Exploring Petra and Wadi Musa

by Audrey on June 12, 2014 · 24 comments

Call me naive, but before coming to Petra I thought the Treasury was it. I had no idea about the Monastery, or the Royal Tombs, or the fact that there is also a Little Petra! Nor had I ever heard of Wadi Musa - the town closest to the archaeological site of Petra, which acts as a jump-off point for travellers exploring the Lost City.

Because Petra (namely the Treasury) tends to get most of the attention, in today’s post I wanted to highlight some of the many things you can do in and around Petra and Wadi Musa during your visit. From 2000-year-old cave bars to Jordanian cooking classes, there are plenty of activities to keep you busy!

Visiting Little Petra in Jordan.

Visit Little Petra

Petra may get all the fame, but there are other historical sites in the area worth visiting like Little Petra. Also known as Siq al-Barid (Cold Canyon), Little Petra is located about a 10 minute drive from the Petra and it is believed to have been an important suburb of the Rose City. While Little Petra is not as large and spread out as Petra, there are still many similarities between the two; much like the entrance to Petra, reaching Little Petra also involves walking through a narrow gorge and once you enter you’ll find tombs, storage houses and residences carved into the rock. You can even still see frescoes in some of these buildings! Another nice thing about a visit to Little Petra is that it’s not quite as popular as nearby Petra, so there are less visitors to share the attraction with.

Hike to the Monastery

Because I was pressed for time I personally didn’t make it all the way up to the Monastery. I ended up walking out to the Royal Tombs instead, however, a few of my friends did choose the Monastery and they came back with rave reviews of it. The hike takes about an hour to complete and it involves climbing 850 steps in the desert heat. It’s actually recommended that you tackle this climb in the afternoon when there is a bit more shade along the way.

Visiting the archaeological sites in Petra, Jordan.

Explore Petra beyond the Treasury

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there is so much more to Petra than just the Treasury! The journey has only begun once you walk through the Siq and finally reach that iconic structure. From there you’ll want to continue further into the city and make visits to the Urn Tomb, the Corinthian Tomb, the Palace Tomb, the Cardo Maximus, the Great Temple, the Columbarium, the Winged Lion’s Temple, and more. You could spend days exploring the little caves that line these red sandstone walls, so give yourself plenty of time here.

Visit Petra by Night

If you’re not left completely wiped by hiking in and out of Petra during the daytime, then you may want to check out Petra by Night. When darkness falls over the Lost City, candles are lit and visitors are invited to enjoy a Bedouin music performance set in front of the Treasury. Petra by Night takes place on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. (If this is your first time to Petra, it’s recommended you first visit during the day and then save Petra by Night for your second visit. The reason for this is that because it’s dark you won’t me able to see all the little details that make Petra so special, and you might be a little disappointed by the lack of grandeur.)

Camels, horses and donkeys. Various forms of transportation in Petra.

Ride a horse, a camel, or a donkey

Because it’s a bit of a journey to reach Petra, there is the option of hiring various forms of animal transportation to get you there. You will see horse-drawn carriages pulling people through the Siq, and there are also horses, camels, and donkeys for hire to explore the rest of the archaeological site. Honestly though, if you’re able to walk I would recommend you get yourself there on your own two feet. Many of the animals I saw there didn’t look like they were well taken care of and some even had visible wounds from gear that was too tight – it was a little heartbreaking. There will be many people offering you rides inside Petra, so if your legs are tired and you do decide to go with this option, try to find someone who is handling their animals with care.

Hike up to Aaron’s Tomb

Aaron’s Tomb is an important religious site in Jordan. The tomb is that of the Biblical Aaron, the brother of Moses, who died in Jordan and was buried on Mount Hor (now called Mount Aaron). Both a Byzantine church and later an Islamic shrine were built on this very site, and today both pilgrims and hikers alike are welcome to ascend to the peak. Again, due to time restraints I didn’t have enough time to hike this one myself – I merely saw it in the distance as we drove away. However, if you’re an avid hiker this is something you can try. Aaron’s Tomb sits at 1,350m above sea level so a certain level of fitness is required to reach it. The hike can take anywhere between 2-3 hours to complete.

