The ancient city of Petra in Jordan is one of those unique places, full of history, beauty, and culture, that everyone must see at least once in their lives. Just imagine a narrow pathway of red sandstone cliff walls opening up to stunning views of temples and tombs throughout what is rightfully called the Rose City. I saw for myself why Petra is one of the new seven wonders of the world because it’s definitely one of a kind. Trust me, there are hundreds of reasons to add Petra to your bucket list, and I have 10 reasons that will make you want to put it at the top of your list.
1. Stroll through the Stunning Siq
The main entrance to Petra is a pathway through the red sandstone cliffs called the Siq, which is simply breathtaking. It’s actually a natural fault split apart over time and later smoothed out by water from flooding.
With every corner I turned, I could not believe what I was seeing, especially with all the colors and details in the rocks. I literally have never said “wow” so many times in one day.
The rock walls are massive and provide shade while walking, with blue skies and dim light peaking through the top.
This beautiful gorge goes on for close to a mile with surprises around every turn, including niches, statues, tombs, temples, and lots of animals. I was already in awe and had not even gotten to the main attraction yet.
2. Observe the Spectacular Sandstone Details
There are so many amazing things to see both within the Siq and beyond, with the spectacular details in the sandstone cliffs. Just the natural design of the rock is impressive.
And then several stone carvings and niches appear along the pathway of the Siq as well.
These rock-carved votive niches include betyls representing the deities of the Nabataeans, the original settlers of Petra.
And there’s even an ancient rock carving of a camel caravan, representing people and goods entering Petra.
Only the bottom half of the rock carving has survived the past floods, but look at the amazing detail of the pieces still standing!
3. Admire the Arabian Horses
What I found really interesting were the guards riding around on beautiful Arabian horses.
They were very friendly and even posed for pictures.
Like I said earlier, the Siq has surprises at every turn, and the best surprise was literally waiting just around the corner.
4. Witness the Astonishing Treasury
As you near the end of the Siq and come around the corner, an astonishing and colorful rock carved structure begins to appear through the narrow gorge. No wonder this is considered the main attraction because it really is a sight to see.
The Treasury is the most elaborate temple in Petra and has an amazing red glow from the way the light comes in off the cliffs. It was carved right out of the sandstone rock face by the Nabataeans.
My friends and family say the pictures look like an Indiana Jones movie. Well, that’s because ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ was filmed there. Yes, it is a real place and not just a movie set. You really must see it in person to believe it.
5. Meet the Bedouins
The Bedouins are a tribe that used to live in Petra, said to be descendants of the Nabataeans. The nomadic cave dwellers were relocated nearby once Petra became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They still have a heavy presence in Petra today acting as tour guides, providing musical and other entertainment, offering camel and donkey rides, and selling handmade goods.
They were selling everything from taking pictures with them to jewelry, scarfs, camel rides, books, handmade crafts, and much more.
They were polite and not too aggressive with selling, but remember that it’s their way of life, and a lot of the items were really great. I just had to buy a book and a glass container with a sand design of Petra.
6. Make Friends with a Cute Camel
On my trip, I really wanted to get some good pictures of camels, especially in this region of the world, but I did not expect to find camels like the ones in Petra. They were actually kind of cute and very friendly, allowing you to ride and pet them. Kids were even playing with them and having a blast.
I made friends with this adorable camel who was actually posing for pictures. The camel was letting kids jump and play all around him, and seemed to be enjoying the attention. Too funny and very cute!
7. Appreciate the Tombs’ Ancient Architecture
Throughout Petra, you will see numerous rock-cut tombs, representing historic architecture from the first centuries of BC to AD. After spending time at the Treasury, follow the path to the Street of Facades, lined with the taller tombs, which are incredible to see.
The Street of Facades eventually leads down into the main part of the city, where there are more tombs lining the canyon walls.
The local tour guides can even show you some of the secret tombs and other hidden details that you would not know how to find on your own. I know our guide pointed out so many different tombs, carvings, and other treasures we didn’t even see until shown. What a great experience.
8. Survey the Historic Theater
Also just past the Street of Facades is the massive Petra theater dating back to the first century.
The entire theater was carved right out of the mountainside wiping out a full row of tombs. It looks even bigger in person than in the pictures and is said to hold up to 8,500 people. It was impressive to see it still standing.
9. Climb to the Magnificent Monastery
The Monastery is the largest monument in Petra, but in order to enjoy its amazing architecture, you need to be able to climb roughly 850 steps, so make sure you leave time for that journey.
Once you get there, it’s definitely worth it to see this magnificent monument, which was probably also a temple, like the Treasury. The Monastery is a massive structure with an entry that is a few stories high. Incredible!
10. Enjoy the Sunset over Jordan
At the end of the day, as you are heading out of Petra, be sure to stop and enjoy the amazing views and the sunset over Jordan, which is breathtaking. What a great way to end the day!
After hearing about Petra for so long, I was thrilled to finally explore the Rose City for myself. It really is a must see in Jordan. Be sure to leave plenty of time to see everything, and be prepared for a lot of walking. It’s a few miles in mostly downhill, 850 steps to the Monastery, and then back out of the city a few miles uphill. I was not prepared for it, but I survived anyway and loved every minute of it, even though I was sore for a few days. It was definitely worth the trip and should be on the top of all your bucket lists this year.
When are you going to Petra, and what are you most excited to see?