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Travelling to Ancient Petra
The ancient city of Petra is a travel destination like no other. It was recently designated as one of the new seven wonders of the world, it is a spectacular site and a must-visit if you happen to be in Jordan.
Petra is a beautiful site of historical, cultural and archaeological interest. There are no activities or planned events that take place there, it is simply a place to go and see the views and enjoy the local culture.
You may have already seen what Petra looks like without even knowing it. The movie "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" has scenes shot in the city, with one of the carved temples as the home of the Holy Grail. The huge stone building, carved right into the wall of a canyon? That is in Petra. Many people don't realize that is a real location, and not just a movie set. Now you can visit it in person.
Some Details about Visiting Jordan
The language of Jordan is Arabic, but most people (especially in tourist areas like Petra) will speak English as well. The currency of the country is the Jordanian dinar (JD) and has a fixed rate of 0.71 JD per US dollar. The national religion is Islam, so it would be wise to act respectful in light of their beliefs and customs. You might want to read up a bit on what is considered unacceptable behaviour or dress before planning your trip.
How to Get There
The nearest international airport is in the Jordan capital of Amman, the Queen Alia International Airport. From Amman, it should not be difficult to get to Petra since it is one of the country's leading tourist attractions. There should be plenty of buses and even taxis. The drive is approximately 1 and a half hours. Most hotels will have information or even their own shuttle buses that go to Petra daily. Though you may choose to stay at an Amman hotel during your visits to Petra, there are closer accommodations (see below)
Getting Around the City
The city does not allow cars or other vehicles, so you will be either on your feet while you tour Petra or on camel back. Taking a camel or donkey ride will definitely add to your adventure, and be prepared to haggle with the camel owners for the best tour price. The ruins of Petra are in a very wild and rugged place, so if you are planning on walking, be prepared for some exercise. Many of the paths will take you steeply uphill, not to mention the 800 steps you will take if you want to see the Monastery. There is little shade, and the temperatures will get very high during the summer months. Carry as much water as you can.
What to See in Petra
On arrival, you will have to purchase a ticket from the visitor center, and can arrange a guided tour there if you choose. You would be wise to get a 2 or 3 day pass, as you won't likely be able to see the entire city in one day (especially if you are on foot). A 3-day pass will cost around 30 JD. The natural beauty of the desert sandstone exists throughout the site, but there are a handful of specific ruins that you will want to see when you visit Petra:
This is actually just the entrance to the city, but is impressive nonetheless. You will have to travel down through a narrow canyon of rock before you can reach the city itself. There are some carvings, but the view of the canyon itself is the beauty here.
As you come out of the Siq, you will be presented with one of the largest and most amazing sites in Petra. The huge building face called the Treasury (in Arabic, al-Khazneh). Though the façade here is enormous and detailed, it actually only opens up into a single plain room inside. The Monastery This site is very similar in look and style as the Treasury, though it is larger and a little less ornate on the outside. In Arabic, this spot is called ad-Deir, and as mentioned above, will require some climbing to reach.
The Roman Theatre
There is a large, circular theatre carved right out of the rock of the canyon. This fantastic structure can actually seat more than 7,000 people and is still used today.
Other Facades and Tombs
There are other streets in Petra filled with openings to various tombs and small buildings.
High Place of Sacrifice
Another spot for the more adventurous visitor. This place is high up in the mountain above Petra, and offers a view of the entire city. The climb will take about 2 hours and is not for the faint of heart. There are paths leading up though, so you're not actually required to do any true rock climbing.
If you are staying in Petra for more than one day (recommended), you will likely be staying overnight in the nearby city of Wadi Musa. You can choose from simple hostels, such as the Mussa Spring Hotel or stay in more comfort at the Taybet Zaman Hotel. Most places to stay in Wadi Musa will have free transport to and from the city of Petra site.