The Ultimate Petra Travel Guide

This Petra Travel Guide will help to take the stress out of planning your trip to Petra. Visiting Petra is one of those “once in a lifetime” bucket list things and a must-see while travelling in Jordan.

I had always dreamed of visiting the lost city but after spending so much of my life watching documentaries about Petra and the Nabateans and imagining myself exploring the ruins like a well lipsticked Indiana Jones, I began to wonder if it would ever be possible for the reality to live up to my expectations. When it came to it though, not only did Petra fulfil my every expectation, it actually exceeded them and was the cherry on the top of a perfect trip to Jordan.

Petra Travel Guide:
What to See in Petra

Since Petra is such a huge site, it helps to have an idea of what you want to see and do there before your arrival. Some of Petra’s most notable highlights are detailed below.

The Siq

The siq is the dramatic gorge that marks the entrance to the Nabatean city of Petra. 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 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, and understand just how advanced the Nabateans were for their time.

The Monastery (Ad Deir)

Challenging to reach but wholly worthwhile, the Monastery is one of the most notable buildings in Petra. Built in the third century BC, the Monastery is tucked away high in the hills above the rest of the Petra site. As the name suggests, it is believed that the Monastery was once used for religious worship. The Monastery is similar in design to the Treasury, but much larger in size.


The Treasury

A site that has become the symbol of Petra (and the Indiana Jones movies!), the Treasury is one of the first cave structures that you see after exiting the Siq. The building was built as a final resting place for King Aretas III of the Nabateans. It is believed that hordes of gold and treasures were once contained within.    

The Royal Tombs

A right turn from the Street of Facades leads you to the Royal Tombs of Petra. These were the final resting places of various Nabataean Kings and notable figures. Some of the tombs are very ornate, and once served a dual purpose as a place of worship.


The Petra Amphitheatre


Carved into the rocks of the mountain that is home to the place of high sacrifice, the Petra theatre dates back to the 1st century AD. It is actually larger in scale and seating capacity than the amphitheatre in Amman. Originally built by the Nabateans, the theatre was been renovated and rebuilt by the Romans.

Petra Travel Guide:
What are the Best Petra Hiking Routes?

The Monastery Hike

How to plan your trip to Petra

Arguably Petra’s most impressive monument, setting eyes on the Monastery will take your breath away. This 148 foot elaborately carved structure is nestled within the rock face and its front door is the equivalent size of a house. The monastery is also one of the most taxing points to reach within Petra, requiring an uphill hike encompassing over 850 ancient steps and taking approximately 2 hours in duration. The hike isn’t especially difficult, given that you can walk its entirety without any climbing or use of ropes however it is the desert sun which makes it challenging.

As you approach the final few steps, panting and red-faced, and the narrow rock pathway opens out into a stunning open space with the monastery at the forefront, you feel an overwhelming sense of achievement. Not to mention, it is only a brave and adventurous few who attempt the monastery hike meaning that once you finally arrive you will have the place virtually to yourself with no hoards of tourists to get in the way of your photographs. For the perfect view and photo op, you can climb into the caves that face the monastery from the opposite side.

A local Bedouin man has opened a quirky cafe in one of the caves opposite the monastery so you can relax once you reach the top and enjoy your mint tea with a view before starting your descent.

Hiking Time: 2.5 hours
Difficulty: Moderate/Hard

The High Place of Sacrifice

The high place of sacrifice is one of Petra’s easiest hiking trails taking just around 30-40 minutes to complete. The route leads you to a shrine dedicated to Nabataean gods Dushara and Al-‘Uzza and a location where animal sacrifices to the Gods were conducted. Once you reach the highest point, you will be greeted with a sacrificial altar, inscribed ancient obelisks, and a small seated area where attendees of the sacrifice would sit together and enjoy a meal after the ceremony.

To get to the place of high sacrifice, you can take a left turn at a pathway leading up into the rocky mountains just before the amphitheatre, and opposite the second set of Royal tombs. The pathway is incredibly well preserved, and sign posts to “the place of high sacrifice” are frequently dotted along the trail making it easy to find your way.

Hiking Time: 40 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

The Wadi Farasa Trail

To get to the place of high sacrifice, you can take a left turn at a pathway leading up into the rocky mountains just before the amphitheatre, and opposite the second set of Royal tombs. The pathway is incredibly well preserved, and sign posts to “the place of high sacrifice” are frequently dotted along the trail making it easy to find your way.

