This Stunning Middle Eastern City Is A Must-Visit According To Oprah

For the last four decades, whenever Oprah Winfrey has said something, people have tended to listen. So when the multi-award-winning media mogul, philanthropist, and Medal of Freedom holder starts handing out travel tips, it is worth lending her your ear. One place she really wants you to check out is Petra in Jordan.

In March 2023, Oprah posted pics on Instagram showing herself sitting on a camel outside the world-famous Treasury in the ancient "Rose City," so-called for the color of sandstone that the magnificent edifice is carved into. "Visited Jordan this week, and there was so much to see and experience!" she wrote. "We visited the site where John the Baptist baptized Jesus, Petra and all its fascinations, camels, and the spot where the big boulder comes rolling out of 'Indiana Jones.' So much history there in the 'Rose City,' voted one of the 7 new wonders of the world. It takes 3 days to really see it all we only spent 3 hours. Put it on your must-see list if you haven't already!"

Since she worked with Steven Spielberg on 1985's "The Color Purple," you'd think she might know her "Raiders of the Lost Ark" from her "Last Crusade" — the boulder scene was actually filmed in Hawaii. But hey, it's Oprah, so we can forgive that slight gaffe! Petra is well known for its starring role in the final episode of the original Indiana Jones trilogy, but what else is there to see at the historic site?

What exactly is Petra?

The ancient city of Petra is located in a secluded valley in the arid mountains of southern Jordan, a part of the world sometimes known as the Holy Land. The nearest town is Wadi Musa, Arabic for "Valley of Moses" and built on the site where the prophet is said to have brought water from a rock with his staff. While Petra is best known for its most Instagrammable attraction, the site itself sprawls over 100 square miles. It was once the capital of the Nabataean Empire and home to around 30,000 people at its peak.

Many of Petra's most wondrous sights are hidden away in a narrow canyon called the Siq. The city was "lost" to the Western world until 1812 when an explorer named John Lewis Burckhardt rediscovered it on his travels. Since then, it has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. As impressive as Petra undoubtedly is, there is still much to discover: Archaeologists estimate that around 85 percent of the city remains buried beneath the sand and rock.

As it stands, there is still more than enough to see in Petra. As Oprah pointed out in her Instagram post, you can get the flavor from a short trip, but you need a few days to do the city justice beyond visiting the movie location where Indiana Jones and his dad found the Holy Grail.

Things to see in Petra

As with many world-famous ancient sites, like the Pyramids of Giza or the Acropolis in Athens, Petra attracts many thousands of visitors each year. As such, the site itself and nearby Wadi Musa are well-geared for catering to visitors, with plenty of accommodations available if you plan more than just a day trip. Many companies also offer tours and camel rides, and there are a few restaurants on-site for meals and refreshments.

Once you've checked out the stunning facade of the Treasury, there are many other highlights to visit in Petra. There are the Royal Tombs, a series of impressive mausoleums carved into the rock; the sprawling Great Temple complex; and the must-see Monastery, which is even larger than the Treasury and beautifully preserved. Be warned, however: The route to the Monastery is a steady climb up 800 well-worn steps to the rocky hilltop where it resides. If you don't fancy doing the legwork yourself, you can always take a donkey ride instead. From the Monastery, you will be rewarded with spectacular views over the city in the valley below.

With so many tourists descending on Petra each year, it is worth considering the time of your visit. During peak season, the site is open between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Set your alarm clock early, because arriving before the crowds might just give you the chance to have the gorgeous ancient city all to yourself.