Finally we’re back online! If you’re looking at the website you’ll see a few changes and we promise we will write a post on this, but not now.
Now we’re going to share with you our trip to Petra. This is going to be a long post, full of pictures and info, but we hope you’ll enjoy it anyway and it might even be useful to other travellers. We decided to visit Petra together with our friend David during Passover holidays here in Israel: it was going to be a quick three-night four-day trip.
There was no need for major planning, but since a lot of people travel during the holidays we decided to book both the bus in Israel and the hotels in Jordan.
The easiest way to get to Petra from Jerusalem, and in general from Israel, is going to Eilat, the southern Israeli city, crossing the border with Jordan and then get to Petra. We took the first morning bus from Jerusalem to Eilat. The round ticket costs 139 NIS (29€/40$), which is cheap for 300 km and a 4 hours ride.
The journey is long, especially since it was very early, but you get a really nice view of the landscape and its different flora, or I should say non-flora. The road from Jerusalem gets soon to the Dead Sea and then runs along it for its length. At its southern point there is the Dead Sea Works,the Israeli potash product plant: huge, horrible and considered one of the contributors of the Dead Sea evaporation and disappearance. After that you follow towards the Red Sea, with Jordan’s border on the left and the desert on the right side.
Eilat is the main Israeli holiday destination: the weather is always warm as it’s its water. I do have to confess that we didn’t like it: it’s very touristy and it has a decadent aspect. My grandma told me that she enjoyed it and liked it a lot, but this was when she visited the country in the late 70’s: the city and its buildings just remained stuck to those years.
Anyway we didn’t stay long there, just for a quick lunch after meeting with our friend who was coming directly from Tel Aviv. From the city centre the easiest way to get to Itzhak Rabin/Wadi Araba Border is taking a taxi, for about 35 NIS (7,50€/10$). Crossing the border can be quick and smooth or it can be very long and frustrating, it all depends on fortune I guess. We were lucky: no tour groups, no lines, just few people.
Leaving Israel involves a few steps: paying an exit tax, customs declaration and passport control. We just did the first and last since we had nothing to declare. The exit tax is of 102 NIS each (21€/29$) plus a 5 NIS commission. You can either pay with cash or credit card, and if you opt for the second one you can also ask the person at the counter for some Jordan Dinars, charged on the credit card. Before leaving the country you get an exit stamp on your passport (I’m pointing this out because a lot of people travelling in the Middle East have to take particular attention with the entry and exit Israeli stamps, which will impede them the possibility of visiting other countries such as Syria afterwards).
Entering Jordan is quite easy as well, or at least it was for us: you undergo a couple of controls, passport check and entry stamp on your passport. No fee in this case.
While leaving the terminal on the Jordan side, you’ll see a big sign with the official taxi fares: this is quite useful, especially because you don’t have to haggle. Getting to Petra is a 2 hours ride for 55 JD (55€/78$). If you arrange the return ride you might get 5-10 JD discount on the second one. The trip is quite nice: the landscape, although so close to Israel and Palestine, is a bit different, it’s greener and the road follows the line of some hills until arriving to the valley of Petra.
We stayed at Wadi Musa, a small town next to the archaeological site of Petra, where most of the hotels are. This was the view from the roof terrace of our hotel. The same night we participated at Petra by Night, a nocturnal visit of Petra in candle light. The excursion costs 12 JD/12€/16$ (the ticket office closes around 6 pm so be sure to get there on time) and lasts a couple of hours from 8 pm. It’s not bad but I would say that is not mandatory, since you basically don’t see much and you have to walk with hundreds of people, which mostly hide the magical and romantic atmosphere that the night should have.
The next day we visited Petra: the archaeological site was the capital of the Nabataeans kingdom and it’s famous for its rock-cut buildings. It’s one of UNESCO World Heritage Site and although the entry price is a bit high, 50 JD (51€/70$), it’s absolutely worth it. The visit is pretty long: there is a main route plus some additional harder ones. We walked 7 hours and just did the main route, plus the 800 hundred stairs that lead up to the so-called Monastery. I won’t describe much the visit, because I believe that pictures are better, or even better would be visiting it: the architecture, the idea of constructing a “city” in the rocks, the contrast between the red walls of the valley and the deep blue sky is incredible, indescribable.
That night we were just dead, for the walk and the sun, and had a long night of rest and the next day we headed to Aqaba, with our pre-arranged taxi. This is the holiday destination for Jordanians, really close to the border with Israel: it’s on the Red Sea, opposite to the Israeli city of Eilat. We stayed there all afternoon and visited a couple of things: the Aqaba fort with its tiny archaeological museum and the Sharif Hussein Ben Ali.
We decided to stay in Aqaba and not in Eilat, since in Jordan accommodation is a bit cheaper that in Israel. We are actually happy of that decision: the town has a certain charm and full of life.
The morning after we took a taxi (8 JD/8€/11$) to the border with Israel. This time as well was pretty quick: when leaving Jordan there’s a fee of 10 JD (10€/14$). I’m not sure whether you can pay with credit card or not, so I would suggest saving the right amount to pay in cash. After exiting Jordan you walk again in the no man’s land surrounded by fences. And then it’s time for re-entering Israel. This time the controls are more thorough, just like the ones at the airport. I would say it took us a couple of hours to cross the border, but it all went pretty smooth.
Once back in Israel a huge sand storm welcomed us (and of course a taxi to the Eilat bus station and other 4 hours bus ride to Jerusalem)!