Hiking Time: 40 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

The Treasury From Above (Al Khubtha Trail)

That postcard shot of the treasury from above is something you’ve probably seen in many a travel blog or photo album of someone’s Petra visit. This is another relatively easy yet rewarding hike. Once you arrive at the treasury, you will encounter many local vendors and Bedouins offering to take you to the top of the treasury for a fee, but this is something that you really don’t need at all so don’t feel bad to turn them down.

To reach this stunning viewpoint, simply walk to the Royal tombs, and continue walking until you reach the end and then follow the path as it turns right. As you follow the pathway, you will note signs leading to the “best view” (no, seriously!) and the trail is easy enough to follow.

Hiking Time: 30 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Precautions for Hiking in Petra

Temperatures in the Lost City can exceed 40 degrees Celsius in the high season and the thing that makes these hiking trails challenging is the intense heat. Always carry plenty of water with you and consider wearing a hat or a headscarf to protect your head. Luckily, you will encounter many stalls offering tea, cold water and shelter from the sun as you explore the site. To avoid the scorching temperatures, consider travelling in the off season (October to April).

Petra Travel Guide:
Getting to Petra

How to plan a trip to Petra
As you can see, it will take you at least 3 hours to get to Petra depending on what route you take.

When you first look at Petra in relation to the rest of Jordan, it looks like it is smack bang in the middle of nowhere (and it is essentially… right in the middle of the desert!). People often panic about how they are going to get there but you have a couple of options based on your personal preferences and budget.

If like me you are a solo female travelling in Jordan then I would strongly recommend hiring a personal driver/guide. I never felt unsafe in Jordan, and I feel that one of the reasons for this was because I did exactly that. It’s a little more expensive than public transport, yes, but I don’t believe that you can really put a price on your own safety and peace of mind.

Assuming that you are travelling to Petra from either Amman, or Queen Alia International Airport, you have a couple of options for getting to Petra depending on your budget and personal preferences. Those options are summarised below

Travel to Petra by Bus

Your cheapest option to get to Petra is to take the Jett bus from Amman central station. Unfortunately the schedule for this is somewhat limited. The bus departs from Amman to Petra once a day at 6.30am and the return bus (Petra to Amman) runs daily at 5pm. The fare is 10 JOD each way.

From Queen Alia International, you can take a cab to Amman centre for around 20 JOD but obviously, due to the limited bus schedule then this warrants at least one overnight stay.

Travel to Petra by Private Driver

Pricier but arguably much more pleasant and convenient, you can hire a private driver to take you directly to Petra. The prices start from around 80 JOD per day from Amman (slightly less from Queen Alia Int’l)  and if you wish, your driver will make a couple of recommended stops along the way (for example, the old crusader castle at Karak is en-route and very interesting)

Travel to Petra by Hotel Transfer

Some hotels in the Petra area will organise a shuttle service for you but you should note that they all use third party providers, and the prices are likely to be similar to, or more than, that which is detailed above for a private drive.

Rent a Car and Drive to Petra

If you feel comfortable doing so, renting a car and driving to Petra from Amman or Aqaba is absolutely a feasible option. Car rentals in Jordan start from 20 JOD per day. The roads are well-built and sign-posted in both English and Arabic.

Petra Travel Guide:
How Much is the Petra Entrance Fee?

If you are visiting Jordan with the sole purpose of visiting Petra, then you can buy a ticket to the site at the entrance. A one day pass will cost you 50 JD ($70/£54), and a two day pass costs 55JD ($78/£60). However! If you are planning on visiting Petra as part of a wider Jordan itinerary and will be spending at least three nights in Jordan then I would advise you to consider buying the Jordan pass.

The Jordan pass can be bought online prior to travel and includes both your Petra admission and your Jordanian visa fee (usually 40JD payable upon arrival at the airport). It also includes access to numerous other sites of interest around Jordan (for example, the ruins at Jerash, and the Amman citadel) and will cost you either 70JD if you want to spend only one day in Petra, and 75JD if you want to spend two days in Petra, therefore saving you money overall. (Read further info on this at the Jordan Pass website here)

Note: I am in no way affiliated with the Jordan pass website or its services, I just think that this can save you a fair bit of dough $$$, You can thank me later.

