Immortalized in film in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (and Transformers 2 among others), the ruins at Petra are Jordan's most recognizable landmarks and one of the world's great archaeological remains. The city was founded in the sixth century BC by the Nabateans. The Nabateans were originally a nomadic desert tribe, famous for their ingenuity harnessing the desert's water.
Petra blossomed as an important crossroads on trade routes between the region's various empires. The Nabateans were eventually conquered by the Romans, but the city continued to thrive. At its height the population reached as high as 30,000. The city swiftly declined in the third and fourth centuries as the Roman retreated. It wasn't much more than a Bedouin camp before being rediscovered by the British in the nineteenth century. Since then it has become a popular tourist destination.
There is a lot to see here. The main entrance is through the Siq, a valley leading up to Petra, just outside the town of Wadi Musa. It's about a 1.5km walk to the entrance. The first building you come to is the Treasury. The name is a misnomer, it was actually a royal tomb. It stands over 40m tall and is carved into the face of a cliff.
Beyond there, the cliffsides are lined with tombs. There is an impressive 8,000 seat amphitheater built by the Nabateans. You can learn about the Nabateans unique methods of capturing water. There are also Byzantine churches and mosaics, though you may be quite sick of mosaics by now!
Getting to Petra can be a little difficult. It's close to a three hour journey by bus. They regularly depart from Amman's various bus stations to the small town of Wadi Musa, just outside the eastern entrance. There are also lots of tour groups. If you're feeling adventurous, you can also enter from the west side of Petra. The path is rugged and even a little treacherous, but it's also beautiful. Regardless, be ready to do lots of walking.
There are plenty of accommodations for tourists around Petra. The Taybet Zaman Hotel and Resort is a converted fortress on the ridge of a steep cliff. The hotel is a maze of cobbled streets and turquoise doorways which lead to rustic but comfortable rooms. There are also a few campgrounds where you can live like a Bedouin, as well as restaurants where you can enjoy traditional Jordanian dishes.
Location: 260km south of Amman
Hours: Open daily 06:00-18:00
Admission: 20JD for non-Jordanians