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Petra in Jordan: A Guide to the Lost City of the Nabataeans

Aug 10

I. Overview of Petra and its significance

Historical background of the Nabataeans

Petra, also known as the "Rose City," is an ancient archaeological site in southern Jordan. It was once the capital city of the Nabataeans, a nomadic Arab people who established a kingdom in the region around the 6th century BC. This historical city is renowned for its magnificent rock-cut architecture, stunning desert landscape, and rich cultural heritage.

Considered one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, Petra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must-visit destination for history and architecture enthusiasts. The city's unique buildings, carved into the rose-hued sandstone cliffs, are a testament to the extraordinary architectural skills of the Nabataeans. The most iconic structure in Petra is the Treasury (Al-Khazneh), a majestic tomb that greets visitors as they enter the site. Other notable landmarks include the Royal Tombs, the Monastery (Ad Deir), and the Great Temple.

Petra was a vital trading hub connecting Arabia, Egypt, and Syria. Its strategic location enabled the Nabataeans to control crucial trade routes, resulting in immense wealth and cultural exchange. The city thrived during the Hellenistic and Roman periods, witnessing a blending of Nabataean, Greek, and Roman architectural styles and cultural influences.

Historical background of the Nabataeans

The Nabataeans were an Arabian people who established a prosperous kingdom centred around Petra. They were skilled merchants, mastering the caravan trade and accumulating wealth by transporting valuable goods such as spices, incense, and textiles. The Nabataeans built an extensive network of trade routes, including the famous Incense Route, which stretched from southern Arabia to the Mediterranean.

Despite their nomadic origins, the Nabataeans developed a sophisticated civilization with remarkable architectural achievements. They successfully harnessed the region's natural resources, carving intricate facades, tombs, and temples directly into the cliffs. Their ability to transform the rugged landscape into a thriving city demonstrates their exceptional engineering skills and artistic talent.

Over time, the Nabataean Kingdom faced numerous challenges from rival powers, including the Roman Empire. Eventually, the Romans annexed Petra in the 2nd century AD, marking the decline of the Nabataean civilization. The city was gradually abandoned and forgotten, hidden beneath the desert sands until its rediscovery by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812.

Today, Petra stands as a testament to the ingenuity and legacy of the Nabataeans, who left behind a remarkable architectural wonder that continues to captivate visitors worldwide. Exploring the ancient city allows travellers to immerse themselves in a bygone era and marvel at Petra's timeless beauty.

For more information on Petra and its historical significance, you can visit the official Visit Petra website.


II. Getting to Petra

How to reach Petra

Petra, the iconic archaeological site in Jordan known as the "Lost City of the Nabataeans," is a must-visit destination for history and travel enthusiasts. Tucked away in the Jordanian desert, reaching Petra requires some planning but is well worth the effort. Here are the key ways to reach Petra:

1. Fly to Amman: The most convenient way to reach Petra is by flying into Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, the capital of Jordan. From there, you can easily access Petra by road.

2. Travel by Land: If you're already in Jordan or neighbouring countries, you can reach Petra by land. The main entry point for most visitors is through the town of Wadi Musa, located near the archaeological site.


Transportation options and routes

Once you've reached Amman or the nearby town of Wadi Musa, there are several transportation options to consider when travelling to Petra:

1. Rental car: Renting a car is convenient if you prefer flexibility and control over your travel itinerary. You can easily find car rental services at the airport or in major cities like Amman. The drive from Amman to Petra takes approximately three hours.

2. Private Transfer: Another option is to arrange a private transfer from Amman to Petra. This can be a comfortable and hassle-free way to travel, especially if you're unfamiliar with the local roads.

3. Shared Shuttle: Shared shuttle services are available from Amman to Petra. These shuttle buses are budget-friendly and a popular choice for travellers. The journey takes around three to four hours, depending on the traffic and road conditions.

4. Public Bus: Jordan's public bus system offers an affordable option for reaching Petra. The JETT bus company operates regular services between Amman and Petra, with several daily departures. The journey takes around three and a half hours.

5. Taxi: Taxis are widely available in Jordan, and you can hire a taxi for a direct trip from Amman to Petra. However, it's essential to negotiate the fare in advance and ensure that the taxi is licensed.

When planning your trip to Petra, it's beneficial to consider your budget, travel preferences, and time constraints. Whichever mode of transportation you choose, always check the latest schedules and availability to make your journey as smooth as possible.

For more information on reaching Petra, refer to the official Visit Jordan website.


III. Exploring Petra

When exploring ancient cities, Petra in Jordan is a must-visit destination. Known as the "Lost City of the Nabataeans," Petra is renowned for its stunning rock-cut architecture and rich history. Here's a guide to the main attractions and iconic landmarks of Petra:


Main attractions and iconic landmarks of Petra

The Treasury: Also known as Al-Khazneh, the Treasury is perhaps Petra's most famous and recognizable landmark. Carved entirely out of sandstone, this magnificent structure is beautifully decorated with intricate architectural details and is believed to be a mausoleum.

The Monastery: Another impressive structure in Petra is the Monastery, also known as Ad Deir. Located high up in the mountains, reaching the Monastery requires a hike up around 800 steps. The effort is worth it, as the Monastery offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

The Royal Tombs: Petra is home to several intricately carved tombs that belong to the Nabataean elite. Some notable Royal Tombs include the Urn Tomb, Silk Tomb, and Corinthian Tomb. These tombs showcase the remarkable architectural skills of the Nabataeans.

The Siq: The Siq is a narrow and winding gorge that serves as the main entrance to Petra. As you make your way through the Siq, you'll be surrounded by towering cliffs and stunning rock formations, building anticipation for the grand reveal of the Treasury at the end.

