This is Petra, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Most people don't realize Petra is much more than just the Treasury, which you might recognize from Indiana Jones. Petra is a city: About 37 square miles of carved sandstone ruins. But this place was once lost for a millennium—which, yes, means 1,000 years. Abandoned and thought to have been a myth until it was rediscovered in the 1800s, it’s no wonder why they call Petra 'The Lost City.'
Today, though, thousands of visitors per day find their way here through the Siq, a mile-long chasm of smooth, orange rock that parts to reveal the Treasury's Corinthian columns. No one knows what, exactly, the Treasury was used for, or when, exactly, it was built.
That mystery carries over into other parts of the city, too.
I visited for two days of hiking with Intrepid Travel, and let me tell you Petra is no easy feat. There are a few things visitors should know before they visit.
First, youll want to pace yourself. You'll need a whole day to see Petra's best views and ruins, and two if you want to experience the hidden gems on lengthier hikes. The 2,000-year-old Nabatean ruins include an amphitheater, courthouse, monastery, and many homes and mausoleums. Little Petra is a smaller settlement of Nabatean ruins about six miles from the main attraction. And it’s where where you’ll find ancient cave paintings, irrigation networks, and you can explore caves that are perched high up in the cliffs.
Just like most tourist sites, Petra’s no stranger to travel scams. These guys are called "Jack Sparrows." They might look like actors dressed as pirates, but they're known to take tourists up dangerous and illegal routes off the main paths.
Most importantly, don't miss the Monastery, Petra’s most hidden gem. It’s only accessible from central Petra via an hour-long climb up 850 steps, or a six-mile hike from Little Petra. The Monastery is even larger than the Treasury: It’s 150 feet high with a 25-foot doorway. And it’s worth the trek.
Lastly, don’t accept rides on the work animals in Petra. This is a hotly debated topic because it's clear many of them aren't healthy. But as long as visitors keep accepting rides on these horses and donkeys, they’ll continue to be overworked as a means of income for their owners. It's largely up to us to end the use of work animals at Petra by ebbing the demand for them and finding other ways to support the local community.
Visiting Petra is an exhilarating, and tiring experience, but knowing I conquered the steep trails myself made those final views somehow even sweeter. Looking out over the pink expanse of the desert Basin and the epic view of the Treasury from above are truly once in a lifetime moments, and they're worth working for.