July 30th 2015
If you’re headed towards Israel for a tour that spans the entire country, you’ll surely visit Eilat, a place where the sun almost always shines and the Dead Sea water sport opportunities are unparalleled. You may not realize, however, that just a hop, skip and a jump (or a bus ride) away are the breathtaking sights of Petra.
Making the trek to see the red cliffs and carved palatial structures immortalized for Westerners by the iconic scenery of the third Indiana Jones movie is well worth it – after all, the cliffs were classics long before Steven Spielberg used them in his film.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Because it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Petra enjoys the protection and conservation services of World Heritage properties, and for good reason. Petra is surrounded by mountains, half carved into the rock and half built in Nabatean times. Well situated at the meeting point of ancient trading nations, it was a commercial center for hundreds of years and is now one of the globe’s largest, richest archeological sites.
The design of the temple and tombs here, as well as a network of reservoirs and cisterns, attest to the civilization that once thrived, providing a compelling visual tableau for visitors today.
Hiking Through the Mountains
Together with its surrounding rock formations, Petra is a sprawling park. There is a great deal to see, both in terms of man-made structures and natural scenery. Trek through Jordan’s desert peaks to come to Petra the “back way,” through the carved landmark known simply as The Monastery, or Ad Deir.
Exploring beyond the main ancient city, visitors will find the excavated town of Dana, traverse Wadi Araba and climb the Sharah Mountains. Alternatively, hike up Umm al-Biyara, the highest point in Petra. It’s not for the faint of heart, but know that the view that awaits you at the peak is as remarkable as you could hope for.
The Natural Wonder of Siq
A twisting, winding, rocky gorge that functions as the passage between extremely tall rock formations, the Siq (meaning, “shaft”) is the main entrance to what was once a major city for trade. The Siq appears to have been sacred to the Nabateans who once lived here, and it was clearly a key thoroughfare, as revealed by decorative statues of merchants and underground chambers that may have been where the Petra guards were stationed.
Walking through it takes about half an hour, a shaded, pleasant walk that brings you to the famed Treasury structure.
Overall, Jordan has much to offer the international traveler, but you don’t necessarily have to consider visiting here to be a major excursion. Thanks to the relative accessibility of Petra from the border crossing near Eilat, it’s easy to include a visit to this ancient wonder as part of your Israel itinerary.