Petra is a must-see before you die, it’s listed in 1,000 Places to See Before You Die and as one of Smithsonian Magazine’s 28 Places to See Before You Die. With the proliferation of life lists and the popularity of bucket lists there seems to be one consensus and that is none of them would be complete without Petra. However, if you’re going to die soon I wouldn’t rush off to Jordan. Petra is an incredible sight, but it isn’t a must-see now.
The view of the Treasury from the Siq is one of the highlights of a visit to Petra
Petra didn’t become a UNESCO World Heritage sight for no reason, it offers fascinating history and stands as one of the best examples of well preserved ancient cities in the world. The surrounding desert is breathtaking and the walk through the Siq to the Treasury is unforgettable.
The monastery is the second attraction after the Treasury and now you have seen it all.
I could make a list of all the places that you should visit before Petra, many of which don’t even make the urgent “before you die” lists. Versailles in France, the Serengeti in Africa, Shwedagon Paya in Myanmar and Angkor Wat all deserve a visit before Petra, actually, even these “non-wonders” are better; the caves in Datong, China, the goat market in Nizwa, Oman or the caves at Ajanta and Ellora in India. However, I recognize my must-see-before-I-die-sights are different than the next persons so instead I will list my grievances about Petra:
1. The cost for admission is astronomical in comparison to almost every other world wonder. For example, The Taj Mahal in India will set you back 13 USD, the Great Wall of China will only cost you 7 USD, the Eiffel Tower is 15 USD and the Louvre is only 11 USD. While the entry fee for Petra is a staggering 50 JD, about 70 USD!
Vendor stalls encroaching on the Urn Tombs in Petra, not only do they ruin my photos, but the sales people harass me to buy things I don’t want!
I wouldn’t have a problem with the price if I knew the money was going to restoration, protection, and signage. The problem is that it doesn’t. It doesn’t go to provide you bathrooms…you have to pay for those on top of admission. It doesn’t go for signage…there isn’t any. It doesn’t go to giving visitors a good experience…they allow vendors to set up wherever they please, often in the best photo spots, to harass visitors. Where does the money go?
The only signage within Petra is for the cafes and tourist vendors to hawk their wares.
2. The lack of information on site is disappointing to say the least. I understand not everyone is an independent traveler, most people visit Petra as part of a tour, but I was shocked to find that not a single monument was labeled and no map is provided. Petra has no visitor center and the museum within the grounds gives little insight into the collection of rocks and photographs.
3. Petra is not easy to get to, again many people visit on tours, however if you are an independent traveler Petra is not very visitor friendly. There is only one bus a day from Amman at 6:00 am, which drops you off far from the sight requiring a taxi to get to a hotel. Being that Petra is the reason people go to Jordan, it seems that providing transport to the attraction would be prudent in expanding their tourism industry.
Now that my grievances have been aired I have to say that the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Petra is beautiful. The monuments have stood the test of time, dating back to as early as 312 BC. The Treasury and the Monastery are incredible showcases of the unique rock-cut architecture that makes Petra so special. However, with the current unsustainable tourism and poor management maybe I should suggest you visit this sooner rather than later as it may not be around much longer.