1. Walk through The Siq
The Siq is the entrance to Petra. It is a winding1.2 kilometre long and narrow sandstone path made of cobblestones that is a trailer of what to expect on entering the city. Look out for wall carvings and sandstone patterns along the way; a keen observer will also spot terracotta water pipes built into the sides. Do not be tempted to rush through The Siq. It is a sight to be enjoyed in its own time. Just when the walk begins to get arduous, you catch a glimpse of the first of Petra’s wonders – The Treasury.
2. Be over awed by The Treasury
The Treasury explodes onto the scene in all its magnificence just when the high sides of the Siq seem to further diminish the fading overhead light. Carved out of a cliff that is a brooding shade of pink, the massive scale of the facade of The Treasury dwarfs everything around it – reducing visitors to their actual minute existence. Made as a tomb for a Nabataean king, the given name is due to an urban legend that has led generations of people to believe that the urn on top contains a hidden Egyptian treasure.
3. Explore The Street of Facades
The Street of Facades is a tomb-lined canyon, the facades of which are carved onto the canyon walls. Tombs along this path, numbering about 40, are both large and small, indicating the importance of the person. Though damaged by floods and wind erosion, these tombs lead to and end at the centre of the main city.
4. Check out The Roman Theatre
The next sight is inspiring because of its sheer size. A theatre, with a capacity to seat about 7,000 people, was a joint effort – created by the Nabataeans and expanded to its current size by the Romans. It is still used occasionally for performances.
5. Climb up to The High Place of Sacrifice Some 800 steps up Jebel Madbah is the High Place of Sacrifice. There are elaborate rock altars; obelisks carved out of the rock and not simply built upon it; and a network of channels used to drain blood from sacrificial animals. It is quite a trek, but may be undertaken on donkey back as well. The High Place of Sacrifice is one of the best vantage points for an aerial view of the ancient city.
6. Admire The Royal Tombs
In a city that is known for its necropolis, this set of tombs stands out for its grandeur. Located near the Theatre, the Royal Tombs are four in number – The Urn Tomb, The Palace Tomb, The Corinthian Tomb and The Silk Tomb. Though it has never been established for whom the tombs were built, they are called ‘royal’ because they have been magnificently built, high up the mountains and out of beautifully shaded rock.
7. Get a bird’s eye view from The Monastery
A tough climb up more than 800 steps on a rock cut staircase is The Monastery, a Petra favourite. Just like The Treasury – though larger and less ornamental – it is basically a grand facade with very little inside it. Built as a tomb or a temple, and later used as a church, The Monastery also serves as a viewpoint worth trekking up to.
8. Experience Petra by Night
The Petra by Night Tour is a popular tour option. By day, Petra is awe inspiring; by night – it is another story. This tour takes you through The Siq aided by the light of hundreds of candles and leads you to The Treasury where you are treated to traditional Bedouin music and storytelling. Quite magical – witnessing history under the moonlight.
9. Visit Little Petra
Possibly built as a suburb of Petra, Little Petra is a miniature of its famous cousin. Constructed around the same time but on a smaller scale, this mini city could have been used to house traders and travellers. It is interesting and easy to explore, given that Little Petra is much less crowded than Petra.
10. Other activities while in Petra
Schedule a visit to the Petra Kitchen and learn how to whip up authentic Jordanian fare. Stop at a Bedouin tent on your way around Petra and get a dose of local stories. Visit Cave Bar – a bar located in a Nabataean tomb. Reserve an evening, choose a spot, and watch the sun set on the ancient city – an unforgettable experience.