Petra – The Pink City by Day (and by Night)

Seeing Petra has been on my bucket list for some time, but it wasn’t until last year, a friend of ours reinforced a trip to Jordan through pictures of mud masks in the Dead Sea, the out of this world landscape of Wadi Rum and the rocked-carved building facades of the ancient city. When we were leaving for our trip, friends, family and coworkers kept repeatedly asking, “why Jordan?” when we spoke of our holiday plans. If seeing one of the Seven Wonders of the World isn’t enough of a reason, there are plenty more things to do in Jordan, but Petra was certainly the highlight of our trip.

Petra by Night

We arrived in Wadi Musa, the town that sits at the entrance to Petra, around 330 in the afternoon after a long day of exploring the desert in Wadi Rum. Knowing we only had a short time to see Jordan, we planned our trip intentionally with a Monday arrival to Petra so that we could take part in Petra by Night which only takes place three days a week. For a short stay and not much time to spare, our hotel location could not have been more perfect as we chose the Movenpick Hotel, situated directly across from the Visitor’s Center and entrance to Petra. This choice was completely by coincidence, but the Movenpick is a beautiful hotel.  Although the rooms are dated by a few years, the hotel is stunning and the included breakfast was exceptional.



For Petra by Night you must have a Petra day ticket as well as a separate Petra by Night ticket. The day ticket you purchase from the Visitor’s Center, but our hotel sold us the Petra by Night tickets, which seems to be common practice around the city. Knowing that we would see Petra on Tuesday, I quickly ran to purchase our two day pass before the ticket booth closed temporarily at 4pm as I did not want to have to wait in any lines to enter Petra later in the evening. Although a slight inconvenience, from a cost perspective, the two-day pass is only 5 JD more than a one day pass, so it’s really a nominal charge. Petra by Night is an additional 17 JD.

To my surprise, there are actually two showings of Petra by Night, one around 7pm and the later one around 830pm (most of what I read referred to the 830pm show). This is not advertised on their website, so I’m not sure if this is year round or seasonal. We chose to go to the earlier one and despite my fears of it being over crowded, the walk in was relatively comfortable and uncrowded. We were easily let in after showing both of our entry tickets and were also surprised to see the gates already open having arrived close to 645pm.

It’s pretty magical to experience Petra for the first time during the evening. The walk in is about 30 minutes and it’s bordered by thousands of candles that light the way through the weaving Siq to get to the Treasury. It’s pretty surreal to walk the entire place in almost complete darkness under the stars. The whole experience is emersive. Along the way there is calming music echoing through the Siq walls and it feels as though you’re about to enter into a luxury spa treatment. DSC01511

Once we arrived at the end of the Siq, the walls open to a beautiful candlelit Treasury glowing in the darkness. I was surprised to see about 150 or so people already sitting in front of the display of candles on mats. We found seats a row back directly across from the Treasury door, but I wanted to get some good photos with my camera and mini-tripod. I saw some men laying mats along the right sides of the candle display to form a U shape and I quickly jumped to snag a spot in the front row. To my surprise not many people did the same so this area wasn’t overly crowded either.


Overall, the experience was quite beautiful and included a couple of musical performances echoing against Petra’s walls. There was an emcee for the evening that spoke of tranquility and the hope for peace across the globe. Hot tea was also served to everyone in attendance.

As the emcee began to close the performance, Josh and I got up to leave before the crowd as I had read that this was an excellent way to have the Siq mostly to yourself (and photos without hundreds of tourists in them). As we were about to leave, they quickly lit up the Treasury with a very brief and colorful light show. This allowed everyone with phones to get actual pictures because if you’re trying to capture any of this on your phone, I can tell you, it’s extremely difficult to get a good shot. It’s THAT dark.

We probably could have left a minute or two earlier and been better off as we didn’t quite have the extra time we were hoping for to capture good photos.  There were people leaving the Treasury right after us and also people coming down for the next showing almost immediately after us. I will say it seemed like three times as many more people were coming for the second show, but that could have just been how it appeared because we were walking against them and not with them.

The walk back also caught us a bit off guard. It’s a 40-45 minute walk, uphill, from the Treasury. We didn’t know it on the way down as it’s only a slight incline, but you definitely notice it on the way back. Wear comfortable shoes! A must for Petra.

Although short, the show is well worth it. It was such a unique experience and a great way to see the Treasury for the first time this way. It also completely changed the way we decided to visit Petra the following day, which is something that I would also highly recommend to anyone trying to avoid the massive amounts of tourists.

Petra (by day), through the “Back Door”

The following morning I was up by 6am and was hopeful that we could enjoy breakfast and get to Petra before 8am to avoid the time that the tourist buses arrive. I wanted to capture some of Petra’s most photographed sights under good lighting. All of my best laid plans went out the window when Josh woke up and was feeling ill. I was concerned that he would not even want to go to the city at all so we took it easy, had a light breakfast and waited for him to feel up to sight seeing.

I had read in Lonely Planet that there was a back door entrance to Petra that “saved 45 minutes walk to the Monastery” which is one of Petra’s most beautiful sights. Ironically, it’s also the hardest to get to. Not understanding the full scale of the city or the layout, the paragraphs I read described very different ways to get to the Monastery (Ad Deir) and not having read very thoroughly or doing much research, I had combined them into one secret short cut in my head – estimating about 40-45 minutes. There was a method to my madness though…Since we had already seen the Treasury by way of the Siq the night before  –  A MUST –  why not start at the Monastery (where most people would finish) and make our way to the Treasury (where everyone starts) in the mid to late afternoon, where there would be fewer tourists and better lighting overall.

We asked someone at the Movenpick about the Back Door entrance and he gave us a quick response, told us to take a taxi and that it would be 5-7 JD. We exited the hotel, haggled with a taxi driver for a minute and finally agreed to settle on 10 JD. He took us to a gravel lot with a small trailer and said “good luck”. We felt lost from the moment we arrived. We went to the trailer and met a man that barely spoke English. He asked for our tickets, made a call (he said something about 2-day) and then motioned for us to make our way down a gravel road (which also had a sign that said “entry closed due to maintenance”). “Are there signs?” I asked. No response. He definitely did not understand me, however, our journey had begun.

Fifteen minutes in, we still felt completely unsure. There were definitely ZERO signs. I pulled out my phone, and Googled the Monastery on Google maps and we basically used the compass feature to try to continuously walk in the direction that made the most sense. There were strange cars (that looked abandoned) sprinkled around and a few workers here and there. Every so often, we would see people, that looked like tourists, so we just kept walking towards that hill.

Eventually, on that very hill, we ran into a family and asked them if the Monastery was in our direction. “Yes, in about 2 to 2 and a half hours,” they replied. I thought they were joking. They were, indeed, not joking. We were already about 30 minutes in or more, so by this point, we were sort of committed. We also didn’t truly believe them 100 percent.

We continued on our way, came to what is the actual ticket entrance, or appeared to be and then started to see a few signs that pointed the way to the Monastery. The trail became more “evident” to a degree, so we felt a little more sure. About 30 minutes in, a bedoin man passed us asking “Do you need a guide?”. “No, thanks” we replied. After asking him about the Monastery, we were told we had about an hour and our hope was reinstated. We started to weave around the side of a mountain, taking steps here and there, approaching unique lookouts high above several canyons. The trail felt more purposeful, but the signs were absolutely long gone. At this point, we were just going off of gut and Google maps (or more like Google GPS because it doesn’t actually give you an type of route to follow).

A little further down the trail, we see more tourists, high up on a ledge. When it doubt, we just kept making our way to signs of life. As we approached the ledge, we begin to see Jordanian flags and a donkey. We hadn’t prepared for this long of hike and only brought a half bottle of water. With Josh not feeling well, we definitely needed to get some water. Luckily, there was a nice little shop with souvenirs, water, sodas and tea and we were able to take a break. The shopkeeper told Josh we were only halfway – by this point we had been hiking for at least an hour. Another couple was there and we began to chat with them about the hike. They mentioned they had started at Little Petra and were required to hire a guide when they arrived. They asked us if we too had a guide and we shrugged and told them no. They definitely seemed puzzled by this.


