Petra

Petra, The Treasury (Al Khazneh)

Petra, the fabled "rose red city, half as old as time", is a well known ancient Nabataean city in the south of Jordan. Due to its breathtaking grandeur and fabulous ruins, Petra was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985.

Understand

Petra was the impressive capital of the Nabataean kingdom from around the 6th century BC. The kingdom was absorbed into the Roman Empire in AD 106 and the Romans continued to expand the city. An important center for trade and commerce, Petra continued to flourish until a catastrophic earthquake destroyed buildings and crippled vital water management systems around AD 663. After Saladin's conquest of the Middle East in 1189, Petra was abandoned and the memory of it was lost to the West.

The ruins remained hidden to most of the world until the Swiss explorer, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, disguised as an Arab scholar, infiltrated the Bedouin-occupied city in 1812. Burckhardt's accounts of his travels inspired other Western explorers and historians to discover the ancient city further. The most famous of these was David Roberts, a Scottish artist who created a number of accurate and detailed illustrations of the city in 1839.

The first real excavations of the site were in 1929 after the forming of Trans-Jordan. Since that time, Petra has become by far Jordan's largest tourist attraction, partially due to the exposure by the Steven Spielberg movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, in 1989. Due to the fantastic engineering accomplishments and well-preserved dimension of Petra, the archaeological site was chosen in July 2007 as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Get in

Entry ticket and hours

What may be one of the most expensive admissions to any archaeological site in the world. The entry ticket to Petra costs 90 JD (127 USD) for one day visitors to Jordan (i.e., those that have arrived in Jordan from some other country, e.g. Israel, on the day of the visit and will be returning there for the night). Tourists that overnight in the country or on a cruise ship pay 50 JD (=70 USD) for 1 day, 55 JD for 2 days or 60 JD for 3 days. Students have to pay the full price, except those who enroll in a Jordanian university, for whom the admission price drops sharply to 1 JD.

Note that the ticket policies may be subject to arbitrary, unannounced changes by the administration. As of October 12th, 2014, visitors who have come the same day from outside of Jordan cannot buy the Jordan visitor passes - instead, they must buy the 90 JD ticket for one-day visitors. While the ticket office promises refunds for the amount if the visitors return the next day, this makes one-day passes for same-day arrivals impossible.

Petra is open to visits 06:00-16:00 in winter, and 06:00-18:00 in summer, daily throughout the year.

Visas

Exit fee from Israel is 100 NIS + 5 NIS processing fee (Feb 2014) . Exit fee from Jordan is 10 JD (Feb 2014). Border open Sunday to Thursday 06:30 – 20:00 and Friday and Saturday - 08:00 - 20:00 closed on Yom Kippur and Muslim New Year (Id il Hajira).

Entry is also possible from Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia via various border crossings.

By bus

JETT buses, both ordinary and all-inclusive guided tour, connect to Amman and Aqaba via the fast (but boring) Desert Highway. Other tourists come with organized groups, including daily trips from Eilat, Israel. Tours to Petra from the Egyptian cities of Taba, Sinai and Sharm el Sheikh are also gaining popularity with charter tourism.

It would cost 24 JD for two persons to travel by JETT bus, and allow you to see almost the entire site in an (exhausting) day trip.

By minibus

Public minibus from Wadi Musa (Petra) to Ma'an is 0.55 JD and from there to Aqaba 1.50 JD (April 2012). The main route from Wadi Musa to Aqaba is overpriced for tourists! The same for the route from Amman to Wadi Musa. With the stop over in Ma'an you should be able to pay the normal price for the public minibus.

The minibus from Wadi Rum costs 5 JD. It takes 1.5 hours to get to Petra. Have the Rum Guesthouse or your tour operator call the bus owner the day before to arrange an exact time for pick up. The bus usually leaves from Wadi Rum at 8:30 in the morning, but may be delayed due to weather or tour groups coming the other way.

There are also minibuses from Amman departing from the Wihdat bus station - these leave when full, and tourists are charged 5 JD to get on. Do not allow the drivers to charge you for your luggage, as they might sometimes try to do. The ride is about three hours.

There is a daily bus to Wadi Musa from Madaba that travels via the scenic (but slow) King's Highway. This minibus leaves from outside the Mariam Hotel in Madaba.

There is a minibus going from Aqaba, for those that cross from Eilat and don't want to pay the outrageous taxi fare. The problem is, there's no timetable - it leaves early in the morning (6:45) from Wadi Musa towards Aqaba, then returns from Aqaba when it fills up etc. The trip was 5 JD (Dec 2011).

