Traveling to Petra, Jordan
How many of you remember the final scene of Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade where Indiana Jones and his father run from ruins with dust billowing behind them? That is the Treasury at Petra, found at the end of the Siq Trail.
Petra, one of the seven New Wonders of the World, is located in Jordan, about two hours by car from the international airport in Amman. It was inhabited as early as 7000 BC by nomadic Arabs who made Petra their capital. It was an important stop on spice routes, with a full city of stunning architecture. While it is possible to see Petra in one day, I do not recommend it.
Planning Your Visit
There are many tours from Amman, but trust me- skip that option. Rent a car, and drive to Petra (Jordan is very easy to navigate trust me, I get lost in a paper bag). Stay the night and wake up VERY early to be at the gate when it opens at 6am. This will allow you to beat the tour buses that will disgorge legions of camera wielding tourists. This is advantageous for two reasons, the first, it gives you a chance for that amazing shot of the treasury with no tourists, and the second- it allows you to climb to the difficult treasury viewpoint before it gets too hot. Bring plenty of water and wear sunscreen.
The Siq Trail, The Treasury, and The Treasury/ Royal Tombs Viewpoint Trail
Buy your ticket in advance, or better yet buy the Jordan Pass and be waiting at the gate for the 6am opening. If you buy the Jordan Pass, you get two days admission, or can use it for Petra by Night. The main entrance is at the beginning of the Siq (pronounced “seek”) Trail and it will lead you to the Treasury. It is a flat easy 1.2 km walk and very beautiful with a dramatic entrance through the rock to the Treasury. The Treasury is the crown jewel of the Lost City of Petra. It is absolutely stunning, and I do not care how many incredible sights you have seen- this will still take your breath away. Getting here at 6am will give you the best chance (and beautiful light) to have a moment of reflection and hopefully a photo with no one else. Pro tip: The kids selling postcards know where the best spots to take pictures are and how to use iPhones. Let them take pictures of you, but be sure to tip them as this is how they help support their families.
After you have seen the Treasury, head to the viewpoint trail before the sun hits the stairs and makes your climb miserably hot. As you pass the Street of Facades there is a spot to grab a coffee or water if you need (and a bathroom). You will continue down the path to the Theater and the Royal Tombs before beginning the climb to the Treasury viewpoint. This is a 1.5 hour strenuous/difficult hike straight up. Wear practical shoes and bring water. When you get to the top, make sure and try some of the fresh pomegranate juice for sale as you take your photos. Note: there will be people trying to convince you to ride donkeys and horses up and down the hikes. In my view, the treatment of the animals was not ethical and I did not want to support it. I would encourage you not to as well.
Monastery and High Place of Sacrifice
The main trail to the Monastery is a moderate to difficult hike of about 2.5 miles that will take you about 4-5 hours. Expect to climb about 800 stairs, but the climb is worth it to witness the beauty of the Monastery. You can take the back way and hit the High Place of Sacrifice for about 6 miles total. Make sure and plan for the heat and brutal sun with a hat and plenty of water.
Seeing Petra was an incredible experience, one that still brings me chills as I think about standing before the Treasury in the early morning hours. When I walked out the slice of rock that is the Siq Trail it was so easy to see why it something to be preserved, celebrated, and named a Wonder of the World. I go back the final scene of The Last Crusade, where Indiana says to his father, “What did you find Dad?” And Sean Connery replies, “Me? Illumination.”