Planning a Trip
A 2- to 2 1/2-hour drive north of Aqaba, Petra is the jewel in the crown of Jordan's attractions, and the main objective of many travelers to the country. The canyon city of Petra is vast, mysterious, and really demands a 1- or 2-night stay and 2 full days of exploring to get a feel for the atmosphere, to say nothing of the contents of the ruins. You could easily spend 3 or 4 very full days exploring Petra and the surrounding countryside. If you're staying at one of the luxury resort hotels near Petra, you can plan for a relaxing, exotic desert holiday amid marvelous surroundings, enjoying local foods, entertainment, and the opportunity to browse shops filled with tribal crafts. For those on a budget, the many less-expensive hotels at Wadi Musa, 5km (3 miles) from the entrance to Petra, are reasonably comfortable and offer the chance to meet interesting fellow travelers on the treks and tours of Petra. A hard day of exploring Petra will work up your appetite. In the evenings, many budget hotels offer very reasonably priced buffet dinners where travelers can meet to try traditional Middle Eastern dishes, make plans, and recount experiences. Many travelers buffet-hop and look for the most interesting and freshest deals being offered each night.
After crossing from Eilat into Aqaba, it's easy to find taxis that will take you up to Petra. Some bargaining is required, but the general fare is around JD 50 ($70/£36). This is the fastest, safest, and most direct way to make the journey. Splitting a taxi to Petra with others you may meet at the border can make the fare per person very reasonable. A taxi to the Aqaba Bus Station plus bus fare up to Petra will be less than JD 7 ($9.85/£5), but there are few buses per day and there's virtually no schedule. If you want to avoid the hassle of bargaining with taxi drivers, ask your hotel in Petra to arrange for a pickup for you at the border crossing for an agreed price. Most Petra hotels in all price categories will be happy to do this -- it ensures you won't be lured somewhere else. Again, the fare will be about JD 40 to JD 50 ($56-$70/£29-£36). Travel agencies in Eilat can arrange for escorted, 1-, 2-, or 3-day tours, or unescorted packages to Petra that will include transportation arrangements. Petra is worth lots of time if you've got it, and it's best to stay at least 1 or 2 nights.
Reputable tour operators that run excursions to Petra (among other locations in Jordan) include Abercrombie and Kent Jordan (tel. 962-06/566-5465 in Amman; www.abercrombiekent.com); Desert Eco Tours (tel. 972-52/276-5753 outside Israel, or 054/276-5753 in Israel; www.desertecotours.com); and Petra Moon Tourism (tel. 962-03/215-6665 in Petra; www.petramoon.com). For further options, check with the Jordan Tourism Board (www.visitjordan.com).