With a title like that you can make damn sure that I’ll deliver! Not only will this be the most awesome Petra travel guide ever but it will also be the most extensive one! Everything you need to know before visiting the rose colored city is right here on this page.
Visiting Petra for sure was the highlight of my trip to Jordan and I had it all planned out! We were staying in Wadi Musa for 2 nights so that one evening we could witness Petra by Night and then the next day we would have a full day of exploring Petra ahead of us!
But faith has something else in store cause on our way to Petra we drove alongside the coast of the Dead Sea and stopped at the beautiful canyon of Wadi Mujib. We were just here to explore the first part of the canyon cause after a while the water level gets too high and you can’t bring camera equipment with you. But even before I set one foot in the water I landed wrong on my left foot and twisted my ankle.
I immediately felt it was bad and an uncontrollable tear streamed down my face. I pulled myself together and still went into the water to take photos but the damage had been done. I could feel my heartbeat throbbing in my ankle and only 1 hour later it had swollen to the size of a tennis ball.
There was no way I was going to be able to explore the entire Lost City of Petra, or so I thought…
The Most Awesome Petra Travel Guide
The Lost City of Petra is one of those places that speaks to everyone’s imagination. I remember watching all of the Indiana Jones movies as a little girl and I wasn’t just impressed by Indy himself, hello young Harrison Ford! But what intrigued me the most were all of the places he was visiting on his adventures. And one of those was the rose colored city of Petra in Jordan.
So when we decided to book tickets to discover Jordan I nearly couldn’t contain my excitement and I immediately started planning the perfect visit to this magical city. Of course as you may have read above I wasn’t in the best condition the day before we were supposed to explore Petra. With an ankle the size of a tennis ball there was nothing left for me but to lay down with my foot up and ice it.
And while I may have lost a full day of exploring, nothing and I mean literally nothing was going to stop me from seeing this archeological marvel with my very own eyes. If that meant limping through the entire site like an idiot then so be it!
A little history about The Lost City of Petra
Petra is a historical and archeological city located in the South West of Jordan and dates back to the fourth century B.C. It is located between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea in Jordan and completely surrounded by mountains and desert.
It was once a thriving trading center and the capital of the Nabataean empire between 400 B.C. and A.D. 106 but afterwards the city sat empty and in near ruin for centuries.
Petra is often referred to as the Lost City because in spite of it being such an important part of antiquity it became completely lost to the Western World after the 14th century AD. And it wasn’t until a Swiss traveler disguised himself as a bedouin that he was able to infiltrate the mystery site.
In 1985, the Petra Archaeological Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, and in 2007 it was named one of the new seven wonders of the world.
And it doesn’t stop there either! Did you know Petra was featured in several blockbuster movies! Several scenes from Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade were filmed in Petra. In the movie we see actors Harrison Ford and Sean Connery burst forth from the Siq and walk deep into the labyrinths of the Treasury in their quest to find the Holy Grail. But as usual, Hollywood twisted the reality cause in reality you can’t even enter into the Treasury and it’s nothing more than a facade with a tiny hall inside which was once used as a royal tomb.
Another favorite of mine that was partially filmed here is The Mummy Returns! I know I know, it wasn’t as good as the first one but it was still a pretty spectacular movie where they used the Siq as the giant canyon with the digitally added waterfall.
And if that wasn’t enough the Monastery in Petra also served as the backdrop for one of the main battles in the second Transformers installment.
How to reach Petra in Jordan
The Red Rose city of Petra is one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World and lies hidden deep in a canyon in Jordan. It’s an incredible place that was able to remain perfectly intact through the sands of time and one of the top things to do when you’re visiting Jordan.
The Lost City of Petra is located right next the sand stone town of Wadi Musa which is well connected by road to other popular places in Jordan such as the Dead Sea and Wadi Rum.
Petra is connected to the national capital Amman, at a distance of 233 km, by the desert highway. The Wahedat bus station in Amman offers buses leaving for Petra throughout the day. Due to a predominantly Muslim population, Friday, a holy day for Muslims, is off, but some buses still run on Friday mornings.
