Petra is one of those places which after you have seen with your own eyes, it’s hard to forget. The architecture and how the lost Rose city was carved, it’s truly impressive and fascinating.
Petra is believed to be built in the 5th century BC and it has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Situated between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, the lost city has always been an important crossroads between Arabia, Egypt, and Syria-Phoenicia.
Petra is half-built, half-carved into the rock, and it’s surrounded all around by mountains and gorges.
The entrance to the city is through a narrow gorge, the Siq. As you reach the end of the Siq, you’ll get a first glimpse of the Al-Khazneh (The Treasury).
Petra is the main reason why most people are visiting Jordan. Petra is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World and its part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. UNESCO even described Petra as ”one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage”.
Petra is the number one tourist attraction in Jordan. Sadly, that also makes Petra a tourist trap as you can easily get scammed by the local Bedouins. Some of them are the nicest people on Earth, while the others just pretend to be. That’s how they make their living and feed their kids, so it does not come as a surprise to anybody. The problem is that all Bedouin are being generalized as the same when they’re not.
Entering the lost city of Petra and wandering around for 2 or even 3 days is a great experience on its own, but for the more adventurous souls, there are also different ways to experience Petra.
How did all start?
It was our first day in Petra. We walked through the Siq early in the morning. There were not many people at the Treasury at that time, so it was the perfect time to enjoy the most beautiful part of Petra without the crowds and to take some nice photos.
Because it was the perfect time to enjoy the place without many tourists around it and to take some shots without crowds of people passing by, Justin decided that he wants a photo of him jumping from one of the rocks in front of the Treasury. That was a fail! I did not manage to take the shot and he hurt his foot.
Spoiler: His foot was actually fractured.
We continued to explore Petra. We climb up to the Monastery, which people say takes 2-3 hours, but in the reality, it takes 30 minutes. – of course, it depends on your fitness level. On the way back from the Monastery, Justin wanted to pass by the doctor on-site because his foot was very sore. Then, he decided to take a mule and we agreed to meet again in front of the Treasury later on.
I continued walking around the lost city when I randomly stumbled upon Nicole – a girl that I met on my way from Israel to Jordan just a few days ago. We started walking around together, catching up on what has happened to both of us on our trip to Jordan so far. We sat on a rock and some local Bedouins came to talk with us. They were nice and friendly, not annoying.
After some time, I went back to the Treasury to meet Justin. Other Bedouins started offering me to take me here and there, blah, blah. That’s when I started talking to M., a local Bedouin guy. We were talking about Petra among other things and he mentioned his cave that got me intrigued.
When Justin got back we continued talking with this same guy and discussing what is it like to sleep in the cave. He made us an offer to go and sleep in the cave that we could not say no to. Except for the cave, we also asked him about the Petra by Night show and he offered us to take us to watch it (illegally). So we made a plan…
A different way to experience Petra
Petra by Night
The traditional Petra by Night show runs on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday each week. The show starts at approximately 8:30 pm and ends up around 10 pm. The standard Petra entry ticket and the Jordan Pass, do not include the Petra by night show – to attend, you need to get a separate ticket for the show/’’spectacle’’, which costs 17 JD.
I was considering attending the Petra by night show until I spoke to a few people who all said that it doesn’t worth your money and time.
So, the plan was to enter Petra again before we cannot enter anymore and meet M. at sunset. We entered Petra and went to wait for him at the place he wanted us to meet him. We had some tea with the other Bedouins while waiting for him to arrive.
For some reason, we thought that we will meet him, climb up to the view, and then get back and exit with the other visitors. It didn’t really work out this way, not at all.
When he arrived, he was leading two mules with him. I have never been on a mule before and I don’t like riding animals, so I felt a bit nervous about what’s coming next. Then, we find out that we are not going the way we thought we will (which makes sense because this way was just in front of the Treasure and everyone would have seen us).
We got up on the mules and started climbing up to the viewpoint. Terrifying 40 minutes followed. Okay, maybe I am overreacting, but I was not feeling comfortable on the back of the animal. On top of that, I was imagining how I fall down all the time. Then, I learned to trust the animal because it knows where it’s going and it would not just jump off from the rocks and kill itself. I guess.
We made it there and waited for the show to begin.
We watched the Petra by night show from above. It was nice and it was cool to have the opportunity to see it from a different angle, but still, it was not anything amazing.
As I was starving while we waited for the show, M., offered us to go to the cave and have dinner together. So we did.
We got back on the mules all the way down and then to the cave. Once we got there, there was another Bedouin waiting for us already with the ingredients for our dinner. They prepared and cooked the food while we were all having a chat, Shisha, and a Bedouin whiskey (just an ordinary tea).
After dinner, they got us back to the village from where M. took us back to our hotel by car. It was already after midnight, so we were about to meet again just later on this day… to sleep in the cave.
Sleeping in a cave in Petra
After our illegal and special Petra by night show, it was time for another different way to experience Petra. I was excited about sleeping in a cave, sleeping under the stars of Petra.
In the morning, Justin went to the hospital and he then found out that his foot is fractured and he got plastered and crutches. That didn’t stop him from adventures lol.
We meet M. at the same place and at the same time. The mules were with him again, but I was already more confident with them than the day before so it was alright.
It took us about half an hour or so to get to the cave. The cave is not the type of cave with formations, etc., if that’s what you imagined. It’s a place that has been carved just like the rest of Petra. That’s also not the only cave out there, and some Bedouins do live in these caves permanently.
The ones that do are not completely torn off from the modern world. They have solar panels and of course, every Bedouin has a smartphone.
