One of the big draws for us to go to Jordan was to visit Petra, named one of the 7 New Wonders of the World (this is the 3rd of the 7 New Wonders we have seen – the others are Chichen Itza in Mexico and the Colosseum in Rome. We are working on plans to visit one more later this year, so stay tuned for that!)
After visiting the Dead Sea, we drove a few hours south to our hotel, La Maison, located just outside of Petra. I chose it because it was the cheapest of the available options located within walking distance of the entrance to Petra, and I was actually pleasantly surprised with the quality of the hotel (the caveat being that the shower leaked all over the bathroom floor and actually ran out of hot water while we were showering!). Also, a minor issue was that it was up a hill from the rest of the hotels and restaurants and the visitor center, so after a long day of walking, we had a hill to climb to get back to our hotel.
Anyway, we checked into our hotel, then headed to the main street with hotels and restaurants for dinner. First, the boys stopped in front of one of the many tourist shops and started chatting with the guy working there, who was selling these neat sand-filled bottles, with designs of the desert and camels, and could be personalized with their names. After a demonstration of how he made the camels with the sand in the glass bottles, the boys were sold and each wanted one with their souvenir money.
After the souvenir shopping, we ate dinner, enjoying the first of many lemonade with mint drinks, and the first of a lot of pita bread consumed by N.
Then, it was back to the hotel and to bed early, so we could get to Petra first thing in the morning. It opens at 6am, and we heard that the tour buses start arriving at 8am, so we were aiming for 7am.
The place at the top of my list was the monastery, a bigger version of the famous Treasury. The monastery is a long-ish hike to the back of the site, then up a bunch of steps. I decided the first morning that we would head straight there, not really taking time to detour at any of the other sites. I wanted to save them if we still had gas in our tanks after the Monastery.
Our plan to get going early worked well, and as we walked through the Siq (the narrow gorge that leads into the city of Petra, and opens to the famous Treasury) we were pleasantly surprised by how empty it was. Fun fact: the walls of the Siq weren’t carved by a river, instead, pulled apart by an earthquake.
After walking through the Siq, we came to the Treasury. It was really as amazing as the pictures we saw. It is hard to imagine how the Nabatean people carved such smooth lines in the rock 2,000 years ago.
After the Treasury, we wound our way through the ancient city, getting glimpses of buildings carved into the rocks along the path. Amongst the buildings carved by the Nabatean, there were also Roman ruins scattered around, since the Romans eventually conquered Petra in the 1st century BC.Eventually, we reached the end of the path, and above us were steps – lots of steps. Luckily, I had done research beforehand and knew about the steps, so was ready with a little bit of incentive for the boys. I had created a checklist of things we would see and do on our vacation, and they would get rewarded with points (converted to their choice of Jordanian Dinar, € or electronics time), and rewarded them with a point per 200 steps climbed. This was not only great motivation, but they also were too busy counting steps to complain. At the end of it – 645 steps.
At the top of the steps was a big open area, with one wall filled by an enormous carved building. The building was similar to the Treasury, but larger. And, with the Monastery being in a more open space than the Treasury, we were able to go back far enough to get a great perspective of the whole thing, plus views from the rocks high up.We spent some time exploring the area, including climbing up a small rock mound where we got a great view of the Monastery below, before stopping for drinks at a little cafe at the base of the Monastery. (lemonade with mint count: 2)
After our trip back down the stairs and to the main part of Petra, we decided we had enough energy to climb up to the Royal Tombs area, a place with more amazing carved structures.By that point, we were all pretty tired, and dragged ourselves back through the Siq (just slightly uphill enough to be annoying at this point) and back to our hotel.
After a quick shower and recovery rest time, we headed back to the main drag to dinner at a new restaurant, My Mom’s Recipe Restaurant. The boys really liked this place (they are easily swayed by free pita bread starters), and I also thought it was good, and ordered the local special of Makloba (lemonade with mint count: 3)
After a full day in Petra, we hadn’t had enough yet! The next morning we woke up early again (not quite so early this time), and headed back through the Siq, past the Treasury and headed up some more stairs (755 this time) to the High Place of Sacrifice.
This was a pretty cool hike, again climbing high up, but unlike the Monastery, we were still in and among the rest of the city, so we had good views of the monuments below. This climb also felt easier, even though it was more steps, maybe because it was a few miles closer to the Siq, so we didn’t have to walk through the entire city again.Unfortunately, once we got to the top, we couldn’t see very far because there was lots of sand blowing in the air. We enjoyed hanging out at the High Place of Sacrifice and N and L had a blast playing up there.
When we climbed back down, we headed out of Petra. It was busier now, but honestly, for a very famous site, I was pleasantly surprised by how not crowded it was. There were a fair amount of people, but nothing that compared to the Sistine Chapel in Rome, the big National Parks in the US or Iceland.
Before we left the area all together, we drove about 15 minutes to the area called Little Petra. This was basically a stop on the old trading route to Petra, and had the same buildings carved into the stone, but on a smaller scale, plus they were open to explore, and there was no entry fee.
The boys were pretty exhausted after two days of hiking, so we didn’t spend long exploring, but seeing these amazing buildings never gets old, so it was cool to get to see some new ones. I am still amazed at how they managed to carve such perfect circular pillars!
We had a busy few days in Petra, but there was more to see in Jordan, so we continued on our way. Stay tuned for more adventures (good and bad!) in Jordan.