Travel Guide > Travelling
Petra – A quick overview
Let’s take an alternative look at Petra. Jordan’s rose red city is more than just a standard tourist location it has a lot of hidden gems.
As the twisting Siq passageway yawns open, its towering sandstone walls slowly peel back to reveal the majestic fascia of Petra’s Treasury. It is only then that you realise you are in the presence of one of the world’s great wonders. However with greatness comes crowds, all eager for a first glimpse of the rose-red city. So it’s just as well then that there’s more to Petra than those sights found on the main tourist trail. In fact, a visit of four or five days is suggested to see all this ancient city has to offer. Many people only make a day trip out to the site for the experience. Staying longer gives you plenty of opportunities to escape the crowds. You can be there before they arrive and discover behind the scenes delights, many of which you can enjoy all by yourself.
The road less travelled
You can begin to unlock Petra’s lesser seen appeals before you even reach the city. If you hike the primaeval landscape that encases Petra you can see what the ancient Nabataean people who built this masterpiece needed to contend with. You can take a multi-day trek from the Dana Biosphere Reserve, a rocky, patchwork terrain where Syrian wolves, spiny-tailed lizards and sand cats roam. From there, you traverse mountainous plateaus to the Araba Valley, where convoluted hills and canyons contort to beguile your every step. If the trail’s landscapes aren’t enough to impress then the scatterings of Feynan ruins, ancient copper mines and cooling waterfalls found en route more than enticing the traveller. Even before reaching Petra, you can see Nabataean handiwork in ‘Little Petra’ (Siq al-Barid), which boasts fine sandstone carved buildings, albeit on a smaller scale. Once the main city is in view, dodge the tourist beeline by entering through its back door, via the mighty Monastery, Petra’s largest monument and the perfect end to a dramatic hike.
The ancient city hides more treats among its outer lying sites. Circle the mountain on which the Monastery is perched, then traverse along a narrow ledge to gaze at the endless dunes of Wadi Araba. After this, you can descend the flight of rock-cut steps to spy the amphitheatre carved into the valley below, while obelisks, temples and tombs all punctuate the stony horizon, summoning you to explore further. Alternatively, a few people make it up the staircase to the High Place of Sacrifce, where another amazing panorama awaits. Once you finally decide to leave, Petra still has one last trick up its sleeve. Take the Wadi al Mudhlim route to gaze at the multitude of magnificent façades along the parade of Royal Tombs, before winding through mazy slot canyons, across rivers and through the Bedouin village of B’dul to explore the rugged vista beyond.
There is so much more to Petra than you might think at first glance.
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Page added on: 15 September 2018
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