Petra is a highlight not just of Jordan but of the entire Middle East, a sublime and mysterious city that sits as an incomparable jewel of ancient architecture. Petra was once an important stop on a Roman trading route, but was only assimilated into the empire in 106 AD. Until then it had been a stronghold of the Nabataen Arab kingdom, whose knowledge of Greek architectural styles is reflected in their astonishing cliff-bound monuments. Today Petra is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Approaching through the long, narrow chasm, or Siq, you come face to face with the graceful columns of the magnificent Treasury, Petra’s most-photographed building. Like almost all structures here, it wasn’t built but rather carved out of the pink-hued rock, which means the interiors are usually modest in comparison with their grand facades. Further sights at ground level include an 8,000-seat amphitheater, numerous tombs and the triumphal arch of the Temenos Gateway.
Climb to higher ground and you'll find an open-air site of ritualistic sacrifices, the huge Monastery and the Triclinium, or Feast Hall, which has the best of Petra's few surviving decorated interiors.
Petra is 150 miles (240 kilometers) south of Jordan, near the town of Wadi Mousa, where there is a variety of accommodation. A stay of at least two days is recommended.