The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, a country brimming with cultural heritage, picturesque landscapes and heart-warming hospitality – is Middle East’s best kept secret. While relatively small in size, it packs in a host of exquisite experiences, which can be easily covered in a week long road trip through the country. From hiking through ancient ruins amidst vast canyons to camping under the desert sky, Jordan never ceases to surprise the wonder seeking travellers.
And the city of Petra, with its UNESCO World Heritage sites and quaint cafes is the most vibrant travel destination in Jordan. We’ve put together your list of must-do’s when in Petra!
1. Trek through the Ancient City of Petra
Ruins of Petra ©Aprameya Rajput
Only a 2.5-hour drive from the capital metropolis of Amman, this UNESCO world heritage site was established as early as 312 BC. More than 2000 years later, the ancient city is preserved in all its allure and charm with magnificent rock-cut architecture and towering canyons. While most tourists take the standard 3-hour guided tour, we recommend opting for one of the exhilarating hikes through its enchanting canyons. We particularly loved the “Indiana Jones trek”, a 4-hour hike which took us through magical caves and climbs, right till the High-point for a bird’s eye view of the Treasury and the Siq. A truly momentous experience, the adrenaline rush is bound to make you feel heroic, much like the popular 80s character himself.
As you drive through the expansive Dessert highway, reach Petra just in time for the special Petra by the Night Show, hosted on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays – the only time you will get to experience the magic of this gem under the starlit sky. The show starts with a walk through the Siq, a mile-long narrow gorge entrance that leads into the ancient city and is lit with over 1500 candles at night. It opens up to the charming treasury where you’re welcomed with traditional Bedouin tea and tunes from an era gone by. Sip on the mildly sweet tea peppered with local herbs as the stories of Petra’s ancient past take you away to a mystical land.
2. Petra by the Night Tour
Petra by the Night ©Aprameya Rajput
An ancient city, thousands of years old, lit entirely by candlelight and the sparkling starlit night sky with the magical tunes of ancient nomads reverberating through the crowd. The Petra by Night tour is just that and a lot more!
The tour starts with a walk through the Siq, a mile-long narrow gorge entrance that leads into the ancient city and is lit with over 1500 candles at night. It opens up to the charming treasury where you’re welcomed with traditional Bedouin tea and an enchanting musical performance. Sip on the mildly sweet tea peppered with local herbs as the stories of Petra’s ancient past take you away to a mystical land. A truly mesmerizing feat, the Petra by the Night Show is hosted only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
3. Traverse through the canyons of Little Petra
Ruins of Petra ©Aprameya Rajput
Just a 15 min drive away from the city centre and the ancient city of Petra lies the Siq al-Barid, popularly known as “Little Petra”. Much like the famed UNESCO site, this is also a Nabataean site, with buildings carved into the walls of the sandstone canyons. However, at first sight you instantly get the feeling of being in a miniature version of the Ancient City of Petra and just for the wonder of this fascinating contrast, the Siq al-Barid is worth a visit! It also makes for a captivating short 40 minute trek through the canyons and offers some of best views of sunset in Petra. Get there just in time to chat with the local souvenir seller, over a hot cup of Bedouin tea, as you watch the sky change hues of orange and the Sun set somewhere over the vast and concentrated cluster of canyons.
4. Gorge on a grand meal of Mansaf
Traditional Mansaf (Source : Wiki Commons)
With endless treks and hiking tours to choose from, Petra is bound to build up a mighty appetite. And Mansaf, the national dish of Jordan, is definitely the perfect meal to satiate your taste buds. The City Centre and Tourism Street are filled traditional restaurants serving you a mouth watering preparation of Mansaf, a slow cooked delicacy of lamb in buttered yoghurt sauce with almonds and rice. Usually served in large communal platters, it is best enjoyed with a group of friends and is the quintessential dining experience for anyone visiting Jordan.
5. Sheesha at Tourism Street
A popular tourist destination, Petra is a melting pot for travellers from different cultures to come together and bond over endless stories and anecdotes of their journeys. And Tourism Street, lined with vibrant sheesha lounges and cafes, is at the heart of this union. While you must reserve 2 full days for Petra to truly experience its magic, we recommend spending your last evening at one of these cafes over bubbling sheesha and conversations. It’s the perfect conclusion to a magical sojourn into an era gone by.