Petra, located in the southwestern region of Jordan, is one of the most iconic destinations in the world. This ancient city, carved into rose-colored sandstone cliffs, was once a thriving trading hub and the capital of the Nabataean kingdom.
Today, Petra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a bucket-list destination for travelers seeking to explore its incredible history, unique architecture, and natural beauty. From the iconic Treasury and Monastery to the winding Siq Canyon and expansive desert landscapes, Petra offers visitors an unforgettable experience that will transport them back to a world unlike any other.
In This Article
- Key Takeaways
- Brief History Of Petra
- Must-See Sites Within Petra
- How To Make The Most Of Your Visit To Petra?
- The Best Time To Visit Petra
- How To Get To Petra?
- Petra, One Of The Most Spectacular Ancient Civilisations
- Petra is an ancient city in southern Jordan, carved into towering sandstone cliffs by the Nabataean people over 2,000 years ago.
- Petra was once a bustling center of trade and commerce, a hub for the caravan routes connecting Asia, Africa, and Europe.
- Petra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the world’s most awe-inspiring archaeological sites, drawing visitors from all over the world to explore its ancient ruins and marvel at its natural beauty.
- The most iconic building in Petra is the Treasury, which was carved into the rock face in the 1st century AD and served as a tomb for a Nabataean king.
- Other must-see sites within Petra include the Monastery, the Tombs, the Theater, and Colonnaded Street.
- Visitors can explore the ancient ruins and marvel at the stunning natural beauty of the surrounding landscape.
- Petra offers a glimpse into the ancient world and the ingenuity and creativity of the Nabataean people.
Brief History Of Petra
Petra is an ancient city in southern Jordan, carved into towering sandstone cliffs by the Nabataean people over 2,000 years ago. It was once a bustling center of trade and commerce. It was a hub for the caravan routes connecting Asia, Africa, and Europe.
Today, Petra stands as one of the world’s most awe-inspiring archaeological sites, drawing visitors from all over the world to explore its ancient ruins and marvel at its natural beauty. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985 and was recently named one of the World’s New Seven Wonders.
The Nabataean people settled in Petra around the 6th century BC. Over time, they transformed the rocky landscape into a stunning architecture and engineering city. The most iconic building in Petra is the Treasury, which was carved into the rock face in the 1st century AD and served as a tomb for a Nabataean king. The city also features a theater, a monastery, and several other impressive tombs and buildings.
Petra was a thriving city until it was abandoned in the 7th century AD, likely due to a combination of factors, including earthquake damage, changes in trade routes, and political instability. For centuries, Petra remained largely unknown to the outside world. It was in the early 19th century that Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt rediscovered it.
Today, visitors to Petra can explore the ancient ruins and marvel at the stunning natural beauty of the surrounding landscape. From the iconic Siq canyon to the towering cliffs that frame the city, Petra is a truly unforgettable destination that offers a glimpse into the ancient world and the ingenuity and creativity of the Nabataean people.
Must-See Sites Within Petra
Petra is filled with unique sites and attractions, but some of the must-see sites that visitors should not miss include:
The Treasury: Petra’s Most Famous Monument
The Treasury, also known as Al-Khazneh, is one of the most iconic monuments in Petra and a must-see attraction for visitors. Carved into the sandstone cliffs by the ancient Nabateans, the Treasury stands 40 meters tall and 30 meters wide. Its intricate façade is adorned with symbols, including Nabatean gods and goddesses, eagles, and mythological creatures. It features a tall urn at the center.
The Treasury’s exact purpose remains a mystery, with various theories ranging from a royal tomb to a temple or a treasury. However, it is believed to have been constructed during the first century AD, during the reign of King Aretas IV. Despite its unknown purpose, the Treasury is undoubtedly an impressive feat of ancient architecture and engineering, showcasing the remarkable skills and creativity of the Nabateans.
Visitors can explore the Treasury’s interior, which is mainly empty but still offers a glimpse into the craftsmanship and precision of the Nabateans. As one of Petra’s most recognizable and awe-inspiring monuments, the Treasury is a testament to the city’s rich history and culture and an essential part of any visit to this ancient wonder.
The Monastery, also known as Al-Deir, is one of Petra’s most impressive and awe-inspiring structures. Located at the top of a steep climb with an 800-step staircase, the Monastery is a testament to the ancient Nabateans’ incredible engineering and architectural skills.
Visitors who trek to the Monastery are rewarded with breathtaking views of Petra and the surrounding desert landscape. The Monastery is massive, with a façade that measures 47 meters wide and 48 meters tall, making it even more extensive than the Treasury.
The tombs in Petra are some of the ancient city’s most impressive and well-preserved structures. Carved into the cliffs and adorned with intricate designs and decorative elements, these tombs were once burial sites for the Nabataean elite.
One of the most famous tombs is the Royal Tombs, which consists of several individual tombs, including the Urn Tomb, the Silk Tomb, and the Corinthian Tomb. The Urn Tomb is the largest and most ornate of the tombs, with a towering façade and a stunning courtyard. The Silk Tomb is named for the colorful bands of rock that resemble silk, and the Corinthian Tomb is notable for its impressive Corinthian columns and intricate reliefs.
