I can’t even begin to describe how wonderful the past two days have been. I feel like I’m floating on a cloud of happiness and I never ever want to come down. Jordan just skyrocketed to one of my favorite places I’ve ever been, and it’s only a weekend trip. Yesterday I fulfilled such a bucket list moment by visiting one of the seven wonders, Petra. If you’ve never heard of it, don’t freight. I only heard of this beauty when I moved to Saudi and heard my friends talk about it. But once you see it you might recognize it from scenes in Transformers or Indiana Jones, or maybe from a travel Instagram/Facebook page.
I didn’t quite know what to expect of Petra. I knew that there was a lot to see, including day long treks and hiking. But I didn’t know how crowded it would be, or safe, or if I would get lost.
Petra is located in Northern Jordan, close to Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea. It was a 3.5/4 hour bus ride from Amman. I woke up at 5 AM and hailed a taxi right outside my hostel. It took about 20 seconds before like 4 taxis were lined up to drive me. I was a little nervous I wouldn’t be able to find a taxi that early in the morning but that def wasn’t the case. I paid 1 JD and got to the bus station in like 10 minutes. The Amman Jett bus station opens at 6 AM, but it is best to be there as early as possible to wait in line to pay for the bus, which leaves promptly at 6:30 AM. Ahmed, the hotel manager at my hotel (Nobel Hotel) called Jett buses the day before to reserve me a seat. I hear this can be done online as well, but phone is the most efficient. Obviously I don’t have a Jordan phone and I don’t speak Arabic, so I definitely helps to have a local do it. The bus was a typical coach bus, with comfortable seats and AC. This isn’t really typical “public transportation” because there were no locals on it. It def wasn’t like the Philippines bus with 4 people to a seat with chickens on the roof and goats on peoples laps. It was a full bus, so def try to schedule in advance. There was assigned seating, I was next to a lovely solo traveler from Taiwan, she was very sweet. The bus was filled with tourists, from all over the world. It felt very safe and is definitely the best budget way to get to Petra from Amman. We had one pit stop about half way through our journey at an overpriced souvenir store. But it also had bathrooms and food for sale. It was massive and super nice, but definitely ripping off some dumb tourists. For example, a Dead Sea mud mask I bought for 2.5 JD the day prior in downtown Amman was for sale here for 25JD. That’s a pretty huge markup…or I got a really good deal. The landscape along the way is pretty typical, a huge desert with rolling hills. This is up until Wadi Musa, where Petra is located. This has tons of sandstone colored buildings built upon mountain sides. It’s a beautiful sight. When we arrived at 10 AM, there were already many buses in the parking lot. Again, I had no idea what to expect and how crowded it would be. Google told me that it’s been pretty empty as tourists have been hesitant about visiting the Middle East due to safety issues. For this reason there’s “tourists police” everywhere. I felt very very safe at all times. Obviously, traveling solo as a female can cause unwanted interactions, and I was prepared for the worst, but literally no one harassed me. So if you do travel alone as a woman, take the proper precautions. Firstly, wear the right attire. Make sure your shoulders and knees are covered. Petra itself is a 3 km walk from the visitors center, so don’t be stupid and wear heels on a hike, wear sneakers or hiking boots. Secondly, from going to school in Saudi I have learned it’s considered rude or flirtatious to make eye contact with a man (for too long) this is one of the harder things for me because I was brought up in a culture where eye contact is a polite thing to do. To resolve this I just wear dark sunglasses so no one can see my eyes, plus it’s sunny there so it’s not even an inconvenience. Oh, regarding temperature, I would guess that it was about 70 degrees F during my visit, an absolutely perfect climate. I read that during the summer it can be scorching hot and in the winter pretty cold, so I can definitely recommend visiting in October/November.
So, when you get to Petra, there are many shops, cafes, bathroom etc around the gate. This is where you buy your ticket and where he Museum is. I decided to make the most of every second I had in Petra on my limited time-scale (bus left at 3:30) so I scanned my Jordan pass (which included a day ticket to Petra) and was on my way. I skipped the bathroom and came prepared with my own water, lunch, and snacks (I also read online that food is more expensive in the park). If you know me you know I want the best “bang for my buck” and wanted to see as much as possible on my trip. The 3 km hike to the treasurey is amazing. It’s though a narrow slot Canyon which had some carvings, buildings, waterways, etc along the way. I did a bit of eavesdropping behind an English speaking guide, to hear about the history of Petra. I took a bunch of photos and took in the raw beauty of where I was. Words can’t even describe the landscape here, if you’ve ever visited Antelope Canyons in Arizona, or the Narrows in Zion, it is a very similar feeling.
Along the way there were young boys selling souvenirs, and many men trying to get you to ride their horses, im pretty good at turning people down (lol) so I just said no thank you and there didn’t bother me after that. Well okay, that’s a lie some people would try to strike up a convo and I was just like “sorry I gotta go! My friends waiting for me!” It sucks to lie but a lil white lie never hurts.
Anyways, I continued for about 20 minutes through this amazing slot Canyon, until out of no where the Treasury came into view and my jaw dropped. I had full goosebumps to see how massive this is in real life. It was amazing. The area in front of it was pretty full with tour groups taking photos, souvenirs shops, and even some cafes with WiFi (hint: if you need WiFi while you’re in such a beautiful place you need to re-evaluate your priorities and really be present in the moment). There were some camels and donkeys laying about, so obviously I had to pet and love them all to tell them hello! They’re so cute. Another huge plus of Petra were several signs suing that if you see any animal abuse you can report it to the local vet phone line! So these animals were treated pretty well (not perfect but better than many places I’ve seen).