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After waters and rest, we continued on the path, this time much more obvious than before with a short stone wall bordering the main path. We weaved around and around various rock facings. It’s at this point in the story, that I will say, I really started to enjoy this part of the journey. We knew about how long we had to go, so we were no longer wondering (or wandering). We had water. The trail was much clearer. And there we were, at one of the Seven Wonders of the World with not a tourist in sight. The views were amazing and the hike, although long, wasn’t overly strenuous or terrible.

About 45 minutes to an hour after leaving the rest area, we stumbled on some sheep and again, saw signs of tourists. It was here where we could begin to see the top of the Monastery and knew that we had made it. We explored the beautiful sight, crawled into caves to take photos and, after a while, made our way back down to the Visitors Center. Again, there were tourists here, but not at all what you would expect since it’s just a pretty significant distance, and climb, from the Treasury. All in, with rests, the total trip was approximately two hours.


As we made our way down the 900 or so steps from the Monastery, I knew, despite the lengthy hike, that we had made the better choice. Lonely Planet ranks the hike from the Basin Restaurant up to the Monastery as ‘moderate’ and at 45 minutes. People looked miserable coming up those steps. If not miserable, then exhausted at the very least. I can’t imagine doing that at the end of a day in Petra after you’ve already walked and explored the ancient city – only to turn right around and walk back. The walk down is actually very charming. There are shop keepers throughout, beautiful views and plenty of places to rest and take it all in if you choose. We ended up stopping at the Basin Restaurant and the base for drinks and celebrated the fruits of our labor.

It’s here that I’ll note that after our Petra visit, I went back and re-read the Lonely Planet entry on “Petra through the Back Door”. Having thought there was just one entrance, there are actually two. One in which you can ‘shortcut’ the hike to the Monastery by getting dropped off at a location in town that leads to a 15 minute walk to Basin Restaurant (still no clue where this dropoff point is) or, the latter, which starts at Little Petra, takes an hour and a half and “requires a guide” because the trail can be hard to navigate. Our tourist friends at the half-way restaurant had said they started at Little Petra and that guides were there waiting to take people. My guess is that we started somewhere just beyond Little Petra, but this would make sense as Lonely Planet’s description of the trail is exactly what we encountered. 


The rest of the journey was pretty smooth and uneventful. We made our way back down to the Treasury at a relaxed pace, taking in our surroundings. I will say that we did not go to several of the ‘star-rated’ attractions in the guidebooks, i.e. the tombs and High Place of Sacrifice. Josh and I enjoy sight-seeing, but neither of us are big history buffs. We prefer the ‘highlight reel’ of most major tourist attractions. A full day at Petra was already a little more than we had signed up for.

At the end of the day, we arrived at the Treasury and my intuition had been right. It was about 330pm and the Treasury and surrounding area was all under shade (no weird shadows or overhead bright lighting to distort photos). And there were only a handful of tourists making their way around. It was easy to climb the paths across from the Treasury to take photos. We made friends with a fun and friendly camel in front of the Treasury and had plenty of time for videos and selfies with him. We took photos in prime locations and didn’t have to patiently wait for other tourists to exit out of our frames. It was exactly how you want to experience the sights that everyone loves, without the heavy crowds!


We made our way back through the Siq, again, almost undisturbed and eventually decided to ride the free horses back up the 20 minute incline from the Siq to the Visitor Center. All in, we were around 5 hours and were pretty tired by this point.


After a long day, we still had a three hour drive back to Amman, as we had a morning flight out, but looking back, I definitely wouldn’t change how we saw Petra. First ‘By Night’ and then walking one-way through the city in the opposite direction of the majority of tourists. If you’re looking to try ‘our’ version of the back door, be prepared and know what you’re getting into, as we were not. Also, if you’re not great with directions or have any concerns, definitely hire a guide. The hike to the Monastery is beautiful and worth it, but we really only found the trails by good instinct and a lot of luck. It could have easily turned out for worse.

Amman – Where to Stay

Although we didn’t really experience any of Amman, I would HIGHLY recommend the W Hotel if you’re looking to stay in the city. The hotel is beautiful and the room they upgraded us to was absolutely phenomenal. Complete with a huge soaking tub to tend to aching legs/feet after a long day of hiking. Their breakfast is also one of the better included buffets I’ve experienced in all my hotel stays. Amman city center is actually 30 minutes past the airport though if you’re coming from Petra, so be prepared to double-back upon departure.





Wadi Rum – Arabian Nights and Desert Days

When you first hear of Wadi Rum, you may picture otherworldly landscapes, Lawrence of Arabia, bubble tents in the desert and an ocean of red, red sand. It’s one of those unique places that just is unlike any other and one of the original draws that put Jordan on the top of our bucket list. We had to experience Wadi Rum for ourselves!

Our Accommodations 

After a four hour drive from the Dead Sea and northwest Jordan, we arrived in Wadi Rum about 345pm just as a pretty large group was getting ready to head out on a sunset camel trek. We had booked a Martian tent at Hasan Zaweidah Camp which had very good reviews overall. We got settled in our room and then spent some time outside, walking around and exploring the small camp at sunset as the landscape and accommodations were all too surreal.IMG_6163IMG_6171IMG_6170DSC01442IMG_6180

Around 6pm, we went out to the main area where everyone was surrounding either an outdoor fire or indoor fire, having tea. After sunset, the temperature drops pretty quickly and we were expecting to be pretty cold. Shortly after a ceremony of removing cooked food out of the ground took place (where everyone clamored and fought to witness it) and then a buffet style dinner was served. Overall the food was good, but not remarkable and we later retreated back to our martian tent to relax. We had a long day of driving and still were trying to adjust to the time difference.IMG_6196

Our accommodations were clean, but pretty dated. Our Martian tent consisted of a king bed and a twin bed, two chairs and table, AC/Heat and a bathroom. Terrible gold curtains lined the window facing out into Wadi Rum, mostly hanging awkwardly with no ease of shutting or opening them as they constantly got stuck on the track. For some reason there were 30 of the same toiletries in vanity, yet no towels were left for us so we had to go retrieve them from reception. Overall, the room was fairly disappointing considering we were paying close to 300 dollars a night for the ‘experience’. When we first started looking at Wadi Rum, I had read a review from The Points Guy about his experience at Wadi Rum Luxury Camp and his sentiments were pretty similar. First, there’s no need to stay more than one night, unless you love the outdoors and landscapes. Second, there’s definitely not a lot of luxury here. This camp was two or two and a half stars at best, so if you’re expecting much more, be advised. I will say that we really did enjoy the sunset, being under thousands of stars and watching the sunrise over the desert from the comforts of our bed through the Martian tent window.IMG_6183

Would I do it again, probably not. To be fair, we didn’t really take part in the after dinner activities, although we could hear the music for a short time. I had an amazing experience at a camp in the Sahara once and it was certainly unforgettable, but I didn’t get the sense that this place had the same type of magic. Not sure if it was “Macarena” playing in evening or something else other than instinct. They did offer a stargazing tour for additional cost, but it was pretty chilly outside, and again, we just didn’t have a ton of energy by this point. If I were to do it again, I’d probably visit some of these unique bubble camps and take some photos while enjoying a beverage or two, but I’d go with a guide or tour for sunset and stay in nearby Agada at one of their nicer hotels. Agada was one place that we didn’t get to see that I wish we had.IMG_6299

