The perfect trip to Jordan
When I first mentioned to our family and friends that my husband Sumir and I were going to Jordan we received one out of two questions: “Why Jordan?”, and secondly: “Is it safe to go there?”. I’ll start with the second response. Jordan has been known to be one of the safest countries in the Middle East and the people are also warm and accommodating. Tourists are welcome and if you travel with awareness and remain conscious of your surroundings you will be fine.
Now, let’s move on to the first question: “Why Jordan?”. Truth is, my husband and I really wanted to see Petra. Whenever we thought about Jordan, Petra was the first image that popped into our minds. Being one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, Petra remains one of the world’s great travel adventures and it certainly was a high priority on our bucket list. To our pleasant surprise, the other places we visited in Jordan were equally incredible.
Sumir and I started off our trip in Jordan by flying into Queen Alia International airport near Amman. We landed very late in the evening and received a warm welcome from our tour company. Then we proceeded on a 3 hour drive to Wadi Musa, which is the town in which the city of Petra is located.
The next day, we made sure to get up early in the morning and guarantee we were one of the first few visitors to enter Petra. The town of Wadi Musa is very small and reaching Petra is a short walk or car ride away, so this was a very simple process.
In terms of its history, Petra was a booming center for trade and commerce for the Nabataean kingdom around the 6th century BC until an earthquake destroyed large parts of the city and centuries later the city was abandoned. Swiss traveler, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt later discovered the “lost city” in 1812.
Once arriving at the entrance of Petra, we began our walk through The Siq. The Siq was once a water channel that brought water from several miles away into the heart of Petra. The Siq is now used as a narrow pathway with an ancient 2000 year old cobblestone pathway that leads to The Treasury. This was one of my favorite parts! The large stone structures tower over you as you walk through the valley presenting a vastness and grandeur that can only be described as breathtaking. It’s a surreal experience that feels like you’re walking through the pages of history.
As you reach the end of the Siq, you are struck by Petra’s most famous monument, The Treasury. You will notice that the carvings are deep into the rockface and still very much intact from over 2000 years ago. Even though The Treasury is breathtaking, don’t spend all your time here! Head directly to start your 800 step hike to the Monastery.
On the way to the steps you’ll pass by old tomb caves which were spectacular. In fact, if you have some time feel free to wander inside them too!
You will want to make sure you get to The Monastery early before the crowds start to come. Not only are the views incredible on the way to the top, but once you get there you get to witness amazing panoramic views of the rocky landscape. Not to mention, The Monastery itself is the most impressive structure in Petra, it reaches 50m high x 45m wide. Due to it’s incredible size and scale, in some respects, we found the Monastery to be even more impressive than the more famous Treasury.
On our way back down we were greeted by some friendly Baudouin locals.
After we got back down from The Monastery, we continued on another 45 minute journey to the High Place of Sacrifice, where there are magnificent views of Petra. The Nabatean priest used this as a place to perform religious rituals to make sacrifices to their Gods. The High Place of Sacrifice is the highest accessible point in Petra! You get a bird’s eye view of the action happening down below, as well as the varying colors of the rocks and mountain regions in the area.
From here we went to our last main site in Petra. Because we were short on time, our guide took us on a “short cut” to the viewing area where we could see The Treasury from above. Although we had some gorgeous back country views here, I would not recommend this path as it was very steep and dangerous. There is an easier way that can be taken from The Treasury directly to the top. If you ask any of the locals, they can point you in the right direction!
We ended our Petra visit by coming back to the site at night for an organized show called “Petra by Night.” If you are coming here in the Autumn and Winter months, I would highly recommend bundling up. They start off the evening with candle lights starting at the beginning of The Siq that leads to The Treasury. Once you reach The Treasury you see the massive structure with a sea of beautiful candle lights right in the front. Again, I would recommend coming here early as it gets crowded later in the evening. Everybody sits around the candles, under the stars, as a local Bedouin man plays some of the best traditional, instrumental music that I’ve ever heard. If you are a photographer, don’t forget to bring your tripod!
Here’s a small list of FYI’s just in case you were planning a trip here:
What is the best time to go to Petra?
Spring and Autumn are known to be the coolest times to visit. It gets very hot in the summer and more crowded as well. The ticket office opens around 6:00 am and the site closes at sunset. I would recommend planning to be at The Treasury about an hour after sunrise as you can see the rays of the sun on The Treasury as you enter. Personally, I like to always start early before the crowds flow in and also before the temperature rises.
