Petra: A Dream Come True


Petra is very isolated, just outside the small mountain town of Wadi Musa in the desert, south of Jordan’s capital, Amman.

After some airport delays, and a 150 mile taxi ride (a result of transit day complications that dominoed) we arrived late last night. Winter nights are truly frigid in the desert, and this morning was no exception. To beat the crowds we planned an early start, so we shivered our way down the gravel road toward the ruins, bundled in (just about) all the clothes we have with us!


Petra was located at the crossroads of a number of trade routes, and the Nabataeans became very wealthy as traders. Because they had contact with many cultures, they were impacted by different architectural influences. The first major tomb we encountered is called the Obelisk Tomb, which shows the intermarriage of a number of architectural styles. In addition, it shows another amazing aspect of Petra: these tombs and buildings are carved from solid rock. They aren’t built brick by brick, but chiseled out of mountains. The work involved is astounding!


Farther along is the “Siq” (Arabic for shaft), The Petra complex, built 2700 years ago, is spread over a large area, and the mile-long Siq is the nearly hidden entrance to the major valley of the tombs. The hike down this narrow, twisting gorge was truly unique, and it alone, was worth the trip. It’s a study in bizarre-looking sandstone formations, intricate rainbow coloration, and weathering effects. If this looks a little familiar, one of the scenes from Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark was shot here.


Toward the end of the Siq, the gorge gets very narrow, dark, and closes in. Up ahead is a column of light that reveals one of the most dramatic sites we’ve seen in ancient ruins, “The Treasury.”



This is probably the most famous site in all of Petra. For years it was thought to house a cache of treasure, but in actuality it was a nobleman’s tomb. This stunning sight is also a beehive of activity. It’s a collision of shutter-happy tourists, local vendors, camels, donkeys, and some welcome sunshine for freezing travelers.





Photos of Petra and accounts of its history inspired us to visit, but after today, we realize that the beautiful photos we’ve seen don’t do it justice. It’s an awe-inspiring place, and it’s hard to imagine how fascinating it must have been in its heyday. We took over 200 photos today and we’re going back tomorrow.

Happy Trails,
James & Terri



We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

35 thoughts

    1. Thanks for the comment Joan, and for dropping by the blog. Petra has been on our list for years, and we’re so glad that we finally made it. Petra isn’t the easiest place to get to, and because of its popularity and remote location, it’s expensive. However, it’s a unique site and absolutely worth the effort.

  1. been there and it was also very cold, around January time. But what an amazing place, wouldn’t have missed it for anything

    1. We feel exactly the same way about Petra. The cold wasn’t fun, but one afternoon a number of tour buses disgorged their cargo, and we realized how lucky we had been to have avoided the crowds. The huge influx of people changed the whole feel of the place. You know the drill. Luckily, it was the end of the day for us.

    1. Thanks Alison. If you two can make it, you will not be disappointed. We have a couple of tips. First, we were there in January and it was really cold (freezing and snow). However, we realized how crowds could have made it a very different experience, so we planned accordingly. Basically, we can tolerate cold better than crowds. Maybe the shoulder season would be a good compromise. Second, it’s relatively expensive, and it takes planning to get the best deals. I see from your blog that you travel like we do (with an eye on the money), so you’re old hands at budget travel. Wadi Musa and Petra will take some of our skills.

  2. This has been on my list for some time, but so many competing projects! I just have to put my foot down and say, “Honey, the trip’s booked”. Hopefully this year…

    1. Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog. Petra is unique in the world, and if at all possible, it’s a “must see.” It can be crowded, and isn’t that easy to reach, but it’s absolutely worth the effort. BTW, I love your photos of Antelope Canyon. We’ve always planned to go, and have been close by a couple of times. And for some reason, we haven’t made it. Your excellent photos has put it as a definite our my bucket list. Thanks.

      1. Antelope Canyon and Petra are somewhat similar in that both are somewhat out of the way, and require some advanced planning. It’s not simply hopping on a plane to go to NYC or Paris. Hopefully, we’ll both make it to our destinations soon 🙂

  3. That is some mighty fine architecture! It’s incredible the kinds of things they could do, even way back then. I’d love to go and see it someday, I think that this has just been added to my list too.

