When planning my trip to Israel, I knew I wanted to visit Jordan as well, hoping to see Amman and Petra, but time constraints forced us to make some hard choices. I knew we had to see Petra, because when else would I have this opportunity? Even though our trip to Petra was a total whirlwind, we made it work, and it was so worth it!
I guarantee spending just one day in Petra is very doable! Maybe not ideal, because it can be stressful, but travelling isn’t always glamorous (it actually rarely ever is in the moment). This trip to Petra was one of those times that I really had to congratulate myself on being so hardcore (this trip involved sitting on the floor of a bus for five hours).
Anna and I took a five hour bus from Jerusalem to Eliat, a town at the very south of Israel, and crossed the border into Aqaba, Jordan. This is the border crossing recommended to us, since we did not have to have Jordanian visas already on us, and the crossing is very quick – no traffic, no long lines. From there we took a two hour taxi to Petra for a flat rate. There are lots of taxis at the border ready to pick up tourists to bring to Petra. The crossing is very safe, and very touristy, so most people speak English.
When we arrived at the hotel check-in (before being transferred to stay at the coolest Bedouin camp of all time!), we met a British woman who ran the hotel and Bedouin camp. She asked how long we were staying for, and was actually horrified that we were only there one night. She seemed persnally offended by the fact that we were only giving Petra one day, telling us that you need an entire week to see Petra, and that it takes eight hour to hike from one end to the other! In hind sight, this is all really comical, but at the time we were freaked out that our trip to Petra would be all for almost nothing.
After consulting a few people, and our guide books, we decided that we would give it a try – hike all of Petra in just a few hours, so that we would have enough time to catch a car back to Aqaba, cross back to Eliat and get back on another five hour bus to Jerusalem (lol).
This all started with waking up at 4:30am so that we could get to Petra right when it opened at 6am. I have to say, this was probably the best decision we made on this whole trip. You have to go right when the site opens to visitors at 6am. I thought the place would be swarming with other people trying to get in early, but we were actually the only people there! So try to imagine having all of Petra to yourself, because that is literally what we had. And omg, the photo ops. The chance to take pictures without randos in the background. It was like a dream come true. Walking down the siq, and watching the treasury open up before your eyes, with no one else there, is just plain mystical. No other word can describe it.
Another very important reason to go at the crack of dawn: avoid the heat! Petra is in the middle of the desert, so temperatures can easily climb over 100 degrees (Fahrenheit!), and by the way there is not much protection from the sun. If you go in the morning you will have a good hour or two with temperatures at 80 degrees. The lower temperatures also gave us the chance to keep a pretty good pace, which meant we hiked from one end to the other in just two hours! (Eight hours? yea right, British lady!) So Petra only took four hours round trip. We weren’t even rushing either; we still had plenty of time to stop and take all the pics we wanted.
Side note: there are stray dogs all over the place in Petra. You don’t have to be afraid of them, but they will follow you around in hopes of food. It is really sad, especially if you are a huge dog lover like me. To be honest, this was kind of a big downer for the trip. I wish I could have saved them all.
Hiking from the treasury of Petra (the front entrance) all the way to the monastery (the back end) is definitely worth it. The monastery is huge, and there are some great look out points around there. And once again, thanks to getting there so early, we had no one in our photos!
After a little over four hours, we reemerged from Petra dusty, sweaty, and ready to get back to Israel. We successfully saw all of Petra, and then journeyed seven hours back to Jerusalem, and five of those hours were spent on the floor of a bus: