Even if much has been written about Petra, nothing really prepares you for its beauty. You have to see it to believe it. The many pictures that mass tourism popularised, barely show the most photogenic sight of Petra, and yet there is so much more to see! Without further ado, let’s dive into the complete Petra travel guide that will give you hints on how to prepare for your trips and what you will see.
A little note for my beloved readers: this guide is very detailed, including EVERYTHING you need to know before planning your trip to Petra. If you are looking for a lighter version, you may be more interested in this blog post about the top 5 places to see in Petra.
- Petra Travel Guide, what you need to know before going:
- How to arrive
- When it’s the best time to visit?
- Where to stay in Wadi Musa
- Opening hours and tickets cost
- How to move around
- The un-glamour side of Petra you don’t see in the pictures
- Where can I eat and drink inside Petra?
- Petra Travel Guide to the Lost City’s sightseeing
- The Main Trail (red line) 8 kilometers long
- Djin Blocks
- As Siq
- Al-Khazneh, the Treasury
- The best photo spots to admire Al-Khazneh, do you know all of them?
- Street of Facades and the Theatre
- The Royal Tombs
- The Byzantine Church
- Colonnaded Street and the Great Temple
- Qasr al-Bint
- The Monastery Trail (fuchsia line) 2,5 kilometers
- High Place of Sacrifice Trail (orange line) 3 kilometers
- Al-Khubhta Trail (green line) 3,5 kilometers
- The Main Trail (red line) 8 kilometers long
- In conclusion, is Petra worth visiting?
Petra Travel Guide, what you need to know before going:
How to arrive
The easiest way if you are coming from another country is to land in Amman, at Queen Alia International Airport. The distance from Amman to Petra is 330 km, and it will take you about 3 hours via the fastest highway. Although I highly recommend taking the opportunity and considering a slower itinerary with stops at Mount Nebo, the King’s Road, and Karak castle.
Rent a car
This may be one of the best solutions when traveling in Jordan as you will be completely independent and adjust your travel itinerary as you wish. Car rental goes from 25 to 30 JD per day. Consider that the cost of gasoline is about 1.1 JD/liter and 0,8 JD/liter for diesel.
Hire a private driver
Despite the fact of being more expensive (naturally), you have two main benefits when hiring a private driver: you don’t have to worry about getting lost, and you can relax after the long and tiring hikes. Not to mention that local drivers are accustomed to the Jordan driving style, which is very different from the European’s.
A private driver will cost you between 150€ and 180€.
Take the bus
Choose between traveling with the tourism service JETT bus, or via the local buses:
- JETT Bus offers transport service all over Jordan, and the ticket from Amman to Petra is between 15,00 and 35,00 €.
- The local mini-buses do the road between Amman and Petra frequently. But the driver waits until the capacity is full, so you could have some waiting time. The price is between 7 and 10€.
When it’s the best time to visit?
Petra’s summers are very warm with temperatures around 30°. While the winters can be very chilly going down to 0°. Also during the winter torrential rains are pretty common and may cause flash floods and landslides.
Book your tickets for Spring (late March to May) or Fall (September to early November). The tourists’ peak months are April and October, with over 9000 entries in Petra per day.
Where to stay in Wadi Musa
Did you know? The name of the city nearest to the Petra archaeological site is Wadi Musa.
Wadi Musa is a small city of about 7000 inhabitants. Its inhabitants live mainly out of tourism, in fact, there are more than 160 hotels in Wadi Musa! Let’s see the best for your stay in Petra:
Best Luxury Hotel
The thing I love the most about Petra Guest House Hotel is its strategic position. Technically, it’s at the doors of the Petra archaeological site. And some parts of the structure are sculpted in sandstone. How cool is that?
Best Mid-Range Hotel
Edom Hotel is situated in a strategic position. It’s one of the closest to Petra visitor’s center and there are many restaurants and souvenir shops around as well.
Hotels on a budget
A good option If you are traveling on a budget is to stay at Petra Cabin Inn Hostel. This hostel is in a strategic position, very close to the visitors’ center.
Stay at a Bedouin camp in Little Petra
A different solution could be one of the Bedouin’s camps in Little Petra. My favorite? Seven Wonders Luxury Camp. The only downside of these camps is their location, quite far from Petra entry gates and Wadi Musa. But almost all camps have a shuttle service that drops its clients at the visitors’ center for 5 JD.
Opening hours and tickets cost
The gates open every day at 6 AM and believe me that’s the best time to start your day! I promise you won’t regret the early wake-up call. And the site closes at 6 PM during the summer months, and 4 PM in Winter.
If you book the Jordan pass, you normally can choose between 1, 2, or 3 days. If you have the time, go for the 3 days formula. There are many different trails and hikes to do, and even three days couldn’t be enough.
To give you an idea, Petra is the size of Edinburgh 264 km².