Ask at the tourist information right at the border for information of departures.

By taxi

Taxi is also a viable option. For 75 JD or less (depending on how much you haggle) you may be able to get a private taxi from Amman to Petra and back, including the driver waiting around for 6 hours.

A taxi from Aqaba to Petra should cost about JD 30 one-way. In January 2010 a day trip to Petra and back from Aqaba was 45 JD.

If you get there renting a minibus with a driver in the hotel at the Dead Sea, the one-way price would be 140 JD.

Aqaba/Eilat Border Taxi Mafia

There is a problematic man running the border taxi service, which has been likened to the "Mafia", just outside the customs gate. As soon as you see him, he will let you know that sharing a taxi is not allowed (three men were forced to take three separate taxis in Dec 2011). If you want to share a taxi, you must form your group before exiting the customs area and insist that you are all part of the same group. Update from Aug 15th 2012 : This man still seems to be there but there has been some cleanup apparently. A ride to city center is now 11 JOD no matter how many people go in the car. You've to be clear about destination and there won't be any hassle.

Riding back to the border from city center can be a problem when you pick up people on 2 different (but very close hotels). Should they have to wait, they'll try to switch on the taximeter and ask for 25-30JOD instead of the 10 JOD initially arranged. Don't get intimidated, the driver will call the problematic man and try to pressure you. Insist on the initial pricing and when it gets hot, offer 2 JOD on top of the 10 to quiet things and get rid of the taxi mafia.

Also, if he sees you call your hotel or any other car to come and pick you up, they may be stopped and forced to go back to Aqaba. The man has said, "we will close their hotel" and "we will take their driving license". To try to avoid this, call your hotel or private car while still in the customs area, before being seen by the taxi man.

As of October 2014, there is a sign listing fixed prices to various destinations (8 JOD to the airport, 11 JOD to Aqaba, 55 JOD to Petra, etc). Once you get in to Aqaba, however, taxis to Petra are 35 JOD, and the Wadi Musa taxi drivers will offer the same price back.

For those trying to walk the 500 meters to the main road, the taxi mafia has connections with the military personnel and may have you brought back.

Get around

The Urn Tomb

The only modes of transport allowed within Petra are on two feet or four (camel, donkey, or horse). When entering Petra, there is a brief hike down towards the Siq. Horses will be available for travel to the entrance of the Siq, or you can choose to take a horse-drawn buggy through the Siq (a distance of about 0.9 kilometers) and down to the Treasury. The prices for such rides are not set and are extremely negotiable, depending on one's bargaining abilities. Also riding a horse to the Siq entrance will end up in tipping the horse guides. As the walk down to the Siq entrance is only 15mn, it's not really worth it. The horse have been treated so badly in the past that a clinic to treat and heal them from the bad treatments they receive has been opened left to the entrance. It's not uncommon to see wounded animals, especially those pulling the carts, to be put to gallop under 37°C. So if you can walk, it's better to spare the animals.

There are 4 segments within Petra with 3 possible types of animal transport: from the entrance to the Siq (by horse), from the Entrance to the Treasury (by cart), from the Treasury to the stairs of the Monastery (donkey or camel), the 800 stairs of the monastery (donkey).

Once you arrive at the Treasury and throughout Petra, there will be many camel and donkey owners jockeying for your business. Be prepared to do some bargaining and don't pay more than 10 JD, a more reasonable price is around 3 JD a person. Often there are times when the owner will drop his price in half simply by hearing a few phrases in Arabic.

Camel transport could be an option. Riding a camel is a unique experience on more level ground, but a donkey is recommended for more ambitious climbs, such as the ones to the High Place or the Monastery. Camels are the only animals respected by their owners in Petra as they're very expensive and less docile than donkeys or horses. So riding them is OK, but deal well with the owner before climbing on them.

However if you are reasonably fit and the weather is good, the walk is quite nice. Prefer climbing the Monastery's path from 3PM on, it will be mostly in the shadow. Riding a donkey is nothing for the animal friends as they treat the animals really badly and the climb at noon is really hard for them. You'll see them passing by and it will definitely deter you from riding one of them. They're exploited by small groups of Bedouin youths who uses 75cm electrical cable sections to strike them all the way up to the monastery.

Between your hotel and Petra entrance, you can either walk or take a taxi for 1-2jd. Most hotels have free shuttle to the entrance on fixed schedules.

