Known as The Lost City, or the Rose-Red City, Petra was founded in the sixth century BC by the Nabataeans, a nomadic people who settled in Jordan. The city is situated in a valley called Wadi Musa, or Valley of Moses. The Nabataeans controlled the Arabian trade routes and allied with the Romans, establishing a vast commercial empire. In the fourth century AD, the city was decimated by an earthquake, and Petra fell into decline, leaving only old graves and temples. In 1812, Petra was rediscovered by Swiss explorer Jean Louis Burckhardt.
1. The Al-Deir Monastery
The Monastery, Petra’s grandest monument, is situated in the mountains overlooking the city, and it is accessed via a staircase of eight hundred steps cut into the rock. Constructed in the first century BC, it was most probably used as a temple, or as a tomb for a King.
2. The Colonnaded Street
Once the heart of Nabataean power, this majestic paved road lies south of the Nymphaeum. A fifth-century church lies to the north, notable for its mosaic floors. An open air altar, dedicated to Dushara, the principal God of the Nabataeans, overlooks the street.
3. The Siq
The Siq is a narrow corridor more than one kilometre long, buffered on both sides by sandstone cliffs rising to over eighty meters. The Siq offers a unique experience, with amazing colours running through the towering rocks. At the end of the Siq stands the imposing rose hued Treasury, also known as Al Khazneh.
4. The Treasury
The tomb of a Nabataean king, The Treasury is probably the most photographed building in Petra. n top of the Treasury sits an urn, which is believed to have held a king’s treasure. The intricate carvings of the urn bear the chippings from stones and gunshots, a reflection of the attempts of visitors to shatter the urn for the treasures they believed lay within.
5. The Royal Tombs
The most distinctive of Petra’s facades, the Royal Tombs line the cliff side at the eastern edge of the Wadi. The Urn Tomb features a large forecourt distinguished by colonnades. This was likely the final resting place of a Nabataean king. Alongside are the Corinthian, Palace and Silk Tombs, all of which were probably royal mausolea.
Five days are needed to fully explore Petra. Two or three days would allow you to see all the highlights, but this would be the absolute minimum.
Comfortable walking shoes, and a hat to protect you from the sun are essentials. Always carry plenty of drinking water.
Petra can become extremely busy. Get there early to experience it while it is relatively quiet.
Early to mid-morning, or late afternoon, is the best time to see Petra, especially if you plan to take photographs. The natural colours of the rocks are highlighted by the sun at these times.
The Wadi Turkmaniya road offers an alternative panoramic route in or out of the city.
Best Time Of Year To Visit
The temperature is most pleasant from mid-autumn through to mid-spring. During winter the daytime temperatures are reasonably comfortable, but the morning and evenings will be cold. The winter months see rain and snow, particularly in January.
How To Get There From Australia & New Zealand
There are frequent flights to Amman from Australia and New Zealand. Petra is a three hour journey by car along the Desert Highway, or five hours via the scenic Kings’ Highway.
Air-conditioned coaches leave Amman for Petra at six o’clock in the morning, returning at four o’clock in the afternoon.
Taxis are available but be sure to negotiate the fare with the driver before departure.