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Petra, Jordan: 5 Steps to Channeling Indiana Jones

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

The sun had already risen hot and bright by the time I crawled out from underneath my mosquito net in the Dana Biosphere Reserve in Jordan. Yawning, I began to dress, reminiscing about the night before and mildly regretting not diving into bed a few hours sooner. After watching the sunset while drinking tea with the local Bedouins, we had dinner by candlelight before climbing to the roof of the Feynan Ecolodge and watching shooting stars over the Jordanian Desert. Actually, I was ok with only a few hours of sleep.

Then it dawned on me that today was the day that all my delightful, nerdy fantasies would come true.

We were going to Petra!

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

Now I am not much of a bucket list traveler, but Petra has been on my travel to-do list for as long as I can remember. Walking along those narrow red gorges, following in the footsteps of so many great adventurers and explorers before me, and finally getting to visit the famous treasury from Indiana Jones would be a dream come true. I was elated.

What kid didn’t watch those movies and think, I want to go on an adventure like Indy one day?! Amiright?

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

Step 1: ride in the back of a rickety Bedouin truck to Petra

As we said goodbye to our new Bedouin friends in the nature reserve, we piled in the back of a 4×4 truck that looked like it had been around since the 70’s and drove off. Bumping and jostling around in the back with the sandy wind blowing through my hair, we made our way towards Petra. For the next few hours we rode high along the ancient dirt back roads towards one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

“Liz, I suggest you don’t lean against the back hatch unless you want to go flying haha,” yelled Ibrahim, the most amazing tour guide on the face of the earth as I was snapping photo after photo of our ride through the mountains. Duly noted.

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

Passing local men on the backs of donkeys, we would periodically stop and take in the beautiful views as we crawled higher and higher following in the footsteps of great traders. Slowly the morning mists began to burn away as the steamy Arabian sun rose above us. Baking with a smile on my face as the high stony cliffs fell away along the narrow road, I treasured that morning ride in the back of a pick-up truck as something I would remember forever. It was certainly more memorable than if we drove there on a massive cookie cutter tour bus.

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

Step 2: dress the part

But no Indiana Jones fantasy can be complete without the obligatory badass adventure hat, am I right or am I right?

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), the stalls ringing the entrance to Petra didn’t sell whips, so sadly my Indiana Jones ensemble was incomplete. Mercifully, the tourists and locals alike were spared watching me make of a fool of myself posing around Petra with a whip.

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

Instead they had to run out of the way as my wild donkey named Shakira bolted up narrow staircases with me screaming wearing a cowboy hat with a GoPro strapped on top. But more on that later.

Also since we are the topic of dress, some housekeeping information. I wore Toms around Petra. Since it is equal parts sand, dirt, and slippery rocks, I suggest you DON’T wear Toms and wear proper hiking shoes or sneakers. Took me three washes to get all the sand out of them.

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

Step 3: team up with some sidekicks as crazy as you

“Hey, how do you get up to the top of this cliff for the view of the Treasury?” Asked World Wide Nate pulling up a photo on his iPhone while we were waiting to go inside Little Petra. “I want to get this shot at sunset.”

Being the nosy person that I am, I peeked over Nate’s shoulder as he was chatting with our guides about the best way to get up to that view point this afternoon.”

“Holy crap, that looks awesome!” I chimed in, “I’m coming with you!”

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

Never one to wait for an invitation, I insisted on tagging along. Convincing Nate that I would be his production assistant and the afternoon would only be bettered by my presence, Listening carefully, we (him) began to plot out an epic afternoon traversing the clifftops of Petra in search of the most epic, badass sunset shot of al time (you know you are with travel bloggers when…) With Seattle’s Travels joining in, our ragtag group grew into a fabulous gang of crazy people looking for an adventure. Just the kind of partners in crime you need for a day in Petra.

Collectively known (from now on and forever more) as the Dream Team, Me, Nate and Seattle had absolutely no idea what we were getting ourselves into when Ibrahim said that the only way we would get to see both sites at Petra was if we were to go by donkey.

