Best time to go: March-April or October-November
This magnificent ancient city was built within the rocky cliffs of Petra more than 2000 years ago. Temples, tombs, palaces and monasteries were all carved out of the sandstone cliffs, the deep reds, purples and yellows of the cliffs giving the city its rose-red appearance.
Petra was the capital of the Nabatean kingdom in the 3rd century BC, its valuable positioning on the trade route from Damascus to Arabia ensuring that the Nabateans prospered from all the great spice, silk and slave caravans passing by.
It is suspected that the citizens were forced to abandon Petra in around 551 AD, and this awesome example of ancient architectural genius was forgotten by the western world until it was rediscovered by Johan Ludwig Burckhardt, a Swiss traveller in 1812.
Visitors today can approach the ruins through a narrow gorge called the ‘Siq’. From there it is possible to catch a tantalising glimpse of the Treasury, apparently so-called because bandits used to hide their treasure there. Indiana Jones fans will recognise the intricately carved facade instantly.
Other spectacular sights are the monastery, one of Petra’s best known monuments, which is actually an unfinished tomb that was used as a church in Byzantine times, the Lion Tomb, and the amphitheatre, which was intended to seat thousands.
It is difficult to appreciate the scale and splendour of Petra in photographs, Petra is definitely a must-see-in-person destination which is guaranteed to blow your mind.
Did you know?
- Petra was the location for Hollywood blockbusters such as ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade‘ and ‘The Mummy Returns‘
- the Siq is at points only three metres wide and 70 metres high
- the name Petra means ‘rock’