The Amazing Petra, Jordan

2011-11-11-Jordan-Petra-TicketsAttempting to write a “short story” about Petra, Jordan, would be like trying to summarize Will And Ariel Durant’s epic 12-volume The Story of Civilization in a few sentences. So this article won’t try to cover all of the area, just some of the photo highlights of our tour there on 11/11/11 — yes, November 11, 2011!

For starters, there is a very nice Wikipedia article at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petra. In case you’re not aware of it, Petra was named one of the New 7 Wonders of the World in 2007. While this sounds impressive, one must also know that this designation was purely a marketing effort by a Canadian-Swiss in Zurich, Switzerland — it had nothing to do with UNESCO or any other independent organization. The problem with this is that tourism has grown tremendously and there had not been a sustainable tourism plan in effect. There have since been efforts to manage the tourism, and other, impacts on the area.

Our visit was on the second day in Jordan while on a 19-day cruise from Barcelona to Dubai. Rather than go on a ship’s tour, we went on a private tour set up by a seasoned cruiser who arranged it through Cruise Critic. We had a total of sixteen of us on our tours in Jordan (from its only sea port of Aqaba) as well as in Israel (from the port of Eilat).

Because this tour was on our second day in Aqaba (we went to the Dead Sea on day one), our group was able to leave the ship early in the morning for the 3+ hour drive to Petra. This meant that we were leaving (and heading to a tour at Wadi Rum) just as the ship’s tours began arriving. That was so wonderful (thank you, Barbara for arranging the tours, and Sharon for telling us about the cruise!).

As “they say,” sit back and enjoy the ride as we take a trip to Petra!

Yield to Camels!
Yield to Camels!
Camels for rent
Camels for rent
Horses also for rent
Horses also for rent
Showing height of some "rooms"
Showing height of some “rooms”
The Amphitheatre
The Amphitheatre
Royal Tombs
Royal Tombs
Royal Tombs
Royal Tombs
Are they really needed?
Are they really needed?
Al-Khasneh, "The Treasury"
Al-Khasneh, “The Treasury”
Camels taking a break
Camels taking a break
Elephant Rock
Elephant Rock
Carriage Ride
Carriage Ride
Beats walking back up!
Beats walking back up!
Narrow siq
Narrow siq
Rock Layers
Rock Layers
So many "structures"
So many “structures”
Mineral veins
Mineral veins
Moon setting on our way back!
Moon setting on our way back!


I hope you enjoyed the brief journey through Petra.


Stuart Gustafson is America’s International Travel Expert® who speaks on cruise ships, writes novels, sends out a monthly newsletter, and loves everything about travel. Visit his website at www.stuartgustafson.com. You can also connect with him and other travelers on his International Travel Expert page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/International-Travel-Expert-147321228683651/


All information and images copyright © 2016 by Stuart Gustafson Productions, LLC. America’s International Travel Expert is a U.S. Registered Trademark of Stuart Gustafson Productions, LLC.




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A hidden Gem in downtown Cabo San Lucas

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Casa Bella Hotel

I’ve been going to Cabo San Lucas, at the tip of the Baja California peninsula, each year since 2003. It started out while I was still working, and I’d go one week a year. A few years later it became two weeks a year, and now it’s anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks a visit, and we go up to 3 times a year. So you’d think we would know the area very well. We do, of course, but it’s not until you stay somewhere different that you start to explore that “new area.”

We just got back from a 2-1/2 week stay — two weeks in a timeshare unit right on the Pacific Ocean (we love watching and hearing the waves!) followed by 3 days in a charming boutique hotel that looks like a family villa straight out of Spain or Italy. Casa Bella was originally designed as a family home for a large family — but then they had only one child, daughter Barbara, who now manages the hotel. It’s easy to miss the hotel as you walk along Hidalgo Avenue because its facade blends in beautifully with the other businesses along the sidewalk.

