Jordan: Ma’in Hot Springs is a Scam and Petra Light Festival is a Huge Disappointment!

The morning sun ray lighted up the Israel side of the Dead Sea into a golden glow. What a view in the early morning!

We had a full-day schedule today so we got up and headed straight to breakfast to start early. They had this setup in front of the breakfast room to give an Arabian vibe.

Hilton’s breakfast was surprisingly good with lots of local dishes like Falafel.

My favorite was their danishes!

And they have mango juice that actually tasted good (of course, it can’t compare to the ones in French Polynesia).

Right after breakfast, we checked out, and made our way to our first stop – Ma’in Hot Springs. It is close by, less than 30 minutes drive but the road was curvy and steep going up and down the canyon.

Ma’in Hot Springs consisted of a series of hot mineral springs and waterfalls, although, only a few are accessible and suitable for taking a dip (most are too hot). I read that there is a public area with no facility and not maintained and there is a private area belonging to the Ma’in Hot Springs Resort & Spa which sells day passes for non-resort guests for 15 JD (~$21) per person. There was a gate at the entrance of the road where we paid for the day passes and then drive to the parking lot where the first sets of pools and waterfalls are close by. It was a short walk to the first pool/waterfall, it was small and too hot for use so no one was there.

Continued walking down the road to another pool/waterfall which was filled with families.

We were wondering where are the changing rooms and where we get beach towels. We spotted the hotel which is a far distance from here so we decided to walk back and drive there. The road entrance to the hotel was blocked and the security guard said we can’t enter because we are not hotel guests. I said but we paid for the day pass!!! He said the day pass only covers this area (which looks to me like the public pools). I asked how about the changing rooms, beach towels, and facilities??? He pointed to the shop that we can rent from there and the changing rooms and toilets are behind. The shop looked so shady, the changing rooms and toilets looked worn down and nasty. Jason used the toilet and said dirty! We paid 15 JD for the “hotel day pass” and we couldn’t even step into the hotel? There was no service, no towel provided, what a scam!!! We turned back and left!!!

We were debating if we should go to Wadi Mujib for canyoning but since it was already 10:30 AM and we need to get to Petra, we passed on that. We did a short stop at the salt formation beach viewing spot and didn’t make the hike down; there was no clear hiking trail.

The 3+hours drive to Petra was along the Dead Sea on Jordan Valley Highway for half of the way and this so call “highway” has lots of speedbumps that are too hard to see and mostly no signage of warning that there’s a speedbump ahead. We ran into one really hard ouch!!!

Then, we drove through the rural mountainous area and hit a road closure oh-no!!! There was no sign of detour or direction whatsoever!!! We turned around and stopped…there was a car in front of us that looked like visitors as well, luckily, a kind person came out from a shop and pointed to take the road on the left. We followed and shortly, Google Maps re-routed (cellular service was limited but I had downloaded the map for offline use). We got out to the King’s Highway and then it was all the way to Petra. The roads getting into Petra center were narrow and steep, steep as in San Francisco streets steep but much more narrow and curving! I can never drive there!

We drove all the way past Petra’s Visitor Center to our hotel – Petra Guest House which is located next to the gate entrance of Petra. I picked this hotel for its location, comfort, and good ratings. It is expensive compared to other hotels in town at $604 for 2 nights including breakfast and dinner. It is often sold out so we booked way in advance to secure 3 rooms. It was very busy and it looked like bus tour daytrippers stop here for lunch/break; their Cave Bar looked popular.

We got “upgraded” to chalets which are located on the top above those stairs….at least they have elevators to get up there from the main building and the bellboy to help with the luggage. Our room was upgraded to a two double beds room and it smelled like someone broke a whole bottle of perfume! It smelled so strong that it made my nose hurt! I asked the front desk if there was another room that we can switch to and he said sorry they are fully booked! We had to open the door to air it out yikes!

The closet area in front of the bathroom:

The bathroom was decent but the water pressure was bad….Laili and Tim said theirs was like dripping that weak!

