May 14, 2016
The immense Petra complex is a difficult site to manage, especially after temperatures start to soar in May. We decided to break up our visit into three parts and began day one at 6am along the classic entrance through the siq (slot canyon) to the iconic Treasury façade. This is the most impactful way to begin any Petra experience.
At this early hour it was much cooler and a magical time to explore the siq with hardly a soul in sight. It was everything I imagined it to be and more. The scale is impressive but what you don’t notice in most photos is just how dazzling the stone walls are. The different colored layers swirl in intricate patterns. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
We got to the Treasury before the façade was directly lit. It is probably best photographed early, like this, or after it is fully lit later on in the morning. There were still no crowds and we could take our time taking as many shots as we wanted.
We continued down the siq towards the Theater and Royal Tombs. Past the Street of Façades is the trail up to the Sacred High Place. It’s before the Theater and on the opposite side of the road. Again the swirled stone is exquisite.
The shaded walk is up steep steps but manageable.
Once at the top we found the viewpoint to the right but the sky was hazy and the views already washed out by the intense sun. This viewpoint would be good for views of the Royal Tombs late in the day. At this hour they were still completely shaded.
Also at the top are these Obelisks which were carved in place, meaning all the stone was carved away leaving the pillars in living stone.
We then followed the trail towards the Roman Soldier’s Tomb – it starts to the left of the tea house across from the Obelisks. The way down is not so impressive at first, but once you reach the Lion Relief you descend down a carved stone staircase that takes you to a noteworthy area of tombs.
The Colored Tricilinium, a funerary banquet hall, is the only structure at Petra to have interior carved pillars.
It’s a hot walk back around toward the Royal Tombs and out the main pathway where we came in. Before you head down there is another good viewpoint for the Royal Tombs. Again, better viewed in the late afternoon light.
Back past the theater to the Treasury, the scene has completely changed with tour groups, camels and selfie stick wheeling tourists. We headed back out the way we came in to rest until the sun was lower in the sky.
Buying a multi-day ticket. Between the desk clerk at our hotel and the ticket office at the visitor center there was some confusion about when the ticket office opens and whether you could buy a ticket for the following day.
According to hotel clerk the ticket office doesn’t open until 6:30 but the gates to the ruins opens at 6AM. He therefore advised that we could buy tickets in the afternoon for the next morning. The clerk at the ticket office said that they are not allowed to sell tickets for the next day explaining that they do open at 6AM. They may officially open at 6, but the clerk doesn’t show up until closer to 6:30.
Our solution was to buy the three day ticket, 5 JOD more, even though we were only planning on a two day visit, so we could get in as early as possible. When we arrived shortly after 6AM the ticket office was still closed but the gate entrance was open. Judging by the subsequent foot traffic we figured the ticket office opened sometime before 6:30. In any case be sure to bring your passport as day trippers from neighboring countries are charged a much higher entrance fee.