A full day in Petra is ahead of us. We picked up a boxed lunch prepared by hotel at 7am, with the goal of arriving before the tour buses. We hiked along the Royal Tombs, and climbed the series of stone steps to the overlook of the Treasury and the main road through Petra in the morning light.
We returned back down, refreshed ourselves with orange juice at the Why Not shop, then headed up the steps on the opposite side of the canyon to the Place of High Sacrifice, where we stopped for lunch.
With goats as occasional companions, there are far fewer people off the “main street.” Many visitors don’t devote this much time to this place: it deserves even more time than we spent – everywhere you look, you see signs of human history written in the stone.
And, this is the marvel of Petra: much of the monumental architecture has been carved out of the canyon walls. Even the pyramid-style pillars above were created by carving away the surrounding stone, rather than building a pillar with stone. And modern day Jordanians still make use of these ancient carved places.
Some only hike up to the Place of High Sacrifice, but we found more amazing places by continuing down the trail to the other side, into the valley with the Lion Monument, Garden Tomb, Roman Soldier’s Tomb, and Garden Triclinium – well worth the hike, and very few people are here.
Once we hiked out to rejoin the main thoroughfare, we stopped for a cold beer at the restaurant at the far end of the road. We still had time to poke around the “newer” Byzantine church and marvel at the mosaics and the blue granite pillars imported from Egypt.
We worked our way back to the siq, again reaching the entry gate at twilight.
Yes, we covered a lot of ground. My fitness app says that we covered 14.6 miles and climbed 123 floors the first half day (from our hotel to the Monastery and back to the entrance gate), and 10 miles and 79 floors the second day, a slightly more leisurely pace. We are happy with our visit. We did not hire a guide, so I’m sure that we missed some really interesting points and perspectives. For example, modern technology is revealing the robust water infrastructure that made Petra bloom.
There is plenty to see without quite so much effort, and still have an incredible experience. Our advice: go early, stay late, and avoid the weekends. Purchase the Jordan Pass. Plan your visit: decide what are the “must see” sites, and map out your route. Say “No, thank you,” if you are not interested in the vendors’ wares – they are fairly ubiquitous. Most are friendly, only a few are insistent. Enjoy this magnificent place: in the right light, you can still see the camel caravans that traveled the trade routes through Petra.