Now, can you imagine how much there is to explore?!
Otherwise, you can book the tickets at the visitors’ center, both credit cards and cash are accepted. And you can also book a guide If you haven’t already. I think that having a guide in Petra is very important, as it is an archaeological site with a very rich history. You could easily pass by important monuments and also you will miss many details. The price for a guide is between 50 and 100 JD depending on the number of persons.
Jordan Pass entry fee
1 day 70 JD
2 days 75 JD
3 days 80 JD
Visitor’s Centre Tickets
1 day 50 JD
2 days 55 JD
3 days 60 JD
Considering this, if you are planning to see many different attractions you should definitely book the Jordan Pass. Make sure to check the entry fees for the attractions you want to visit. Petra is by far very expensive compared to the other sites and museums.
How to move around
The best way to move around in Petra is with your own feet.
However, Petra hikes aren’t for all! Some trails are marked as “expert” and are very intense. Always keep in mind your shape and cardio training when exploring. Especially with the sun and hot temperatures, some trails aren’t for all.
And that’s where the Bedouins come into the picture.
There are many ways to move around in Petra. Let’s see them:
Get a golf cart along the main trail
At the very entrance of the archaeological site, you can pay for a golf cart to do Petra Main Trail (8 kilometers long), which is an easy, flat walk. The cart can also drop you at the Treasury. When renting the cart, you will have it for an hour and a half maximum. The prices are:
- 25 JD for the main trail to Qasr al-Bint.
- 15 JD for the 2 km trail to the Treasury and back.
Ride a horse
This is technically “included” in your entrance ticket for the first day you visit. BUT the horseman will ask you for a tip, usually 5 JD it’s ok. The horse ride will walk you through the 700 meters that separate the entry gate to the Siq’s entry.
Take a donkey to the panoramic points
Bedouins are everywhere inside Petra, and they live off the tourism it attracts every year. They sell souvenirs, drinks, food, and also donkey rides! That’s right. Besides using them to carry their goods, they also propose you to take their donkeys to get to the panoramic points. However, it’s really important to know, that riding the donkeys or camels inside the Petra is at your own risk.
The price for the donkey rides depends on your ability to haggle, in any case, you shouldn’t spend more than 10 JD.
Camels are not for tourists to ride inside Petra. Instead, the Bedouins propose to the visitors to have a picture standing on them at the most photogenic spots, like in front of the Treasury or the Royal Tombs.
The un-glamour side of Petra you don’t see in the pictures
One of the loveliest things in Jordan is people’s warmth of heart. But in Petra, the Bedouins may be quite pushy while trying to get you to buy from them. I was truly surprised by the number of Bedouins who tried to lure us. Be prepared to be constantly approached and asked to satisfy whatever need you didn’t even know you had. It’s the way they gain their life. But as much as I try to be comprehensive, that spoiled a bit the magical atmosphere of the Lost City.
Where can I eat and drink inside Petra?
Worry not! There are many strategical spots to eat at the best spots, and of course, there are many Bedouins shops that sell drinks, ice creams, and even sandwiches.
By the way, you should try the Bedouin’s pomegranate juice. Refreshing, delicious, and sweet enough to charge your batteries while hiking all day long. This was a favorite of mine in Jordan, together with their fresh mint tea. Prices are the following through all of the site, and as you can see they aren’t really different from the ones outside Petra:
Water 1-2 JD
Petra ice cream (yes there is a Petra official ice cream!) 1-2 JD
Pomegranate juice 2-4 JD
Sandwiches 5-8 JD
In conclusion, don’t overcharge yourself. Kiosks are almost everywhere you turn.
Petra Travel Guide to the Lost City’s sightseeing
Have I already mentioned it? Petra is IMMENSE!
Its surface develops on 264 km² of mountains and valleys. The Rose City is 800 meters on the sea level, and its average altitude is around 1000 meters, with its highest summit being Jabal Harun, 1450 meters.
Put in another way: in Petra, you will have to hike, a lot! If you are trained and willing to walk, that will give you many satisfactions. Of course, you can still enjoy your trip by staying on the Main Trail, which is almost flat. Even though, if you have the chance don’t hesitate to explore.
One of Jordan’s peculiarities is the almost complete absence of fences and barriers in its archaeological sites. That allows you to wander freely as you wish and like. Just don’t put yourself in dangerous situations, I’ve seen a couple of tourists taking big risks just to take a selfie.
So, how does Petra look on a map?
The Main Trail (red line) 8 kilometers long
Petra entry gate is quite simple, compared to the grandeur of the site once you are inside. In fact, it’s a rather bare walk on 700 meters. With two exceptions:
- the Djin Blocks consist of three square stone monuments, used as burial blocks. They are one of the few and oldest constructions of the ancient city.
