Jordan: Wadi Rum and Petra
When we started to plan our trip to Jordan, we knew there were a minimum of three sites we needed to see. The Dead Sea, Wadi Rum and Petra. Given we had pre-booked our Dead Sea tour, all that was left to book was Wadi Rum and Petra.
We were struggling to find a company that would personalise a tour for us as we didn’t want to camp in the desert but rather the hotel option so we could include Petra by night as well as visit Petra first thing in the morning given our limited time in Jordan. We then came across Jordan Select Tours who were more than accommodating and tailored the tour to suit us and what we wanted to do.
Day One: Wadi Rum & Petra by Night
We were promptly picked up at our hotel at 9 am to start the 3.5-hour drive to Wadi Rum! Our driver Alaa was extremely informative and friendly and ensured we were briefed on the history of Jordan and the sites we were going to see (and the sites we had already seen). When we arrived at Wadi Rum, we had a local Bedouin who was our driver and guide. We sat in the back of the 4WD for the duration of our 2.5-hour desert safari.
We stopped to see some amazing sights such as:
The Seven Pillars of Wisdom: This site is named after Lawrence of Arabia who was based in Wadi Rum as a member of the British Forces of North Africa. Lawrence organised and carried out attacks on the Ottoman forces from Aqaba to Damascus. The guide often referred to Lawrence of Arabia, however, allegedly there is little or no evidence connecting Lawrence to any sites in Wadi Rum!!
Khazali Canyon: At this site, you will be lucky enough to see some Nabatean inscriptions on the rock. It is pretty cool to walk inside the canyon and take a look at the view both outwards and upwards!
There was an opportunity to climb a sand dune and overlook Wadi Rum! This was a lot of fun, except for Jenna who only wore sandals and the sand was piping hot so she had to stand still (where she took this photo!) in the one spot until I came back down to piggy back her back to the car!!
Halfway through the safari, we also stopped in for a local tea with the local Bedouins. Despite it being around 45 degrees, the Bedouins offer you hot tea because it in regulates your body temperature and will actually provide some relief!
There are many more sites to visit and your driver will stop for many photos, even with some camels where we were able to give them food and water.
The desert safari lasted around 2.5 hours and it was around 45 degrees, however, there was also a consistent breeze and the back of the 4WD provided you with ample shade so it was quite a comfortable drive.
Once we got back to the visitor’s centre, we met Jordan Select guide and started the drive to Petra! We did not camp in the desert as we have previously done this in Morocco and we wanted to experience Petra by night which is only available 3 nights per week!
We left the hotel at around 7.45pm to head down to the visitor’s centre in Petra to meet our local guide. While we waited, we watched a local make one of the sand designs in a glass bottle, it was fascinating how they do these!!
Petra by Night
This is truly an experience! When you start the walk, you’re walking approximately 2km down between the siq and it is lit up with around 1500 candles throughout the walk and in front of the Treasury.
When you arrive at the Treasury, you get a ‘Oh WOW’ moment! It is honestly something that you can’t imagine seeing until you’re there in person. Even though it was dark, you could see enough to leave you wanting to see more (when it was light!). We sat down and listened to the Bedouin play the flute before the free time to take a few photos in the candle lit environment before you wander back down the siq.
Unfortunately, this well travelled man forgot his tripod so this was my best attempt at a handheld night photo as I wasn’t able to play with the shutter speed!
The experience lasted approximately 2 hours and was definitely worth ensuring we were in Petra and able to do this!
Day Two: Petra
We started bright and early with a 7 am pick up. This was to make sure we got down to the site as soon as they opened not only to try to beat the heat and other tourists but to also see the rock in a different light. By getting there early, we were able to see the colours in the evening, first thing in the morning and then once the sun was fully shining.
We started the tour with a horse ride to the main entrance (which is included in the ticket price, plus a tip for the guide!) and from there we continued on foot through the Siq.
We were lucky enough to be the only people there which meant we were able to enjoy the colours and the natural way the rocks formed without feeling rushed with other tourists.
