If you’re heading to Jordan then you’d be daft not to visit Petra, I mean it’s one of the seven wonders of the world so why wouldn’t you? Some of you may know Petra from being on the cover of travel brochures, others may recognise Petra from watching Indiana Jones, and there’s probably some of you that recognise it from one of the action scenes in the Transformers film. Either way, there’s clearly a reason it’s so popular and that’s because it’s incredible. If you’ve been hiding under a rock and you’ve never heard of Petra before then here’s a little background info. It’s essentially an ancient capital city that was inhabited by the Nabateans, that’s carved into rocks and believed to date from around 9,000 BC. Pretty cool?
This post aims to give a helping hand to those of you that are confused on what to actually see whilst you’re in Petra, and to give you my personal opinion on how long you should stay there. During my time in Jordan, I met a few travellers who expressed different opinions on how many days to actually stay in Petra. To put it simply, this is because Petra is actually huge. There’s so much to see, and it definitely requires some walking to see it. The issue with Petra is that it’s pretty much a one-way system, so if you are going to spend more than one day in Petra, you’re going to have to walk past most of the stuff you may have already seen in the previous day. Another thing you should bear in mind is that despite Petra being a wonder of the world, after a while it all starts to look the same. Those of you that are hardcore historians may want to crucify me for saying that, but hey ho. I personally couldn’t handle three days in Petra, I’d get frustrated with having to walk past the same sights each day, and the heat is an absolute killer with it being in the Middle East.
So with those tips in mind here’s what I think would be a decent Itinerary if you’re planning on visiting Petra:
This itinerary aims to reach the most time-consuming and strenuous areas of Petra at the best times to allow you to have relaxed afternoons strolling around the other sites. Whilst avoiding hordes of tourists, It also provides a plan to hike to the hard to reach places in the early mornings to miss the sun whilst it is at its peak.
Day One in Petra
I would aim to get up as early as you can. I managed to get to Petra before 7:00 am and it was blissful, I missed the huge flocks of tour groups that make walking through the Siq an absolute nightmare. The Siq is basically a tight-spaced canyon type entrance into the ancient city, and in peak times it’s crowded by dozens of tourists and just as many horse and carriages. If you get up early enough you’ll be able to stroll through the Siq at a leisurely pace and actually enjoy it, as opposed to watching your back every two minutes for fear of being hit by a horse and carriage.
When you get to the end of the trail you’ll be greeted by an amazing sight, the treasury of Petra. It looks incredible and you’re definitely going to want to take photos, but if I was you then I wouldn’t spend too long doing so. This is because on you’re gonna want to make the dreaded hike to the monastery on your first day. On your way to Ad-Deir (The Monastery), you’re also going to pass a lot of cool things to see such as the Roman Theatre, the Royal Tombs, the Colonnaded Street and a Byzantine Church. However, once again I’d try your best to walk past these and head to the Monastery first. It’s a long hike and in the midday heat it’s an absolute killer, and that’s exactly why you’re better off heading straight there on the first day. Once you get to the monastery, after climbing (what I got told is) 900 steps, and after dodging numerous donkeys on a narrow path to the top, you’ll make it to the monastery. The views here are incredible, and you can climb higher to get good views over the mountainous terrain, as well as finding a vantage point overlooking the monastery.
Once you’ve finished taking in the views of the Monastery and surrounding scenery you’re going to have to head straight back down the dreaded path you originally climbed. I imagine by the time you’ve rested a little and finished with all your Monastery sightseeing then it’s probably going to be around midday, so if I was you I’d grab some food and spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the Byzantine Church and the Colonnaded Street. This area marks the centre of ancient Petra, and you’ll find the Royal Palace here, as well as the Nymphaeum which was built around the 2nd century AD.
After exploring the area in depth head back to visitor centre by returning through the route you took into Petra and back past the Treasury. Once again I would avoid spending too long here as it’ll most likely be busy due to the time of day. Don’t worry though you’ll get to explore the Treasury properly tomorrow. As you’ve spent the day hiking in the middle eastern heat, you’re probably going to be ready to chill out a little so I’d head back through the gates and get some rest ready for the next day.
Day Two in Petra
I would definitely recommend aiming to get up fairly early in order to avoid huge crowds of people. Head back on the same route you took yesterday, but when you reach the Siq take your time to admire its beauty and get some stunning photos. It’s likely that you’re not going to be surrounded by dozens of tourists and you’ll be able to experience the Treasury in the best way possible. Once you’re finished with the Treasury then you can take around a 30-40 minute hike to the High Place of Sacrifice. You can follow signposts that divert from the main path around the Roman Theatre. The path isn’t particularly dangerous and you don’t have to be an experienced hiker to hike it, so take your time and enjoy the views along the way. The best thing about this itinerary is that it takes a lot of stress off your visit to Petra and saves you from rushing around like a madman in the scorching heat. Once you reach the top admire the views of the High Place of Sacrifice and when you’re ready to head back down the way you came that’ll take you back towards the main path.
Use the rest of your day to explore the nearby Roman Theatre and Royal Tombs that you would have walked past the previous day. Explore the stalls that are set up along the main path and just wander around Petra leisurely. As you would have already visited the most time-consuming sites that are the Monastery and The High Place of Sacrifice, you’ll now be left with a whole afternoon to wander around Petra and really get a good sense of how magnificent the ancient kingdom was, and how well preserved some of the Nabatean and Roman remains are.
Don’t forget to check out this blog post if you’re planning to travel to Jordan – Jordan Pass – Yay or Nay? (Is the Jordan pass really worth it?)
I hope this itinerary helped you out and that you enjoyed reading it. Be sure to leave some comments and let me know if there’s anything you feel I’ve missed out or if you’ve got any further tips for any future readers. Don’t forget to visit the Bankrupt Backpacker Facebook Page for regular posts on travel-related content. Thanks, guys!