After we settled down, it was 4 PM already and dinner wasn’t till 6:30 PM. There were souvenir shops right outside of the hotel next to the Petra Visitor’s Center. First, we went to the visitor’s center to purchase the Petra At Night tickets (only available on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday when thousands of candles light up in front of the famous Treasury). However, we found out that they temporarily replaced Petra At Night with Petra Light Festival, a 10-day or 2 weeks event that started this year. This special event cost 30 JD instead of 17 JD (almost double the price) and you are required to show your Petra day admission in order to purchase the night event. We got the 3 days Petra Jordan Pass so this counted as our first day. I don’t know if we are lucky or not, we were so looking forward to the candles experience 🙁

After we got the tickets, we checked out the souvenir shops; they sell almost the same thing. In general, souvenirs in Jordan is a lot more expensive compared to other “developing countries”. On a good note, the vendors accept credit cards even for small purchases. However, double-check the price they entered before you tap your credit card because sometimes they added a credit card fee without telling you!!!

Behind the shops is the I Love Petra sign and the Petra Museum which is free to enter! We have time to kill so we checked that out.

The museum is not big by any means with a few rooms with artifacts on display.

By the time we got back to the hotel, the daytrippers were gone and the Cave Bar was empty so we walked in for pictures.

We got back to our room for break and since my room smelled like perfume, I went to Laili’s and Judy’s to check their rooms out. Laili and Tim had a shaded sitting area in front of their room.

The view of the town…it was hot and we were tired to venture out to town to check it out. It doesn’t look interesting though…

Dinner time finally, it was buffet style but not many selections. The food was so bad: fried food was soggy, the fish has no taste, the shrimps were low-quality shrimps…only the corn soup was passable.

The desserts looked not bad but tasted very sweet except for the white pudding. That was the only one edible.

Right after dinner, we headed out and there was already a long line from the gate entrance to the visitor’s center and it was before the gate opening time at 8:30 PM! The line started to move once the gate opened and we made our way to the mile walk to the Treasury. It was very dark out but we did have a flashlight with us. Since we didn’t enter Petra during the day, we didn’t know what the road looked like in daylight to get an idea, the first section was flat and open but with loose rocks. Once we walked into the Siq, it was easier to walk on paved ground. They tried to make it a “4D” experience with music and…

scents…this staff was blowing scented incent sticks.

It was so dark that by the time we made it to the Treasury, we didn’t have that “peekaboo” view of it from the slot canyon and so many people were rushing in. We walked all the way to the front of the crowds to get some pics but it was very very dark.

Then, we were told to sit down so we got the “front row” seat, there was no cushion, nothing to sit on so Jason sacrificed his jacket. It was cold right after the sunset thus we had our jackets. Just before the show started, a lady just walked up in front of us and partially blocked my view, excuse me??? I padded on her shoulder and asked her to move over a little bit!

The light show started, just as we expected, projecting graphics onto the Treasury with music! There were several projects (I lost count after the first three) from various artists from all over the world. The first one was the rose city which was relevant to Petra.

The ones after that were too futuristic and had nothing to do with Petra! What were those artists thinking and how did they got selected?

Perhaps, those lights looked cool to first-timers but we were so disappointed! We traveled thousands of miles to see something that we could’ve easily seen somewhere else! And the worst part was the show has nothing to do with Petra’s history, it ruined the ancient beauty of the site! We want the candles back!!! The show was probably 45 minutes long only and once it was over, everyone rushed out at the same time while people were making their way in. Apparently, they repeat the “show” every hour at 8:40, 9:40, and the last one at 10:40 PM.

We finally got out and back to our hotel…it looked pretty lit up at night.

Especially the Cave Bar….

The town at night:

The first exploration day in Jordan was not a good experience…first, we got scammed by Ma’in Hot Springs and then a huge disappointment with the Petra Light Festival. We were still optimistic and looking forward to really exploring Petra in daylight!

2 thoughts on “Jordan: Ma’in Hot Springs is a Scam and Petra Light Festival is a Huge Disappointment!

  1. So sorry you missed the candles, it’s one of my most memorable travel experiences. The illuminations look impressive (although agree those futuristic ones are bizarre), but Petra at Night is just such a special unique event, why mess with it?

    1. Yes, totally agree, we were looking forward to it instead of this “special event”….I guess we were just unlucky!

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