The Street of Facades: Once you enter Petra, you'll come across the Street of Facades, lined with numerous rock-cut tombs and facades. These monumental structures were carved into the cliff walls and served as the ceremonial entrance to important buildings.

The Roman Theater: Built by the Romans, the theatre in Petra is an impressive architectural marvel. It could accommodate around 7,000 spectators and was primarily used for performances and gatherings.

To fully experience and appreciate the beauty of Petra, it's recommended to dedicate at least a full day to exploring the various attractions and landmarks within the site. Guided tours are available to provide historical context and ensure you don't miss any significant points of interest.

In addition to the main attractions, Petra also offers opportunities for hiking and exploring the surrounding nature reserves. The landscape surrounding the city is breathtaking, with rugged mountains, deep canyons, and beautiful desert vistas.

Exploring Petra is like stepping back in time and immersing yourself in a bygone era. The intricate craftsmanship, stunning architecture, and awe-inspiring natural beauty make Petra a true world wonder. Whether you're a history enthusiast, an adventure seeker, or a curious traveller, Petra is a destination that should not be missed.


IV. Practical Tips for Visiting Petra

When planning a visit to Petra, it's essential to consider some practical tips to make the most of your experience. Here are some important things to know before visiting the Lost City of the Nabataeans:

Best time to visit Petra

The best time to visit Petra is during the spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) seasons. The weather during these times is pleasant, with mild temperatures and less rainfall. It's also less crowded than in the summer when temperatures can soar to extreme levels.


Entry fees, opening hours, and permits

Entry fees: The entry fee for Petra varies depending on the duration of the visit. As of 2023, the prices are as follows:

  • 1-day ticket: 50 Jordanian Dinar (approximately 70 USD)
  • 2-day ticket: 55 Jordanian Dinar (approximately 78 USD)
  • 3-day ticket: 60 Jordanian Dinar (approximately 85 USD)
  • Children under the age of 15 enter for free.

Opening hours: Petra is open from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM during the summer months (May to October) and from 6:00 AM to 4:00 PM during the winter months (November to April). It's important to note that these hours may vary, so it's advisable to check the official website or contact the local tourism authorities for the most up-to-date information.

Permits: To enter Petra, you must have a valid entry permit. Obtaining the permit in advance is recommended to avoid any delays or inconvenience. Permits can be purchased online through the official e-visa portal of the Jordanian government or at the Visitor Center in Petra. The Jordan Pass is also a popular option, including the entry fee to Petra and a visa for multiple days in Jordan.

Guided tours: While it's possible to explore Petra independently, hiring a local guide can enhance your experience by providing insightful information about the history, architecture, and hidden gems of the ancient city. Guides are available at the Visitor Center, and their services can be negotiated based on your preferences.

It's important to be prepared for your visit to Petra, including wearing comfortable walking shoes, carrying water and snacks, and protecting yourself from the sun with sunscreen and a hat. Exploring Petra involves a fair amount of walking and climbing steep paths, so being physically fit is advisable.

By following these practical tips, you'll be well-prepared to explore Petra and immerse yourself in this ancient Nabataean city's fascinating history and captivating beauty. Remember to respect the site's cultural and historical significance and leave no trace behind to preserve its integrity for future generations.


V. Hiking and Trekking in Petra

Popular trails and routes in and around Petra

For outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers, Petra offers many hiking and trekking opportunities that allow you to explore its fascinating landscapes and hidden gems. Here are some popular trails and routes to consider when visiting Petra:

1. The Siq Trail: This trail starts from the main entrance of Petra and takes you through the iconic Siq, a narrow gorge that was once the main entrance to the ancient city. Walking through this mesmerizing pathway, you'll be surrounded by towering cliffs and dramatic rock formations, leading you to the famous Treasury.

2. The Monastery Trail: The Monastery Trail is a must-do for those seeking a more challenging hike. This trail takes you up a series of steps, steep inclines, and switchbacks, leading you to the stunning Monastery (Al-Deir). The reward for your efforts is breathtaking panoramic views of the rugged landscape.

3. The High Place of Sacrifice: This trail offers a rewarding hike to a mountaintop platform where ancient Nabataeans used to make offerings to their deities. Along the way, you'll pass through impressive rock-cut tombs and enjoy panoramic views of Petra and the surrounding valleys.

4. The Al-Khubtha Trail: This trail is known for its beautiful viewpoints overlooking Petra. It takes you to Al-Khubtha, a high point where you can witness the Treasury differently. The trail is less crowded than other popular routes and offers a peaceful hiking experience.

Tips for a successful hiking experience

To make the most of your hiking experience in Petra, here are some essential tips:

1. Wear comfortable and sturdy footwear: Since hiking in Petra involves walking on uneven surfaces and climbing stairs, it's crucial to wear comfortable, sturdy shoes that provide good traction.

2. Stay hydrated: Carry enough water with you throughout your hike. The desert climate in Petra can be hot and dry, so drinking plenty of fluids is essential to avoid dehydration.

3. Dress appropriately: Opt for lightweight and breathable clothing suitable for weather conditions. It's advisable to wear a hat and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun.

4. Take breaks: Pace yourself during the hike and take regular breaks to rest and admire the views. It's a great opportunity to soak in the atmosphere and capture memorable photos.

5. Follow the designated trails: To preserve Petra's cultural heritage and natural beauty, it's important to stick to the designated trails and follow any instructions provided by local authorities or guides.

Whether you're a seasoned hiker or a beginner, exploring Petra through its hiking trails is an incredible way to immerse yourself in the ancient city's enchanting beauty. Make sure to plan and prepare accordingly to ensure a safe and unforgettable experience.