Exploring Petra

This is how I felt about reaching the treasury at Petra
Petra is possibly the most photographed site in Jordan. Most people would likely recognize the enormous carved stone treasury, featured in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I had seen photos, but I wanted to experience it first hand.

With the Jordan Pass, entry to Petra is included, along with 40 other sites. Remember to purchase the pass in advance of your visit. It is not available once you are in-country. You pay depending on how many days you want to visit Petra.  Originally, I thought I would want to go two days so I paid for the "Jordan Explorer." One day was plenty though, and quite frankly was so physically challenging that I'm not sure I would have enjoyed a second day anyway.

There are plenty of ways to see Petra, and it's always best to be there when the gates open or just after to have fewer people and cooler temperatures. I was there at 7:15 AM.  When you arrive at the parking lot, it's about a mile to get to the Treasury, which is the first major site. You can take a carriage, walk, or ride on horse. The horse is included in the entry fee, but if you're a larger person, it is discouraged you burden the animal. I hired a guide for 2 hours and it was 50 dinar. If you want a guide, just ask at the visitor center and they can hook you up. Be sure to find one that speaks your language so you can ask questions along the way about culture, lifestyle, food, etc. It's great to have one on one time with a local Bedouin, and you might be surprised at how much you will learn.

I hired a guide at the recommendation of my driver because I wanted to see as much as possible and get good photos in a short amount of time.  My driver knew him and so he arranged for him to meet me at the visitor center, and we walked. This was definitely worth it for me because he talked as we walked and he took me through some caves and to some viewpoints I would not have found on my own. It was nice to have a second set of hands to take photos as well. It's rare I get into my own photos, as I am not a huge fan of selfies.  He does this every day, so he knew where to go for the best view of the treasury.  He took photos using my iPhone while I used my camera. You might bring an iPhone portable charger if you plan to stay all day.  I downloaded one of the Petra apps on iTunes so I'd have a map, and used it after he left  to learn more about what I was seeing.  The paper maps from the visitor center are also good though, so I don't believe you need an app. I used mine more after the trip to remember what I had seen.
Photo ops with a camel at the treasury

The color of the stone in this cave was beautiful and unusual

I also brought a couple water bottles and some clif bars in my backpack because I'd been told there were really no places to eat and drink once inside Petra, but it wasn't true.  I would still bring water, but you can easily sit at a cafe near the treasury or at several other locations where you can have tea or juice.  I'd recommend the fresh squeezed pomegranate juice. It was delicious and made fresh in front of me.
You could have a fresh juice made before your eyes

If you want Bedouin-made souvenirs, I was told to purchase them at the shop across from the treasury because my guide said they help real people who live in the area.  Nothing was made in China here, according to him.  I found a beautiful necklace and the guide asked that it be polished so I picked it up on the way out of the park.  If you want something simple like scarves, they got cheaper as I walked further into the site.  What had been 12 dinar at the visitor center was 1 dinar on the steps to the monastery.  Bring cash and don't expect anyone to make change, because they might say they don't have it. And of course, feel free to barter on the prices. It's expected.
The Bedouin shopkeeper had something for everyone
Any scarf was just 1 dinar at the top

After the guide left me, I had planned to make my way to the monastery, though I really didn't know what to expect.  There are hundreds of stairs, which are uneven and rugged.  You really need sturdy shoes. I was asked by a Bedouin man who looked incredibly like Johnny Depp (and many Bedouins do) if I'd like to have a donkey ride, and I agreed.  We talked about a price, and agreed to 50 dinar, though at the end, he asked for more because we were together for nearly three hours, he offered lots of information about cave dwellings and Bedouin life, and I paid him 60.  I will say that it's important you agree on a price and stick to it. Also look at the animal to be sure it is well cared for.  It was a bit uncomfortable climbing up stairs on a donkey's back...but hey, I bet it was a lot more work for the donkey. Coming back down, you have to lead the donkey and walk until you're on even ground.
My Bedouin guide with his donkeys

At last! I reached the monastery...which isn't that different from the treasury 

I had agreed to meet my driver at 1 PM back near the visitor center, so though I did some walking from the treasury, I ended up taking the free horse ride for part of the way. I felt I had seen most of the highlights.  There are many more tourists who come only as far as the treasury and turn around. That would be a mistake, in my opinion.  Having seen the vistas, cave dwellings, and other rock formations from the highest points, I thought they were worth the extra walking.

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