7 Things That Will Surprise A First-Time Visitor To Petra

petra treasury

Petra in southern Jordan is one of the most iconic tourist sites in the world, made famous by movies like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It’s familiarity in films has narrowed Petra’s tourism marketing, giving many visitors a nice surprise when they arrive at the 9,000 year old ancient city.

Petra is not what you expect though don’t feel odd about it, you’re not alone. These are 7 things that surprise most first-time visitors to Petra.

1. It’s More Than The Treasury

petra great temple

Al-Khazneh (The Treasury) is what you may think Petra is. But Petra is more than a 45 meter (147 foot) tall Treasury; it’s an entire ancient city. Petra’s ancient ruins lie within at least a 60 kilometer (37 mile) hiking area, though you’ll probably only walk 8-16km (5-10 miles) of that to the major sites closest the entrance. Visitors on second and third trips to Petra often spend several days in the area to explore by foot or donkey.

2. The Treasury Is A 2 Kilometer Walk

Based on how movies portray Petra, you might be under the impression that the Treasury is a short walk from the entrance. In reality, the Treasury is 2km (1.24 miles) in through a series of impressive valleys. The valleys are very photogenic and much cooler than the exposed desert air starting at the Treasury and beyond.

indian jones and last crusadeIndiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Special Edition)

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3. You Can’t Go In The Treasury

Sorry, it’s not like in Indian Jones, the Treasury is only a big photo opportunity from outside with a sufficiently wide angle lens. (I was pretty surprised by this one.) As far as immortal knights, I didn’t hear of any either.

4. Get Your Tickets Before Jordan

jordan pass

I’ll be writing more about the Jordan Pass in the coming weeks, a sightseeing package like the Granada Card well worth the cost. A Jordan Pass, offered by Jordan’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, also waives the tourist visa entry fee. The Jordan Pass is just slightly more expensive than a single entry ticket to Petra but to make the most of it, you’ll need to purchase before you get to Jordan.

5. Lots Of Walking, Little Food

ancient city petra

Just to see the Treasury you’ll have a 4km (2.5 mile) round trip walk to prepare for. To see the Great Temple, Royal Tombs, and simply nature being magic beyond that plan for a full day of walking. Bring liters of water in the summer – add a jacket in the winter, it can be surprisingly chilly.

Meal options are terrible as well in the site, so unless you’re good with potato chips plus an apple or two, bring your own food. People arriving on day trips should stock up the night before (you want to get in as early as possible), otherwise if you have time before the evening buses return to Amman, the nearby restaurants are surprisingly good.

6. Free Horse Rides Are Free But Not Really

petra donkey

Yes, you do get a free horse ride with your Petra entry ticket. You’ll also get intense hassling for a pricey tip resulting in very few people actually using the horses. Donkeys on the other hand are a bit better but be ready to bargain like a traveling pro and wait until you’re past the Treasury to get the most reasonable rates.

7. Crowded But Not

Despite being the most popular tourist attraction in Jordan, over the past few years instability in the greater Middle East region has kept the largest crowds away. To see Petra without people you can get in at 6am, for everyone else, take a look at the video below to see what Petra looks like on an average day.

Many of the people I met and spoke with shared how much more Petra was than they expected, much like the Great Pyramids in Egypt, making it one of the more popular tourist destinations that won’t disappoint you. Unless, of course, you were really hoping to see the Holy Grail.

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A few months ago I reviewed the best travel cameras under $1000 and recently you asked me how well one of those cameras, the Panasonic Lumix G85, is with close up video. In the video above I’ll show you the answer, as well as the focus stacking and post focus features which can really take your macro shots to another level. For those of you who photograph or video a lot of flowers, plants, bugs, or other small objects when you travel, the G85 might make a good overall camera to carry on your next trip.

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The Best Beaches In Malta, According To Locals

This is a guest post by Edward Lansink, the founder and editor of Malta Uncovered, a travel guide for curious travelers looking to discover Malta.

golden bay malta

Being surrounded by the Mediterranean sea, it’s only natural for the Maltese Islands to boast some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe. With the islands’ mild winters, and the heat of summer, you’re most likely going to find yourself on a beach while in Malta.

Here are my tips for some of the best beaches that the Maltese islands have to offer, based on local knowledge.

Best Family Friendly Beach: Golden Bay

Even though the Maltese Islands are surrounded by beautiful crystal clear seas, the coast is generally a very rocky one, making for a limited number of sandy areas to soak up that summer sun. Having said that, you can find a few sandy gems scattered along the Maltese coast which make up for their scarcity.