In the below picture, you can make out the carvings in the rock, there is a person and a camel which indicated which way to continue walking.
Although we had seen Petra by night, when we arrived at the Treasury it was truly a magical sight! The colours were incredible, there was no one around and it felt like we had the entire place to ourselves. We stopped to get some pictures with the camels before we continued with our guide to the next stop.
Our guide also took us in to a cave type place so you can clearly see the variety of sedimentary rocks and amazing colours!
At the end of our guided tour, we had a drink in the cafe with our guide, as recommended we had a lemon and mint drink – very refreshing!!
Given the relatively tight timeframe, we asked our guide what he would recommend, in particular, we wanted to ensure we were able to see the Treasury from above… The walk to the panoramic view over Petra (as well as the Treasury) is up many, many steps and in this heat, it would have been a very unenjoyable experience. The guide knew we were both young and fit, and he strongly recommended we acquire the services of one of the local Bedouins and their Mules and are we glad we listened to his advice…
It wasn’t cheap and it did cost us around 40 JOD for the two of us – but I cannot stress enough, that in this heat, you do not want to walk up! The Mules looked healthy and are given a break every 2 hours (we were assured). Mules are a mixed breed with Horses and Donkeys, meaning they are stronger than pure bred donkeys so whilst we usually enjoy walking, we opted for the Mules.
I’m not sure how long it took for us to get up to the top, probably at least a half hour, but there were a lot of stairs and it was pretty hot so we were very grateful for these animals to help get us up!
When we got to the top, it honestly felt like we were on top of the world. Whilst photos simply cannot do it justice, you’re greeted with the most spectacular panoramic view over Petra!
We were dropped off at the top of the hill and the Bedouin had a limited English vocabulary so we had NO idea where we were meant to go next. The top does offer you those spectacular panoramic views, but after all, we did come up here to see the Treasury from above! We walked around for quite some time and studied the Petra map provided at the entrance (which appears to show the Treasury quite far away from where we believed we were). By this time, we would have wasted 30 minutes looking around and we even started walking back down … but being the well stubborn man I simply couldn’t leave without seeing what I wanted to see.
I decided we simply had to turn around (Jenna relatively unimpressed with the heat and concerned with the time) and went for a trail run ahead of Jenna (in 45-degree heat!) to see if I could find the spot. Looking back on the trail, it is actually marked out with painted arrows but given I was doing a relatively fast paced run I did make two incorrect turns, but luckily still found it!!
When you do reach the end, it will look like you have reached a Bedouin home, which I was quite tempted to go into as it directly overlooks the Treasury, but by the time I turned back to confirm that I have found the spot, I noticed another angle overlooking the Treasury which didn’t feel like I was encroaching on the locals territory and we decided to take it all in and get a few photos from there instead.
We took advantage of being the only tourists on top of the mountain and took some more incredible photos! It is truly a sight you must see with your own eyes!!
From there, we started our descent. It took us around 30 minutes to get down to the bottom, and then around another 45 minutes to get to the visitor centre. If you’re hot and tired, you can pay for a horse carriage ride to the front, but it really is an easy walk where we were able to enjoy the Siq with the sun shining on the sandstone sediments!
Once we got back to the Visitors Centre, we went back to buy some souvenirs of sand in the glass jars and then went back to our hotel for a refreshing shower before hitting the road for Amman.
Where to stay
We stayed at the Marriott Petra which was a lovely hotel. It was organised by our tour company, but the stay went smoothly and they allowed us a late check out so we could come back and clean up before getting back in the car. The room was very spacious and had a lovely room over the mountains. We had half board and the dinner was plentiful, the desserts were also lovely and we had the perfect spot to watch the sunset!! Breakfast in the morning is also varied, fresh and much better than our Amman hotel!
If you’re going to visit Petra on your own, you could look at staying at a hotel close to the Visitors Centre which will avoid getting a transfer or taxi to and from.
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“Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.” – Dalai Lama