My name’s Marlene Barriere – welcome to my Petra travel guide. I was born and raised in the French countryside in a middle class family. My parents could never afford vacations abroad when I was young but every summer we would go camping by lakes, forests and volcanoes in France.
I spent my childhood barefoot and talking with a lot of new people everyday. I loved to discover new places and the little world around me. This is what sparked my interest in travel and the nomadic lifestyle later in life.
Visiting Jordan as a Solo Female Traveller
So I wrote down the other 5 wonders on my bucket list and the Lost City of Petra took the first spot. Jordan seemed to be a mysterious country. It certainly looked like a different culture to my European background. I had mixed feelings on arrival – a mix of excited and nervous at the same time.
On the 1st of January every year I write down my goals for the new year. Travel is always one of the key categories of my annual goal setting. This year on the 1st of January, 2020 I wrote down Jordan on my bucket list.
I usually don’t plan much in advance for my trips but I had a look at the airline fares and found some cheap return tickets. The departure date was 9 days later. I booked it. My first questions was: how will a solo female traveller go hitchhiking and couchsurfing through the Middle East?
The answer was: it would be mind-blowing! Jordan has the most incredible sense of hospitality. That is part of their culture and education. I immediately felt at home with the Jordanian people. They stole my heart.
Jordan Itinerary: 7 Days in the Gem of the Middle East
Petra was the main attraction and highlight of my trip to Jordan but I had a full 7 days in the country so I tried to make the most of it. I landed in the capital city, Amman at night and my Jordan journey had officially begun.
Day 1: I visited the Dead Sea Museum, floated in the Dead Sea and tried the amazing mud bath experience. In the afternoon, I took a plunge in the spring waters to rinse off the salt. Then it was back to Amman for the night.
Day 2: I took the early bus to cross the country. The direction was south to Aqaba – the only coastal city in Jordan. A short visit to the coast and the local markets before hitchhiking to Wadi Rum. It was amazing to spend the night stargazing with only the sound of our fireplace crackling.
Day 3: Waking up early in Wadi Rum, I discovered all the shade colours of the desert with the sunrise. Then, with a local Bedouin, I took a jeep ride down into the desert and discovered absolutely stunning landscapes worthy of a planet like Mars. The sun set on this magical place and I headed back to Aqaba.
Day 4: It was time to go diving in the Red Sea – one of the most incredible places on earth to discover marine life. I went free diving and scuba diving among shallow coral gardens, deep canyons and old tanks and shipwrecks. After this experience, it was time to catch the bus to Wadi Musa.
Day 5: Now, the highlight of the trip: Petra. I got lost in ruins and temples and sat for hours trying to understand how the Bedouin tribes carved rocks into such masterpieces. At night, I saw Petra in candlelight, enjoyed hot mint tea and listened to Arabian flutes narrate the story of this lost city.
Day 6: I enjoyed hiking to the top of Petra and sitting for a moment’s silence to appreciate the breathtaking beauty of the Monastery. One of the key buildings of the Lost City. On my way down, I had a chat with Abu Lafi – the last Bedouin man who actually still lives in Petra.
Day 7: For my final day of the trip, I headed back to Amman. I took some time to walk around the city centre and explored the Citadel and the Roman Theatre. Before heading out to the airport, I savoured an epic hummus and falafel dish at Hashem Restaurant, one of the best restaurants in Amman.
Highlight of my Trip to Jordan – The Lost City of Petra
I went couchsurfing in Wadi Musa which is the main city to Petra. Here you can find hotels like the Marriott, Movenpick and boutique hotels just 2 minutes from the Petra Visitor Centre. I loved my couchsurfing experience.
The 2 day pass is what I opted for to experience Petra. With my length of stay I figured that 2 days would be enough time to see everything. I enjoyed 2 full days in Petra and decided to explore solo – going with the flow and following my instincts which is how I love to travel wherever I go.
Here is a list of the main places I visited in Petra: Siq, Treasury, Treasury from above, Altar of Sacrifice, Monastery, Great Temple, Royal Tombs, Corinthian Tomb, Palace Tomb and Madras Trail. I also got lost walking around aimlessly discovering the hidden gems that you won’t find in a Petra travel guide.
Petra Travel Guide: The Rich History of Petra
Petra has a unique history. This city was the crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Syria Phoenicia. It became the capital and a caravan center for the trade of Arabian incense, Chinese silk and Indian spices.
This city was able to survive the arid environment thanks to an ingenious hydraulic system that controlled and conserved seasonal rainwater. Petra is one of the richest and most vast archaeological sites in the world. It seems that 80% of the city is still buried under the sand.