Wadi Rum in Four Hours

The next day we ate breakfast somewhat early and then opted to head to the Visitor’s Center to book our tour. We wanted to check out the shops onsite, get our head scarfs and feel like we were channeling Lawrence of Arabia. Our camp host, didn’t seem too interested in offering up information about tours and we figured we would get better service from the Visitor’s Center, so we checked out and headed that way. Interestingly, the Visitor’s Center personnel seemed very confused by the fact that we were booking direct. They kept asking us about which camp we were at and it was very difficult to explain that we had checked out and that we wanted to depart from the Visitor’s Center. At one point they were going to make us go back to our camp which was pretty ridiculous. We selected our tour, which was Operator Tour 2, #5 and was supposed included Burdah Rock according to the chart. I wont go into detail about the tours or operators as there is plenty online already about that, but when we booked our tour, our printed ticket or receipt said Um Froth Rock Bridge which  matched the description of the tour for Operator 1, #5. When we went back to confirm which tour we wanted they basically said, “Yeah, yeah, it’s included”, however we still didn’t believe them. Our guide, Mohammed, spoke pretty good English, so we should have confirmed with him before leaving, but that was our mistake.

We hopped in the back of Mohammed’s Mitsubishi truck and made our way to the first stop at the base of   Al Hasany Dunes. we climbed up to the top through the heavy sand to take in the views of Wadi Rum.IMG_6423IMG_6328Facetune_25-11-2019-21-16-20

Next we made our way to a stretch of sand along a rock wall that had inscriptions in it, Alameleh inscriptions. Hundreds of tourists were here taking photos. We were more interested in talking to he camels. You can do camel rides here, but we opted not to. I’ve ridden a few camels before and they are highly uncomfortable after a few minutes. Still, they do make for fun photo opps.Facetune_25-11-2019-21-21-00

We rode along through the expansive desert and took in this unique landscape. Fortunately, the weather was very mild and the sun was not overly hot. It was low 70s in late November which made for pleasant hiking weather and allowed for us to sit in the back of a truck for 4 hours without getting too hot.

Our next stop was at Lawrence’s House. What’s amazing about Jordan and especially many of the sights at Wadi Rum is that if you can climb it, you can explore it. I guess that can be good and bad depending on who you are or who you are with, but the sights are all just one big giant playground. There are no ropes or sectioned off areas. No ‘Do Not Enter’ signs. We were amazed that there weren’t more safety measures in place as you see at other major tourist destinations in Western countries. Certainly made for fun when exploring. At Lawrence’s house, everyone was climbing a path and rocks in one sections to take in the views and snap some photos. There was an equally impressive peak on the other side and no one around it so we just made our own route instead.IMG_6374IMG_6369

Next we went to Um Froth Rock Bridge, which is a pretty impressive structure and not the easiest of climbs. Surprisingly, there were only a handful of people here and it was easy to navigate our way to the top and pose for some fun photos. Unfortunately, to no one’s surprise, this was the last rock bridge we saw as we never did get to go to Burdah Rock Bridge.IMG_6398

The way out had been calm and leisurely but the way back to our starting point was anything but. Our driver drove like he was in a race against time. We did see a few more cool sights, going up and around dunes and in narrow valleys nestled between giant rock facings. We stopped at Mushroom rock, which literally requires no more than 30 seconds of time and stopped awkwardly at Siq Um Tawaqi. We thought we would get to venture into the Siq, but Mohammad was really just excited to show us a small rock carving of TE Lawrence. We were fairly unimpressed.IMG_6420

At the last stop Mohammed asked “Back to camp?” I replied, “yes”, then quickly realized my mistake and corrected myself, “By ‘camp’ you mean the Visitor’s Center, right?” Thank goodness I checked or we surely would have ended up back at Hasan.