From Petra, there are fixed departures, at 6.30, 7 and 8 am, and the city is 126 km away from Aqaba by Highway 15.
There is a large parking lot right next to the visitor center so if you’re able to rent a car at the airport this is in my opinion the easiest and most convenient option. The roads in Jordan are ok to drive on, except for those invisible speed bumps at times.
Of course you can’t drive into Petra itself! From the visitors’ centre you’ll have to start hiking and after about 20 minutes you’ll reach the Treasury of Petra.
Where to stay when visiting Petra
You should definitely stay in the town of Wadi Musa, that way you’ll only be a short drive away from the visitors’ centre which opens at 6am. I’ll tell you later on why this is very important! Hint: it has something to do with having the Treasury all to yourself!
Wadi Musa, which means Valley of Moses, is the administrative centre of the archeological site of Petra and it’s also the nearest town.
It hosts a ton of hotels, bars, restaurants and tourist shops so you’re bound to find a place to stay! When you’re planning your visit to Petra I recommend you to stay at least 2 nights in Wadi Musa. This way you can also create the perfect 7 day Jordan road trip itinerary around your visit to Petra!
- Petra Marriott Hotel – This is hands down the best hotel to stay at when visiting Petra! Their hospitality is absolutely amazing! For instance, I arrived limping down the lobby and of course they asked what happened at the reception. Upon hearing my story they offered me an ankle and leg massage on the house, which worked wonders on my ankle! Besides that they also offer a bedouin meal in the evening where you’ll be able to enjoy traditional Jordanian food and one of the most stunning views I have ever seen.
- Stay at an AirBnb appartment. I highly recommend you to stay with Holly & Mohammed. They are the most hospitable and amazing people. Upon our arrival they prepared us a delicious home cooked meal and helped me with ice for my sprained ankle!
When is the best time to visit Petra
The best seasons to visit Jordan are either Spring or Fall, when the temperature during the day is still nice and the days are long and dry. The Summer months can become incredibly hot and during the Winter there can be a lot of rainfall which can sometimes even lead to Petra being closed off for hiking!
During Spring time entire Jordan is covered in wild flowers and if you love hiking then this is your season! But do know Spring is also the most popular touristic season so flight prices tend to be higher and hotels book up fast. If you’re bound on visiting during Spring make sure to plan ahead!
During Fall the temperatures tend to drop a little bit which is why it’s a less popular time to visit Jordan. But in my opinion this means it’s the best time!
The visitors’ centre opens at 6am and I highly recommend being there at 5.45am at the latest. This way you’ll be the first one in line if you still have to buy your ticket. The entrance fee for the archeological site is 50 JOD, unless you already have the Jordan Pass.
One of the best tips I can give you when visiting Jordan is to purchase the Jordan Pass before you arrive in the country. The Jordan pass gives you access to all of the top attractions in Jordan and with it you also avoid paying the tourist taxes at the airport. Its pricing depends on how many days you wish the spend in Petra. It also allows you to skip the line which is always an advantage when visiting a popular tourist attraction such as Petra.
From the Petra visitors’ centre it’s a 20 minute walk to the Treasury and on the way you’ll pass by some signs with information but you’ll also return the same way. It’s best to keep on walking straight down the Siq in order to get to the Treasury as soon as possible. Cause to be fair you don’t want to share this moment with thousands of other tourists!
What to wear when visiting Petra
Definitely make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes cause you’ll be doing a lot of walking if you wish to visit the entire archeological site. I am talking about walking for 6 to 7 hours so if you want to wear sandals in certain photos it’s better to bring them in your backpack.
Wear light and comfortable clothing and make sure to bring a jacket with you cause it can be rather chilly in the early hours.
During your visit it’s best to bring some other items with you as well:
- Bring a bottle of water and some snacks – You don’t have to bring a lot with you but it’s always best to be prepared. You’ll be doing a lot of hiking anyway but there are also plenty of shops spread out through the entire site. Most of them even accept payment by Credit Card but it’s always smart to have some cash on you as well.