- the Obelisk Tomb, the first carved monument you can admire. The uniqueness of this tomb, is the 4 pyramids that decorate its facade. Under that the entry to the Triclinium, the banquet hall.
You will find both monuments on your left.
The Siq is a narrow gorge that introduces visitors to the Lost City. The entrance was once decorated with a Triumph Arch. In addition to displaying the beautiful walls of the giant sandstone canyon, the Siq also showcases the Nabatean’s knowledge of hydro-engineering. The water coming from the dam at the city gates flowed through two canals that were on different levels: the first was dedicated to the animals, while the second freshened people.
Along its 1200 meters, you can also admire the remains of the Nabatean and Roman paved road, or even some incisions and sacred stones.
Al-Khazneh, the Treasury
The hype is high once you start to see glimpses of the Treasury at the end of the Siq. From the high of its 40 meters, Al-Khazaneh reveals itself in all its splendor. And yet the most popular facade of the Lost City still hides some secrets. Its function is still unsure to archaeologists today. There is a legend telling that inside the urn that decorates the top, there is the lost treasure of Nabatean kings.
Legend or not, the real treasure is visible for everyone to admire, as a few monuments in the world have the same charm or this carved wonder. The treasury is best savored early in the morning (set your wake-up call at 5.30, trust me it’s absolutely worth it!), or late in the evening, the site starts to empty at 5 – 5.30 PM. If you are lucky enough you will have the view all to yourself.
Along with being less touristy, there is also another motive why it’s better to visit the Treasury at these hours: the colors. Petra is known as the Rose city for a reason. When the sun doesn’t hit the sandstone walls anymore, Petra reveals its true colors: all the shades of rose and red. It’s the best time to sit at the coffee shop next to the treasury and sip a good tea while admiring the view.
The best photo spots to admire Al-Khazneh, do you know all of them?
From the front
I mean, how basic right?!
And yet this is my favorite view of the Treasury. Especially when you have the whole facade to yourself. Why do I like it so much? Because if you shoot the facade from afar with the person standing in the front, it shows you how majestic and big the facade is.
Second stone on the right there lies your Treasure
Next to the Siq entrance, on your right, there is a view you cannot miss for Insta-worthy pictures. As a photo is worth a thousand words, check it with your eyes!
The panoramic views from the Bedouin cave on the right
Next to the location above, there is a small path carved into the rocks that access to a small Bedouin cave in the wall. This place is only accessible if you negotiate it with the Bedouins, they ask 5 JD and it takes around 15 minutes for taking the photo and getting back down. This view is pretty nice, furthermore, there is some kind of photo set with some cushions and carpets.
Don’t worry if you are traveling solo, the Bedouins have developed professional photography skills. And they know how to make good videos too.
The view from Al-Khubhta Trail
Are you willing to take your photos literally to the upper level?
You can! This view of the Treasury from the top is one of the most magical panoramic views in Petra. But like all good things you have to earn it. In order to get there you have to complete the Al-Khubhta Trail, one of the steepest in Petra.
It should be noted that this trail itself, takes about 3 hours. That’s a lot of time and energy on your schedule. Consider all your options before choosing, especially If you are staying only one day.
The trek is 3,5 kilometers long, it’s marked as hard level and can be slippery sometimes. Considering this, please, do not take risks for taking your pictures or videos. And be careful If you suffer from vertigo!
Street of Facades and the Theatre
Most people think Petra is limited to the Siq and the Treasury, even though, thanks to Instagram the Monastery has become quite a star lately. My point is, once you have passed by the Treasury, there is a world for you to discover.
Following the Main Trail, you will find yourself in a larger Siq. The facades were sculpted by the Nabateans as funeral monuments. Even if you cannot enter the Treasury, you can explore the other tombs. The most admirable among them is probably the Tomb of the Roman Soldier. It takes the name from the figure carved in the center, which wears a Graeco-Roman cuirass.
Next to the tombs, there is the only Theatre in the world to be carved in the rock. Partly built by the Nabateans and partly by the Romans, this venue could accommodate up to 4,000 spectators.
The Royal Tombs
The Royal Tombs are an ensemble of four huge funerary monuments, situated at the end of Petra’s main street. Unfortunately, their exposition to the winds and rains, made their conservation more difficult. But these majestic tombs are still beautiful to see.
- the Urn Tomb, previously a Nabatean tomb, following the Roman conquest of Petra, became a church. Beneath the funeral chambers, there is a series of columns and narrow passages. It’s probably the funniest tomb to explore in Petra, as it looks like a small labyrinth.
- the Silk Tomb surprises its visitors because of the coloring of the facade. Its name comes from this very same vibrant coloring of the sandstone that reminds silk.
- the Corinthian Tomb looks like the Treasury. Unfortunately, as its exposition to the elements is much more important, the facade is far less well preserved than Al-Khazneh.