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But once you walk through the entrance way into the delightful courtyard, you’ll forget that you’re in the middle of a major tourist town and only one block away from the famous (and very noisy) Cabo Wabo Cantina. There are about a dozen rooms, all tastefully decorated and with very large bathrooms, and there are two mini-suites up a flight of stairs. There is no elevator, so be ready to carry your suitcase up the stairs.

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I had previewed this hotel in May 2015 as I was researching locations for an upcoming small-group tour that I’m hosting this April — it’s called Los Cabos Highlights TourCLICK HERE for tour information. This hotel is going to be just perfect for us because it is quaint, quiet, and very charming.

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There is a covered terrace area where Barbara and her staff serve a continental breakfast each morning; once you let them know your selections, they automatically bring them out each morning — that beats the service on a cruise ship! It’s also a great spot where you can hold an informal business meeting if you’re so inclined, or just enjoy the free wifi that’s throughout the complex.

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The swimming pool is not very large, but just the perfect size for socializing or cooling off after a warm day in town. If you love plants, you’ll truly enjoy strolling around and seeing all the different types of palms and other varieties that adorn the open spaces.

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Another benefit of being right in town is that you’re able to find small restaurants that are “just around the corner.” We found a great sushi place, a new cafe, and Argentine restaurant, and a superb coffee shop — all within one block. There are more, of course, in that area, but you can’t go to them all — unless you come back for another stay.

The next time you’re planning a visit to a familiar place, check out some places that are new to you on TripAdvisor — you just might be surprised with your new find. I submit reviews of almost every place I go so that I can provide helpful hints to other travelers.



Stuart Gustafson is America’s International Travel Expert® who speaks on cruise ships, writes novels, sends out a monthly newsletter, and loves everything about travel. Visit his website at www.stuartgustafson.com.

How to Select a Tour

Do you receive emails and brochures on a regular basis from travel companies enticing you to go on one of their tours? I get a lot of them, partly because I’ve taken a tour with them, or I’ve signed up to have information sent to me. They ALL look wonderful; so the question becomes — how do you decide which tour, if any, to select?

I wish there were a simple answer that would work for everyone, but there isn’t. I remember going into the Local Automobile Club office in late 2005 just to pick up some catalogs on Italy. Why? Well, I was going to plan a trip to Italy the next year, one that we would do on our own. The Travel Consultant asked if we’d ever thought about going on a tour? No, was my reply. I travel a lot internationally, so I know how to plan a trip.

She wasn’t going to give up that easily. She told us about a couple tours (notice, she didn’t bombard me with a dozen possibilities), and then she said something that made perfect sense to me. She said we could take the low-end tour but if we didn’t like it, was it the tour itself or that we didn’t like touring? Or we could take the high-end tour. If we didn’t like that tour, it certainly wouldn’t have been the tour; it would be that we didn’t like touring at all.

Would that apply to everyone? Probably not, but I liked the logic. We signed up for the high-end tour (the company is Tauck) and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Since then, we’ve taken a 21-day tour through Rick Steves’ Europe Through The Back Door, and I’ve taken two tours with The Traveling Professor. We’ve also been on many cruises where we’ve also taken one- and two-day tours.

So let’s get back to the initial question, “How do you decide which tour, if any, to select?”

  1. Where do you want to go? (and don’t say “anywhere”) Don’t even look at THE BEST tour to Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam if you have no desire to go to Southeast Asia
  2. How long can you go, instead of how long would you like to go?
  3. What is your realistic budget? (you’ll probably go over budget, but try to focus at tours within “your price range”)
  4. Is airfare included? What extras do you have to pay for?
  5. Is the currency exchange rate favorable to you? (right now, the U.S. Dollar is very strong against most other currencies, meaning it’s a great opportunity to travel internationally)

Try answering those questions as you look at different tours and see if your answers help to narrow down your choices.

Remember, if you have a question about international travel, don’t hesitate to contact me, America’s International Travel Expert® by submitting the simple form on my CONTACT page.