Wadi Musa (Petra), Jordan

  • Visited August 2018

The best way to get from Amman to Wadi Musa? Via the King’s Highway. The scenery on route is amazing and there are some interesting places to visit on the way. My hostel would have charged me 125JD to do this journey with a driver alone but I was lucky and found three other people from the hostel to share the ride with me, so it cost 30JD each. There are of course cheaper ways of getting from Amman to Wadi Musa – most people take the JETT bus that costs 10JD and leaves at 6.30 am every morning or you can take the public bus for 7JD but it is not as comfortable as the JETT bus and not much room for luggage – but we left at 8 am and had an enjoyable time seeing sites such as Karak Castle, Mujib Dam and Ash Shawbak Castle, before arriving in Wadi Musa. If you have the Jordan Pass, all the sites are free to visit but without the pass you would usually pay 1 – 2JD to enter. I didn’t have a pass but I just said I did at the sites, no one asked to check, and got to enter for free. Our driver Omar was great, very entertaining and knowledgeable and the other advantage of having a private driver instead of taking the bus is that you get dropped off directly at your hotel.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from travelling in Jordan during the Eid-al-Adha holiday but I can recommend it. Most of the sites I’ve visited have been fairly quiet and this is considered low season in terms of prices. I have found Jordan to be very expensive during this visit but I am told the prices go even higher soon in high season. The weather has been hot but not unmanageably so don’t be put off coming in summer.

Wadi Musa is a very relaxed town and a welcome relief after the mania of Amman. I felt very comfortable here and as the town caters to so many tourists, I found everyone to be very hospitable. Most people stay a night or two for Petra but I was glad I’d booked three nights as it gave me a chance to chill and enjoy Petra without rushing.

Petra is one of the new 7 Wonders of the World and it is truly spectacular. I have wanted to visit for a long time and it was everything I expected and more. It is not cheap to visit but it needs to be done at least once in a lifetime. It costs 50JD to enter for one day, 55JD for two days and 60JD for three days for visitors staying overnight in Jordan or you can enter with a Jordan Pass. Tickets can be bought from the visitor’s centre and you must have your passport with you to purchase the ticket. I bought my ticket the day before I wanted to visit to ensure I could go straight in when I was dropped off from my hotel. This worked out well because it meant The Siq and Treasury (Al-Khazneh) were not overcrowded and the light was perfect for photos. I got to the Treasury by 8.15 am and then walked straight to the Monastery (Ad-Dayr) which took me 1 hour 15 mins to reach, and again was not overcrowded. The Petra site is very big, with various trails and sites to see, but the majority of people visiting will just do the main trail which is easy to follow and runs from The Siq to The Monastery. The trail to The Monastery involves climbing around 850 steps and some may find it challenging but it’s not too difficult if you go early in the day before the heat of the sun kicks in and just go at your own pace. There are some shaded places you can stop for rest breaks but you will need a hat, sunscreen and plenty of water with you.

The main trail is well-signposted but you can pick up a map from the visitor’s centre when you buy your ticket or download the Petra app. Be warned, you will be pestered constantly for horse, donkey, camel rides and to buy souvenirs from the local sellers who pitch stalls throughout the site, including all the way up to The Monastery. For me, chatting to the locals is all part of the experience and I enjoyed several cups of tea on the way and down from The Monastery with local women. They are quite pushy about trying to sell you things though but the trick is to be polite but firm. Carriage and horse rides are included in the ticket price but you will be expected to give a tip – negotiate this up front if you want a ride. If you don’t want to be bothered by people trying to sell you things etc then just wear some headphones and they will leave you alone.

Food and beverages are over-priced at the site as you would expect but my hotel made a packed lunch for me and I took a couple of bottles of water along. If you don’t want to do that, you can buy refreshments from the few restaurants and stalls. After a day of hiking, the Cave Bar (the oldest bar in the world as it occupies a 2000-year old Nabataean rock tomb) just outside the entrance gate to Petra Park offers a two-for-one drinks happy hour between 3pm and 4pm if you fancy a cold beer like I did. It’s a cool place to check out anyway and is atmospheric for an evening meal. Al-Wadi Restaurant in Wadi Musa is a recommended choice for a tasty lunch or dinner – the chicken Maqluba was delicious and very filling.

I had a lovely day exploring the Petra site but the only aspects that spoilt the experience for me were the way animals are treated and the child sellers. Lazy tourists can pay to take a donkey ride up to The Monastery but it isn’t pleasant to see. The donkeys are hit to make them go and do not look well cared for. The hike up to The Monastery is really not that challenging if you do it early in the day so give the donkeys a break and don’t get a donkey ride up there. Also, don’t encourage child labour and buy any souvenirs or services (such as guiding you on a trail or a donkey ride) from a child at the site. My other recommendation is don’t bother doing the Petra By Night experience which is an extra 17JD on top of your day ticket. This involves seeing The Treasury lit by candlelight but I hear this is overpriced for what it is.

I didn’t do the expensive day trip/over night Bedouin camping experience in Wadi Rum either (most people go from Wadi Musa to Wadi Rum to visit/stay) but that was just due to personal choice – the pictures of Wadi Rum look amazing but having lived in Dubai for over ten years and camped in the desert many times, I decided not to bother. It does sound like a great experience though so if you’ve never driven or stayed in a desert before then do it.

Selection of pictures from my stay:

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