- the Palace Tomb is the most grandiose of the four tombs. It has an impressive facade that develops on 5 different stages. Even if historians think it was a tomb, there is still the possibility that it was used as a banquet hall.
One of the best things about the Royal Tombs is the view! Especially in the morning, when the sun enlightens the valley from behind the Tombs. You can see the Necropolis entry (Street of facades), the Theatre, the Great Temple, and Qasr al-Bint.
The Byzantine Church
The Byzantine Church features some of the most beautiful mosaics in Jordan. During the 5th century a fire and then an earthquake destroyed part of the church. Nowadays, to protect the mosaics a large structure covers the church. In order to visit the church, you will have to make a short detour from the Main Trail.
Colonnaded Street and the Great Temple
The colonnaded street and the Great Temple are both a testimony of Nabateans engineering. The street was one of the main market roads of the ancient city and ended just in front of the Great Temple.
Even if the earthquakes and elements destroyed almost all the columns, the temple is still one of the most important buildings in Petra. Its surface covers more than 7000 square meters. It was divided into a lower part (Lower Temenos) and an upper part (Upper Temenos), the upper part was the temple itself.
According to historians, the most important temple in Petra was Qasr al-Bint. Dedicated to Dushara, it was also the tallest construction that have been found until now. In fact, Qasr al-Bint is more than 20 meters high. Due to its state of decay, the temple is inaccessible. Even so, you can admire it in all its beauty. My recommendation is to watch it from above, on Sabra Trail.
Qasr al-Bint is where the Main Trail ends, there are two restaurants, toilets, and many shadowed places to rest a little before the Monastery Trail.
The Monastery Trail (fuchsia line) 2,5 kilometers
Although on paper the Monastery Trail is “only” 2,5 kilometers, you will think they are the longest 2,5 kilometers of your life!
This trail runs in a large gorge, between two mountains, and arrives at the top. There are more than 900 steps, that climb the mountain’s sides steeply. For that reason, it’s marked as hard on the map and will take you about 3 hours to complete it.
But boy is it worth it? Absolutely!
Just see the pictures if you don’t believe me. And remember you can stop any moment at one of the Bedouins’ kiosks to rest and have a drink.
The Lion Triclinium
Halfway on the path, the Lion Triclinium is a nice stop if you have the strength and the will to stop after the trail. My advice is to stop there while you are coming down from Ad-Deir, so that you are less tired from the hike.
This facade isn’t easy to reach as you have to squeeze in narrow passages and climb on the sandstone. It’s not dangerous, all you need is a pinch of adventure.
The narrow path brings you under the facade, where you will see the two sculpted lions which give the name to the Triclinium. If you climb on the left there are 3 more caves you can explore easier.
Ad-Deir, the Monastery
All the weariness is forgotten once you find the amazing Monastery on your right. This is definitely one of the most beautiful monuments in Petra. 48 meters high for 47 large, it is also one of the biggest. Originally it was probably used for civic functions.
Later on, the Christians converted it into a chapel and some crosses were sculpted on the walls. For that reason, the monument is known as the Monastery.
Panoramic Points from Ad-Deir Trail
Once on top, most of the tourists admire the monastery, sip tea in the coffee shop in front of the monument and then start their descent.
Please don’t do that!
This trail has access to the most beautiful natural views of Petra. The red and orange sandstone, leaves the place to the black granite mountains. Even if the paths aren’t on the map, don’t be afraid to get lost: there are many Bedouin panels inviting you to admire the “very best view in the world” from their tents while sipping a good tea.
Rest a little, and then start your exploration. After all, the worst part (the ascent to the Monastery) is over!
High Place of Sacrifice Trail (orange line) 3 kilometers
Wow, you are still here! Sorry for the length. But please stay with me a little more, for the two trails I’m going to tell you about are absolutely worth a visit.
Let’s start with the High Place of Sacrifice. As steep as the Ad-Deir trail, but this trail is easier. In fact, the hiking part is shorter and once at the top you will have a spectacular view of the ancient city. The High Place of sacrifice itself is one of the most important locations in ancient Petra. Many important ceremonies took place here, while the city was alive.
If you follow the path you will end up behind Qasr al-Bint, otherwise, you can also get back from where you came up. If you do the whole trail it will take you from 3.30 to 4 hours, in the case you decide to get back from the holy location, 2 to 2.30 hours will be enough.
Al-Khubhta Trail (green line) 3,5 kilometers
This is the famous trail to go on top of the Treasury. The views of the surroundings are less beautiful than the other trails. But there is no doubt that once on top the view of Al Khazna from the top is absolutely worth it!
To complete this hike you can consider 2.30 to 3 hours.
In conclusion, is Petra worth visiting?
It may be touristy, overcrowded and you may have grown tired of all the Treasury pictures you saw. But without a doubt, it is one of the most beautiful monuments in the world, and bucket list worthy! Let me know if you agree 😉
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