”
No surprise there. I know you’ve seen it everywhere. It’s THE landmark of Jordan, maybe of the Middle East even (sorry Pyramids and Burj Khalifa). One of the New Seven Wonders of the World. And a work of art on its own. The treasury, which is actually a tomb, surprises as it’s carved in the siq‘s (gorge) walls. During the day its facade change colors. More reddish in the early morning, then orange/yellow with the sunlight and a reddish rose at sunset.
Did you know? You cannot enter the treasury.
For safety reasons, it’s forbidden to enter inside. However, you won’t be missing much, in contrast with the amazing exterior facade, the interior looks surprisingly simple and non-decorated. In addition to that, you can enter one of the many other tombs and buildings you find inside Petra’s archaeological site.
2. The Monastery, “Al Deir”
The monastery is a showstopper, but you must deserve it first! In fact, you can reach it after a one-hour hike and 900 steps. If you’re not trained keep it easy and stop resting at one of the many Bedouin kiosks on the way. The occasion to drink their delicious pomegranate juice. Moreover, for a few dinars, you can negotiate a donkey ride to the top. As a non-expert hiker, I can say that you can easily make it on your own.
When you’ll arrive, you’ll completely forget how tired and thirsty you are! The view of the building coming out from the mountain is absolutely impressive. The rock facade of the monastery is 47 meters high and 48 meters wide. If you compare it with the treasury, 40 meters high, the Monastery is not only higher, but it also looks more built from the ground, instead of sculpted from the mountain. For that reason, it may be even more surprising than all the other buildings on the archaeological site. And like the Treasury, it is the most well-preserved building in Petra.
3. The Royal Tombs
On your way to the Monastery, and just after the Treasury, you’ll find yourself wandering in a narrow valley full of tombs that gets bigger and bigger. When the valley widens, on your right you will spot the amazing Royal Tombs carved inside the rock. You can enter and explore the majestic constructions. The facades were more exposed to the strong winds and torrential rains, so they are less well preserved, but still impressive to see.
There are four Tombs: the Palace Tomb, the Corinthian Tomb, The Silk Tomb, and the Urn Tomb (which reconverted into a church when the Romans conquered Petra). The icing on the cake? The beautiful view of the valley. You can see the Necropolis entry, the theatre, the Great Temple, and the Byzantine church.
4 The Great Temple
The Great Temple is one of the largest constructions found in Petra. It’s about 7.000 meters large and it was probably between 18 and 20 meters high. Most probably it was built by the Nabateans around the 1st century B.C. The capitals are all built in the Corinthian style, symbolizing the influence of Greek culture on the Nabatean style.
Exploring the temple is very funny as there are many accessible rooms and tunnels. One of the rooms has been used as a deposit by the archaeologists and it’s full of capitals and pieces of the structure of the temple. When exploring always remember to be careful as you’re walking in the middle of ancient ruins.
5 The Siq
The entrance to the amazing Lost city, is a narrow gorge of 2 kilometers that will take you about 30 minutes to cross. The walls go up sinuously to 40 meters, and in some points, the passage isn’t larger than three meters! What’s beautiful about the Siq are the colors. There are so many different shades of red, brown, and yellow.
The acoustic also is absolutely magical! Other than the Bedouins playing Indiana John’s soundtrack on their phone, that’s fun though. The rocks create many echoes and amplify the sounds. On the second day of our exploration, we ran into a group of tourists singing a beautiful song in one of the natural caves that are in the Siq. I didn’t get the song’s meaning, but the moment was still amazing. The power of music!
What to see in Petra: Extra Bonus
It wasn’t available during our stay, but it seems that Petra by Night is a one-of-a-kind experience. The treasury is enlightened by the light of a thousand candles in the sand, just in front of the Treasury. You walk into the Siq following the light of the candles escorted by a guide. Although I’ve also heard of people that were disappointed because of the many tourists that would ruin the atmosphere. The number of entries during the high season is between 150 and 200 people.
Honestly, if I had the chance, I would have loved to try this. Unfortunately, the experience is available only Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. If this experience is on your bucket list, plan carefully your schedule according to this calendar. The entry fee is 17 Jordan dollars.
Are you going to visit Petra soon? You may be interested in the complete Petra travel guide and to the best hotels to stay in Petra. Have you already visited? Let me know in the comments. And I would love your feedback on the Petra by Night experience.
For any additional information about the events, you can also check the Jordan Tourism Board Website. If you’re looking to plan the perfect Jordan Road Trip don’t skip our travel guide. And don’t forget to pin this for your next travel!