Petra, Jordan’s “Rose City,” is located in the desert outskirts of Jordan, literally in the middle of nowhere. Today, the renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site is a major tourism destination for its unique rock-cut architecture and rich ancient history. Yet, interestingly, Peta was never a popular tourism destination until a single event in 1989.
The city is nestled within a breathtaking desert landscape, surrounded by towering cliffs and deep canyons that began in 400 B.C. and peaked with nearly 20,000 Nabataean inhabitants. The journey through the narrow, winding passage known as the Siq adds an element of mystery and anticipation before revealing the stunning Treasury facade. As visitors traverse the city’s ancient streets and ascend to higher viewpoints, they are rewarded with panoramic vistas of the majestic red sandstone formations and the vast expanse of the desert. The natural beauty of Petra creates a sense of wonder. It offers a unique blend of history and awe of what their cave parties were like in a time far removed from today.
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 powerful earthquakes rocked (no pun intended) the region, destroying many of the structures. By 700 A.D., Peta was abandoned, and only wild goats remained, left doing goat things.
Petra Jordan Uncensored
Tourism was never huge in Petra, even after UNESCO added it to the World Heritage Sites in 1985. However, the 1989 release of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade featured the Treasury building (Al-Khazneh), causing tourism and visitors to Petra to explode!
Sorry Indiana Jones fans, there’s no “holy grail” in the Treasury Building.
Visitors to the area increased from a few thousand people per year to almost 1 million. 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 in Jordan is just as shitty as 2,000 years ago. It’s located halfway between Amman and Aqaba on the country’s western edge. There are no convenient places to fly to or quick ways to get here.
When you begin to explore Petra, numerous hidden trails and lesser-known structures are waiting to be discovered beyond the main sites. Visitors can hike to the High Place of Sacrifice, climb to the viewpoint of the Monastery, or explore the colorful rock formations of the Wadi Rum desert nearby. The opportunity for discovery and the thrill of uncovering hidden gems make Petra an exciting destination for adventurers and history enthusiasts alike. On a typical single-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
Visiting Petra is a must for those exploring Jordan if you’re up for the journey. The rich history, stunning architecture, and breathtaking landscapes create an unforgettable experience.
Frequently Asked Questions
Tour operators have tours starting in Amman which provide transportation to/from Petra.
Tour operators have tours starting from Tel Aviv, which provide transportation to/from Petra. Read my experience with crossing the Israel/Jordan land border here.
Petra was constructed in 400 B.C by the Nabataeans.
Safety can be a concern in Jordan; however Petra is a relatively safe destination to visit as long as you use common sense to secure valuables away from petty theft.