The temples and houses of Petra were carved out of the desert rock some 2,000 years ago by the Nabataean civilisation, and the city was an important crossroads on the ancient trade routes of Arabia. After the Nabataeans, the area was settled by the Romans, Crusaders and the Byzantine Empire, all of whom left churches, fortifications and monuments. But it’s the imposing rock-hewn buildings of Nabataeans, including the Hellenistic-style Treasury and Monastery, that remain the most impressive.
The city was lost to the Western world for centuries, until it was rediscovered by a Swiss explorer in 1812. Today, Petra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is ranked as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. On a Petra tour, you can make your way on foot through the 1.2-kilometre Siq, a narrow gorge that will lead you to the magnificent Treasury. Various walks around the site will reveal hundreds of other smaller buildings and tombs.
Petra is a four-hour drive from Amman and is a large site with much to see, so we suggest staying for at least two nights. Touring Petra with a guide will bring the region’s history to life, and the ‘Petra By Candlelight’ experience is a magical way to experience the site after dark. Siq Al Barid, also known as Little Petra, is a less-visited site nearby with some smaller rock-cut buildings and offers interesting insights into the Nabataean way of life.