    1. Thanks Sara. One of the big surprises about Petra is that not only are the buildings wonderful, but there are so many of them. And the variety of styles is erinomainen. (Sara, this is not a typo.)

      1. Erinomainen – this is a new word to add to the vocabulary, I like it! I confess I was surprised to see pictures of pristine, intact buildings – I thought they would all be crumbly ruins, shadows of their former selves. Thanks again for sharing =)

      2. Sara, there were some buildings that were pretty heavily eroded, but even they were beautiful in their own way. The soft sandstone is a beautiful interbedded pattern of pink and tan, and wind and water have carved it into surreal shapes. Many were reminiscent of Gaudi’s Barcelona masterpieces. It truly is a unique place.

  4. Wow! I don’t know what else to say. I don’t know alot about Petra, but it has always been a place that has fascinated me since I was little!
    hmmmm, is my list going to get that bit longer now????

    1. Hi Gee, Petra is truly spectacular and it was on my bucket list for about 10 years before we finally managed to get there. It’s definitely worth making your list a bit longer. I loved your post on Everybody take a Snow Day. It warmed my heart. All the Best, Terri

      1. Where will the list end if I continue to read your blog??
        Thank you for your kind comment on “Everybody take a Snow Day.” I love to hear feedback from people reading anything I’ve written. Thank you.
        Continue adventuring! Gee

  5. Stunning pictures and interesting information. I’ve just found out that there’s another WordPress Blog, also dealing with Petra []. Maybe you’ll enjoy that.
    Best regards from southern Texas,

    1. Thanks for the comment Pit, and the link. Anybody that has read Nat Geo has Petra on their bucket list. The place is so historically interesting, mysterious, and photogenic that Nat Geo does an article about every couple of years. Like Santorini, Petra is one of those places where it’s difficult to take a bad photo. And the bedouins that live in the area make it even more intriguing. If you ever get a chance, definitely go.

      1. Well, there is so much to see here in the US still, plus what I’d like to show my wife in Europe and especially in my native Germany, that – regrettably – we very likely will never make it to Petra – or others of those ever so interesting places around the world. All the more I enjoy “visiting by proxy” by means of blogs like yours. 🙂
        Just now, btw, we have finalized our plans/bookings for a 4-week tour of England and Scotland in May/June this year, and are contemplating another visit to Europe [Germany then] in the autumn.

    1. Hello François, I was so incredibly moved by your photos of the Sudanese Refugees in Chad. What gorgeous photography! You really captured the beauty of the women and I was transported back to when we lived in Sudan and the women taught me how to “wrap a tobe” (their outer clothing). I was a slow learner and all thumbs! Thanks for sharing these special photos. All the best, Terri

  6. Ha – it’s almost like we took the exact same photos at the same time here! I know we didn’t, though, because we sweltered rather than shivered as we walked that gravel path into the site this past June! Awesome place, isn’t it?

    1. I hadn’t thought of it until your comment, but I’ve seen lots and lots of photos of Petra that look exactly like mine. I guess this is a function of the canyon, the position of the Treasury, and the light. I think that the hike in through the canyon and the sliver of the Treasury that’s visible, make it one of the most dramatic views in the world. And obviously, lots of other photographers share this opinion. And BTW, when we visited we almost got snowed in because of snow on one of the mountain passes! What are the chances? ~James

  7. I love how you describe it and your photos. Petra has for years been on my travel wish list, I don’t know when I will be able to make it there…but fingers crossed it will be sooner rather than later. Thank you for the inspiration 🙂

    1. Gilda, you can easily see from these photos that Petra is truly unique, and while the term “must-see” is overused, in Petra’s case it applies. It’s one of those places we’ll always be glad that we visited, and hopefully, you’ll get to see it when things loosen up a bit.

      Also, thanks for reading and commenting on this post. It was written while we were on the road, and reading over it now I see it can use a bit of editing and some finessing.

      I hope all is well for you there in the UK. As you may have seen, the infection rate has absolutely skyrocketed here in the US, and with the holidays and winter just beginning it’s only going to get worse, Take good care of yourself. ~James

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