Why visit Petra, Jordan? Is the Treasury the only thing to see in Petra? Several people ask us these questions when we tell them about our recent visit to the Middle East which included Israel and Jordan. Most people may have seen the iconic photo of the Treasury at Petra. The beautifully carved facade on the face of a towering limestone rock is quite impressive, to say the least.
Believe it or not, Petra has a lot more to offer than just the Treasury. Most people that visit Petra would probably agree that it takes at least two days to explore the remains of this ancient city that was once lost and forgotten. There are so many fascinating carved structures to discover as well as some incredible views that should not be missed!
We traveled through Jordan with a tour, and our visit to Petra included a guide. Normally, we like to go and explore on our own and be on our own timeline. However, in this instance, it was nice to have a guide, and our tour group of 10 others was really fun to be around with.
Should You Visit Petra With A Tour Guide?
You can visit Petra without a tour guide, but having a guide to get us started was a nice benefit. She explained all of the main areas that should be seen and gave us a timeline of how long everything takes to walk or hike to. Having an explanation gave us a better idea of how to plan our visit. Fortunately, she let us have our own time for about 5 hours, so we had the best of both worlds. If you do your research ahead of time, you may not need a guide. Having a tour guide will certainly give you some peace of mind if you don’t have a plan in advance.
What is Petra?
The Nabateans who put Petra “on the map” were incredibly skilled at creating a prosperous society. Their location, in the heart of trade routes of the time, allowed them to become very wealthy.
During their time in Petra, spanning for several centuries, they build sophisticated waterways and systems to accommodate their survival in the desert. The hidden aspect of Petra, thanks to the natural rock formations (you would never know a city exists there if looking at it from afar), also aided in their success.
The Nabateans, abandoned Petra after earthquakes destroyed a lot of their city. The Romans followed the occupation of Petra after the Nabateans, and it was also used by nomadic tribes at some point after that before gaining the title of one of The Seven Wonders Of The World.
Al-Siq At Petra
Every visitor’s journey starts at Bab As-Siq. Bab is Arabic for “gate.” This is where the visitor’s center and ticket office are at Petra. Once you have entered you start your journey into “The Lost City Of Petra.” Before you enter the Siq (Arabic for “shaft”), there is a 15-minute walk on a trail that can also be taken on horseback, if you choose.
As you walk through the what looks like a crack in the giant rocks, make sure to take note of carvings along the way. This pathway was used as a caravan entrance into Petra. There are several carvings on the rock that are thought to have been used to indicate places of worship or conducting rituals. There are also some compelling rock formations that can be admired along the way.
As you reach the end of the Siq, the majestic Treasury starts to appear slowly through the crack in the rocks. There are some vendors directly in front of the Treasury. Visitors can enjoy a cup of Turkish coffee while they marvel at this historic structure.
Street of Facades
The Street of Facades refers to an open area after passing the Treasury. The valley starts to expand a bit more in this area opening up to a courtyard where tombs can be seen all around carved into the rock.
The Monastery (Al-Deir)
At first glance, photos of The Monastery may be confused with the Treasury. The Monastery is farther into Petra and is much larger in size. The hike here is a bit strenuous (especially after walking around for a couple of hours on a hot day) but completely worth it!
The Royal Tombs
These are a collection of tombs that belonged to the Nabatean Royalty.
The Colonnaded Street
Running through the center of Petra is the Colonnaded Street. Heavily destroyed by floods over the centuries, there are still columns that remain, reminiscent of the Roman presence in Petra.
The Great Temple
A temple assumed to have been dedicated to the deity Dushara; the Great Temple is one of the largest structures in Petra. Built by the Nabateans in the first century, this two-story complex continues to be excavated so that we can learn more about them and give us more insight into the Nabateans when you visit Petra.
Best Views When You Visit Petra
- The High place of Sacrifice (al-Madhbah) – A fairly easy hike and provides spectacular views of Wadi Musa.
- The Monastery – A quick hike to the top of a cliff directly in front of it. It’s not a very difficult trek and takes only about fifteen minutes. You’ll be happy you did it once you get a glimpse of the vast valley below, showcasing the Monastery.
- The Theatre – Take the trail across from the Theatre to get an incredible glimpse of the landscape from a different perspective.
- The Treasury From Above – This hike takes about 45 minutes. The trail is not too tricky until towards the end. We recommend getting a guide to take you up unless you have time to explore it on your own.
These are some of the top things to see in Petra, but by no means are they a complete list of everything there. Visitors have a wide variety of paths to take when traversing this vast landscape. With each hike or avenue trekked there exists a plethora of attractions on Petra that are sure to thrill and tantalize. Are you ready to visit Petra now?
Taiss Nowrouzi is a free-spirited, wander-lusting, travel-blogging, animal-lover who is a sucker for adventure! She is the creator and director of TogetherToWherever.com, a travel blog dedicated to providing tips and advice on living abroad as well as information to help people make the best of their travels.