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Exploring the Lost City of Petra
Petra has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. Ever since I was a little girl watching Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, wide-eyed and bewildered, I longed to see this enchanted building carved deep into the sandstone rocks. In October 2019, I was finally able to fulfill that dream and visit Petra, a “Lost City” with so many secrets still left untold.

Exploring the Lost City of Petra

Written by Megan Marie

Petra has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. Ever since I was a little girl watching Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, wide-eyed and bewildered, I longed to see this enchanted building carved deep into the sandstone rocks. In October 2019, I was finally able to fulfill that dream and visit Petra, a “Lost City” with so many secrets still left untold.

Once the capital city of the Nabataean Empire, Petra was a thriving city from about 400 B.C. to 106 A.D. In 1985, nearly 2,000 years later, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Today, I want to share my experience exploring this Ancient Wonder of the World and bring you back 2,000 years with me.

Getting To Petra

In my previous post, Planning a Roadtrip Through Israel and Jordan, Ingrid and I decided to rent a car in Jordan to explore the country’s many historical sites and experience it’s culture.

The easiest way to get to Petra is to either rent a car, hire a private driver or arrange a tour.

Since Ingrid and I had a car, we drove from the Dead Sea down to Wadi Musa to spend a 2-day, 2-night excursion there.

Our drive from the Dead Sea to Petra took approximately three hours and led us through the most enchanting desert landscapes. From barren deserts to pink and rose layered sandstone, our drive through Jordan felt like a dream.

When we felt it was safe to stop, Ingrid and I pulled to the side of the road to admire this country’s beautiful landscape. 

Driving through Jordan was quite the adventure! As the backdrop to famous films like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Aladdin, Indiana Jones, and The Martian, it’s no wonder Ingrid and I felt as if we were on our own cinematic adventure through mystical deserts and an enchanted land laden with treasure!

The landscape is quite diverse, however. Jordan’s coast boasts a Mediterranean climate while inland is more desert-like. Imagine vast stretches of desert with massive sandstone cliffs and boulders scattered throughout.

How much time do you need in Petra?

While everyone has a different historical site tolerance, you can comfortably see Petra in approximately 5-6 hours for one day. However, this is without hiking to the sacred high places of sacrifice that overlook the rose city. If you are interested in seeing those additional sites, I recommend hiring a guide and adding about 2-3 additional hours to your planned time there.

Ingrid and I, however, opted to visit Petra for two days. We knew there was a lot to see and take-in and did not want to be rushed. We hired a guide for our first full-day in Petra and returned the next day to casually walk through the historical grounds again and really take in Petra in all of it’s glory.

I recommend spending at least one full day in Petra. There is a lot to see and experience and one of the most magical parts of being there the whole day is witnessing the sandstone change different hues of pinks, reds and oranges throughout the day.

Little Petra & Petra By Night

Little Petra

Little Petra is a small siq, or canyon, just north of Petra in Wadi Musa. In the past, it served as an agricultural center for camel caravans that passed through visiting Petra.

It is well worth visiting if you have the additional time. Ingrid and I decided to visit upon our evening arrival into Wadi Musa, but did not have enough time to fully explore the area. If you are interested in visiting, I strongly suggest heading there with about 2-3 hours to explore.

Ingrid and I ventured into Little Petra just enough to get a “sneak-peak” as to what we’d expect during tomorrow’s Petra tour. Although we did not devote enough time in our schedule to fully experience Little Petra, there is much to be explored if you are interested.

Playing With Kittens in “Little Petra”

Petra By Night

Petra by Night is a light show type experience where you can enter Petra at night and see this magical World Wonder light up. Ingrid and I were very keen to participate in this experience, but after reading reviews and chatting with our local Bed & Breakfast hosts, we opted to save the extra cash and did not go.

Petra By Night is approximately 17 JOD ($24) and only operates Monday, Wednesday and Thursdays. The experience starts at 8:30 pm from the Petra Visitor Center and lasts approximately two hours. Please note: children under 10 years old are admitted for free! You can learn more about Petra By Night on their official site here

Playing with my new furry friend in Little Petra

If you’re looking for an authentic and local experience when traveling to Jordan, look no further than the Petra Bedouin Bed and Breakfast

Where To Stay In Petra

As mentioned in my previous blog post about Jordan, October is a very popular time of year to visit Jordan, specifically Petra. Accommodation books up quite quickly, which you will want to keep in mind when planning your trip itinerary. There are many reputable hotels in Wadi Musa and near Petra that we found on hotel and third party sites.

