Located at the crossroads of the Middle East, Jordan is known for many sites, cities and experiences; these include the stunning desert of Wadi Rum, its modern bustling cosmopolitan capitol of Amman, the therapeutic waters of the Dead Sea and the well-preserved Roman ruins of Jerash. But no location in Jordan has drawn as many tourists and inspired so many travellers’ dreams as the exotic ancient Nabatean city of Petra. At the top of most visitors’ travel wish list, Petra both captivates the imagination and also delivers on its reputation. While most travellers only spend a day exploring the ruins of this once great city; for the traveller with a little more time there are many wonderful spots to enjoy around Petra and the local Jordanian village of Wadi Musa.
1. Petra by Night
Inspired by the days when travellers stayed in Nabatean tombs and homes that had been outfitted by local Bedouin with sleeping quarters for guests (and plenty of candles), Petra by Night is truly a memorable experience. Enjoy the stunning beauty of Petra by candlelight. Organized by a number of local tour operators, the evening begins at the entrance to Petra’s Siq (main entrance). Guests follow the slot-canyon deep into the ancient city; the path lit by hundreds of candles. The sky is a blanket of sparkling stars and off in the distance the twinkling lights of Wadi Musa can be seen. The journey through the Siq ends at the famous Treasury, also lit by candles. Local musicians play traditional Bedouin music while visitors sip on sweet mint tea and take in the stunning ambiance of Petra illuminated by flickering candlelight.
2. Little Petra
Just down the road from Petra (a 15–20 minute car ride beyond Wadi Musa), Little Petra is often overshadowed. A smaller version of its larger, older sibling; this site gives travellers the experience of getting up close to the Nabatean ruins. The best time to visit is Friday afternoon when local families walk through the town and picnic in the surrounding hills. Pack a lunch and join in this local tradition.
3. Wadi Musa
Meaning “the Valley of Moses,” Wadi Musa is the village that has grown around Petra. It is a collection of hotels, restaurants, and local shops where many local artisans sell their crafts. Given that Petra is the most visited place in Jordan, it is pleasantly surprising that Wadi Musa has retained a local, down-to-earth feel. Stick around this lively village after the tour buses leave in the afternoon to enjoy the true charm of small-town Jordan. Eat a meal at one of the excellent locally run restaurants serving tasty Bedouin cuisine, purchase pastries from the town baker or peruse the shops selling handmade trinkets.
4. Explore the Bedouin trails around Petra
Laced with a network of Bedouin trails, the wadis (canyons) around Petra are great spots to hike amongst the extensive sprawling Nabatean city. Most visitors only explore as far afield as the Monastery, but the entire area around Petra and Wadi Musa is a maze of hiking trails that have been used for centuries by the locals. The trails are not well marked so hiring a guide can be a good value and keep you from getting lost, or pick up a copy of a book covering the hikes in the area (and don’t forget plenty of water, sunscreen and a hat — the sun is quite fierce). Many of these trails take you through the back entrance to Petra. Others lead the highest point in the area, Umm al-Biyara, with its sweeping views of the Royal tombs, Street of Facades, Little Petra and the Monastery.
5. Spend the night under the stars in a Bedouin Camp
Tucked into narrow canyons around Petra and Little Petra, many Bedouin camps give travellers the experience of staying in a traditional Bedouin camp in the heart of the stunning wilderness around Petra. The beautiful, multicolored striated sandstone rock formations, the weathered facades of ancient Nabatean buildings and the stunning night skies that are packed with a thousand stars all make for a beautiful backdrop for these cozy Bedouin camps.
6. Enjoy the Sunset Overlooking Petra Valley
Along the road leading away from the town of Wadi Musa are a number of lookouts with dramatic views of Petra Valley. Catch the sunset at one of these viewpoints as the setting sun turns these rolling, rocky hills and jagged outcrops into a painter’s pallet of blues, pinks, purples, magentas. Tucked into the deep siqs and canyons below, the Nabataens tombs, homes and public buildings are hidden from view — a reminder why the Nabateans chose this protected spot to building their great city. The sweeping view of the valley and desert plains off in the distance showcases the beautiful and desolate land around Petra.
G Adventures runs a number of departures to Jordan encompassing a wide range of departure dates and activities to cater to different tastes. We’re thrilled at the prospect of showing you this enchanting country as you’ve never seen it — check out our small group trips to Jordan here.