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If you go: Petra

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March 19, 2006

How to get there

Petra is about 140 miles southwest of Amman, and reachable by scheduled bus (two a day), tour bus, rental car, or hired private car, though at $100 or more one way, the 3 1/2-hour ride is pricey. From Israel, multiday bus tours are available from Jerusalem.

Daylong bus tours cost roughly $150 inclusive. For those who prefer traveling à la carte, taxis await on the other side. You can go to the bus station in Aqaba, or arrange transportation directly to Wadi Mousa, the town at Petra's edge. We did the latter; the 90-mile trip cost about $50, including a stop by the highway for tea.

Where to stay

Petra Palace 011-962-6-5711660, 011-962-3-2156723

Rooms are clean and spacious, breakfast included, and box lunches available. The pool can be very refreshing after a day in Petra. $130-$180 double.

Taybet Zaman

011-962-3-1520111

Built from a defunct hillside village, the hotel retains a village ambience with a number of smallish buildings connected by a sometimes confusing warren of stone-paved streets lined with rooms, shops, and a restaurant. There is a swimming pool. $120-$170.

Where to eat

Food is decent and generally moderately priced, often served buffet style.

What to do

A single day's entry to Petra costs about $30, but a two-day pass is only $5 more; a three-day pass costs about $45; all are available at the visitors center. You can go alone and rely on your guidebook, or hire a guide at the gate. The standard price is about $20 for two hours, or $50 for the better part of a day, including a hike.

Petra at Night, which runs several nights per week when there is enough tourist interest, takes you on a candlelight walk through the siq and offers sweet local tea and seating in the plaza in front of the Treasury, one of Petra's jewels. The plaza is lighted only by candles, so the supreme anticipation of seeing the Treasury awash in light goes unrealized.

Little Petra is about 10 miles from Petra's entrance. The site is free to enter, but it will cost about $30 between the round-trip cab ride and hiring a guide. The carved, sometimes hand-painted spaces are impressive, though not comparable to its vast neighbor. But there are reasons to go. You are likely to have the place to yourself, and after you have viewed the sights on the 500-yard main street, your guide can lead you on the 20-minute hike to Beidha, a 9,000-year-old settlement that our guidebook said was one of the oldest excavations in the Mideast.

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