Petra is a bad ass ancient city carved into the sandstone cliffs of the Arabah valley in Southern Jordan – literally in the middle of nowhere. This historical and archaeological city is a member of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and definitely a place you must visit – if you have the balls and patience.
This wicked-cool place was established by the Nabataeans sometime around 400 B.C. and peaked with 20,000 inhabitants who probably threw some bitchin’
house cave parties. Things slid downhill in 106 A.D. when the Nabataeans got into a spat with the Roman Empire and were (eventually) forced to surrender. Shit didn’t help when in 363 A.D. a pair of very strong earthquakes rocked (no pun intended) the region, destroying many of the structures. By 700 A.D. the place was abandoned – left with wild goats just doing goat things on the mountainside.
In 1985, Petra was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and tourism increased a tiny bit. It wasn’t until The Treasury building (Al-Khazneh) was featured in the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (one of my all-time faves) that the tourism numbers exploded!
SPOILER ALERT: There’s no holy grail in the Treasury building.
Tourism to the area increased from a few thousand people per year to almost 1 million people per year. The demand to see this ancient archaeological city was so high that the government had to step in and build additional infrastructure to support the tourism demand.
Even with the increased infrastructure, hotels and nearby restaurants, getting to Petra is just as shitty as it was 2,000 years ago. It’s located almost half way between Amman and Aqaba on the eastern edge of the country – basically, there are no convenient places to fly to and no quick ways to get here. Your options are limited to driving or teleportation.
On a typical day pass, you’ll have the ability to see a bunch of nifty things:
- Obelisk Tomb
- Treasury (Al-Khazneh)
- Nabatean Theatre
- Urn Tomb
- Palace Tombs
I would strongly recommend spending a few days there. The complex is a massive 102 sq miles of unpaved roads and freaking stairs everywhere.
Know before you go
- Jordan’s Aqaba border crossing a complete and total shit show. If you have a camera with a zoom lens or a drone, expect some MAJOR issues in the form of secondary inspections and interrogations from their less-than-nice uniformed, armed guards. They’ll try to confiscate your cameras and lenses for absolutely no reason.
- Petra is in the middle of no where, it’s a shitty long drive from the southern border (about 2 hours) and even worse from Amman (3.5 hours) with absolutely nothing to look at (except mountains, sand and maybe the occasional camel).
- Bring a really comfy pair of shoes, you’ll walk a lot. I hiked 13mi (21km) in a day.
- Entrance fee is steep; 90 Jordanian Dinar (~$125 USD) for a one day pass – cheaper for multi-day passes, but definitely worth the investment.
- This place is very popular. I mean like very very popular. There were thousands of people and tour groups everywhere. Bring your patience.