One of the New Seven Wonders of the World, Petra is truly one of the most stunning works of man. The ancient Nabatean city once covered 200-square-miles, and while the freestanding buildings have been destroyed by earthquakes over the centuries, those that were carved in the pink sandstone remain and their beauty and the drama of the setting amazes even the most jaded traveler. The building that most people associate with Petra is the Treasury building that appeared in the Indiana Jones movie, The Last Crusade, but there is much more to the site than that one gorgeous façade, so you will need at least three hours to explore it. Those interested in history or hiking could easily spend a few days making various forays.
The reason behind the city’s location is the nearby natural rock gorge, called siq, that is almost a mile long and, at some points, 500 feet high, that serves as a fortified entrance. You can ride a horse or take a carriage part way along it, but walking allows time to marvel at the natural and carved rock formations. The excavations are ongoing, and the carvings of life-size camel feet and a human figure that appears at one bend in the siq were only recently unearthed. Touring with a knowledgeable guide who can point out significant spots and put them in historical context will add greatly to the experience. Sites not to miss include the Royal Tombs, the Great Temple (which actually functioned as a form of parliament building), the Monastery and Little Petra. The Bedouins who once inhabited the tombs and caves of Petra are now the only people who are allowed to operate businesses inside of Petra. They sell trinkets, offer camel and donkey rides and operate the refreshment stands. Indagare members can contact our bookings to team to arrange single or multi-day tours of the sprawling site.
Indagare Tip: The best place to eat inside Petra is the Basin Restaurant, which is past the Great Temple on the way to the Monastery. It isn’t charming, but it is clean and well run, and it offers a lunch buffet and tables on a terrace under the shade of trees.
Written by Melissa Biggs Bradley