Overall, and even despite not getting to Burdah Rock Bridge, we loved our half day trek through the desert of Wadi Rum. It’s definitely worth the experience and the hotel accommodations, although not my favorite, were very worthy of some incredible and unique photo opps. By all accounts, Wadi Rum is definitely a must do for any Jordan trip, whether you stay overnight or not.IMG_0539


Jordan and the Dead Sea

Our adventure in Jordan began just outside of Amman as we picked up our rental car at Queen Alia International Airport. Upon arrival it took some time to get our tourist visa and pick up our rental car, so our 230pm arrival turned into a 4pm departure. Unfortunately, we had about a 90 minute drive to the Dead Sea and we had to experience the 415pm sunset from a dirt road somewhere in Jordan. The sun was a massive fire ball and we were sad that we didn’t get to experience the sunset over the Dead Sea as I’m sure it would have been pretty impressive.

The road from the airport to the Dead Sea it not the best. It cuts through towns, is poorly lit, is often one car width and includes several switch backs in mountain ranges. Eventually though, we made our way to the Marriott Dead Sea and were delighted and impressed with the hotel.

The hotel was pretty quiet in November and we wished that we had opted for the cheapest room versus getting room with a balcony to the pool as we really were not going to have much lounging time after all. The food options were pretty limited but we opted for food at the Italian restaurant versus the large buffet dinner in the main building. Overall, the food was not bad, but not exceptional and after a long journey and little sleep, we decided to head to bed early. The property was pretty quiet overall on this night so we didn’t feel as though we were missing much. IMG_6091

The next day, we made our way to breakfast and encountered several people in robes, heading down to the shoreline. We were impressed by their dedication as the sun was not yet hitting the water and there was still a chill in the air. We decided we would enjoy breakfast first and wait for it to warm up (the weather forecast still called for 80 degrees in late November). IMG_6095

Despite dinner being just ok, our breakfast at the Marriott was impressive. The buffet selections were plentiful and we were able to get a great table outside to enjoy the view of the property and weather.

After breakfast, we made our way to the water’s edge and decided to see what the fuss was about. The beach at the Marriott is fairly small, but there are a handful of chairs, towels and places to experience the Dead Sea mineral-rich mud. I was pleasantly surprised by how warm the water was as well. However, the beach is extremely rocky and hard on feet. We didn’t notice until leaving that the hotel provides water shoes for you (big miss) or we would have been in and out of the water several more times.


Wading in the warm water, I quickly realized how buoyant you truly are. It’s such a strange feeling to be surrounded by water and not have any possible chance of drowning. It feels like you constantly have a floatation device on. I put my legs straight down in the water with toes pointed at the ground and still was only chest deep in. You can kick up your feet with ease, as if laying in a lounge chair. You can read a book in the water with little no effort to maintain your float. It’s pretty remarkable. IMG_6104IMG_6101IMG_6108IMG_6125IMG_0457

The Dead Sea mud is also known to leave skin feeling silky smooth and that it does! We covered ourselves in mud and left it on for 10-15 minutes to dry. Then went back in the water to rinse. It definitely leaves skin soft and silky but in reality, I didn’t experience a ton of benefits from the mud other than it was just simply fun to cover my skin and face with it for the photo op. IMG_6124IMG_6135

Unfortunately, our time at the Dead Sea Marriott was short, but we did have a fun and relaxing experience. After our quick jump in the water, we retreated to our room to rinse off and headed out to start our four hour journey to Wadi Rum. We didn’t want to make the mistake of missing sunset or driving in the dark again. I would have loved to explore the area and the other area hotels (the Movenpick looks phenomenal) and check out the neighboring beaches, but we just didn’t allot enough time. I would definitely have stayed another night given the opportunity to do so again. I could also see adding this to the END of a trip to Jordan and getting some much needed R & R after hiking through Petra.

Our drive to Wadi Rum, however, was still very rewarding. This was really the first time we were seeing Jordan in the daylight and we were surprised and delighted to see camels just casually along the sides of the roads, both owned and wild camels. We saw farmers tending to their goats and sheep. People just going about every-day life in Jordan. Our favorite part of the journey, however, was the beautiful and surreal scenery along the Dead Sea Highway. We had seen in it photos, but in several places the white dirt and landscape marry the salt water and form these beautiful turquoise rings that disappear into the deep blue water.DSC01408IMG_6145IMG_0478DSC01422