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

Step 4: find some exotic animal to ride around Petra, like a camel or Arabian stallion (or in our cases, donkeys)

Since we wanted to visit two main sites in Petra in one afternoon, we realized quickly that we would have to hoof it (pun intended). The preferred mode of transport around the ancient city of Petra by those with time constraints is of course, by donkey.

I should take this opportunity to explain that Petra is HUGE. Like, much bigger than you can ever imagine, which is why it takes days and days to see everything. To fit it all in in one day is impossible, but lucky for us Indiana Jones wannabes, we like a good challenge.

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

Clambering up of my frisky donkey, Shakira, I had no idea what was in store for the rest of the day. In the not so reassuring company of two teenage boys armed with sticks and mischievous smiles, we were off.

What we thought we looked like:

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

What we actually looked like:

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

Step 5: have an epic adventure

Now just take a moment to try to imagine riding a donkey up a flight of stairs. Ancient stairs worn down from centuries of donkey hooves and hiking boots trotting along them, making them nice and smooth, perfect to slip and fall off of a donkey on. Now try to imagine clumsy ME riding a donkey up those stairs carved into a mountain with no railing and a hundred foot drop or two on your side and that’s what you get in Petra. IT WAS EFFING TERRIFYING!

Most (sane) people just climb the stairs up to the different sites and look out points in Petra, but oh no, that wasn’t good enough for the dream team.

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

As we headed up the first stairs 3 ducks in a row followed by two boys, I realized several important things.

1. Donkeys have the right of way in Petra, and Shakira wasn’t to stop or move for anyone or anything. She just about plowed over a dozen tourists on the way to the top with me yelling, “excuse me, so sorry” for about 15 minutes straight.

2. I also had no control over my donkey. Like at all. This was good and bad. Good because I had absolutely no idea what I was doing and most likely would accidently ridden her off the side of the cliff. Bad because I don’t like to not be in charge and surrender control of any given situation, let alone to a stinky donkey named Shakira in Jordan.

3. About three minutes into the first climb up the stairs I was one hundred percent convinced I was surely going to die screaming.

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

Apart from the fact that for some ungodly reason the donkeys preferred to walk on the edge of the cliff instead of the middle of the stairs (I think maybe it was because the stairs were worn down less on the sides), it didn’t help matters that our donkeys were pretty lazy and would stop all the damn time.

No big deal except to keep them moving, our mini guides would hit the donkeys with rocks, ropes and/or chains. My inner teenage PETA activist was throwing a fit.

“Please can you NOT hit the donkey? I really don’t like it.” I eventually said to the boys. Their reply was CLASSIC.

“It’s ok, don’t worry; it’s only a mule.” Are you freakin’ kidding me?

So be warned, the working animals here aren’t exactly given the best treatment, as you can imagine.

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

As we climbed higher and higher to a hidden viewpoint overlooking the famous treasury facede, I got more excited and equally scared. The cliffs along the stairs to the first treasury was nothing compared to this. One falso step and I would go flying off the side of a several hundred foot cliff. Gulp.

But in the words of Indy, “Fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory.” Isn’t that what motivates most bloggers anyways?

Holding on to dear life, I tried to trust my donkey. Mule. Whatever. How many times had she made this trip? A million probably. Finally as the sun started to set, turning the rocks a mesmerizing shade of red-rose, we arrived. As I not so gracefully dismounted, we had to hike down a little ways before arriving at the overlook.

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

As we emerged out between two big rocks, I got my first glimpse of the canyon below. It took my breath away. Cliche, I know. Climbing down, there was a little tent propped up with carpets. We threw our bags down, lay on our stomachs and wiggled out as far as we dared, peeking over the rocks below to the treasury below. It was definitely a holy shit moment, that’s for sure!

Smiling at each other, I couldn’t help but think, hot damn was that worth it! What an incredible moment! After taking approximately a million photos, videos, and iPhone shots, I made sure to put all my electronic crap away and just sit and reflect, taking a mental picture of this one pure, precious moment that would and could never be repeated.

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

But now the best part: going back down. If I thought going up hundreds of scary stairs with cliff edges was terrifying, it was NOTHING compared to going back down them on the back of a donkey. After what felt like hours later, of me praying to any god that would listen punctuated with “oh no, oh no, fuck this GAH!” we finally emerged at the bottom. Indiana Jones or not, I was firmly telling myself the next time I ride a donkey is the day that hell freezes over.

