Improbably carved into the rusty-red rock of the Jordanian desert, the ancient city of Petra has been mesmerising visitors since being rediscovered by Westerners in 1812. Siq Canyon provides a suitably grandiose welcome, cutting a deep track through layers of fiery sandstone, and building up the suspense, before you first set eyes on the Lost City’s majesty.
An early start is best to explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site, giving you chance to beat the crowds and avoid the brunt of the heat. The Treasury is perhaps Petra’s best-known structure, having featured in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as the mystical hiding place of the Holy Grail. Imprinted deep into the sheer sandstone, it’s a dramatic, spectacular achievement of human endeavour. Look closely, and you’ll see the indentations of bullet holes scarring the urn that sits atop it – fired by Bedouins fuelled by rumours of ancient treasure within.
Petra developed as the capital of the Nabataean Kingdom, and the sophistication of the Rose Kingdom’s rock-hewn buildings is matched only by the elaborate and advanced water collection and transportation system that quenched its thirst and provided the means to thrive, despite its remote location and the intense burn of the sun. Look out for the delicate water channels that lace the city as you explore. High above the city - up a daunting 800-step climb - stands the Monastery. It’s lesser known, but larger and - whisper it quietly - perhaps even more impressive than the Treasury. The High Place of Sacrifice is an even tougher hike - with only occasional electric-blue lizards scattering from your footsteps as you rise - but the views of the remarkable city, embossed into the mighty sandstone cliffs below, will last a lifetime.