“One of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage”
11th of June, 2011
So here we are at the peak of our trip to Jordan. Petra was the reason number one to come. We knew it would be a very difficult and exhausting day trip from Amman, and I know it is something I won’t do in the near to medium future, it at all I return here. It is a very big site middle in the desert, only accessible through a narrow pathway through the rocks, known as the Siq. This is the fact that helped it to be forgotten and lost until the rediscovery in 1812.
You are guaranteed to enjoy this place if you are into ancient civilisations. But even if you are not, this place will definitely satisfy you.
This time I will split this guide in more sections, each referring to an important area to be aware off which will help you plan your trip very smoothly.
Before arriving to Jordan, it is highly advisable you book in advance your bus tickets to Petra, especially if in high season. They can sell out very quick, and the last you want is to spend a fortune having to go by taxi. The best company is JETT with tickets costing 8 JD each direction (at the time of writing this).
There are various times of departure you can select from, but the one I can recommend as per experience is the one that leaves from Abdali in Amman at 6.30h and arrives to Petra around 10.30h. The way back is at 16.00pm on the same day. You don’t really need to stay over a night in the new city of Petra, where hotels are by far much more expensive as they live from the many tourists coming to the area, where they know they have no other choice. Remember, you can see the 100% of Petra in one day, so there is no need to spend lot more to be here two days, and suffer twice the extreme heat of the desert.
On the other hand, the cheaper version, is taking the bus from Wehdat bus station (or sometimes called south station) for 4 JDs. But note those buses won’t be as comfortable as JETT and will not have air-con, which you will be happy to have. You will be crossing the desert, nothing on the right, nothing on the left, and the temperatures are extreme.
At last, the cheapest options is on one of the 25-seater minibuses. Those leave when full and usually operate throughout the day. The fare from Amman to Petra is 3 JD or less, journey time about 2 hours 40 minutes. These minibus taxis leave from Amman’s Wehdat bus station.
- Entrance fee:
The entrance fee for Petra (as of 2013) is an astonishing 90 JD, this is 84 British Pounds. By the time we went there it was 50 JD. Consider it a truly rip off, but at the end, you know you will need to pay this, there is no way around, unless you scrap it. Considering you have come this far, this will not be in anyone’s mind. Jordan nationals will pay only 1 JD.
Unfortunately, the place itself is even not well care taken. A lot more should be done to preserve it. The rain (thankfully not often) is “melting” the temples and nowadays the site looks more like an amusement park full of donkeys, horses, camels and stalls selling crap.
- Visiting the site:
From where the bus will drop you, there is a long walk towards the Siq. This is the narrow walkway between the rocks. The Sig is another long walk, but much easier to do, as the sun is not hitting you in full, plus it’s half desert sand and original pavement. And finally, at the end of the Sig, the best known picture anyone will recognise of Petra, this is the view of the Treasury building from the narrow walls inside the Siq.
The Treasure area is where most of the people pile to make pictures. Once you have done yours around, continue ahead. Now it’s where the true experience starts. Walking in the desert sand (original pavement still under it and can be seen on areas where they clear the sand), and with nothing to cover yourself from the sun, make your way towards the Theatre. Notice the way will split in two, one to your right which leads to many big tombs on the rock, being the most famous and most photographed one the Urn Tomb, and the left one, with direction the Roman Forum. Take the left one. After the Theatre, many smaller tombs and buildings excavated on the rock will be in your way, then you will have reached the Roman Forum. After the forum, the road splits again, take the one to your right; this is following the way to The Monastery.
Eventually, you will arrive to the last section; this is making all the way up The Monastery. This is without excuse, the hardest part of the whole site. You will need to climb up and up, step after step, then ramps, zig zags one after another, with a deadly sun above you. At least 45 minutes after you started the ascent, you will reach the top. The reward is worth the hike! You will have on the right hand side the largest of all the buildings ever built in Petra, The Monastery. To appreciate it in full, move farther from it towards the café. Notice the people by the entrance, how small they are.
And now, all the way back. Exactly the same as you came in. Calculate the time according on when is your bus back to Amman (or wherever you need to return). It might be longer walk than expected as you might be really exhausted already. And perhaps, it’s even more difficult the way back, as in the afternoon is when the most roasting temperatures happen.
- What to bring with you:
It is basically imperative you have plenty of sun lotion, a hat and sun glasses, but of course, also plenty of water. This last one can be bough easily inside the site, but expect to pay a high price for it. Also, beware that when you start climbing your way up The Monastery, there are no sellers of drinks in all the way, only when reaching the last meters, so consider to keep some or buy before you start your way up.
I am not fan of sun glasses, but believe me, it is worth to have some here. The desert sand reflects the permanent killer sun, coupled with the heat, you can barely open your eyes in full.
And as last, if you don’t have sun cream you are guaranteed hospitalization in few hours. You need to keep punting on yourself, and be careful on your face. The heat will make you sweat, and the salt of the sweat together with sun cream, can be very annoying to your eyes.
Although a camel ride is said to be included in your ticket, make sure it will be really included and you will not need to pay extra for it. You are already paying an enormous amount of money to enter the site and the last you want is to pay more.
Also, donkeys or horses are available but those for sure are extra from your pocket. If you are not too heavy or you have kids, you can go up the Monastery in a donkey. But from the look of them, so exploited and exhausted, I would avoid it. It’s quite cruel to see how they are treated.