The Theater is one of the most impressive structures in Petra, and it offers a glimpse into the daily life of the Nabateans. This ancient Theater could seat up to 8,000 people, making it one of the largest in the ancient world. The Theater was carved into the natural rock of the cliffs. Its design allowed for excellent acoustics, allowing even those in the highest seats to hear performances and speeches.
The Theater was constructed in the first century AD. It was used for various events, including plays, religious ceremonies, and political speeches. The Theater was also used for gladiator games, and evidence of these events can be seen in the carved inscriptions and graffiti that cover the walls of the Theater.
The Colonnaded Street
Colonnaded Street, also known as the Cardo Maximus, was once a bustling center of commerce and daily life in Petra. Stretching for over 700 meters, the street was lined with towering columns and adorned with ornate carvings and decorative elements. It was a hub for traders, artisans, and other city residents, who would come to buy and sell goods, socialize, and enjoy various forms of entertainment.
The High Place Of Sacrifice
The High Place of Sacrifice is one of Petra’s most scenic and awe-inspiring sites. This ancient religious site is located at the summit of a mountain, and the trek to the top involves a challenging hike up steep terrain and stone staircases. However, visitors who make the journey are rewarded with stunning panoramic views of Petra and its surrounding desert landscape, making an effort well worth it.
The Iconic Entrance To Petra
The Siq is a narrow gorge that winds through towering sandstone cliffs for over a kilometer, leading visitors to the ancient city of Petra. Up to 80 meters high, the towering cliffs provide an awe-inspiring natural beauty. The path is paved, but visitors should know the occasional uneven ground and sharing the space with horses and carriages. The Siq also features Nabatean water channels, carved inscriptions, and geological wonders, such as colorful rock formations and sediment layers. It is an iconic entrance to Petra and a must-see attraction for visitors.
How To Make The Most Of Your Visit To Petra?
Exploring Petra can be an overwhelming experience, with so many incredible sights to see and explore. To make the most of your visit, arriving early in the morning is recommended to avoid crowds and take advantage of the cooler temperatures. Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and bring plenty of water, as a lot of walking is involved.
One of the best ways to explore Petra is by hiring a guide who can offer in-depth knowledge and insights into the history and culture of the site. Alternatively, audio guides are also available for rent, which provide a self-guided tour of the significant sights in Petra.
Taking your time and exploring Petra at your own pace is also essential. While the main sights, like the Treasury and the Monastery, are must-sees, there are also plenty of hidden gems to discover.
Discover Beyond Petra
While Petra is undoubtedly the main attraction in the area, there are several other interesting sites and activities to explore in the surrounding area:
Located just a short drive from Petra, Wadi Rum is a stunning desert landscape inhabited by the Bedouin people for centuries. Visitors can take a guided tour of the area, go hiking or rock climbing, or even stay overnight in a traditional Bedouin camp.
Dana Biosphere Reserve
This nature reserve is located just a short drive from Petra and is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna. Visitors can go hiking, bird watching, or take a guided tour of the area.
Also known as Siq al-Barid, Little Petra is a smaller, less-visited site just a few kilometers from Petra. The site features many of the same architectural styles as Petra but on a smaller scale.
This historic town is about an hour’s drive from Petra and is home to several interesting sites, including the Qasr al-Bint temple and the Ottoman-era Ma’an Museum.
This coastal city is located about two hours drive from Petra and is a popular destination for snorkeling and scuba diving. Visitors can also explore the city’s historic fort and market.
The Dead Sea is located about three hours from Petra and is known for its unique salt content and therapeutic properties. Visitors can float in the sea, take a mud bath, or explore the surrounding area.
The Best Time To Visit Petra
The best time to visit Petra is spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November), when the weather is mild and crowds are smaller. However, summers can be extremely hot, with temperatures reaching over 100°F, and winters can be chilly, with occasional snowfall.
How To Get To Petra?
Petra is located in southern Jordan and is accessible by various means of transportation. Here are some ways to get to Petra:
- By Air: The nearest international airport is Queen Alia International Airport in Amman. From there, you can take a taxi or a bus to Petra.
- By Car: You can rent a car and drive to Petra. The journey takes about three hours from Amman.
- By Bus: There are daily buses from Amman to Petra, and the journey takes about three hours. You can also take a bus from Aqaba or Wadi Rum.
- By Tour: Many tour operators offer guided tours to Petra, either from Amman or other cities in Jordan. This is a convenient option if you don’t want to worry about transportation or navigating the area on your own.
It’s important to note that if you’re a non-Jordanian, you will need to obtain a visa to enter the country.
Jordan offers visas on arrival to most nationalities, including visitors coming to visit Petra. However, it’s always best to check with the Jordanian embassy or consulate in your home country for the latest information and requirements. Additionally, some nationalities may require a visa in advance, so it’s important to check this before you travel.
Petra, One Of The Most Spectacular Ancient Civilisations
Petra is an ancient city in southern Jordan carved into towering sandstone cliffs over 2,000 years ago by the Nabataean people. Once a bustling center of trade and commerce, Petra is now one of the world’s most awe-inspiring archaeological sites and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Some of the must-see sites in Petra include the Treasury, the Monastery, the Tombs, the Theater, and the Colonnaded Street. Visitors to Petra can explore the ancient ruins and marvel at the stunning natural beauty of the surrounding landscape, which offers a glimpse into the ancient world and the ingenuity and creativity of the Nabataean people. A visit to Petra is truly an unforgettable experience that transports visitors back to a world unlike any other.