Scrub down at a hammam

Hiking around Petra and exploring the little corners of the Lost City takes a lot out of you. There are long distances to cover and sometimes it feels like the desert is trying to shrivel you up into a raisin! If you need a little pampering, then you can always consider checking out Al Yakhor Turkish Bath for a local hammam experience. Nothing quite like a sauna, scrub, and massage to leave you feeling refreshed and ready to take on the next day. (And you get to keep your bathing suit on here!)

Taking a cooking class at Petra Kitchen.

Take a cooking class at Petra Kitchen

If you enjoy Jordanian food, a cooking class is a great way to take those Middle Eastern recipes back home with you. I’ve tackled cooking classes in Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand so I was happy to try my hand at making dishes like baba ghanoush (eggplant dip), tabbouleh (a bulgur, tomato, and parsley salad), and fattoush (a mixed vegetable salad topped with fried pieces of pita bread) in Jordan. What I liked about the cooking class at Petra Kitchen is that it had a very communal feel with everyone working together to create a shared meal. After a brief little intro and getting to know the participants over drinks, we were divided into groups to work on different recipes. At the end we shared the food we had made with others, and they in turn shared their creations with us. It was a really fun way to spend the night and I left feeling stuffed!

Enjoy drinks and shisha at the Cave Bar

I’m usually one to go to bed early, but if you’re looking for a fun night on the town, the Cave Bar is the place to be. Set in a 2000-year-old tomb (talk about location!), the Cave Bar is a good place to enjoy a few drinks and smoke a little bit of shisha. It’s not particularly crowded, so if you’re looking for more ambiance it’s best to go with a group of friends.

So there you have it – a brief little guide to Petra and Wadi Musa! As a side note, if you’re planning a trip to Jordan and Petra is on your itinerary, I would recommend spending at least 3 days here. It’s impossible to cover the archaeological site in one day and you’ll likely find yourself wanting to go back to hike to the various vantage points and experience the city at different times of day. Aside from that, the town of Wadi Musa is also worth a little wander, so give yourself plenty of time.

Have you been to Petra and Wadi Musa?
What else would you recommend doing?

For more Jordan posts you can read:

Petra: Journeying into the Lost City

Destinations in Jordan, because there’s more than just Petra!

Memories from Camping with Bedouins in Wadi Rum

A Night at the Dana Biosphere Reserve

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Ashley June 12, 2014 at 11:53 am

The food from your cooking class looks/sounds delicious! And who knew you could have a drink in a 2000-year-old tomb?!
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Lauren June 12, 2014 at 11:58 am

What an amazing experience! There is so much to see and do here. I love the idea of hiking during the day, but the night experience sounds amazing too. I also would love to do the cooking class!
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Marilyn June 12, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Always learning something from your posts Audrey ..thank you for your generosity

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Sam June 12, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Who doesn’t enjoy Jordanian food?! The Monastery was absolutely my favourite place in Petra – so amazing. And going up there early in the morning, I was completely alone, except for a poor donkey someone had left tied up. Such a beautiful place, I’m so looking forward to going back some day.
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Lauren Meshkin @BonVoyageLauren June 12, 2014 at 4:37 pm

Such a great guide! Definitely bookmarking this one. Thanks for sharing, Audrey.

Happy travels :)
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Anna @ It Started in Asia June 12, 2014 at 5:18 pm

This is fantastic – love a helpful honest review. I too always thought that Petra was pretty much just the Treasury and surrounding caves. Advising that you need at least three days is very helpful. Cheers for sharing Audrey.
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Angela Travels June 12, 2014 at 6:11 pm

I love finding places that I did not know existed after only really knowing about the most popular attraction. I have always wanted to visit Petra and am glad I found this post. It is fun to hike and explore around more, so if I make it, then I will be allotting time to be sure to try out the less common tourist attractions you mentioned.
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Sand In My Suitcase June 12, 2014 at 6:12 pm

