After an early breakfast in Amman today, we'll drive to Petra and enjoy the remainder of the day today inside the world famous Nabatean site of Petra. The ancient capital of the Nabataean commercial empire until the Romans finally took over in 106AD, Petra was largely forgotten, except by the local Bedouins, until it was 'discovered' in 1812 by a young Swiss explorer, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. Petra is situated on the edge of Wadi Aruba., whose canyon walls and surrounding hills make it almost impossble to approach except through a narrow, winding cleft in the rock, called the Siq. The city itself has very few free-standing buildings, as the Nabateans chose to carve their homes, buildings and tombs into the multi-coloured sandstone cliffs. Nowadays, the Jordanian government and local people are well aware of Petra's interest to tourists, and the tourism infrastructure in the adjoining village of Wadi Musa is booming, though, thankfully, once you enter through the Siq, the site is protected, and all the building feels miles away.
This afternoon we tour this fascinating city (guided tour, then free time to explore yourselves). We start by walking through the Siq, which rises to 200m above us, and narrows to just 2m wide in places. The ancient Nabatean water channel can still be seen on one wall, as well as some remnants of the terracotta pipes that brought water into the city. All of a sudden, a now classic view appears around one corner, and one of Petra's most impressive monuments, the Khazneh (Treasury) comes into view. Our guide will explain how this, and the other buildings here, are mainly elaborate facades carved into the rock from the top down, and also discuss the spiritual significance of the building style. From the Khazneh, the valley opens out, with tombs carved into the rock on both sides. We'll see the ruined Roman amphitheatre, and colonnaded street, and during your free time you can walk up a steep and narrow winding gorge past beautifully coloured sandstone cliff walls to the huge and imposing 'Monastery'. The biggest of Petra's carved monuments at 50m high and 45m wide, this is truly spectacular, as are the distant views west across Wadi Aruba and the Jordan valley. Another climb can take you to the High Place of Sacrifice, and Lion Fountain.
All in all, this is a full & tiring, but hugely rewarding day touring one of the world's most famous ancient sites. We spend the evening and night relaxing at our hotel.