Petra is one of the dreamiest destinations on earth. The color of the sandstone in the Red Rose City and the heat of the desert will leave an impression that is hard to forget. And in this guide, I will share everything you need to know to plan your trip before visiting Petra.
Visiting Petra has always been on my Travel Bucket List. With its towering sandstone structures and unique history, I was so excited when I finally hopped on the plane to Jordan!
Now, I get that it’s tempting to walk through the gates of Petra and just follow the crowd.
But there’s so much more to this UNESCO World Heritage Site than meets the eye.
Not only does this guide cover the best things to do in the area, but it will help you figure out:
I’ve tried to answer virtually every question you could ever want to know about this incredible hotspot.
So, are you ready to dive right in?
Don’t Make These Mistakes In Petra
- Have only 1 day to visit: To make the most of Petra, plan at least 2 days there.
- Wear the right shoes: It’s a LOT of walking, so make sure to wear comfortable hiking shoes.
- Not bringing drinks and food: Although there are a few cafes’ inside the park, bring plenty of water as it can get really hot. Especially if you are planning to hike.
- Not having a map: Signal can be weak in places. Download Google Maps offline or use Maps.me app to check your position in the park.
What is Petra?
Petra is a famous archaeological site in Jordan that was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985. If that wasn’t impressive enough, it was added to the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007!
But let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?
Petra was created in 312BC by the Nabateans, who were essentially ancient Arabs. Its name means “rock” in Greek, and it’s easy to see where the city got its name from.
It was once a place of great cultural and religious significance. This is why you can see tombs, sacrificial points, and temples dotted around the city.
The area was eventually invaded by the Romans (as most places were at one point or another!) and became the Lost City of Petra after it was abandoned a few centuries later.
These days, it’s in the hands of the local people and operates as a major tourist attraction that showcases Jordan’s incredible history.
Is Petra worth visiting?
Home to picture-perfect views, fascinating ancient ruins, and an incredible history, Petra totally deserves a place on anyone’s list of historical destinations.
With breathtaking attractions like the Royal Tombs, the Treasury, and the towering Bab Al Siq, this legendary city is a dream to visit.
The color of the sandstone in the Red Rose City and the heat of the desert are hard to forget.
It will forever remain one of the most wonderful places I visited in my life.
How to get to Petra
If you’re visiting Petra, the closest airport is Queen Alia International Airport which is around 30 minutes from the city of Amman in Jordan.
From here, you can either take a bus or a car to reach Petra.
The first option is to travel by public transportation on the JETT bus to Wadi Musa.
This takes around 5 hours, but it’s air-conditioned and operates a reasonably regular schedule.
There’s also a mandatory stop around halfway through for a quick tea and toilet break.
The bus drops you right outside the Petra Visitor Center. This makes it ideal for those who want to start their adventure straight away!
The journey costs around $30 USD per person. You can either book a ticket in advance on their website or buy one from their office in Amman.
Alternatively, you can rent a car or arrange a private transfer, which will be the priciest option.
However, it does give you more privacy and gets you to Petra slightly more quickly. This is the option we opted for.
It allowed us to stop to take breathtaking pictures along the way to Petra and admire the desertic landscape around Jordan.
When is the best time to visit Petra?
The best time to visit Petra is during the spring or autumn months when the weather is slightly cooler.
Unfortunately, this is also the crowdest time, as few tourists want to battle the brutal summer heat that descends during July and August.
The temperatures can vary quite a bit during these periods. It’s always a good idea to pack layers that you can easily whip off or throw on if you’re exploring in the early hours.
Is it safe to visit Petra in Jordan?
You should always have your eyes open on any trip (especially if you’re flying solo), but visiting Petra is safe for most people.
You should do your research and always have safe transportation arranged to take you from the airport to Petra (and on to your hotel).
But otherwise, you should be safe if you’re sticking to the main tourist routes and not wandering off. We personally had no issues in the ancient city and in the more modern area just outside. Everyone was very welcoming and helpful.
The only thing to consider is the presence of rogue “guides” around the city. There are several wonderful guides and tours around here. But there are a few that target solo or female travelers and attempt to rob or assault them.
If in any doubt, always decline any requests to take you around and stick to official channels available through the Visitors Center.
How much does the entrance to Petra cost?
The current prices for visiting Petra are 50 JOD for a single day, 55 JOD for a two-day ticket, and 60 JOD for a three-day ticket.
If you’re planning to visit at night (or want to cover the area with a tour guide), you’ll need to pay an additional fee.
Just so you know, to tour Petra by night is 17 JOD, and to head along the Main Trail with a guide will cost around 50 JOD.