One of the most popular sandy beaches is the aptly named Golden Bay. Found along the island’s northwestern coast, this beach’s wide curve of orange-gold sand slopes gently into the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea. It is flanked by dramatic, rocky cliffs and the striking Għajn Tuffieha tower on one side, whilst the luxurious Radisson Blu Resort & Spa overlooks the other end of the bay.

This is a beach in which you can lie down on the soft, golden-colored sand and just enjoy the summer rays. You can rent an umbrella and deck chair on the beach and if you’re into water sports, there’s a variety of activities and boat trips you can take up. There are a few beach hut cafes where you can grab a bite to eat or have a drink or two, but if you’re looking for something more upmarket, just walk on up to the five-star Radisson for a variety of dining options, either casual or more refined

Being a Blue Flag certified beach (European standard for beach quality), life guards patrol the area during the summer months and the beach has a system of flags signaling where it is safe to swim. The beach is easily accessible by car, with a few public parking areas nearby. It’s also serviced by a regular bus service.

Best Sandy Beach: Ghajn Tuffieha

If you prefer a more quiet sandy beach, head on towards Ghajn Tuffieha (Maltese for ‘Apple’s Eye’, also known as Riviera by the locals); located a 15 minute walk south of Golden Bay. It is flanked by dramatic clay slopes and rocky cliffs and boasts a narrow strip of beautiful orange-golden sand and clear azure waters and is accessed by descending a tall fight of (over 100) steps.

Ghajn Tuffieha

You can rent sun beds and umbrellas from a kiosk located on the side of the beach, which also offers some fairly decent snack options and there is a regular bus service to the area. Bus routes with destination Golden Bay all pass from there. You can also find a parking area at the top of the steps, but be warned, car spaces in the lot are rarely vacant as people visiting Ghajn Tuffieha and Golden Bay use this area, as well as the main access road for parking and it does get pretty busy during the summer season. Having said that, Ghajn Tuffieha generally offers a more quiet and peaceful setting than Golden Bay, with a more natural atmosphere and less crowds.

Best for Snorkeling: Wied il-Ghasri

A unique spot and a popularly-photographed spot, Wied il-Ghasri in Gozo is definitely worth a visit for those who love snorkeling. This little gem of a beach is actually a coastal chasm at the end of a valley that opens to the sea through a river-like channel in between the rocky cliffs.

Wied il-Ghasri

You can access the beach via a rocky staircase carved into the valley, although you’ll need a car or bike to get here since there’s no bus stop nearby. Snorkeling here is pure joy, with lots of nooks and crannies carved into the rocky ledges of the cliffs surrounding the inlet. It’s an absolutely stunning location to swim and snorkel at, although not the best place to sunbathe. The beach itself is small and covered in pebbles, which adds to the beauty but doesn’t make for a comfortable spot to lie down on.

Other fantastic snorkeling beaches worth a mention are Mgarr ix-Xini (also located in Gozo) and Ghar Lapsi and St. Peter’s Pool, both found in the southern part of Malta.

Most Rugged Beach: Fomm ir-Rih

If you’re looking for a remote, secluded beach, Fomm ir-Rih is definitely the one for you. Located along the northwest coast of Malta, just outside the village of Baħrija, this beach is Malta’s most remote and probably least accessible beach. It’s a bit of a challenge to get down to the sea, with a tricky 20 minute trek through some rough and steep terrain, but it’s worth the effort.

Mellieha malta

The coastal views here are magnificent, the water crystal clear with some great snorkeling opportunities, and you might just have the whole beach to yourself for the day! Imgiebah Bay in Selmun, Mellieha is another, easier to access (and sandy) alternative to Fomm ir-Rih, although there’s still a 30 minute walk to get there from the nearest bus stop.

Most Unique Beach: The Blue Lagoon (Comino)

Accessed only via ferry boat, the Blue Lagoon is located on the tiny islet of Comino, found in the strait between Malta and Gozo. An extremely popular summer spot, the Blue Lagoon is often overcrowded, a true shame, but for good reason. Boasting bright, crystal clear, turquoise waters and some of the most unique and stunning views of the Islands, Comino is truly a unique place to visit. The lagoon itself is a small inlet of inland sea ringed by rocks and lined by gleaming white sand. The beach in itself is extremely small, but there are a large number of large, flat rocks dotted about which are perfect for sun bathing. Swimming in the warm, azure waters of the Blue Lagoon truly feel like paradise, especially on days which are less crowded.

For even greater access, and guaranteed private moments, you could stay overnight at Comino’s sole hotel (quite pricey considering it’s not the most updated place), or even camp on the island if you’re feeling more adventurous! Of course, there are many other special beaches around Malta, all offering their own unique landscape and charm. A few noteworthy mentions are San Blas Bay and ir-Ramla l-Hamra in Gozo, and Mellieha Bay and Ghar Lapsi in Malta.

Thank you Ed for giving us some great beach options in Malta. You can learn more about traveling in Malta through Ed’s website, Malta Uncovered and check out his ebook, Valletta: An Insider’s Guide to Malta’s Capital.

The Tokyo Experience That Gives You Culture, Food, And A Good Lesson For Life

rangetsu sukiyaki tokyo japan

What most of us look for when visiting a new place is a local, authentic experience that feels like we’re the first outsider to discover. The best place to find this intersection of culinary culture is to ask a few locals, “where do you eat?” In Tokyo, that’s exactly what I did, which lead me to Rangetsu to try sukiyaki – and you should too.

Misleading Exterior

The polished but humble entrance to Rangetsu is almost too fancy; the kind of decor that leads one to believe you’re paying more for ambiance than good food. But a few steps into the tight hallways of Rangetsu hits you immediately with the sense you’re entering somewhere special. The waiter, in suit and tie, asks for your order – sukiyaki of course – and seats you in a tiny room, sharply closing the curtain behind him.

Contemplating Sukiyaki

Sukiyaki, a lesser know Japanese dish, is a meal of vegetables, noodles, and thinly sliced beef mixed with raw egg served in generally that order. Typically sukiyaki is a winter meal, but Rangetsu serves sukiyaki year-round. Once the curtain has been closed, the silence of your contemplation will be broken by the clicks of the curtain rings as they’re pulled open again. This time, a woman wearing traditional Japanese attire with under heavy makeup takes your drink order, then promptly leaves.

rangetsu tokyo

Your drinks arrive, food order given, and there you are again. Piece by piece, moment by moment, sip by sip, the meal at Rangetsu is reflective of the general Japanese dining experience. Colorful, coordinated, proportional and very much in moderation.

Hot Potting

Every time the waitress comes into your little room, something is cooked in front of you in a small hot pot. The noodles are one course, as is the soup, then vegetables, finally beef with raw egg. Everything is tasty. The kind of quality that makes you notice things like the flavor of individual green beans you normally wouldn’t on most plates. Portions are just enough food to be satisfying leaving ample room for respectable amounts of saki.

The dining culture in Japan is certainly quality over quantity over time and Rangetsu is the manifestation of it all.

sukiyaki

Prices at Rangestu aren’t as high as most places in Ginza, Tokyo’s version of Time Square, but not cheap either. (Despite Tokyo dropping out of the top 10 most expensive cities last year.) A sukiyaki dinner, the full experience, is around $75 but only half that at lunch time.

Sukiyaki at Rangetsu is an event – vaguely like ordering a lomito in Santiago or drinking raki like a Turk – where the meal itself is an ingredient of conversation, reflection, and enjoyment.  Not something to be rushed or overlooked, after a warm sukiyaki then final sip of tea, in the future you might occasionally take a slower bite at your next lunch. Try to feel the flavors as they’re absorbed by different parts of your tongue. Appreciate the next cup of coffee on your way to work or otherwise find the peaceful moment that lies in every food, one of several lessons the sukiyaki at Rangetsu hopefully leaves you with.

What To See And Do In Asuncion, Paraguay

asuncion paraguay

Asuncion is the capital city of a country I’ve described as affectionately weird – one of the reasons you should travel to Paraguay. Oddities aside, there are plenty of tangible experiences in Asuncion that make it an interesting trip, even if it’s a short one from the few nearby cities with direct flights.

Here’s how to explore Asuncion and embrace its culture, history, and yes, weirdness.

On The Edge

Asuncion is a city with pockets of activity and areas of isolation with such large contrast, you can feel like you’re in a big, bustling city or ghost town, all within a few blocks. To begin, for accommodation, I recommend avoiding the hotels but rather checking out the many Airbnbs just around the city center. They’re nearly all gated, with pools, and large living space for well under $50 a night.

Buses and transportation are crowded but easy enough to manage with some guidance from your Airbnb owner. The first place you’ll want to go is Lido Bar for lunch. Lido Bar serves a variety of Paraguayan staples to Asuncion’s middle class before or between the workday. To best avoid the crowds, arrive at 1pm and then order caldo de pescado (fish soup) and an empanada to go with it. Don’t expect much English to be spoken by staff but if you use Pimsleur 2-4 weeks before your trip, you’ll have no problem asking for the daily specials in Spanish.

lido bar

Right around the corner is Cafe Consulado; a calm, borderline-hipster cafe where you can hang out, recharge, then plan your next move.

The Other Side Of Quiet

For some reason that wasn’t apparent to me, the government in Asuncion has created the Bohemian neighborhood of Loma San Jeronimo. It’s lined with colorful buildings with small shops, eateries, bars, and snack stalls. Unfortunately, nearly all of them are closed and as nice as the area is, it’s bizarrely quiet. Fun for photos, Loma San Jeronimo is worth a visit – just don’t trust Google Maps (offline or not) to get you there. Google will send you somewhere nearby but a part of town don’t you definitely don’t want to be in.

loma san jeronimo

Museo del Barro

Museums can be boring, especially after you’ve been to more than a few during your travels. Museo del Barro (also practically empty) though is a detailed look at Paraguay’s indigenous heritage, bloody history, and the contemporary society born of it. You can check the hours as well as updated entry fees on their website.

Runners, walkers, and nature lovers from here it’s a long walk or quick bus ride to Parque de la Salud. The park is an oasis of Asuncion: clean, green, and quiet. There are joggers, walking families, and the enclosed park is well secured so you can explore without worry. Personally, Parque de la Salud was one of my favorite places in Asuncion.

mercado 4 asuncion

On the way back to the bustle of Asuncion’s hidden city life, Mercado 4 is the world famous for its knockoff electronics. I saw fake iPhones so close to the original, unless you’re a tech enthusiast, they’re very difficult to distinguish. Mercado 4 is a fun stroll though Paraguay’s booming counterfeiting economy; highlighting just how off the international grid Asuncion is.

Outside there’s plenty of barbecue with friendly locals who don’t mind a side of conversation with their pork. Now all of a sudden you’re feeling small town again in Asuncion, an a la carte travel experience.

How Crowded Is Petra During The Day?

The ideal way to visit Petra is to arrive one night before, stay at one of the plentiful hotels, and enter the site as soon as it opens at 6am. Petra enthusiasts generally recommend staying two days to be able to fully explore the entire site but if you’re planning on a day trip from Amman, you’ll likely arrive when Petra is at its busiest during the day.

Large crowds and people in all of your photos might have you worried that not getting to Petra at 6am will ruin what is a bucket list event. Many of the tour buses from other parts of Jordan – mainly Amman – arrive around 10am and in case you’re on one of them, watch the video here or read on for what to expect.

Petra Peak

Late morning is generally the busiest time at Petra when people taking day trips begin to show up. For a day trip to Petra from the Jordanian capital Amman, the JETT Bus leaves at 6am, arrives at 10am, and returns around 5pm (definitely check the times on their site to be certain). JETT’s online booking engine is very unreliable so at least a day before your trip to Petra, visit their offices in Amman to book tickets ($32USD round trip). There are certainly other ways but this is the method I used.

petra crowds

Put On Your Walking Shoes

Petra is a large, large area. The town itself isn’t too big but the historical part is much more than just the famous treasury. The iconic treasury is a 2km (~1.24 miles) walk from the main entrance of Petra and its only the beginning. From there it’s another 6-8 kilometers (~3.7 – 5 miles) to the rest of the sites. Hopefully some of the pictures I’ve taken give you a better idea of how expansive the area is because just reading it doesn’t prepare you.

petra jordan sites

Petra is so large it helps dilute out the average 1,750 daily visitors. Additionally, most people don’t go too far beyond the treasury since it’s a hike in hot desert conditions – the more fit you are the further you can explore and leave the crowds behind. (Keep in mind there’s little food aside from snacks in the Petra site, plan accordingly.)

petra treasury

Photographic Memory In Mind

For those of you who can’t stand people in your pictures standing in front of the treasury for 10 minutes should give you a fairly clear shot. A wide angle lens will make matters easier and if all else fails you can just remove the people digitally. To be honest, even at its peak you won’t feel like it’s crowded at Petra.

petra trails

Plus the people in your photos can also give perspective, showing how big everything actually is.

petra tourism

Remember, around 2pm, the school buses show up. The kids stick to near the treasury and just beyond but while you won’t feel more crowded, the ambient noise will increase by about 5000%.

About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutI'm the blogger and computer security engineer who writes foXnoMad while on a journey to visit every country in the world. I'll show you the tips, tricks, and tech you can use to travel smarter. Read More


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