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Picturesque Petra

Fabled hiding place of the Holy Grail in the Indiana Jones epic ‘The Last Crusade’, there is plenty to excite the imagination in this ancient Jordanian city. Archaeology rules in Petra, so if it’s old that you like, you’ll find it here and then some – this city was established around the sixth century BCE on the slope of Mount Hor.

Don your dishdasha (if only for the novelty of asking friends: ‘Hey, do you like my dishdasha?’) and go biblical with a donkey ride through theSiq. Its massive rock crevices dotted with ancient cave dwellings lead to the famous Treasury Building, which appears dramatically as you round the bend. Petra has long been home to Bedouin tribes, but was hidden from the rest of the world until its rediscovery by a Swiss explorer in 1812. His jaw would have dropped at the sight – and 200 years on, it will have the same effect on yours.

Petra’s Top 10

10. The Ad-Deir Monastery Reached by a flight of 800 rock-cut steps, this enormous temple is even larger than the Treasury, although not quite as intricate.

5. Nymphaeum This huge fountain of flowing water in the middle of the desert is dedicated to water nymphs. See if you can spot one…

9. The Colonnaded Street A fantastic Roman ruin marking the main processional route for ceremonies.

4. Qasr al Bint (Palace of the Pharaoh’s Daughter) Temple Built from stone, probably to worship Dushara, a Nabataean God.

8. Roman Theatre Originally built by the Nabataeans, but enlarged into a 7,000-seat amphitheatre by the Romans. 1,500 years later, performances are set to return – which is a relief to the actors who have had to wait on a lot of tables!

3. The Place of High Sacrifice and the Tombs of Wadi Farasa The steep walk is challenging (two to three hours, depending on the path taken), but so worth it.

7. Byzantine Church Newly excavated, the intricate mosaic floors are still intact.

2. The Siq Forms the mile-long creviced, narrow gorge leading to the city of Petra. You can walk or catch a donkey.

6. Petra Archaeological Museum The museum showcases a small number of the artefacts found on the site.

1. The Treasury (Khazneh) Truly iconic, this monumental royal tomb carved in rose-coloured rock is unforgettable.

Petra History

  • Byzantine Church – One of the most ancient temples, dating from the 5th and 6th centuries. It houses amazing Byzantine mosaics.
  • Great Temple – It is still being excavated today, and it is breathtaking.
  • The Monastery – A huge rock-carved Nabatean temple in Petra.
  • Massif of Jabel Khubtha – Located north of Khazneh where three large ancient tombs are carved in high stones.
  • The Treasury – This is a Nabatean temple carved completely out of a rock. Looking at it will send shivers down your spine.

Petra Art & Culture

  • Jordan Archaeological Museum – Has an exquisite collection of Jordanian antiquities.
  • Mazar Islamic Museum – It houses sculptures and ceramics from different Islamic civilizations.
  • Dar Al Anda – Visual and auditory arts are blended perfectly to create a feast for the senses.
  • Darat Al Funun – Concerts and lectures on Arab art are held here in Petra.
  • Museum of Jordanian Heritage – It houses exquisite artefacts and is considered the finest archaeological museum in the country.

Petra Shopping

  • Jeff’s Book Shop – Specializes in Jordanian literature and books about Jordan and Petra in particular.
  • Wadi Mousa Jewelry Workshop – You can buy exquisite handmade jewellery fit for a queen.
  • Decorative Sand Art – Bottles of decorative sand art can be bought throughout the area.
  • Nabataean Glass Pottery – If you know where to look you can get fascinating Nabataean glass pottery in Petra.
  • Souvenir Shops – You can get these amazing Narghila Pipes at souvenir shops scattered around the area.

Gay & Lesbian Petra

  • Al-Wadi Restaurant – Popular and cheap dining place for tourists near Wadi Musa.
  • Cleopetra Restaurant – Highly recommended restaurant, famous for its affordable roasted chicken.
  • Wrangler Bar – Famous cosy bar in Petra with alcoholic drinks. Come experience the oldies-but-goodies music.
  • Petra by Night – A unique way to experience the city. Discover the ancient spice caravan night with an evening of storytelling and Bedouin music. More than 1,000 candles are lit around the place.
  • Cave Bar – This classy pub used to be a Nabataean tomb 2,000 years ago. A nice place to sip beer, cocktail or sheesha after a long, tiring day in Petra.

Petra Outdoor

  • Mountain of Aaron – Considered one of the holiest and most sacred places in Petra. This is the resting place of Aaron, Moses' brother.
  • High Place of Sacrifice – Known as the Nabataeans' most sacred open-air altar in the mountain summit. It is a place of worship and sacrifice.
  • Royal Tomb S – These ancient royal tombs are built high on a mountainside in Petra.
  • Valley of the Moon – A breathtaking place for riding camels and trekking.
  • King’s Highway – Drive along the most ancient route in Jordan, it was even mentioned in the Bible.

Petra Sport

  • Shed pounds mountain biking in Little Petra.
  • Walk along the ruins in Petra to enjoy the scenery.
  • Going canyoning in Petra Leccia is truly a magical experience since water is very rare, too.
  • Ride a horse in The Siq, one of the most popular activities.
  • Rockclimbing in Wadi Rum is an exhilarating experience.

Petra Events

Petra Moon hosts an annual pilgrimage to Wadi Rum for the Perseids Meteor Shower in mid-August.

The three-week Amman Summer Festival was launched in1981 by Queen Noor and now includes events at many centres throughout Jordan in late July and early August.

Distant Heat in July is an all-night rave in the Wadi Rum desert. Perfect setting, really, since there’s no one around to complain when it gets too loud!

The New Year’s Eve Bash in Wadi Rum features Bedouin musicians, folklore show, dancing around the fire and fireworks, much feasting and riding of desert beasts.

When To Go

March to May is the best time for a visit. The temperatures are warm and the wildflowers are in bloom.

It can be surprisingly cold in winter and snow sometimes falls on Petra. At night, desert temperatures drop very low even in summer.

Ramadan, around November, is not great for visitors as eating or drinking in public during the holy time is forbidden, and most stores are closed.

Getting Around

Getting to Petra from Amman can be tricky. Hiring a taxi is an option and should only cost around 50 dinar.

You could hire a car, but it is surprisingly difficult to get your hands on a road map.

Once there, walking or riding a donkey or horse are good options!

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Hotels in Petra

2 hotels in Petra

1 Moevenpick Resort Petra

5 stars
3.9 / 5

PO Box 214 Map

Featuring intricate interior design and high standards of service, the luxurious Moevenpick Resort Petra is one of the most distinguished hotels in the Middle East. GeneralThe resort offers a... More

2 Moevenpick Nabatean Castle Hotel

5 stars
4.0 / 5

PO Box 184 Map

Located only 10 minutes from the entrance to the Petra site, the Moevenpick Nabatean Castle Hotel is set on a hillside at an altitude of 1400 metres with spectacular views over the Great Rift... More