Of all the unforgettable things Go Ahead staffer Rebecca experienced on The Wonders of Ancient Israel tour, hiking through the prehistoric city of Petra on the Jordan extension topped her list as the best-of-the-best. Here, she reminisces about the stone-carved icons she saw and what she learned while trekking through the UNESCO-listed archaeological site.
I have a pull toward the Arab and Muslim part of the world, so it was worth adding the extension to Jordan, period. While the country was absolutely amazing, my favorite part of the entire tour was visiting Petra. The ancient city is gigantic—I discovered that you’d need over three days to fully explore it—but that was perfect because I like to go hiking. I was able to spend hours of free time by myself exploring, and sometimes I felt like I was the only person in the world.
Petra is full of stone-carved aqueducts and tombs, and the fact that these ancient structures are still standing if really amazing. Here are three of the famous sites I saw while exploring Petra.
This narrow mountain passage was formed when an earthquake split the stone in half, and then yearly floods opened the crack even more and formed it into a natural pathway. I didn’t think anything else existed aside from the Treasury, but I discovered you have to walk about a mile and a half through the Siq to get to it. I loved the journey.
Traveler tip: Bring light layers for walking through the Siq. It was about 70 degrees on the day we visited Petra, but it was probably about 45 degrees while walking between the rocks that line this pathway. It was so cold because there’s no sunlight, but it got hotter when I came to an open area and continued walking up the path to the Monastery.
Most people know Petra for this site because it was featured in the film Indiana Jones. It’s absolutely beautiful. I managed to be down there when there was no one there! The history behind the site is so interesting. In ancient times, everyone knew this was where the jewels and gold were kept, but when westerners discovered it in the 1800s they couldn’t get in. There are bullet holes all over the place because they just start firing at the wall in an attempt to open it.
Traveler tip: While Bedouin villagers offer carriage rides through the Siq to the Treasury, our Tour Director Mohammed advised us to avoid accepting them if possible. The rides aren’t well-regulated, and if you do accept a ride the driver who brought you expects you to return with them; you can’t just walk up to any carriage driver at the Treasury and ask for a ride back. The drivers don’t try to swindle people out of money, but it’s apparently an uncomfortable ride and they want to get you down and back as fast as possible, so you might feel a little rushed.
To me, reaching the Monastery was the most amazing part of visiting Petra, but it takes the longest to get to. Carriage drivers can’t get up the tiny paths, but there’s a Bedouin village nearby and it’s the villagers’ source of income to offer donkey or camel rides up. I chose to walk—and I think I ended up walking over nine miles!
Traveler tip: If you choose to trek up a little farther, there are lookout points about a mile away from the Monastery. They’re really easy to find—you can just follow the signs—but the steep, uphill paths are covered in loose rocks, so be careful. Only sure-footed travelers should attempt to hike on them.