Petra Jordan is one of the most spectacular historical sites in the Middle East and arguably, the entire world. In 2007, it was designated as being one of the “new” seven wonders of the world.
For many travelers, Petra is the entire raison d’être that they even consider visiting Jordan. This is one of the most beloved UNESCO heritage sites in the world and a highlight of any Jordanian adventure.
A Little Background to Petra Jordan
Petra Jordan is shrouded in legends and history. The spectacular sandstone palaces and tombs here date back to the 4th Century BC.
Ancient Nabateans founded Petra. This civilization was a group of Arab-Bedouin desert dwellers who carved buildings into rocks and cliff faces.
The Nabateans became very rich as a result of trading in the area and using Petra as a commercial hub. Sadly this was not to last and the city was invaded and taken over by the Romans who renamed it “Arabia Petrea”.
Petra was not re-discovered until August 1812. At this time, Swiss Explorer Jean Louis Burckhardt searched for the lost city based on the stories and descriptions of locals.
Getting to Petra
It is relatively easy to reach Petra – whether independently or by public transport from Amman or Aqaba. This is one of the most popular places in Jordan and JETT buses run here daily.
Driving to Petra Jordan
Hiring a car is arguably one of the best ways to get around Jordan. Jordanian roads are very modern and well-built, and everywhere is sign-posted in English.
There is only really one main road that runs through the length of Jordan – The King’s Highway. Several reputable international car companies operate in Jordan, including Sixt and Avis.
Rental prices start from 20JD per day. Hire cars can be collected from Amman centre or Queen Alia International Airport.
Hiring a Driver
Hiring a private car and driver is a good option for those who do not feel comfortable driving alone in Jordan. Having your own driver gives you more flexibility than public transport yet without the stress of having to navigate roads alone.
Prices for private drivers start from around 70JD per day. It is advisable to review a few options in advance and be prepared to haggle. Some luxury hotels in Petra are also able to organise a transfer.
Take the JETT Bus to Petra
There is a daily bus that runs from Amman central station to the Petra site. Unfortunately, the bus operates on a relatively limited schedule.
Services operate once a day in each direction. The Amman to Petra bus departs Amman Central at 6.30 am, and the Petra to Amman bus departs at 17:00 pm.
Bus tickets cost 10JD in each direction. You can check the JETT website for scheduling and additional information here.
Petra Jordan: Go it Alone or Private Tour?
It is easy and enjoyable to explore Petra Jordan independently. However, if you prefer to have a little more information and context on the various structures here, you can hire a local guide.
Some Petra tours that you may be interested in are detailed below.
- Petra full-day private tour from Amman
- 3 Day Jerash, Dead Sea, and Petra tour from Amman
- 2 Day Petra overnight tour from Amman
- Petra and Wadi Rum day trip from Amman
- Petra by Night show tickets
You should note that there are often many touts that wait outside the entrance to Petra Jordan offering tours and horse rides. Only hire the services of a licensed guide.
Petra Jordan Admission Tickets
One, two, and three day tickets to Petra cost 50JD, 55JD, and 60JD respectively. A good way to save money on your Petra trip is to purchase a Jordan pass.
The Jordan pass offers free entrance to more than 40 sites in Jordan. Additionally, having this pass waivers the 40JD fee for entering the country.
You must spend at least three nights in the country to be eligible for this. There are different tiers of Jordan passes available. Prices start from 70JD.
Petra Jordan Highlights
The Petra Jordan site is huge. It is helpful if you have an idea of what specific sites you want to see, and what hikes you wish to conquer before you travel. This way, you can manage your time accordingly.
It is preferable if you have at least two days of your Jordan itinerary to dedicate to visiting Petra. The site is far more expansive than social media photos would have you beleve.
The famous treasury from Indiana Jones makes up such a tiny part of the Petra Jordan site.
The Petra Museum
The Petra Museum is situated at the entrance to the ancient city. It is worth browsing the information and exhibits here before venturing into Petra in order to gain some context to the site. The museum displays show just how advanced the Nabateans were for their time.
The siq is the dramatic gorge that marks the entrance to the Nabatean city of Petra Jordan. The narrow valley feels almost like a secret passageway that twists and turns into the city. The rocks on either side reach up to 80 metres in height.
The Royal Tombs
The Royal Tombs of Petra were the final resting places of various Nabataean Kings and notable figures. Some of the tombs are very ornate. Many also served a dual purpose as a place of worship. You can reach the tombs by taking a right turn from the Street of Facades.
The Petra amphitheatre dates back to the 1st century AD. This magnificent sun-bleached structure has been carved out of the solid rock of a nearby cliff.
The Nabateans originally built the theatre. It was later renovated and rebuilt by the Romans when they took control of the city. The theatre can seat 4000 spectators and is larger in size than the Amman theatre.
The Treasury is the iconic structure that has become the symbol of Petra. This is the very first thing that you see when you exit the Siq at Petra’s entrance. The building was made famous by the Indiana Jones movie “The Last Crusade”.
Hordes of gold and treasure were once stored inside the Treasury. The structure was built to be the final resting place of King Aretas III of the Nabateans.
The Monastery (Ad Deir)
The Monastery is tucked away in the hills high above the rest of the Lost City. It is believed that this structure was built for religious purposes as the name suggests. The design is similar to the Treasury but much larger.
There is a challenging, yet worthwhile hiking trail that leads from the Lost City to the Monastery. This is a processional route that pilgrims would follow years ago.
Setting eyes on the Monastery for the first time will take your breath away. This impressive structure stands tall at a height of 148 feet. The doorway alone is the size of a house.
