You know, when searching online for information about something, you get auto suggestions, phrases, or questions commonly entered into the search engine. One of these I found was the search “ is Petra worth it?”. Well, I thought it was worth it before I went there, and now that I’ve visited, I can say with 100% certainty that Petra is definitely worth visiting. You will be amazed, delighted, exhausted and glad that you have visited this modern wonder of the world.

Travelling to Petra

Our visit to Petra was on Day 3 of our 5-day, 4-night tour of Jordan. We travelled from Wadi Rum to Petra by car and our driver was fantastic; he was swift but very safe, picking us up in the desert we arrived in Petra about an hour and a half later. It was a little like driving with a rally car driver, the early morning roads had few cars on them and we watched the towns and villages come alive as the sun rose and cast its welcoming light on the route. We arrived on time to meet our Guide, even though we’d left Wadi Rum late and had dropped off our luggage at the hotel where we’d be staying that night. The service from our tour company was second to none. I’m very grateful that their care and professionalism enabled us to explore and enjoy our trip immensely and in comfort, especially after a hard day trekking through the mountains.

Trekking the path to the Monestary, Petra

Trekking the path to the Monestary, Petra

Nine must see Petra destinations

There are many sights to see as you walk through Petra. There are so many that you may need help to fit them into one trip. I’d recommend spending at least two days there. Ultimately, we only spent one day, mostly because we were exhausted after spending twelve hours walking around and seeing what was on offer.

We arrived at the main visitor centre at 7.30 am and they eventually kicked us out twelve hours later so that they could set up for the “Petra at Night” spectacular that happens every Monday and Wednesday evening.

Our guide Akmed stayed with us until around 2 pm; the rest of the time, we spent admiring the sites on our own and taking more pictures.

During our day, we did manage to see many of the best that Petra has to offer, including:

  1. Al Siq
  2. The Treasury
  3. Street of Facades
  4. Collonaded Street
  5. Great Temple
  6. Monastery (Al-Deir)
  7. Royal Tombs
  8. Roman Theatre
  9. High Place of Sacrifice

Al Siq

The Siq is an experience in itself. It’s not just a passage to the interior wonders of the Treasury or the Colonaded Street; it’s a dramatic precursor to those. As you walk through the winding, sun-dappled passage, the monuments, tombs and inscriptions of Nabatean deities and noble and ordinary people adorn the sandstone walls and crevices. You will pass ancient aqueducts that used to bring water into what was once a garden city. Astonishing to think that where now there is just sand and stone, great gardens flourished under the hot Jordanian sun.

Horse grazing along Al Siq, Petra

Horse grazing along Al Siq, Petra

The Treasury

At the end of Al Siq, Ahmed prepared us for the reveal that is the great edifice of The Treasury. I have to admit, I got emotional, with three cameras/videos running, I attempted to capture the reveal but to be fair, there were way too many people in my shot and my little DJI Osmo just couldn’t handle the high dynamic range of the early morning sun, the shadows and the sandstone. In the end, I put them down and just marvelled at what I was seeing. The Treasury is not a bank or financial institution ruin. Like most of what you will see in Petra, the grand edifices/monuments are tombs. It’s important to understand that you’re looking at the entrances to burial sites, although there are also numerous living caves within the city. What becomes evident is the sheer scale of these monuments, it’s amazing to think that death was celebrated with such opulence and intricate beauty. The carvings that adorn the columns feature Greek, Egyptian and European architectural styles.

The Treasury in evening light

The Treasury in evening light

Before visiting Petra, the Treasury was the star of the show, I didn’t expect anything to top seeing it, but there was indeed an even more spectacular site to see.

Monastery (Al-Deir)

The only way to reach the Monastery is via a climb of 960 steps, an ascent of just under a thousand meters above where you come into Petra via The Siq. I am not going to lie, the walk up to the Monastery is difficult, but if you take your time, it is entirely doable. The steps are steep in places, but I passed people young and old, including people with mobility issues climbing the steps and there is always someone willing to give you a helping hand.

Dodging mules carrying tourists was a bit of a hazard, I almost got trampled toes at one point and just managed to get out of the way in time, not paying attention to the warning calls of their handlers, so just be aware that it’s not only humans walking the paths. Another thing that you will become acutely aware of on entering Petra is the number of hawkers that try to sell you souvenirs or offer to be a guide. I’m all for supporting the local economy, but it soon became tiresome to keep saying no.

On the way up, there are stops where you can rest to catch your breath and a couple of cafes for refreshments or comfort breaks and there’s no shortage of encouragement from people coming back down the path egging you onwards to your final destination.

Gazing at the Monastery

Gazing at the Monastery

On reaching the top, you too will feel the elation of again the reveal, it’s like they designed the paths to give visitors that wow moment, on rounding the corner, you spy the great facade that just takes your breath away. It’s always good to take a minute to savour the experience.

Petra is a travel photographer’s dream destination

At my interview for my photography degree, the course Convenor, examining the images I’d brought to show my skills, scrutinised one of the images of a building.

It was not a very interesting building, and I remember him saying something like, “When photographing a building, you have to attempt more than just a portrait of the structure”. The architecture in Petra provides you with so many opportunities to make images that are more than just portraits, but you also get such stunning facades that it’s an absolute must to do this, too.

What’s interesting is that if you spend time in Petra as we did, you get changes in colours as the day progresses; for obvious reasons, you will have to navigate hundreds of tourists in your shots and have to work out what works best, but you also have the opportunity to observe the myriad opportunities to photograph the animals, culture, and life that goes on in this city, where Bedouin people still live and go about their daily lives.

A guide is a must

Not only to support the local tourist industry in Jordan but to aid your understanding of what you are seeing, engaging the services of a guide is very important to your enjoyment and safety while travelling around the ancient site. There are many viewpoints, especially of The Treasury, which is at the entrance after the walk through Al Siq. You will have many people offering to guide you to the best viewpoints, especially high ones, but you should take care:

  1. To ensure whomever is guiding you, is qualified to do this
  2. You are travelling a safe route, as many paths are treacherous.

Entering the complex, you purchase your ticket at the visitor centre and can engage an official guide in the same place. We had ours already arranged, and Ahmed met us at the entrance and sat with us while we ate breakfast before beginning what was to be the most exciting, stimulating, exhausting day of our whole trip.

We tipped Ahmed very well at the end, as he’d spent probably 50% more time with us than he would typically due to our constant stops to catch our breath and to take pictures along the trail from Al Siq to the Monastery.

Gallery Gallery Gallery Gallery Gallery Gallery
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