Many men came up to me and asked if I wanted to ride and camel or donkey, and I was seriously considering it until I heard it was 40 JD, or like $60 USD. I had to turn them down and be honest saying I’d rather walk and save my money. I knew I wanted to do the hike that overlooks the treasury, and with my limited time I asked for directions and I was on my way. This same man, Audi, kindly told me he’d show me the way, so I followed him and his Mule as we passed several other sites. He showed me the street facades, where the Dead were buried in attics to deter robbers. We also passed the Urb tomb, silk tomb, and royal tombs, which were beautiful. In addition, we went to the Theatre, which looked similar to the one I saw in Amman. I can’t find the actual name of the hike I did, but it was the one that overlooked the Treasury. Many locals referred to it as the “Indiana Jones way” but I have no idea what that means. Anyways, I hiked up and up the stairs, still following Audi. The view just got better and better. You could clearly see some of the tombs and the Roman theater from above. But to be honest, this hike was pretty hard and I was trying to keep pace with a mule, so I was huffing and puffing. Trying to run up the stairs as fast as possible but also pausing to take pictures. This is when Audi offered me to ride his donkey, and I reminded him I didn’t want to pay but he insisted. So I road the donkey and had THE time of my life. I was laughing and singing and the locals may have thought I was crazy but I was having the time of my life. The stairs are absurdly steep, and a bit weathered with time, so I was a little nervous this mule was gonna trip and fall, but I literally trusted him with my life, and all was well. Shoutout to Michael Jackson (the donkey) for being so amazing. About the whole way up, we were following another female solo traveler, Rose, and her guide. So I ended up spending the majority of my day with this crew. Half way up the mountain we stopped at a little rest stop where some Bedouin’s were jamming to Bob Marley. These men literally looked like Captain Sparrownwith their dark eyeliner and long hair. Bedouins are a nomadic tribe of Arabs by the way. They were pretty funny and I sat down and had tea with them as one man played the flute for us. It was a lovely break. Even though I was riding a donkey my heart was still beating a million miles an hour as I was so nervous I’d fall. After our little pit stop, we continued along as we scaled some cliffs and held on for Dear life to my mule. The landscape was beautiful, with a great view of Petra below. We could see camels roaming around and the bustle of the tourists sightseeing. But the real view is the end of the trail. About 40 minutes from the bottom if you don’t stop much. There’s two main lookouts, I recommend stopping at both. But my ultimate favorite was the last one with a sign saying “The World View”. There’s more bedouin men here (where the women at?? I have no idea) there was also a puppy which made me super happy. I mean a puppy AND a view like this? Can life get any better than that?? Maybe only if that puppy was Dukie.
We sat here for quite a while, taking in the views and having a photoshoot. Guys it is so unbelievably amazing to get this view of the Treasury so I highly recommend taking the time to do this hike (or take a donkey). Audi also let me take the mule down, so so so kind I know. Don’t worry I shared my lunch and water, an attempt to repay him. Once we reached the bottom he hopped on the donkey with me and he gave me a lovely little tour of More sights around Petra. I did not realize it was so big and there was so much to see! If I was on fun I probably wouldn’t have had time to do all of this because really I only had 4.5/5 hours to explore Petra. We walked inside of the Petra Church, also known as the Byzantine church. There’s some beautiful mosaics and a helpful map with English explanations inside. The structure was originally built by the Nabataeans and then redesigned by the Byzantines around AD 530. We also stopped by the Temple of Winged Lions, built around 27 AD. Audi also pointed out the cave Home, where him and other Petra residents live. I had no idea people still lived there but that’s pretty cool! I’d imagine it being freezing at night and where do you get water and food?? I guess by taking a donkey into town!
Eventually he dropped me off the donkey back at the entrance to the siq where the Treasury is. I had a few minutes to spare so I sat on a rock and had my leftover falafel from the night before and took in the views. I couldn’t stop thinking about how blessed I am to be exploring new countries on my own. I think solo travel has really shaped who I am and helped me learn and grow, and I continue to empower myself and realize yes I can do this! It’s a very cool feeling! About an hour before I was supposed to catch my bus I headed back towards the visitors center. Guidebooks said that the hike back can be brutal because of the incline but I didn’t find it too bad at all. If you did need a little assistance they don’t let single horses through the siq but they do allow carriages so you can pay for a ride all the way back to the visitors center.
***another important note*** I’m sure from reading this blog you’ve probably noticed that I’m a very frugal traveler. I like to get the best deal and I hate being ripped off. That being said I witness so many elderly people being ripped off and I find that so so terrible. Never buy anything for the price they give you, if you want to buy something pricey make sure you go to many shops and ask for the price, don’t go for the first store you see. There was an old man who bought pottery for 200 JD, and found out that people at Petra sold the same exact item for 10 JD and he got ripped off. I find that so sad, so if you or anyone you know is traveling, watch out for them so they don’t get ripped off. Another thing, the horse ride for the first 800m into Petra is free! No need to pay a lot, just make sure to tip 3-5 JD. I (the cheap person that I am) decided just to walk but I overheard a couple sayin they paid like 30JD. Just be wise and be skeptical. I barter on everything I buy.
Sorry for that side note!! Anyways, I took my time making it back to the visitors center, taking photos and such. I still made it back with plenty of time, so I looked around the museum and bought some snacks and water for the long bus ride home. I went back to the bus parking lot and (with the help of a few people) got on the correct bus heading to Amman. Lucky for me I was sitting next to three local girls who work for the UN here in Jordan. We chatted the entire four hour bus ride home. Talking about our travels, work, hobbies, family, just about everything!
Once the bus arrived back in Amman I took a taxi back to the hostel. After settling down a bit I went to the hostel office to speak with Ahmed, the manager, about my plans for the next day. I will write this story in my next blog post so stay tuned to hear my adventures to the Dead Sea!