The temperature dipped from 22degs at dead sea to 2 as we reached Petra. It was 7:30 in the evening and in no time we checked into our hotel and headed out for "Petra by night"A 30 minutes walk from the entrance of the complex on a candle lit path, to witness the 'treasury' (Petra' s poster boy) gleaming with yellow light of 100s of candles below it, under a star studded sky. We couldn't have asked for a better end of our HECTIC first day in Jordan.(PBN starts at around 8:30pm , is organized only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and costs 17 JD).
Let’s start from the top, literally. If you missed watching The Martian in 3D, here is the real deal. Skydiving in Jordan will effortlessly transport your imagination to another universe and is guaranteed to leave you teary-eyed, seeing the grandeur of our home planet.However, if plummeting towards earth at 200km/hr is not your cup of tea, get your adrenalin pumping by taking a Microlight flight for an equally surreal experience. For a more leisurely alternative, a hot air balloon ride allows you to enjoy an aerial view of each auburn fold and crevice across the landscape.
Wadi Rum Protected Area
It is a valley cut into the sandstone and granite rock in southern Jordan 60 km to the east of Aqaba; it is the largest wadi in Jordan.Wadi Rum has been inhabited by many human cultures since prehistoric times, with many cultures–including the Nabateans–leaving their mark in the form of rock paintings, graffiti, and temples.In the West, Wadi Rum may be best known for its connection with British officer T. E. Lawrence, who passed through several times during the Arab Revolt of 1917–18.Filming locationThe area has been used as a background setting in a number of films. Filmmakers are particularly drawn to it for science fiction films set on Mars.Lawrence of Arabia ,Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – represented as being in Egypt, Krrish 3 – the song 'Dil Tu Hi Bata' ,and last but not the least , The Martian – filming for the Ridley Scott film began in March 2015, for shots that stood in for the surface of Mars.
The Treasury (al-Khazna)
Off the beaten path experience in Petra: Ibrahim and I entered from a backdoor entrance which is strictly only for bedouins and rangers working in Petra. After a little talk, the guards finally let me in with Ibrahim. Wow, that first sight was mind blowing specially because there was literally nobody except both of us in this whole site. Tourists enter Petra from the front entrance and they always go for the "Al Khazneh" (aka Treasure) first and then make their way to the famous monastery We took the opposite path and hence, the whole walk towards the monastery was just excellent.
The hike was easy, was very long. I had enough food and water on me to keep my energy levels high. We kept walking on this beautiful rock formations, met hers of sheep and goats and also explored some natural rock arch formations. Then we arrived at the Byzantine Church and Ibrahim told me about the incredible history behind it. Read more about it here. Ibrahim was also a trained and professional guide in Petra and hence he knew everything about the place. He also had many friends in the site who offered us free Jordanian tea and food and declining food offers are considered very impolite in Jordan and hence I would always end up having free meals????.
Wadi Rum Camping
Post the safari (and sunset), we were brought to our campsite. The arrangements were very basic (little disappointing for the price we paid), but full efforts were put in to give us an exclusive 'Bedouin' experience.We spent the (new years) night singing Bedouin songs around a bonfire, fighting cold with our blankets, under a sky filled with stars. Something which is hard to get in these modern times.(55 JD per person for safari, stay and 2 meals. Although pricey, I would still recommend it. )
Do you remember Indiana Jones and the last Crusade? Remember how the caravans traveled between the big rock formations? Well, that is called the "Siq" and here I was entering the Siq. The Siq leads to the treasury from the main entrance gate. Because I did the other way round, I walked in the Siq while exiting Petra. Nevertheless, it was just way too amazing feeling. The mammoth rocks and their intriguing colors definitely made me feel like it was all worth this whole hassle of coming to Jordan! I loved it.