But all in all, a pretty amazing day!

Have you been to Petra, Jordan? Is it on your bucket list? Are you a fan of Indiana Jones? Would you ride a donkey around Petra given the chance?

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

Indiana Jones Petra Jordan

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81 Responses to Petra, Jordan: 5 Steps to Channeling Indiana Jones

  1. Sue Sharpe July 1, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

    Excellent stuff, Liz! It has been, and continues to be, one of the places that I would most like to visit. Not sure quite how I feel about the donkey ride, though! 🙂

    • Liz July 3, 2013 at 3:04 am #

      It was quite the experience! I hope you make it out there one day 🙂

    • Ibrahim July 5, 2013 at 8:02 am #

      You are wellcome to Jordan ..

      • Liz July 7, 2013 at 1:31 pm #


    • Denise July 11, 2013 at 2:11 pm #

      Love your blog. I did a shout out to you on mine. You are living life large. Enjoy

  2. Michelle - Very Hungry Explorer July 1, 2013 at 8:42 pm #

    What a fabulous post. Beautiful pictures and it really made me laugh. Sounds like you had an amazing time. I’m sure Shakira loved you!

    • Liz July 7, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

      haha I don’t know if she loved me or not haha

  3. Lauren Aloise July 2, 2013 at 3:41 am #

    Looks beautiful Liz! I don’t know if I’d be brave enough to trust those “mules” on those cliffs! I’m impressed by your bravery. Hope you’re enjoying Italy!

    • Liz July 7, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

      I don’t know what I was thinking, all in the name of blogging haha

  4. Bruised Passports July 2, 2013 at 6:19 am #

    Petra is indeed fab- it’s even better at sunrise. We were not brave enough to go up the cliffs on donkeys- it sounds like quite the experience 😉

    • Liz July 7, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

      I definitely want to return at sunrise 🙂

  5. Tom L July 2, 2013 at 7:08 am #

    Unbelievably beautiful photos: I’m planning to go there in November, does anyone know what’s the weather like in Petra at that time of the year?

    • Liz July 7, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

      I think it’s probably perfect. The only thing is if rains, there can be flash floods

  6. Heather July 2, 2013 at 8:37 am #

    LOVED this post!! I’ve wanted to have an Indiana Jones adventure ever since I was a kid and this looks like the perfect way to do it, Shakira the donkey and all!

    • Liz July 7, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

      I hope you make it happen one day!

  7. Madiha July 2, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    Petra is indeed so amazing! Your view is epic but we simply walked up the stairs to the Urn Tomb and had a different one from there 😛

    • Liz July 7, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

      Next time I’m walking haha

  8. Megan July 2, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

    Fabulous photos! I would love to visit Petra…ESPECIALLY on the back of a donkey. I grew up riding horses…so it can’t be THAT different from obnoxious ex-racehorses? Right…? Eh, hell, its probably hugely different, but whatevz, sign me up!

    • Liz July 7, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

      haha I don’t know, I am sure you’d do much better than me haha

  9. Mara July 2, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

    Absolutely wonderful photos! I have been admiring your blog for a while, keep up the beautiful blogging!
    -Mara in Granada

    • Liz July 7, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

      Thanks Mara

  10. Jane C July 2, 2013 at 6:47 pm #

    Great photos and story!!! The viewpoint of the treasury is fantastic! You are much braver than I exploring on a donkey…. The back of the horse cart – that was me taking the easy but very bumpy ride into Petra! I know what you mean about descending on the donkey. I did the Molokai mule ride (MANY years ago) and it was down the cliff first. Much easier going back up.

    • Liz July 7, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

      So much better going up than down haha

  11. Sara July 2, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

    The more I read about Jordan, the more I think I need to see it. Plus, I can put all my excavation wear to good use again and dress the part. 🙂

    • Liz July 7, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

      Cool! Where have you been excavating? Dish!

  12. Pablo July 2, 2013 at 11:47 pm #

    Looks amazing, great pictures! I would love to check out Petra at some point. That climb on the edge sounds pretty intense though. I’m pretty sure I would be freaking out too!