The cave was situated in a nice place, somewhere around Petra’s mountains. The view from the cave was great too!
The evening was made of relaxing, conversations, and Shisha. Staying in a cave was a different way to experience Petra. The best thing was that we got to know better the Bedouins. Some of them just came by because they knew we were there and they wanted to see us and talk to us. That’s what makes a difference – talking to people and getting to really know them.
We slept outside and I actually slept well, until I woke up by the annoying flies early in the morning.
In the morning we had breakfast, we got back on the mules for the last time and we took off to the village. From there, M. got us back to our hotel and we took off from there to Wadi Rum.
Just to make it clear, we did not do all this for free. We paid for the cave, for the mules, the food, etc. However, the experiences were absolutely worth it and that might have been the best part of my trip to Jordan and something that I will always remember when I think of Jordan in the future.
While you’re in Jordan and on the way to or back from Petra, don’t miss to visit Little Petra, too.
Little Petra is another archaeological site located about 5 km away from Petra and the town of Wadi Musa. Just like in Petra, the buildings there have been carved into the walls of the sandstone canyons. It’s much smaller as the name suggests, but Little Petra is also very impressive and worth the visit.
Once you’re there, you can also hike to the ”best view of the world”. It’s needless to say that the view is not the best in the world, but it’s a nice walk up and still lovely to see.
Visiting Little Petra – do you need a ticket and how much does it cost?
When we visited Little Petra, our driver told us that the ticket for it is already included in you’re Jordan Pass, if you have one. There were two people in our group that didn’t have the JP and he told them that the regular price is 20 or 20 something JD.
However, it seems that there might not be any entrance fee at all. When we arrived there, a man just asked us if we have the Pass and then without even checking let us all in.
I did some research on-line and found out that officially there is no separate ticket to Little Petra. As Little Petra is part of the Petra Park, except for the Jordan Pass, a valid ticket to Petra itself works as well.
The King’s Road to Petra
Well, let me start by telling you that the best way to explore Jordan is by car. Unfortunately, there are places that you cannot reach with public transportation. I wasn’t traveling around Jordan by car, but I quickly came to realize that that’s the best thing to do.
If I didn’t meet Justin in Amman, and then the other Aussies, I was going to take the bus down to Petra. Getting a car by yourself will cost you a lot, but shared among 4 people is reasonably priced. Plus, you can use your Jordan Pass, visiting a few other places on the way and the road is spectacular!
So, you have two options to get from Amman to Petra (if you don’t rent a car):
The JETT bus – cheaper, goes through the desert highway.
Hiring a private driver (like we did) – making numerous stops on the way, making the most of your JP. We paid 25 JD each.
What to see and where to stop on the King’s Road to Petra
Mount Nebo is approximately 710 meters above sea level and its mention in the Hebrew Bible as the place where Moses got a first glimpse of the Promised land. The views, of course, are beautiful and on a clear day, you can even see the Dead Sea in the distance. There is also a small church there that you can visit.
The entry to Mt. Nebo is NOT included in the JP. It costs 2 JD.
We then made a stop on the way to enjoy the scenic views and take some photos.
JUST LOOK AT THIS VIEW!!!
After that, we continued and made a quick stop to see the smallest hotel in the world. Would you sleep there? I would!
The visit to the Shobak castle was the funniest part of the day. Our driver gave us the opportunity to choose to visit either Shobak or Karak castle.
Shobak is a Crusader castle built in the early 12th century. It is built on the side of a rocky mountain at 1 300 meters above sea level. The castle overlooks the fruit trees below.
When we were driving up to the entrance of the castle, our driver stopped next to a tunnel entrance/exit and told us that it leads up to the castle and that if we wish, we can check the castle and then go the way back via the tunnel and he will pick us up from there. Of course, we did that!
After exploring the castle for a while, we found the entrance to the tunnel and went in. The tunnel aka ”the route of the 375 steps” was all good at first. Then, we sank into darkness and the steps down the way were actually in an awful condition.
Justin took a lamp from the people at the entrance of the castle, so we were using it, the flashlight of the other guy camera and I was using the light of my phone as well. At some point, I just sat down and continued walking down on my ass. After 30 minutes or less we saw the light, climbed the ladder up and our driver was waiting for us there.
The other stops that we made along the way were not that interesting.
Visit Jordan. Visit Petra. Visit the Bedouins. Stay in a cave. Feel the local’s hospitality. Experience something different. Immerse yourself in the local culture.
P.S. If you’re planning to visit Petra soon, or at any time in the future and if you’re interested in a different way to experience Petra, you can feel free to contact me and I can put you in touch with our guy. Or, maybe you can just go to Petra and find your own. Peace!
Something to mention…
Many female travelers are complaining to be victims of the local Romeo’s – Bedouins that seduce girls, just to have sex with them. The thing is that if you don’t have a head on your shoulders to think with, and you’re falling for every guy who just says something nice and pretty about you, well, then it’s your own problem and your own fault, but don’t say that they are all the same and make useless Instagram accounts to spread your message. I understand that this is happening and I’m sorry for the girls who have been ”victims” but it’s just unfair to show all of them under that light.
I would say, girls, talk with them, have fun, enjoy your time in Petra but don’t be reckless. Especially, if you’re alone, and a Bedouin invites you for tea in his cave. What do you think that this means?
There was one Bedouin guy who was trying to hit on me, but I make him clear that I’m not interested. It was done.
And that’s all I have to say about experiencing Petra in a different way.
Since you’re interested in traveling in Jordan, check out my other articles about the country:
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