Petra Travel Guide:
Consider Staying Two Days in Petra 

When you’ve looked at pictures of Petra, you’ve probably seen images of the impressive Monastery and the classic Indiana Jones treasury, but what you may not realize is the sheer vastness of the site (at least I didn’t!). There are so many scenic hiking trails dotted throughout the park that will take you 2-3 hours a piece and sometimes it’s nice just to spend time wandering the ruins like Lara Croft, taking in the sights and having fun getting lost rather than running around like a mad thing panting and sweating while trying to frantically cram everything in.

More excitingly, if you plan your itinerary so that your Petra visit falls on a Monday, Wednesday or Thursday, then you can bare witness to the “Petra by night” event which sees the site illuminated with thousands of candles.

Petra Travel Guide:
Where to Stay in Petra

There are plenty of wonderful accommodation options in the Petra regions – from luxury Petra hotels, to Bedouin style camp-site. No doubt your budget and travel preferences will play a factor here, some of the best hotels in Petra have been highlighted below. I personally stayed at the “Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp”. It was a little touristic, but a lovely spot to sleep beneath the stars.  

Luxury Petra Accommodation Choice:
The Movenpick Resort

Where: Wadi Musa

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. The Movenpick is one of the more expensive options in the region, however it definitely provides service and a great place to unwind after a long day’s trekking and exploration.

The Movenpick Resort’s location is just a stone’s throw away from the entrance to the Petra ruins. The resort also boasts a stunning outdoor pool, and an array of upscale restaurants serving decadent cuisines from across the globe.

Mid-Range Petra Accommodation Choice:
The Petra Guesthouse

Where: Wadi Musa

For comfort and quirkiness, the Petra Guest House is a great accommodation choice when travelling to Petra. The hotel is renowned for its “cave bar” – a bar and restaurant set in a restored first century Nabatean house. The roof terraces and landscaped gardens provide a perfect spot to relax. Location-wise, you couldn’t get any closer to Petra: The Petra Guest House is literally adjacent to the Petra Visitor Centre.

Budget Petra Accommodation Choice:
Seven Wonders Bedouin Campsite

Where: Wadi Musa

A budget, cultural, and backpacker accommodation choice for visiting Petra is the Seven Wonders Bedouin Campsite. This is where I stayed in Petra. Dinner, and bedouin entertainment (music, dancing, etc) takes place around the central campfire. Guests sleep in comfortable yurts. The sight of the sky above the desert being illuminated by thousands of twinkling stars is breathtaking.

Petra Travel Guide:
When to Travel to Petra

The Spring and Autumn months provide the most pleasant conditions for travelling to Peta. Temperatures are warm, but not too sweltering for hiking or spending extended periods of time outdoors. Expect temperatures of between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius during this time.

During Summer in Jordan, it is not uncommon for temperatures to soar over 35 degrees Celsius. This can make trekking very difficult. If travelling during this time, try to keep out of the sun at midday, when it is at its most intense. Winters in Petra can be a little cool, with temperatures ranging between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius.

Petra Travel Guide:
What to Wear in Petra

How to Plan a Trip to Petra

Jordan is a conservative Muslim country and as a rule of thumb, it is advisable for both men and women to cover their shoulders and legs while exploring. That said, Petra is a tourist site and those working here are accustomed to seeing hundreds of tourists on a daily basis. You are afforded a little more leniency here. Don’t go too revealing of course, but considering it’s hot, mid length shorts and t-shirts are more acceptable at Petra.

You will be doing a lot of walking at Petra and the terrain varies from sandy to rocky and uneven. Make sure that you pack a pair of comfortable, sturdy walking shoes. The temperatures can get incredibly hot, particularly during the summer months and there is very little shade at the Petra site.

Pack some sunglasses and a hat, or something else to cover your head from the sun, and don’t forget to apply plenty of sunscreen. Temperatures in the desert dip in the evenings so be sure to pack a light sweater if you are going to do Petra by night.

Petra Travel Guide:
Getting Around

Because the site is so large, and the main points of interest are quite dispersed, visiting Petra will inevitably entail an amount of walking and hiking. However, all trails are relatively manageable provided you have a general level of fitness.

Before visiting Petra, I had actually underestimated just how huge the site was – it sprawls over a whopping 60 square kilometres! If you plan on conquering some of the major hiking trails such as the monastery hike, or the place of high sacrifice, you are going to be trekking for several hours. If you prefer to omit those and wander around the site at a more relaxed pace, you can still assume 3-4 hours of walking to see the Siq, the Royal Tombs, and the Treasury.