Hiking Routes in Petra
Petra travel is wonderful for those who love hiking and the great outdoors. There are several walking paths in this region that lead to hidden shrines and breathtaking panoramas over the desert.
The Monastery Hike
The processional route to the Petra Monastery (Ad Deir) is one of the most challenging hiking trails at Petra. The trail is approximately 1.6km in length including more than 850 steps and an uphill climb. This route leads past cult niches, places of sacrifice, and rock cut halls.
It is only an adventurous few that attempt to conquer this trail. This means that when you arrive at the monastery, you will often find that you have the site almost entirely to yourself. You can also reach the Monastery through the back route if you do not feel up to the hike from the ancient city.
The High Place of Sacrifice
The High Place of Sacrifice is one of the easiest and most popular hiking trails in Petra. This route takes just 30-40 minutes to complete.
The hiking route leads you to a shrine dedicated to Nabataean gods Dushara and Al-‘Uzza. When you arrive at the top, you will find a sacrificial altar, inscribed obelisks, and incredible views of the ancient city below. During the Nabatean era, animal sacrifices were held here.
It is easy to find the High Place of Sacrifice. The route is well sign-posted. You will find the first marker close to the old amphitheatre.
The Al Khubtha Trail
The Al Khubtha trail leads you to the famous picture-perfect view of the treasury that you may have seen on social media and in countless travel publications. You will find many Bedouins at the Petra site that offer to take you here for a fee. However this is really not necessary as the trail is easy to find.
You will find signs for “the best view” close to the Royal Tombs. Follow the signs and they will lead you to the Al Khubtha Trail and a wonderful view overlooking the Treasury.
What to Wear in Petra
Jordan is a conservative Muslim country. Consequently, you should generally dress quite modestly when you are exploring the country. However, Petra is a tourist place and you will see many people wearing shorts and dresses here.
You can afford a little more leniency in your attire at Petra. However, you should still avoid wearing anything too revealing.
The terrain at Petra varies from sandy and desert-like to rocky and uneven. Make sure that you pack a pair of comfortable, sturdy walking shoes. Pack a sweater if you plan on seeing Petra by night as temperatures dip in the evenings.
Where to Stay in Petra
There are plenty of accommodation options in the Petra area to suit every travel style and budget. It is advisable to stay in nearby Wadi Musa so that you are close to the city entrance.
Bedouin campsites offer travellers the opportunity to sleep beneath the stars, while luxury hotels offer absolute indulgence overlooking the archaeological site.
The Movenpick Hotel
The Movenpick Resort, Petra is one of the most elegant luxury hotels in the entire Middle East. Its lavish, vibrant interiors are representative of an Arabian-style palace fit for a Sheikh. Browse the hotel’s current rates and availability here.
The Petra Guesthouse
The Petra Guesthouse is a great accommodation choice in Wadi Musa. This hotel is a great mid-range option that offers both comfort and a quirky character.
Petra Guesthouse sits directly adjacent to the Petra Museum. The hotel is renowned for its “cave bar”. This is a bar and restaurant set in a restored first-century Nabatean house. You can review the latest room rates here.
Additional Petra Travel FAQs
Is Petra Safe?
It is safe to visit Petra and Jordan in general. Jordanians are very welcoming and friendly and they want visitors to have a positive experience in their country.
Jordan is consistently ranked as being one of the safest countries in the Middle East. Solo female travel in Jordan is becoming increasingly common and the majority of visits to the country are trouble-free.
Prepare for the Hot Weather
If you plan on travelling to Petra during the summer months, keep in mind that it will be very hot. Temperatures here can often exceed 40 degrees Celsius and there is no shade in the Lost City. Always carry plenty of water and sunscreen and consider wearing a hat or a scarf to protect your head.
When to Travel to Petra
Petra travel is possible all year round. That said, the Spring and Autumn months offer the most favourable conditions. Temperatures between March and May, and October to December are warm but not overbearingly hot. You can expect temperatures of around 25-30 degrees Celsius during this time.
Temperatures in Petra can soar well over 40 degrees Celsius during the summer months. Additionally, they often drop beneath 10 degrees during the winter. However, travelling during these “off season” periods often means less crowds and lower prices.
Getting Around the Site
The Petra site is vast. It actually sprawls over a whopping 60km and the attractions and buildings are quite dispersed.
Getting around Petra requires a lot of walking and hiking. However, all trails are relatively manageable provided you have a general level of fitness. There are many vendors offering horse, donkey, and camel rides. However, the animals seem very poorly treated so I cannot recommend this option.
Facilities at the Petra Site
There are several stalls and cafes selling water, snacks and refreshments throughout the Petra site. The toilet facilities are not great. However, there are several portacabins which you can use if you pay a small fee to the local Bedouins.
Vendors and Touts at Petra
There are many vendors and touts trying to sell their wares at Petra. Be prepared to be constantly hassled to buy things.
Some of the vendors at Petra can be a little persistent and even aggressive. If you are not interested, don’t hesitate to give them an abrupt “no”. If someone hassles you, you can also seek out the Tourist Police who have several stations scattered around the site.
Onward Travel in Jordan
Petra is the main reason that many travellers want to venture to Jordan. However, there is so much more to Jordan than Petra. Wadi Rum, The Crusader castle of Karak, the Dead Sea, and Amman are all accessible within a short journey from Petra. You can also consider crossing the border to Israel.
Do you have any additional questions about Petra travel? Please don’t hesitate to contact me if there is anything further that I can help you with. I will do my best to get back to you as soon as I can.
Safe travels! Melissa xo