A good idea is to stock up on high quality batteries for your digital camera, before you enter the site. You will need more photos than you think, and local batteries will often not last many minutes.

See

the Siq
The urn atop the Treasury

Petra is an archaeological park, so the entrance fees are considered fairly steep compared to other Jordanian attractions. Tickets for visitors spending at least one night in Jordan cost 50/55/60 JOD for a 1/2/3-day pass (Feb 2014). Bring your passport to prove you entered Jordan at least one day before. If entered the same day, your room key will be asked by the ticket seller. Day-visitors to Jordan are charged an impressive 90 JOD (Feb 2014), although you may get away with the normal rate if you don't say anything. Student discounts are not available. Do not attempt to purchase tickets from dubious scalpers around town! Time permitting, the two-day pass is recommended, as there is much to see and do in Petra. For more than one day, the ticket office can ask for your passport as the ticket has your first name on it.

Guides can be hired from about 50 JD and up (depending on what you want to see) at the Visitors Center. Many of them were born and raised in Petra, and will gladly share their knowledge with you. Major hotels can rent you a portable Easyguide audio guide (JOD 10/day) for commentary in English, Arabic, French and Spanish. Easyguide is also available as a mobile phone service on all Jordanian mobile phone networks; a map is needed to use this service.

Do

For the terminally energetic, there are a number of popular hikes around Petra.

The Monastery is one of Petra's most impressive structures

Most hikes last about 2-3 hours both way.

Buy

Ancient coin, mister?

The Bedouin tradesmen around the area will display artificial "ancient" Roman or Nabatean coins which are rather large in size. If pressed further, they will generally have a hidden stash of small, authentic coins from various periods. However buying these coins encourages the illegal looting of archaeological sites. To supply you with a souvenir the local inhabitants destroy graves, tombs and buildings in searches for coins and other antiquities. The Antiquities Law of 1988 states that individuals who engage in illicit excavations and/or trading in antiquities are criminals.

Throughout Petra, vendors will offer bottles of decorative sand art (small ones about 1JOD bigger ones up to 6JOD). While they may appear similar to other such souvenirs found in other Jordanian locations, these are unique in that the sand used to create the art is naturally colored sand scraped from the rock walls of various Petra canyons and not artificially colored. The most common design displays a camel's silhouette against a desert background. Some artists can write a name inside the sand bottle in a surprisingly short amount of time.

Bracelets, necklaces and rings are sold frequently by vendors walking around and presenting their goods. Offers vary extremely in price and often salespersons claim that they are made out of silver, even though they are not (1-5 JOD is a fair price for most of the offered goods).

Eat & Drink

There is only one restaurant in all Petra at the far end of the Roman Highway, which does a roaring trade despite steep pricing. It also has the valley's monopoly on beer.

For just snacks and hot & cold drinks however, there are a number of small stores and vendors scattered throughout Petra.

Shade is sparse in Petra, and on a hot summer day you can expect to go through at least 4 liters of water (and more if you can afford to carry it). The need for water in the winter months is much less. 1.5 liter bottles cost 0.5 JD.

There is running tap water in Petra's bathrooms throughout the site but it is *not* safe for drinking. If you are exploring the place on a hot day, it might not be a bad idea to fill up an empty bottle with tap's water to refresh yourself during the trip.

In Wadi Musa, there are many more eating options.

Sleep

Budget

Splurge

Stay healthy

The most cold and rainy months to visit Petra are December and January. In this time it is warm during the day and very cold in the evenings and at nights. That's why it is necessary to take coats, hats and gloves. And it could warm up your visit there if you take a thermos with hot tea with you. Avoid going if the forecast shows a lot of rain, as the guards may need to transport tourists out if the valley starts to flood (like on Jan 18th 2010). The hot, dry air sometimes results in nosebleeds. Carry petroleum jelly (Vaseline or other brands) or petroleum jelly based products like Vicks and apply liberally to the insides of the nostrils to avoid nosebleeds. Also, carry plenty of water and Oral Rehydration products like Electral if you are traveling to Petra in the hot summer months to avoid dehydration. A good cap and sunglasses will help you avoid getting a heat stroke.

Go next

Temple at Little Petra

Most budget hotels have tours but the level of organization changes a lot and could block you to take a tour. Best to form a group yourself (at least 4 persons). Example tour could be Kings way trip: hotel, shoubak castle, dana, tafilah, karak castle, dead sea, madaba, mount nebo, churches madaba, amman for about 30jd at Valentine Inn.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, November 01, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.