Unquestionably Jordan’s best known attraction, hidden in the mountains south of the Dead Sea, is Petra. Petra, meaning “stone” in Greek, is considered the most spectacular ancient city in today’s world—a must-see for travellers to Jordan. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985 and today is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. It was the capital of the Nabateans who dominated the lands of Jordan before the Romans, and it was this civilization that carved tombs, temples, and buildings out of solid rock. As a result, the city and its monuments remain in excellent condition.
Petra fell into the mists of legend for seven centuries. Known only to the local Bedouins, its existence was a guarded secret. In 1812 a Swiss explorer named Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, heard local Bedouins speaking of a hidden city in the mountains of Wadi Musa. Burckhardt, disguised himself as a pilgrim making a sacrifice at the tomb of Aaron, to find the lost city without raising the local Bedouins’ suspicions. The disguise paid off as he glimpsed the secret city. Thanks to his successful deception, the mysterious city of Petra was uncovered to the modern world.
“Match me such a marvel save in Eastern clime, a rose-red city half as old as time.” That’s how poet and Victorian traveller Dean Burgon described Petra. It still holds true to this day. Words cannot do Petra justice in describing its magnificence. To best experience this ancient wonder, we suggest visiting either at dawn or dusk so that you too can witness the majestic sandstone glowing red.
All visits to Petra start through al-Siq, a folding split in the rock that varies between 5 and 200 metres wide. Located just outside the town of Wadi Musa, Petra is 260 kilometres from Amman in the southern part of Jordan. A wide range of accommodation is available in Wadi Musa as camping inside Petra is now illegal.