Where should I stay?
The town in the immediate vicinity of Petra is Wadi Musa. There are a number of different hotels and guest houses to stay at. I would always recommend going through a trusted channel such as Trip Advisor to get a feel for each property. We stayed at the Marriot on the hillside – it was a 10 minute drive from Petra. I would highly recommend it. Everything from the security, and the service, to the views of Wadi Musa were amazing!
How much walking is there?
How much walking there is depends on your desire and physical ability. Sumir and I enjoy exploring so we made sure to cover as much ground as possible in the time we had there. By the time we finished our day we had hiked about 18 miles. Many people walk through The Siq to see The Treasury and then go back. There are many options for donkeys, horses and camels to take you around the site for a fee as well. A horse ride that is included in the ticket fee from The Siq to The Treasury and back. It is also customary there to tip about 5 Jordanian Dinars for the ride.
What’s the deal with food, drink, and toilets?
There are a combination of places to eat inside the site. You have small cafés/restaurants as well as tea stalls and kiosks along the way. The prices will also be higher in the site than the places outside. You may also want to inquire with your hotel about a packed lunch for your day(s) in Petra. Due to time and efficiency, we brought our own snacks and water for our visit. There are clean and proper bathroom toilets at the visiting center (in the shopping complex before you start The Siq), and there are also standalone toilet portals once you get to The Treasury. In my experience they were clean, but I also visited them early in the day.
Wadi Rum Desert
After Petra, the next site on our agenda was the Wadi Rum Desert. The desert is just about 1.5-2 hours drive from Petra. Wadi Rum, also called “The Valley of the Moon,” is known for its soaring cliffs and sandstone and granite mountains. We spent a few days here and were fortunate enough to stay in a local Bedouin tented camp overnight as well.
Upon our arrival, we hired a 4×4 Jeep along with a driver at the Wadi Rum Visitor Center for a day in the desert. We spent the entire day in the desert going from one location to the next until sunset that evening, followed by staying in a tent for the night. This desert trip was truly eye opening for us. We were in awe of the vast scenery, as we sat in the back of the Jeep feeling as if we were in another world. It’s no wonder they say the landscape of this desert is similar to that of Mars.
We stopped in the middle of the desert to make tea! Our kind Bedouin driver collected the wood in the area and created a fire for the tea. Not only was the experience of drinking tea in the middle of nowhere a lot of fun, but the tea was some of the best tea I’ve had!
As the sun was setting we made it to our last location called Jebel Burdah Rock Bridge. It’s a fairly steep climb up to the top of this rock structure but it’s absolutely worth it once you see the views from above!
We arrived at our tent when it was almost dark. Our local Bedouin hosts were incredibly hospitable and friendly. We had a pleasant stay in the middle of the desert, however our favorite part was sneaking away from the tents at night to get some shots of the sky! As we arrived we couldn’t help but notice how many stars we could see that night. We quickly got our camera gear and tried to find a location that was above the tents to avoid unnecessary light. It was truly a magical night under the stars and the dark sky!
The next morning, we woke up at 4:30am to go on a camel ride to see the sunrise. It was a cold but beautiful morning. We were amazed at how incredible the sunrises and sunsets were in Wadi Rum!
The Dead Sea
Our last stop in Jordan was at the Dead Sea. Our drive from the desert to the Dead Sea was about 3-4 hours. The Dead Sea is known to be the Earth’s lowest elevation on land. This sea is also one of the saltiest bodies of water which means you can easily float in the water! This was an exciting experience as you could not only go into the salt water, but you could even apply the famous Dead Sea Mud that’s used all over the world today for its healing qualities.
There is one more place I would add to the list if you visit Jordan between March and October. I would highly recommend going to Wadi Mujib. Wadi Mujib is a large valley where you can hike through the river and the canyons that eventually lead to the Dead Sea. They close the canyons during the winter months due to flooding, which is why we couldn’t explore it.
Overall, we loved Jordan and we highly recommend traveling there! It was one of our favorite trips! The great thing about Jordan is you can easily cover a lot in a short period of time. Make sure when you go you don’t just visit Petra but also Wadi Rum as it’s just as spectacular! Happy and safe travels!
By Explore like a Girl Contributor Kiran Kaytee