    • Liz July 7, 2013 at 1:56 pm #

      total freak out!

  13. Cat of Sunshine and Siestas July 3, 2013 at 2:27 am #

    You make me smile – looks incredible! My friend and I, after the Camino, have a long list of places we’d like to see together, and Petra is one of them!

    • Liz July 7, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

      I hope you get out there soon cat, it’s awesome!

  14. Alex South July 3, 2013 at 4:03 am #

    That temple carved into the rock is incredible. Did/can you go inside?

    • Liz July 7, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

      Yeah it’s actually really small inside, nothing like Indiana Jones haha

  15. Tim Moon July 3, 2013 at 9:30 am #

    Really nice photos, especially the one of you riding the donkey. I think I’d just walk. By the way, sweet hat.

    • Liz July 7, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

      best hat ever!

  16. amelie88 July 3, 2013 at 7:30 pm #

    What an adventure this must have been! I actually have never seen an Indiana Jones movie all the way through and I was unaware any of them had been filmed here. I just want to go to Jordan because it’s been getting so much buzz lately! Don’t know if I would have been brave enough to ride the mule (which I think you can also ride down into the Grand Canyon, they are sturdier than horses or donkeys and can walk on uneven, slippery surfaces that the other two animals can’t manage… sorry for the factoids, I used to horse back ride and was horse crazy back in the day) but looks like the effort was worth it!

    • Liz July 7, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

      Yeah that all makes sense, and I kept trying to just go with it and trust them, but let me just say it was so scary gahh!!!

  17. Sara Louise July 4, 2013 at 4:06 am #

    This is beyond amazing! What a site to get to visit and see for yourself.
    And just to let you know, the photos of ‘what we thought we looked like’, and ‘what we looked like’ had me in stitches!

    • Liz July 7, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

      haha glad you liked that part lol

  18. Lauren July 4, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

    There is just nothing better than channeling Indiana Jones, but I think you made a good choice opting for the hat and no whip. I know I would hurt myself with one!

    And your pictures are absolutely gorgeous!

    • Liz July 7, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

      Thanks Lauren xx

  19. OCDemon July 5, 2013 at 2:00 am #

    Everyone wants to dress up like Indiana Jones, but nobody wants to be Marco Polo. As if 13th century Venetian men’s wear somehow isn’t hip and trendy anymore. When did I miss this?

    • Liz July 7, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

      hahahhaaha dying

  20. Liz July 5, 2013 at 4:39 am #

    Haha, I tend to be one with an overactive imagination and I’m sure I would have been just as freaked out as you riding a donkey at the edge of a drop off while torturing myself with mental images of being propelled from the saddle.

    The pictures are stunning! Love the fact that you wore the Indy hat. 😉

    • Liz July 7, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

      <3 of course I rocked the hat, no other choice there haha

  21. cailin July 6, 2013 at 8:13 am #

    When I was there like a week before you I totally saw a couple places selling fake whips. Bummer you didn’t see them, it would of made for a great photo! Where did you get your hat? Did you buy it there or bring it with you?

    • Liz July 7, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

      It was AMAZING! I bought it there, and I even brought it all the way home haha 😀

  22. Amanda July 6, 2013 at 11:12 am #

    Well no one can accuse you of not being adventurous!

    Even though you feared for your life, this sounds amazing and SO worth it!

    • Liz July 7, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

      It was amazing!! So glad I survived 😀

  23. Rebecca July 6, 2013 at 9:24 pm #

    Definitely on the bucket list!! Although not sure about the donkey part… number one, the way they are treated doesn’t make me comfortable, second, I think I would be screaming the whole way as well!

    Looks like it was a great adventure, Miss Indiana Jones 🙂

    • Liz July 7, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

      it was such a great adventure. It really bothered me too, how they were treated. I am definitely much more conscious of this now :/

  24. crystaldel July 8, 2013 at 8:40 pm #

    Holy hell are these photos amazing!! I loved your “What we thought we looked like” vs “reality” photos and they had me rolling on the floor laughing. I’ve always wanted to go to Petra, but have never made it that way and being terrified of heights I’m pretty sure my donkey riding experience would have been like yours! Amazing photos and I loved your narrative! 🙂

    • Liz July 12, 2013 at 8:01 am #

      hahahah thanks! I’m glad you liked them and I hope you make it out there one day 🙂

  25. Jan July 10, 2013 at 7:07 am #

    nice post, what a great experience (and super nice photos)!! Makes me want to go there someday too!! And I thought channeling my inner Lara Croft, Tomb-raider style at Angkor Wat was enough.. definitely adding Jordan to my To-Visit list!

