Re-discovered by western explorers in the 1800s, Petra grew in popularity and by the 1920s it had become Jordan's most popular tourist attraction. It was featured in the 1989 movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and is now classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
SightsThere is one entrance to Petra, and it happens to be one of the highlights of the journey. The Siq, or canyon, is a spiritually important path leading to the city center. The 200-mile high walls are lined with stunning rock colors, formations and minor carvings. Be sure to note the remains of terracotta pipes in the sides of the canyon. The Romans used these to carry their water. It's spectacular view and historical significance makes the Siq the perfect preparation for what lies just ahead.
One of the first things you'll see when you arrive in Petra is the Treasury. It's breathtakingly beautiful and the most iconic image of the area. Take a moment to admire the detailed carvings and architecture that have been there for centuries. Try to spot the urn on top of the Treasury. Legend has it, it contains the hidden treasure of a Pharaoh. If you look hard enough you'll see bullet marks where travellers over centuries have attempted to discover that treasure for themselves.
If you're up for a hike, and a stunning view, head up to the Monastery. One of the legendary monuments of Petra, the Monastery was built in the 3rd century BC as a Nabataean tomb. The ancient path of 800 steps can take visitors over an hour to climb, but don't take a donkey to the top. They aren't treated well and it's a depressing sight to see as you climb your way to the top.
For a unique look at one of the world's oldest cities, consider a Petra by night tour. Experience this centuries old city under the light of the moon and stars. The only light allowed is candlelight, and you'll be immersed in Bedouin music. It may not be as impressive as seeing the majesty of the Treasury by day, but it's certainly a special experience.
NeighborhoodsWadi Musa is the main town next to the park that is the ruins of Petra. It is not a large place, but is packed with hotels and restaurants and other amenities that tourists would need or want. The town sits to the east of the park.
At the western end of town is the entrance to the ruins where tickets can be purchased. Then it's a long but beautiful walk to the west through The Siq and into the main ruins that make up Petra itself. The Treasury is the first "building" after the Siq, and then the valley stretches northwest where many of the other ruins are found. The Monastary is perched up high at the far western end of the park, overlooking the desert and Israel to the west.
ActivitiesIf taking in the beauty of Petra is simply not exciting enough for you, there are some hikes and climbs to take advantage of.
Begin at the High Place of Sacrifice and make the one hour trek to the city center. It's a beautiful hike at the right time of day covered with stones, statues and altars to admire along the way.
If you simply have to tackle the toughest challenge around, you can climb the Mountain of Aaron. It's the highest peak in Petra and takes anywhere between four and eight hours to scale At the top you'll be greeted with a small church and the tomb of Aaron the brother of Moses.
Food and DiningIf you're planning to visit the ruins for the entire day (and you should), then it's best to pack your own lunch. Many hotels and hostels will offer this service for you, and a variety of other dining options are around town near the park entrance.
The city of Petra only has one restaurant. Despite their steep prices, they bring in large crowds. Perhaps it's because they have the only beer in the valley! For snacks and drinks, however, there are small stores and vendors all around.
The summer can get very hot in Petra so staying hydrated is a must. In one day you'll likely drink at least four bottles of water.
In Wadi Musa, if you're looking for a good meal, check out Al-Wadi Restaurant on the main circle in town. Cleapetra restaurant is also a bargain, located just below the circle. Many of the hotels have restaurants and bars (especially the higher priced ones).
TransportationIn Petra, there are no cars, no bicycles and no scooters. The only way to get around is by foot yours or those belonging to a camel, horse or donkey. Beware of the horsemen offering rides into the city. They may say the ride is free, but during your trip they will hit you with a "tipping" fee.
Walking around Petra is very nice so long as you are reasonably fit and it's not too hot. You'll find most things in the shade around 3 pm.
If you're staying in Wadi Musa, most of the town is within walking distance to the entrance of the ruins (especially hotels). Many hotels offer shuttle services either in the form of vehicles or horse-drawn carts, and taxis are common.