Exploring Petra is quite an overwhelming task. It’s hard to know where to start. But, the first thing you must know is that there is a lot more to see than The Treasury. This guide will help you to plan your day (or days) exploring Petra and its magical sites.
Petra is an ancient Nabataean city, dating back over 2000 years. The Nabataean kingdom flourished throughout the 1st century and Petra was a cosmopolitan marketplace and an important crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Syria-Phoenicia.
However, if you’re looking for a complete guide on visiting Petra, Jordan in general, please take a look at my earlier blog post here. This should answer all your general questions about visiting Petra.
The Must-See Sites of Petra, Jordan
1. The Obelisk Tomb
Once you’ve passed through the Visitor Centre and the chaos of the Bedouins offering horse rides, you’ll quickly notice things calm down. Everyone walks The Siq at their own pace, with priorities varying, but often tourists are making a beeline for The Treasury.
However, en route to the entrance of The Siq are some really interesting tombs, one of which is the Obelisk Tomb. There are four pyramidal obelisks, surrounding a tomb, built by the Nabateans in 1st century BC. There’s a figure in the middle, and it’s quite sight – yet so many people miss it.
You can even see where feasts were held in honour of The Dead in the lower half of the structure, known as Bab as-Siq Triclinium. It is a simple single room with rock-carved benches on all three sides.
2. The Siq
If you don’t watch out, you might be flattened by a horse and carriage racing by. Despite this, this narrow mile-long gorge is quite something to wander down. It is also possibly the coolest place in Petra as the sun cannot really reach through the steep walls.
Apparently it is not technically a gorge, as it was formed by tectonic forces which cause the rock to split down the middle. After this, the flowing waters of the Wadi Musa flowed, and together with wind, the two elements smoothed the sandstone walls. Some of the walls are as high as 150m tall.
Best of all, it opens up dramatically to reveal The Treasury – quite something. Especially without crowds!
3. The Treasury
The Instagram-famous site is what most tourists come to see and where many spend the most time. It is magnificent and so perfectly maintained. Did you know Petra was apparently only discovered by a Swiss scholar about 200 years ago, whilst doing research – this is why it is called The Lost City. Can you even imagine stumbling across this!
The Treasury is one of the best preserved Nabatean temples in the world. It was designed in the 1st century BC to impress, and that it most definitely still does. Protected by a valley. the site was built to be protected from wind and rain from day 1.
The detailing is so ornate, it really warrants some time to just stand, gaze and admire. The Treasury is actually crowned by a funerary urn, which, and this is very cool – conceals a pharaoh’s treasure, according to local legend.
Prepare to be hassled quite a bit here at The Treasury. Almost to the point that it started to detract from the experience.
4. The Streets of Facades
After the Treasury, following the path to the right, you’ll find yourself on the main street where you can see the remains of a marketplace, temples, an incredible theatre and a church. All elements that give evidence of the Nabateans, whose existence was relatively short-lived but their empire was wealthy and their influence far-reaching. All built into the sandstone rock, you’ll walk past tombs and houses – you can even go and sit right in them.
Tip: For an amazing vantage point over this area, start climbing the route towards the High Place of Sacrifice and look back – it’s amazing!
5. The Theatre
The Theatre was carved into the side of the mountain at the foot of the High Place of Sacrifice between 4 BC and 27 AD. Seven stairways ascend the auditorium that can accommodate 4000 spectators. You can’t enter here (it has a barrier), but it’s quite something to look up at.
6. The Colonnaded Street
The Colonnaded Street is one of the key remains of the Romans who came to rule and dominate this area.
This street was one of the main shopping streets of ancient Petra. At the far end of the road lies the triple gate, which leads to the Temple of Qasr al-Bint, another place you should definitely take a look at.
7. The Great Temple
Directly adjacent to the Colonnaded Street is The Great Temple which was built in 100 BC. By the time you get to this part of Petra, you may find the crowds have lessened.
8. The Monastery (Al Deir)
If you have the energy and the commitment to climb the steps, then The Monastery is a must-see. Unfortunately, we chose not to make the journey and I do slightly regret it, so if you can – it’s highly recommended!
So that’s my complete guide to all of the must-see sites within Petra, Jordan. I hope it has proved useful and given you some guidance to visiting Petra ahead of your trip.
If you’re looking for further guides in Jordan, please check out my other blog posts here and check out my review of the Mövenpick here.
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