When Ingrid and I started looking for Petra accommodation about a month in advance and had trouble finding a reputable place to stay. We eventually found the Petra Bedouin Bed & Breakfast and booked immediately. Little did we know, staying here would be one of my favorite highlights of the trip!

Petra Bedouin Bed & Breakfast

This quaint Bed & Breakfast, is operated by a Canadian woman and her Jordanian husband. Joy and Hammound have lived in Jordan for a few years together, opening their home to foreigners wanting to experience both Petra and local Jordanian hospitality and culture.

When we stumbled upon their Bed & Breakfast, we were blown away by the raving reviews and how perfect their home was for travelers wanting an authentic experience while coming to see Petra. The considerable amount of great reviews out shown their home-made pictures of the accommodation, reassuring us this was a great place to stay near Petra.

Why We Loved Our Stay

There were so many reasons why our stay at Joy and Hammound’s Bedouin Bed & Breakfast had such a huge impact on our trip.  To name a few, we loved their family dinners, guided walking tours of Petra and incredible hospitality.

Guided Walking Tours of Petra

Joy & Hammound’s Bedouin Bed and Breakfast is not walking distance from the main entrance to Petra, unfortunately. However, they offer walking tours operated by a family member. In this guided walking tour, Hammound’s brother takes you to the secret back-entrance of Petra where you can view the Treasury away from the chaotic crowds of tourists.  This was very appealing to Ingrid and I as we wanted to have a firm foundation of the history behind Petra and appreciate the historical sites privately.

Jordan's beautiful desert landscape
The Jordanian flat on top of Petra
Sunset In Wadi Rum Desert
Arabian Nights | Sunset in Wadi Rum Desert
Open desert roads on the way to Petra
A local boy and s donkey outside Petra's secret back entrance

Family Dinner & Free Breakfast

My absolute favorite part about staying at Joy & Hammound’s Bed and Breakfast was their authentic Jordanian dinner. They offer to cook you dinner in their home for an additional $10 per person. This dinner is made by local Jordanian women and is absolutely delicious! On our two night stay, we opted to have dinner both nights and noticed that almost all of the guests do the same.

This was my favorite experience in Jordan (a close second is Ingrid and I’s desert camping experience). On a trip to such foreign lands, Joy & Hammound made us feel right at home.

You are seated in their home’s dining room, which is an indoor/outdoor area that hosts about 12-15 people. Dinner was full of delicious Middle Eastern cuisine and stories of other guests’ travels around the country. One particular couple from New York City recommended a delectable restaurant in Aqaba while another advised we book our desert safari in Wadi Rum in the morning to avoid the blazing afternoon sun. It was a great experience all around and we shared many laughs, adventure stories, and memories there on the two evenings we opted to have dinner cooked in their home.

I’d also like to emphasize that this home dinner removes the chaos of having to drive into the town of Wadi Musa and find a reputable restaurant to eat at. Ingrid and I absolutely loved this no-hassle option, where you could stay at dinner chatting away with other travelers for as long as you’d like only to walk next-door to your room and go to bed. We avoided driving at night in Jordan at all costs, primarily for safety concerns and also how dark it gets in the desert.

Joy & Hammound also offer free breakfast, which is inclusive of your booking every morning. This was a great addition because we were able to energize ourself for a full morning of exploring Petra.

An Authentic & Local Experience

Lastly, if it hasn’t been implied already, if you’re looking for an authentic and local experience when traveling to Jordan, look no further than the Petra Bedouin Bed and Breakfast. Their Bed & Breakfast is not for those who enjoy the comfort and expectations of a three star western hotel. This is their home and while the beds were comfortable, there is no air condition, the street can be noisy and you share a restroom with other individuals.

However, their accommodation suited our needs and our desired experience when traveling to Jordan. We were looking for an authentic experience within budget and Joy and Hammound’s B&B gave us just that! *This is not a sponsored post and I really did love this experience and accommodation!