- A camera – Thrust me when I say you’ll be taking a ton of photos on this day trip! If you have a wide angle lens this is the time to bring it along with you!
- Sunscreen – Most part of the hike is in a valley so don’t forget to apply sunscreen regularly. Unless you want to end up like a lobster 🙂
- Bandages – To treat blisters if needed
TIP – I bought a Keffiyeh, a traditional Arabic scarf, at one of the local shops and also some black eye liner to complete my look.
What about the animals at Petra
Horse drawn carriages
There are about 10 horse drawn carriages in total which start from the visitors’ centre and go down to the Treasury and back. The cost for a ride is 20JOD and a carriage may only carry up to 2 people. Do know that the road to the Treasury is uneven so it’s bound to be a very bumpy ride. I don’t recommend these rides due to the bad circumstances these horses have to work in. Even during the Summer months they have to constantly run up and down the Treasury which can be very strenuous on them.
In front of the Treasury you’ll have the option of going on a short camel ride of around 20 to 30 minutes. It’s honestly not even that impressive cause all you’ll do is walk around in circles on said camel. And it’s all fun and games until one of those camels can’t get up anymore due to the weight on its back. I did however have something else in mind. I wanted to take photo with one of the camels in front of the Treasury while it was still calm in the early morning. I asked the owner if this was possible and for 2JOD it was! He first placed me on top of the camel but I wasn’t too excited about that so I quickly climbed back off and simply sat next to him. And I think those photos turned out great and you can clearly see in the other one how uncomfortable I actually was! So happy Charlie and happy camel! 🐪
I have to admit something here. I was in a bit of a pickle when visiting the archeological site of Petra. Two days earlier I had twisted my foot and ended up with a sprained ankle. I iced it as much as possible and took a day off from exploring and did nothing but laying in bed all day with my foot up. By the evening it was starting to feel better so I convinced Kate it would be ok for me to visit Petra the next day! We got up super early, I jugged down two pain killers and off we went. I hobbled all the way to the Treasury as fast as my little legs could carry me and I was even able to climb up to one of the secret look out points over the Treasury. But by now my ankle was starting to act up again and when one of the local guides told me it was 2,5 hours more walking to reach the Monastery I was starting to feel a little defeated. I had already lost an entire day of exploring and I really wanted to see as much as possible from this place.
So I did something I would have otherwise never done: I went up to the Monastery on one of the donkeys. I’ve never shared this story before cause I am very much against using animals as a means of human transportation in general. I have seen the donkeys in Santorini carrying alls of those fat tourists up the hill and the same goes for Petra. There are a lot of donkeys that are in very bad shape so if you can avoid it please do so.
The Best Places to See in Petra
This travel guide on Petra wouldn’t be complete without giving you a walkthrough of the archeological site of Petra! There’s a lot more to Petra than just the Treasury or the Monastery and you’ll notice you can easily spend an entire day exploring the archeological site. One of the more popular paths to take in Petra is through the Siq to the Treasury through the site to the Monastery and then returning to the Treasury via the Royal Tombs. You’ll have over 20.000 steps under your belt after this trail If you have the time why not stay an extra day?
A 2 day entrance ticket to Petra is only 55 JOD so you wouldn’t break the bank either.
My advice? If you can spare an extra day exploring Petra, do so! Below I’ve listed the main points of interest for you as well!
This is the main entrance leading into Petra and the very first time where you’ll get the sense that you’re about to witness something incredibly special! Try not to stop too much on the way (you can also take photos here on your way back) and since the canyon is narrow, no harsh light will ruin your photos during the middle of the day.
You’ll enter the Siq after walking 10 to 15 minutes on a boring gravel road and after that you will enter the Siq, an impressive canyon that will lead you straight towards the Treasury.
The Treasury is for a lot of people the main reason that they’re visiting the Lost City of Petra. It’s original function even now is still a mystery. Some believe it to be a temple but recent excavations unearthed a graveyard beneath it. And yes, the first time you see it it is as impressive as you would have imagined. Its scale is honestly overwhelming when you’re standing right in front of it and the intricate details are absolutely mesmerizing.