    • Liz July 12, 2013 at 8:01 am #

      Lara Croft all the way!

  26. Michael July 11, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

    “Fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory.” Amazing! Looks like it was an amazing trip though and what fantastic pictures donkey and all! How did you feel the country was in terms of safety though? I always here mixed reviews.

    • Liz July 12, 2013 at 8:05 am #

      Totally safe.

  27. Dante July 11, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    Hey Liz –

    Your last post Petra, Jordan: 5 Steps to Channeling Indiana Jones was freaking
    awesome. I have gone ahead and added your stuff to my Feedly account. Please keep me
    updated if you post anywhere else.
    Keep rocking –


    • Liz July 12, 2013 at 8:02 am #

      Hey Dante! Glad you liked it! I do write for other outlets frequently, be sure to like my facebook fan page, that’s where I post most of that 🙂

  28. Jennifer July 15, 2013 at 3:59 am #

    Thanks for my postcard 🙂

    • Liz July 16, 2013 at 6:42 am #

      Thanks Jennifer!!

  29. ExpatExplorers July 16, 2013 at 4:27 am #

    Lovely memories. We travelled around Jordan last October, which marked the 30th anniversary of when I was first there and people still lived in the tombs. “Married to a Bedouin” by Marguerite van Geldermalsen is a super read if you want an insight. Loved the pics too.

    • Liz July 16, 2013 at 6:46 am #

      Love that story!

  30. ExpatExplorers July 16, 2013 at 4:37 am #

    And congratulations on the Go, Write, See gig. Will read with interest.

    • Liz July 16, 2013 at 6:46 am #


  31. Christoffer Moen July 25, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

    Haha what a brilliant and quirky list. Looks like you guys really had a blast Indiana Jones-eing! And Petra is gorgeous! Thanks a lot for sharing this. Cheers.

    • Liz July 28, 2013 at 5:17 pm #

      haha thanks!!! It was SO MUCH FUN!

  32. Marysia @ My Travel Affairs July 27, 2013 at 4:38 am #

    Great pictures, Petra is truly an amazing place! I have spend there 3 days last year! Have you seen Petra by Night? Really nice as well!

    • Liz July 28, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

      I was supposed to go but I was way too tired after all the donkey rides and missed it. I could barely walk by sunset

  33. Charu November 4, 2013 at 12:20 pm #

    Simply wonderful! I went to Petra when I was pregnant, and climbed all the steps to the Monastery too. It is addicting, isn’t it? Especially the part when you see the Treasury from the crack in the Siq–that image still haunts me

  34. mike brown May 23, 2014 at 10:02 am #

    Hi guys seen your photos when to Egypt/Jordan in 2012 my pics are no way as good everyone should get out and enjoy their gods gift of eye sight to see such wonderful places I like history and adventure movies the mummy/national treasure/Jack hunter/relic hunter/and of cause Indiana jones all the best to you and the readers

  35. Sonia June 15, 2014 at 5:31 am #

    Loved your post….esp riding the donkey bit.Here is a link to my post…

  36. mytriptoPetra April 17, 2015 at 6:04 am #

    Hello Liz, great photos, and it seems you had great times in Petra… all the best..

  37. Alexandria D. August 14, 2015 at 3:36 am #

    Your Petra pictures are incredible. Indiana Jones and Lara Croft were my first inspirations to be an adventurer. Miss Croft specifically caught my attention to be an archaeologist but I changed my career path due to fears of being cursed by mummies in Egypt! LOL!

  38. Wanderer June 22, 2016 at 11:08 am #

    Amazing photos and great adventure that went with them. Planning to visit Petra in September. I’m looking forward to it. I’m sure it will be a blast.


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