Admiring Petra's Treasury

Ingrid & I admiring Petra’s Treasury

Admiring Petra’s Treasury

Petra Tour Options

Your ticket to Petra does not include a guide or guided walking tour. Upon entering, you are free to explore the area for as long as you like. However, Ingrid and I wanted to understand the history behind this UNESCO World Heritage Site so we opted to book a tour through our accommodation for our first full day in Petra. 

However, there are a few different ways you can go about touring Petra. 

A Guided Walking Tour

You can book guided walking tours of Petra a number of different ways: through the visitor center, online, a local guide or through your accommodation. To guarantee quality and authenticity, Ingrid and I booked a guided walking tour through our accommodation. I highly recommend this option, as I have read bad reviews about booking guides through the visitor center.

On this tour, our guide took us through a secret, back entrance into Petra where we were able to view the Treasury from on top of a cliff. It was incredible seeing this beautiful, ancient structure from that angle and away from the crowds.

On our particular walking tour, we provided our Jordan Pass and Passport to our accommodation the night before our first day in Petra. They arranged retrieving our Petra Admission Tickets for us, which was very convenient. We did not have to worry about driving to the main entrance to get the tickets ourselves. This was particularly helpful because:

  1. You need to have a Petra ticket before entering the secret back-entrance. You must already have your ticket available since they do not issue tickets here and you will not be let in.
  2. If you plan on getting to Petra’s main entrance early to see all of the sites prior to the crowds of tourists, which I strongly advise, you will want to get your tickets ahead of time (preferably the night prior)

Our guide was a local Bedouin, who are traditionally nomadic Arabs of the desert. It was very informative having him guide us through the history of Petra and up to sacred sites we would’ve otherwise never seen.

Because Ingrid and I booked a two day Petra ticket, we spent our last day there exploring the area on our own without a guide. We entered Petra through the main entrance this time, but what we didn’t realize is how lengthy the entrance is from the first anticipated historical site.

After entering, you must pass a plethora of tourist shops and locals offering rides to the Treasury on donkeys and horses. When you finally approach the treasury, you’ll find yourself winding through the canyon and layers of sandstone. From the visitor center to the Treasury, it is about a one mile walk and you should expect to get to the treasury in about 30-45 minutes depending on your pace.

Our tour also involved lots of walking and climbing stairs. I recommend wearing a good pair of walking shoes (like tennis shoes), sunscreen, lots of water and comfortable clothes. It was very hot so keep that in mind as well. By the end of our 8+ hour day, we were completely exhausted.

As the sun was setting, our guide pointed out the changes in color on the sandstone which was absolutely magical.

A Self-Guided Tour

You can also opt to see Petra on your own, without a guide. I highly recommend this option if you are familiar with the area and its history or do not like being rushed on a tour.

Again, I strongly advise having two days in Petra, with one being a guided walking tour and the other self-guided to enjoy the sites you were potentially rushed past on the first day. The walking tour was incredibly informative and Ingrid and I learned so much more than if we had tried to do it on our own.

Our second, self-guided day was well deserved after an exhausting but informative tour. We were excited to return to some of the sites we wished we had more time at during our walking tour. We used this extra day to saunter through the siqs (canyons), take lots of photos, bargain with shop owners and vendors and really take in the whole historical site.

Watching the sandstone

Watching the sandstone change colors in Wadi Musa

Petra is one of those places I’d return to in a heartbeat. Jordan is a historical part of our world and there is something to be celebrated about it’s history, culture, food and people.

In Retrospect

Looking back, Petra is one of those places I’d return to in a heartbeat. I feel that way about the whole country of Jordan actually. It is an extremely historical part of our world and there is something to be celebrated about it’s history, culture, food and people. 

I thoroughly enjoyed having two full days in Petra and strongly advise this option if it is somewhere you’ve always wanted to see. If you book a walking tour, I advise doing so through your accommodation.

If you’re planning a trip to Jordan to visit this unique Wonder of the World, I hope you find my blog post helpful and insightful. Please don’t hesitate to reach out should you have a specific question about my experience.

The wide open desert road to Petra

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