Indiana Jones helped make Petra famous in the movie The Last Crusade, although several other Hollywood movies have also brought us glimpses of this incredible archeological site. I’ve visited 2-3 times, and would gladly go back again.
While few early adventurers (such as Lawrence of Arabia) were able to investigate the ruins from the Nabataean capital city, present day tourists are cordially welcome to make the trip into this ancient town (~2000 years old). Visitors and local Bedouins can freely wander through the marbled red homes, hewn with artistic flare from this community of rocks surrounding the narrow valley. The Romans came and went, leaving their mark with roads, amphitheatres, temples, a nymphaeum, and other architecture to endure unaided against the millennia. Admired for its ingenious complex of dams and water channels, Petra is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and another of the so-called new 7 Wonders of the World that awes visitors from around the globe
What struck me is the magnitude of the place, with over 800 different ‘monuments’. It’s not just the Al Khazneh (treasury) building carved into the rock face, it’s dozens and dozens of doorways which are clearly visible, each leading to a room which housed generations of families in times long past. While the Treasury is iconic from the first glimpse through the 1 km Siq (shaft) which was cleft through the otherwise impenetrable rock, these lesser famed homes are resolutely keeping their secrets from the adventurous few who venture from the path to explore beyond the beckoning thresholds.
Most people make a day trip to Petra from Amman, Jordan – and often do a loop to include the Desert Road one way and the Dead Sea the other. While this allows for the most amount of sightseeing, it can also become a tiring blur by the end of the day. I hope to write more about the Dead Sea in the future.
Take a camel ride along the Roman Road on the valley floor, although wait until you turn around to go back since you’ll likely be hot and tired … and you’ll appreciate the ride much more than backtracking up the hill. I’ve never taken the cart ride back up through the Siq, but have been somewhat envious of those who decided to take the easy way back. Take ample water with you as it can get very hot.
Rather than do a day trip from Amman, consider staying a night or two in Aqaba on the coast of the Red Sea. From this seaside town you can see Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt … and the snorkeling is a great way to cool off after a long hot day. You can also stay at Petra itself, making it possible to visit the rose coloured city in the early morning and late afternoon when the colours reportedly are the most striking.
http://www.atlastours.net/jordan/petra.html is one of the best websites I’ve found with additional information and details.