One of the best unanticipated benefits of extended travel is spending major milestones in special places: anniversaries, holidays, and of course, birthdays. We spent my birthday drinking rice wine with members of a Sapa hill tribe after a 24 km hike through the Vietnamese mountains. Six months later, we were walking through a candlelit gorge on Jeremy’s birthday, on our way to a haunting musical performance in front of Petra’s famous Treasury.
Petra is, without a doubt, Jordan’s most famous tourist destination. And with good reason! An ancient Nabataean city chiseled out of rose-red rock? Yes please!
The Nabataeans were an Arab tribe, and I don’t know much about them except that they were in the caravanning business, and they clearly believed in the power of anticipation. Entering Petra, visitors must first walk through a long (close to 3/4 of a mile), narrow gorge called the Siq, with colorful cliffs on either side that can rise up to 80 meters.
And just when you get used to that meandering passageway, you see the following out of the corner of your eye:
And then…BAM! You turn the corner and you see this:
Though the Treasury is Petra’s most famous sight, the Monastery, set waaay on the other end of Petra’s vast grounds, is just as stunning and less crowded, since you have to climb over 800 stairs in the Jordanian heat to get to it.
And if you’re not in the mood to climb 800 stairs, you can always hire a donkey. Or two.
We spent two days in Petra; the grounds are quite vast and we wanted to be sure we had time to see it all. After covering all the major sights on our first day, we spent our last day hiking up to the High Place of Sacrifice, with stunning views of Petra’s valley floor.
Though this was Jeremy’s second time visiting Petra, it was our first time seeing Petra by night. I don’t think he’ll soon forget that candlelit walk through the Siq, the haunting music echoing off the cliffs, or the brilliance of the stars over the Treasury that night. What a great place to turn 38.
Transportation from Madaba to Petra: We visited Jordan during the low season, so the normal bus from Madaba to Petra was not running. We had to take a taxi, and since it was just the two of us making the trip that day, it turned out to be quite expensive (50 JOD or US$70!). Ouch. The drive down the King’s Highway was quite lovely, though.
Where we slept in Petra: Our cab driver from Madaba took us straight to Petra Sun Set Hotel, and since it was reasonably clean and located only 5 walking minutes from Petra’s main entrance, we went for it. There definitely isn’t much to say for the place except that the French woman working at the counter is really friendly, and the location can’t be beat. After walking in and out of the Siq, it’s really nice not having to trudge up the hill to Wadi Musa. We paid 25 JOD (US$35) for a double room ensuite.
Check out all our photos from Petra: