Our family wanted to take a trip some place exotic, but close, so we started to inquire about how to get to Petra and who offers tours to Petra. We decided to take a short family trip and chose Petra, Jordan as our destination. It is quite easy getting to Petra from Israel. We had heard that it was recently chosen as one of the wonders of the world and was easy to get to from Eilat. The Petra pictures we had seen on the internet were AMAZING and thought it would be great place to take the kids and get some quality photography time in as well.
After doing our research we found that the easiest way is to travel to Eilat and take one of the organized Petra tours. There are a bunch of companies that offer daily tours to Petra from Eilat and after hearing from friends who made a trip last year, we chose what we believed was the best and most experienced tour company. Taking the day trip meant we didn’t have to make arrangements for Petra, Jordan hotels.
We piled into the car and drove down to Eilat. It would be great if we could do the whole Petra Israel trip in our own car but taking a Petra tour is easier than navigating a new country. It is only a four hour drive but the landscape changes dramatically as you drive south. The green disappears and the vastness of the desert makes you feel that Israel is a large country. We found our Eilat bed and breakfast and prepared for the next morning. Aqaba, on the way to Petra from Eilat
Cross from Eilat to Aqaba
After a great Israeli breakfast, we received a call from the representative of the tour company telling us that our driver was ready and waiting for us outside. We got into his 4×4, picked up another traveler, and proceeded to the border.
My wife and I were a bit apprehensive about crossing into Jordan but the procedure is well organized and we felt very much at ease after crossing over. Our tour company is very experienced at organizing Petra tours from Israel and had supplied the passport information a few days in advance and all we had to do was to give our passport in for stamping on the Israeli side. After leaving the Israeli side we all gave our passports in to the Jordanian tour operator and waited while they were stamped. It is always a good idea to check the travel advisories in case the security situation has changed.
The 15-minute wait gave us a chance to do some shopping at the border gift shop and watch the famous sand bottles being filled. The kids were fascinated as they watched the bottle fill with sand and slowly take shape, creating camels, trees and words. We had a chance to talk with the other members of our group and found that some were Israeli, looking to take a one day trip to Petra. Others were tourists from the USA and Canada who had decided to stay on longer than their tours and do an add on tour of Petra. After doing the trip we realized how easy it is to do the add on extension tour of Petra or book and excursion to Petra from Israel since all the arrangements are done by the tour operator and all you have to do is show up in Eilat.
Our tour company gave us a sticker with their name on it and our guide gathered us and led us to the air-conditioned bus. The guide is licensed by the tourism department and spoke an excellent English. Tourist Police accompany each tour busEach bus had a Tourist Police officer accompanying the group along the trip. When we got to Petra we also saw stations for the tourist police. The tour started in Aqaba and gave us a feel for a Jordanian city. Aqaba is a city, similar to Eilat, on the edge of the Red Sea. It has one of world’s largest flags, which is visible from Google Earth. Our tour took us past the Royal Palace and a lot of new construction of hotels and condos. Petra tour companies typically leave Eilat early in the morning, so Aqaba is not very busy by the time we started our tour.
The road to Petra is a modern two lane divided highway. Ali, our tour guide, spoke about the history of Jordan, the duty free trade zone around Aqaba and surrounding countryside as we took the two hour trip to Petra. At about the half-way point, we stopped at a rest stop for coffee, souvenirs and washrooms (bring your own toilet paper), then continued on to Wadi Mousa. Burial place of AaronWadi Mousa, or Moses Valley, is the location that Jordanians believe Moses hit the rock and made water come out for the Israelites in their Exodus from Egypt. Ali pointed out a distant mountain that is traditionally considered the burial place of Aaron, Moses’ brother. A few minutes later we arrived in Petra.
The visitors’ center, as many public building in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, is adorned with large photos of His Majesty King Abdullah II and his late father, King Hussein. King Abdullah II assumed the throne on February 7, 1999 and is reportedly the 43rd-generation direct descendant of prophet Muhammad.
Our guide set up the day in two parts. The first part was the tour of Petra, stopping at the major sites with his explanation, the second part was lunch and about two hours of free time. He suggested that we keep up with his tour and stop at our own pace on the way back if we wanted to spend more time at one of the sites. Two hours is not a lot of time if you want to see everything but for us, with two little kids in tow, it was the perfect amount of time. We were given the choice of walking the whole way back and forth or taking the local “taxi” service one way. Petra is built on a slope, so taking the taxi back up is suggested if you don’t feel like walking.