But did you know that there are plenty more such buildings spread out of the archeological site of Petra? This is something a lot of tourists don’t realize and after visiting the Treasury they turn back. This would be such a shame cause honestly the Treasury is just the tip of the iceberg.
The Street Of Facades
After the Treasury you’ll walk alongside the Street of Facades, where you can see a dozen of caves and buildings carved out into the wall. It’s a wonderful place to walk by but if you’re only here for 1 day don’t waste too much time on it.
The High Place Of Sacrifice
The High Place of Sacrifice is one of the most beautiful viewpoints in entire Petra and the hike up to it is pretty spectacular as well. This is the first place I would visit if I ever had the chance to travel back to Jordan. Cause as you can guess due to my injury it wasn’t an option to do this hike.
This hike is best done if you have 2 days at Petra, otherwise you might end up being a bit short on time.
This was one of my personal favourites and I actually found this carved out building even more impressive than the treasury. To get to the Monastery you have to hike up a lot, and I really mean a lot of stairs. Not that I would know cause I was chilling on a donkeys butt due to my sprained ankle. But I saw a lot of people turning different shades of red and sweating out liters of water before they reached the top.
The Monastery is one of the top sights to see in entire Petra and one that you really shouldn’t miss, even if you only have 1 day to explore the entire site!
The road up to the Monastery is lined with souvenir shops and at the top you’ll even find a small restaurant where you can have a snack and drink something.
The Royal Tombs
The Royal Tombs are a line of prominent monumental facades on the east cliffs flanking the valley in which the city lies. To get to the tombs you’ll have to hike up again which is why a lot of tourists don’t even go here!
Is Petra a safe place to visit
Petra is a pretty safe place to visit but there are of course a couple of scams that you have to look out for when visiting any popular touristic site. There are a lot of street vendors trying to sell either jewelry or carpets and some of them even claim they sell antique coins. This is a scam! Turn down any offers you get to purchase antique coins or unofficial tours.
Another common scam that happens in Petra are the romance scams. When you’re walking through the Rose City you’ll see two types of bedouins: the normal looking ones and the ones that look like a failed clone of Jack Sparrow. It’s these last ones, also called the “love pirates” that you have to look out for cause they prey on lonely, older women. You’ll recognize them by their black kohl lined eyes and wild hair bound by a headscarf and their look pretty much resembles that of Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean. Of course they tell the story that Johnny copied the look from them.
Day and day out they try to seduce women and try to trick them into believing their feelings are true. They’ll invite you discover the more hidden places of Petra with them and then to have dinner with them and their family inside of Petra in the evening. But there are also stories about girls who passed out after having such a dinner. I don’t have to paint you a picture of what happens afterwards.
A good page to follow if you’re visiting Petra is @shakira_the_donkey. They are very hands on and even contacted me through Instagram when they saw I was visiting Petra to warn me!
Experience Petra by Night
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to visit Petra by Night myself cause at that time I couldn’t even stand still on one foot without crying form the pain. But I did plan out everything to ensure we would have had the best visit so I am still able to share all of that information with you in this Petra Travel Guide!
Petra by Night is an incredible event that takes place 3 times a week on every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday and starts at 8.30pm from the Visitor’s Center. It’s a magical way to see Petra where they lit up the entire Siq canyon leading up to the Treasury with more than a thousand candles.
The ticket fee for Petra by night is 17 JOD.
TIP – If you’re already inside of Petra you can simply stay and watch them set up for the event. This way you’ll also have the opportunity to take beautiful photos without hundreds of other eager tourists in them!
TIP 2 – For the best photos you’ll a professional camera where you can adjust the ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed, as well as a sturdy tripod.
Jordan is an absolutely amazing country and I do hope this Petra Travel Guide will inspire you to plan a trip there! I’ve written a ton of other articles to help you plan the perfect trip to this magical country!
- The Ultimate Guide to the Amman Citadel
- Visiting the Roman Ruins in Jerash – The Perfect Day Trip from Amman
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