From Ma’in Hot Springs, we drove south towards Kerak Castle. One of the longer and more scenic drives we had on our trip (known as the King’s Highway).
Built in the 12th century, Kerak Castle is one of the largest castles in the Levant by the crusaders.
Kerak is also a cute town to spend some time for lunch before heading onwards.
The last stage of the drive took us finally to Petra, the long-awaited highlight of our trip. We set up camp in our hotel, The Old Village, and were very pleasantly surprised. Set in what are apparently century old buildings, the hotel just opened in early 2018 and had what were probably the friendliest staff we met in all of Jordan.
By the time we had settled in, we were about an hour away from sunset. Petra closes for visitors (except for Petra by Night which we skipped) around sunset during winter. We managed to still get in and started walking towards the Souq. Hordes of people were passing us, all tours groups.
As we made our way down the Souq we kept thinking whether we were still supposed to be there as pretty much everybody else was walking in the opposite direction.
But it was absolutely the right decision!
Because all of a sudden we stood in front of the mighty Treasury – almost to ourselves!
Rather than me trying to explain what Petra is all about, I suggest you read some of the superb Wikipedia article – I wouldn’t be able to do this magnificent site justice with some lame narration.
Al-Khazneh (or as it is commonly known, The Treasury) is probably the best known temple in Petra as it was prominently featured in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade.
It was getting dark so we headed back to our hotel, happy that we still used one of our two-day passes to get a glimpse of Petra without too many people around.
The next morning we were out early again, heading to the ancient city well before the tour groups arrived. Even though we knew the 2km stretch down the Souq from the night before, you’re in awe once again as your eyes meet the Treasury:
From there we headed along the Street of Facades towards the beginning of the stairs towards the High Place of Sacrifice (a very descriptive name).
You do walk up a lot of stairs to get there but the views are absolutely rewarding. It is also a nice way to get a way from the crowds.
We took a short break at the end of the trail before we started hiking once again, this time up to the Monastery.
At first glance, the Monastery appears very similar to the Treasury, but it is actually quite a bit bigger:
By then it was just noon and we felt like we had seen and walked an enormous amount already!
Back down in the valley, we walked through the Colonnaded Street built by the Romans and the Christian Church (multiple civilizations left their mark in Petra).
The heat started to take its toll by then and we struggled to explore the last section we wanted to see for the day: the various Royal Tombs. This is also where we encountered the masses of tour groups again – something you should really try to avoid when visiting Petra as it takes away its magic!
We walked back happy, exhausted and amazed. My expectations of Petra were fairly high but what I saw by far exceeded what I had in mind. The sheer size and history in this site is truly incredible. If you’ve seen Angkor Wat or Bagan, this is an absolute must. And from Europe it is very accessible too!