If you get tired, there will be plenty of vendors offering horse/camel/donkey rides to your intended destination. By the end of your visit, I am sure you will be tired of respectfully declining their offers of an “air-conditioned donkey ride” or a “camel Ferrari”. The  men that wait around at the entrance offer you a “complimentary horse ride” which is apparently included in your ticket. That’s essentially true, but be prepared to tip

If you do decide to take a ride on a particular animal, check the prices before you get on board and don’t be afraid to haggle. (Tips on haggling successfully here)

Petra Travel Guide:
Don’t be Afraid to Say NO to Toots 

There are many touts selling their wares within Petra so be prepared for the fact that you will be perpetually hassled to buy scarves, knives, handicrafts, animal rides, etc with some Merchants being rather aggressive (one guy chased me around the Treasury area with a bag full of knives, and became quite verbally abusive when I wouldn’t buy one!) The best thing to do is politely but firmly tell them “No” and just continue on your way. If you engage in a discussion, it’ll only encourage them to try harder.

I personally don’t like to accept or encourage animal rides. The animals at Petra looked a little exhausted and bedraggled and I didn’t like the way that some of them were being handled but that’s personal preference. It should go without saying that you shouldn’t buy anything from the young children roaming the park as it only further encourages child begging/exploitation.

Petra Travel Guide:
Solo Female Travel in Petra

I generally felt pretty safe in Petra and in Jordan as a whole, though I did receive quite a lot of male attention from both locals working in the site, and from Indian tourists who would literally follow me around taking my photograph (I cannot understand why since I felt like such a sweaty, revolting beast). At one point I had to notify the Jordanian tourist police because one particular group of men were following me around the tombs. 

Follow the main trails and try not to go wandering off by yourself down isolated routes or find yourself still on a trail when it starts to get dark. Dress modestly as above, and if you find someone following or pestering you, then either notify one of the local vendors (Jordanians are usually incredibly friendly and welcoming) or head to one of the tourism police checkpoints (there are several dotted throughout).

Petra Travel Guide:
Are There Food and Amenities Available On Site at Petra?

I’d advise you to have a filling breakfast at your hotel in the morning before venturing out into Petra. Most hotels will prepare you a packed lunch to take with you if you ask them which is a nice idea. At the entrance to the site, by the visitor’s centre, there are several restaurants and cafes. There are also numerous touristic stalls selling bottled water and light snacks throughout the Petra site.

Toilet wise, the facilities are not great. There are a few portacabins which are managed by Bedouins but are not very clean. Pack some tissues and hand sanitiser in your backpack if you can.

Petra Travel Guide:
Onward Travel and Exploring More of Jordan

How to Plan a Trip to Petra
How to Plan a Trip to Petra

I was quite ignorant before traveling to Jordan and I didn’t know a huge amount about what else there was to do there before I actually arrived and realised that it wasn’t just Petra that was fascinating, but the whole of the country.

From the quirky capital of Amman, to bobbing around like a cork in the Dead Sea, there is SO much to do in Jordan besides Petra so I hope that you are able to spend a little longer here. Petra is best enjoyed as part of a wider Jordan itinerary. Crossing the border from Jordan to Israel and Palestine is another option for those with plenty of time.

If you have any other questions about planning your trip to Petra, are looking for a recommendation on a guide, etc. then feel free to contact me by email or let me know by dropping me a comment below! Safe travels, Melissa xo

Petra Travel Guide:
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How to Plan a Trip to Petra

Disclaimer: This Petra Travel Guide may contain the occasional affiliate link. High Heels and a Backpack receives a small amount of commission if you make a purchase through some of the links on this page at no extra cost to you. This helps me to keep up with the costs of running this site and providing free travel resources. 


Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer and Blogger based in Athens, Greece. She writes for numerous high profile travel publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, Matador Network, The Times of Israel and The Huffington Post.

3 thoughts on “The Ultimate Petra Travel Guide”

  1. Hello!

    How was your private driver throughout your adventures in Jordan? And do you have any recommendations?

    I’m planning to book tours individually at the sites, and have a driver take me from A to B, which sounds like what you have done 🙂

    Thank you!!!

    Reply

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