A trip to Jordan in the Middle East opens up a wealth of historic and desert experiences. Petra offers both.
It is to the Nabataeans principally that we owe the unique treasure of this UNESCO World heritage listed ancient desert city. Once a thriving trade hub, and home to over 30,000 inhabitants, today the city is a deeply dramatic ghost city swirling in the intriguing traces of everyone from the Romans and the Crusaders, through to Lawrence of Arabia.
Petra was hewn from, and indeed into, the rugged red sandstone that rises all around with the highlights the Treasury, Monastery and the Royal Tombs. Camels used to drive the caravans through the shifting sands to Petra and these days they are still on hand to ferry around tourists in this pedestrianised oasis.
You can also hike around the expansive site on foot or explore on a donkey, or even a horse and carriage. Returning at night reveals a very different, perhaps even more impressive, floodlit Petra.
Where is it?
In the interior of the south of Jordan, around 250km south of the capital Amman and around 100km north of the port city of Aqaba.
What is it?
A UNESCO World Heritage listed once lost city, its grand buildings carved into red rock, now open as the premier tourist destination in the Jordanian deserts.
Best time to visit?
Petra can be visited at all times of year, though Spring (March to May) and Autumn (September-November) are the most comfortable times to visit when temperatures are cooler. At the height of Summer in July and August the mercury can nudge above 35C, while in Winter this desert zone can be bitterly cold.
Follow in the footsteps of the ancient Bedouin caravans and descend through the Al-Siq rock shaft (at points as narrow as 3m wide, but vaulting to almost 200 high), with your camera ready for your first glimpse of the unparalleled Treasury.