Day 3 : Taking the Kings’ Highway, an ancient caravan and pilgrimage route, we traveled to Mt Nebo where God permitted Moses a glimpse of the Promised Land before died. Moses is believed to be buried nearby however his tomb has never been identified. Just 10 minutes down the Highway is Madaba, famous for the mosaic map of the Holy Lands, discovered in the 6th Century St George Church during renovations. Heading south towards Petra, we passed through magnificent Wadi Mujib canyon. The canyon cuts through the mountains down to the Dead Sea and is a popular location for hikers. Continue through Kerak, passing Dana Nature Reserve to reach the ruins of Shobak Castle. The Crusader Castle was built by King Baldwin I of Jerusalem and it is here that Richard the Lion Heart was defeated by Saladin. Further down the Highway we reached Petra also known as wadi musa . The street near the main attraction has lot of hotels and restaurants . You can choose any according to your budget. I suggest living near to the attraction so as to start early in the morning . As there is lot of walking involved while exploring the beautiful treasury.Day 4 : Be ready to explore the new seven wonder of world as early as possible in the morning . The attraction opens up at 6 in the morning. The entrance fee to the attraction is 50Jd each and it is good if you hire a guide because then only you can be familiarized with the beautiful architecture built by the Nabetians . There is walk of around 2 km to the breathtakingly beautiful treasury. Continue along the Street of Facades, past the Roman Theater to the Royal Tombs. See the Byzantine Church, Blue Church, colonnaded street, Great Temple, Temple of the Winged Lions, Qasr al-Bint and museum. The guided tour are up to this point only . But there are still many more things to be explored . Many of them involve lot of climbing through the uneven stairs . We choose to climb the 800+ steps to the Monastery . The other rolls Ds which can be explored are the High Place of Sacrifice. Please wear comfortable shoes as you will easily walk around 10 km and also carry water with you .Although there are many shops inside the main building but they are insanely priced. As it gets really hot by 11 . We left at around 7:30 and we were to hotel by 4. We wanted to try other things like Petra by Kitchen or the Petra by night but we were way too tired to try anything . We just decided to go for a Turkish bath , a very different experience it costed around 15JD and was worth it . Made us feel fresh and light .
We did all this in a resort, which took 20 JD per person (and in return gave almost no facilities). All dried up and covered in salt , we resumed our journey towards Petra. Driving along beautiful coastline of dead sea, the highway proved worthy of its name as it was filled with spectacular landscapes, making this longer alternative of reaching Petra worth every penny !
I used an eco- toilet where they recycled the phosphorus (something to remind me that I still have a PhD to finish on this back in Amsterdam :P) and I happily used it and took a selfie with it too????. I also changed my shirt here just to look different in my other pictures from here. Yes, I am a bit crazy and I love it????. So, I went more up from the monastery with Ibrahim because his brother had a shop on the highest point of Petra. The views were stunning and not many people who make it to the monastery actually go here. I urge you to climb a bit more and you won't regret it. After having tea at the highest point, I decided to head back to the monastery and climb down.I found myself a victim of all those hawkers on the way wanting to sell me stuff and it can get very very annoying at some point. Anyways, it was around 4:30 pm already and most of the visitors were leaving and hence I had to be quick. Even though I was fully equipped for the dawn as I had heard that Petra gets really dark in the night, I decided to slowly head back to the main entrance and leave Petra by 7 pm. You are very safe in Petra as rangers do rounds, but if you are in one of the caves with a bedouin (not uncommon), nobody can actually trace you. So, be careful if you are traveling by yourself. Try to leave the site just after the sunset.
Dana Biosphere Reserve
For nature lovers, Jordan is a delightfully unspoiled paradise. Dana Biosphere (Central Western Jordan), which is just 24 kilometers away from Shobak is Jordan’s largest nature reserve. It is both biologically and historically rich, with traces of Neolithic villages, ancient copper mines, Roman aqueducts and Byzantine churches found among its wilderness. It is highly diverse and the geology ranges from limestone to sandstone to granite mountains, lush hilly slopes, oak and juniper forests to scraggly scrublands and arid sandy deserts. It has some excellent campsites and guesthouses including the award winning Feynan Ecolodge. Several hiking trails are open and apart from a dizzying variety of birds (eagles, falcons, cuckoos, vultures etc) Dana is teeming with jackals, hyenas, wildcats, porcupines, hares, bats, hedgehogs, lizards, snakes, wolves, ibex, chameleons and fresh water crabs. More than 700 plant species have been recorded at Dana and recently 3 newly discovered plants have been found there.