It sounds like you had a wonderful time in Petra too :-). We spent two full days in the Petra area – and rode a donkey up to the Monastery (hopefully the donkey was ok with that!), then walked back down. The second day we explored Little Petra. It was all archaeology for us! We didn’t get to soak in a hammam or try a cooking class (so your experience was probably more rounded).
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Zoe @ Tales from over the Horizon June 12, 2014 at 10:33 pm

Thanks for these tips. I know almost nothing about Petra except for that REALLY famous photo that is sent around the internet everywhere. Your post is really interesting.
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Rebekah June 13, 2014 at 12:59 am

That looks amazing, I’m always looking for a good hike. I’ve thought about trying to take cooking classes while I travel and I’ll have to look into that more, it seems like a perfect way to remember a place is by reproducing the amazing food
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iboutdoor June 13, 2014 at 6:13 am

Here’s how not to do it….

http://iboutdoor.com/injured/

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Renuka June 13, 2014 at 7:08 am

I have always been fascinated by Petra. Nice to read about it on your blog. :) Sounds like you had an interesting and exciting trip there.
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Shikha (whywasteannualleave) June 13, 2014 at 11:39 am

I love love love this post!! So great to read about the other things that are a bit more off the beaten track other than the treasury – I’ve never been to Petra but I’m really hoping to go in the next year or two and will definitely take on board these tips. I’m excited to look more into the Jordanian cooking class, which sounds like a lot of fun!
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Justine June 13, 2014 at 2:41 pm

I want to go to Petra so badly. This sounds like a great “to-do” list. And that Cave Bar sounds so awesome. What better place to hang out and smoke shisha than a 2,000-year-old tomb? Sounds like fun!
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Anna | slightly astray June 16, 2014 at 2:46 pm

Petra has been on my travel wishlist for a long time! I love these suggestions of alternate things to do. I’m glad you mentioned the animals looking like they weren’t being well taken care of. That’s something that I’ve always been conflicted about… As cool as it’d be to ride a camel, I wouldn’t do it at the expense of the animal’s welfare!
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Rebekah Voss June 17, 2014 at 8:17 am

Thank you for these wonderful photos of Petra, Audrey! Jordan looks so deliciously different from anyplace I’ve ever been, Turkey and Jordan are on the top of my bucket list. And by bucket list, I mean next year.
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Maria Alexandra @LatinAbroad June 17, 2014 at 6:49 pm

I am SO happy to finally see you are on the Middle East! I miss Petra so much and definitely, climbing the monastery with a Bedouin was the highlight :-)

I have a random question though: how do you make those high quality photo collages? what editing software do you use? I’m currently looking around for some! thanks in advance ;)

-Maria Alexandra
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Audrey June 17, 2014 at 10:03 pm

That trip to Jordan was great! It’s made me realize that I want to spend some more time travelling in the Middle East. :) And as for the photo editing, I’m just using Picasa. They have a collage option and it’s pretty simple to use.

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Karyn @ Not Done Travelling June 18, 2014 at 2:24 am

Looks awesome! It strikes me as a little similiar to Angkor Wat, in that a lot of people think it’s just the one building, whereas there are about 3 cities’ worth of ruins and crumbling temples to explore. If Petra was big enough to support a building like the Treasury, it would no doubt be big enough to have loads of other ruins too!
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Tiana June 22, 2014 at 1:32 am

Your photos are gorgeous!! Officially added to my bucket list..
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Vanessa @ Green Global Travel June 28, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Jordan looks and sounds amazing!! That’s crazy that there is a bar in a 2000 year old tomb! Loads of history there. Thanks for sharing!

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Laura @Travelocafe June 28, 2014 at 6:49 pm

You made these places sound so wonderful… Now I want to explore them, too.
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Jade August 5, 2014 at 6:09 am

Beautiful! I can’t wait to visit Jordon… but I want to save it until my son is older and can hopefully remember it
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Barry Turner August 10, 2014 at 12:08 am

Think twice about taking a horse or buggy ride down to the Treasury. Most of the animals looked very overworked and distressed. A couple of young Jordanians at the start of the siq asked me to sign their petition seeking government support for better treatment of the animals.

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