Petra has been the center of some legends as well. For many years people thought that jewels and coins were hidden on the Treasury’s facade. You can still see the bullets’ impact on it. But the real treasure is the city itself and how the Nabateans were able to construct such an oasis in the desert.
I recommend reading up on some history before you visit – whether that’s online in a Petra travel guide or heading to the library to brush up on your history. Either way, it makes a big difference when you know some of the history and heritage of the place that you are visiting.
Petra Travel Guide: Favourite Places in the Lost City
I took so many pictures in Petra. Every path or carved rock is telling you a story. Obviously, I have some favourite places. One of them is the Monastery. You have to hike 800 steps to get to the top. Once there, a large space opens and you can observe the Monastery on the right side.
The building is thoroughly carved in the mountain. When the sun hits the facade you can discover all the red pigments coming out of this wonder. Take a seat at the top of the cave facing the Monastery and let the facades features whisper to you about the long history of this sacred place.
When you sit there, you can almost see in front of your eyes the city coming back to life – hearing the Nabateans speak. I went back here early in the morning on my second day visiting. I sat there for 45 minutes just by myself. It was like time completely stood still. Just an amazing experience.
You can find amazing photography spots at every corner of the Lost City. If you wander aimlessly and try different trails you will find caves, temples, ruins and so many stunning places. The best thing to do is to play with the sun rays while there. The shades and colours of the rocks are astonishing.
One of the trails I loved was the Madras Trail. Be careful not to get lost as it’s easy to wander off. Nevertheless, it was one of my favourite places and it should be included in every Petra travel guide.
A Moment to Savour Walking through the Siq
Petra is known for the Treasury. It’s the most famous building in the Lost City and it’s the first to be discovered when entering through the Siq. No matter which Petra travel guide you read, the Treasury is always a highlight.
The Siq is a long and narrow gorge with natural rock formations shaped by tectonic forces and made smooth by the rain over the years. It’s the main entrance to the Lost City. You walk through about 1.2 kms of rock wall.
This gorge is so narrow at some points that you can hear for minutes the echo of the donkey hooves trotting through the Siq. Just before reaching the end, through the crack of the Siq – you catch a glimpse of ‘The Treasury’. The most elaborate ruin standing there like the city guardian.
You understand in a snap of fingers all the greatness of this empire. This place is just magical. Petra was on my bucket list for a long time and finally discovering this place was just dazzling. I don’t usually go twice to the same country but I wish to come back to Petra and Jordan soon.
Cherished Memories with Faissal at Petra by Night
When I travel solo I always cross paths with extraordinary people. I’m not sure how or why but I am lucky every time. My visit to Petra didn’t fail me.
The first morning while I was in the Siq admiring everything, I heard donkeys coming towards me. I got my camera out and started shooting. A man joined the donkeys. A bedouin called Faissal. He smiled watching me take photos of his animals and we talked. Then he left.
At the end of my first day, after the sunset, I was walking back towards the exit when I heard my name from afar. Guess who it was? Faissal of course. People were gathering in front of the Treasury to assist for the Petra by Night show. The cost was too high for me as I was travelling on a budget.
But Faissal invited me to stay with him and his family. He offered me a hot mint tea while waiting for the candles to be lit up. He lent me his traditional sheep wool coat so I wouldn’t freeze in the chilly night. We all enjoyed the Arabian flutes while admiring the illuminated Treasury.
This moment was epic and will stay forever in my heart. When visiting a new country, beyond the breathtaking landscapes or incredible cultures and traditions – there is always the warmth of the local people. Every time I go to a new country I always find a family who welcomes me as their own.
This time I found a family in Petra. I guess Jordan and the bedouin history resonates with my childhood. I might be a bedouin myself – who knows?
Petra Travel Guide: Need to Know Before you Go
When visiting you can buy the Jordan Pass before getting your visa. It’s a tourist pass allowing you to pay a fee for your visa and the entrance to 40 sites. Petra entrance is included and the time spent there will determine the cost of the Pass. That’s one key take-away from this Petra travel guide.
If you are visiting Petra don’t forget to bring some good walking shoes as you will be walking several hours per day. Also, bring plenty of water with you because you walk a lot and the sun hits the canyons pretty hard in the middle of the day. It’s important to stay hydrated and active on your visit.
I recommend waking up early to avoid the crowds at the Treasury or head to the Monastery first thing in the morning and come back to the Treasury around midday after the first wave of tourists (9am-11am).
Please enjoy your trip to Petra as much as I did. If you meet a Bedouin named Faissal please send love from “Marlene, the curly Frenchie”. Thanks for reading my Petra travel guide. If you have any questions or would like some more information, feel free to get in touch with me anytime.