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Petra, Jordan

Petra, Jordan travel guide

Cook with Bedouin guides, trek from a nature reserve, play Indiana Jones in a desert canyon – discover Jordan's 'lost' city of Petra for yourself

Petra is Jordan’s biggest attraction and a genuinely breathtaking world wonder – the lost desert city of childhood imagination.

The ‘rose-red city’ of Petra was carved from sandstone outcrops by the Nabataean people, and at its peak in the 1st century AD was a major trading hub and home to 30,000 people. After the Nabataean civilisation declined, Petra was forgotten by the West until ‘rediscovered’ in 1812 by the Swedish adventurer Johann Burkhardt, who travelled there in Arab disguise.

Today Petra is a Unesco World Heritage Site and receives thousand of visitors daily – but still delivers an unforgettable emotional punch.

The classic experience comes in two parts. First, there’s the walk (or horse ride) through a towering, winding sandstone canyon – the ‘Siq’ galloped through in the closing scene of Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade.

Then, after 1.2km, there’s the iconic view of Petra: the carved, sunlit façade of the Treasury (khazneh) framed by sheer rock walls.

But Petra isn’t just about a walk and postcard view. Beyond and above the Treasury are the remains of the 2,000-year-old city, including the huge monastery, royal tombs, a classical theatre and the Colonnaded Street leading to the Qasr al-Bint temple. Dozens of less-visited sites and mountain hikes beckon, including the High Place of Sacrifice Walk and the ascent of 1,350m Jebel Haroun.

Although you can ‘do’ Petra on a day-trip, a longer stay is more rewarding. For a truly immersive experience, consider the 50km walk to Petra from Dana, pioneered by Wanderlust award-winning guide Yamaan Safady, or get hands-on experience of Bedouin culture and cuisine at the Petra Kitchen.

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