To save a bit of money, I recommend grabbing the 2-day Jordan Pass that includes your Petra entrance fee & visa entry. It basically pays for itself.
What are Petra’s opening times?
Petra’s Visitor Center opens between 6 am and 6 pm during summer and 6 am and 4 pm during wintertime.
How many days do you need to spend in Petra?
I’d say that 2 or 3 days was more than enough time to cover the best of Petra.
This allows you to take your time snapping photographs from various viewpoints without feeling completly worn out by the end of your trip.
Better yet, it gives you at least 1 chance to catch Petra by Night!
Where to stay in Petra
I have to say, I was surprised by the little choice we had to stay in Petra. We wanted to spend at least a couple of nights there to give us enough time to make the most of our trip.
Here are the best options we could find:
How long is the walk into Petra?
The walk into Petra from the Visitor Center is just over 2km long, and it includes the walk through the Siq!
This takes around 30 minutes (or a bit longer if you stop to take a few photos).
How long does it take to get to the Monastery?
If you’re planning to walk to the Monastery along the Main Trail, you should expect to set aside 2 hours if you’re heading out from the Visitor Center.
Can I get food and drinks at Petra?
Most of Petra’s hotels have food and drinks onsite.
Some will even give you a doggie bag filled with goodies to take the next day if you let them know in advance.
If you’re looking for snacks and drinks during the day, there are several stalls right outside the entrance to the city that sell basics like bottled water, chocolate, and chips.
For a full-blown meal by city, check out The Basin for a delicious buffet.
If you’re happy with something lighter, the café by the monastery and the local tea stalls will keep you trucking along while you’re in the thick of it. And I can tell you, you will welcome a fresh drink there after the steep climb!
Can you go to Petra on your own?
Absolutely – visiting Petra on your own is fine.
You just need to keep your wits about you and plan, plan, plan!
Visiting Middle Eastern countries can be slightly unnerving if you’re a woman traveling alone, but guided tours and safe transportation can make all the difference to how you feel.
And if you’re wondering about navigating the city without any help, the answer is still yes.
You won’t get the in-depth knowledge from tour guides (which is awesome, BTW, and well worth the additional cost), but the maps and signs should be enough to get you to the main attractions without a hitch.
To make things easier, I suggest one of the following:
- Downloading Google Maps offline
- Downloading the app Maps.me
- Or printing off tons of helpful trail maps and insider tips before leaving
as mobile signal isn’t always great here.
Also, check the Visitor Center. It offers a wealth of helpful information that will be useful to get you around this prehistoric city.
What to wear in Petra
It’s not compulsory to cover your head in Petra. But remember to be respectful, as this is still a Muslim country. It’s good to keep shoulders and legs covered with loose clothing.
I opted for long trousers and loose-fitting dresses and tops.
In general, I recommend wearing lightweight and cool clothing with a couple of light layers stuffed in your backpack.
It’s also a great idea to bring loads of sunscreen and a brimmed hat or cap.
When it comes to footwear, comfortable shoes like hiking boots or sturdy trainers are key as there’s a lot of walking in Petra (upwards of 20km in a single day!).
12 Best Things to Do in Petra
1. Walk through the Siq at sunrise
The Bab Al Siq is a towering sandstone gorge that acts as the ceremonious main entrance to the city of Petra.
It winds for over 1.2km and stretches approximately 80m to 150m above-ground at its highest point.
It’s worth noting that you can’t get to the main sites in Petra without traveling through this impressive gorge. But it’s certainly a dazzling way to kick off any visit to this UNESCO World Heritage site!
Although most of Siq is all-natural, part of this enormous formation was carefully constructed by the Nabateans to divert frequent flash floods from the Wadi Musa’s streambed.
Basically, they were trying to avoid the destruction of the ancient city with a bit of handiwork!
As you approach the walls, you’ll spot the remains of Petra’s original city gate before the small Greek-style votives, and intricate sculptures of gods start coming into view.
If you continue walking, you’ll spot a small shrine on the downhill side of the Siq that’s immaculately preserved.
I always suggest getting here for sunrise. There’s a glorious stillness and silence that comes with being the first people onsite.
As you reach the end of the Siq, you’ll be met with a gorgeous glimpse of sunlight and the awe-inspiring façade of the Treasury that gradually emerges from behind the sandstone rocks.
Tip: If you want to cut down on hiking time from the entrance to the treasury, pay for a golf cart!
2. The Treasury (Al-Kazneh)
The Treasury (otherwise known as Al-Kazneh) is one of the most popular attractions in Petra, and it’s a serious testament to the beauty of ancient architecture.
This 40m-high monument features exquisite Hellenistic-inspired rock carvings and Corinthian pillars that were carefully crafted by the Nabateans. It has been standing proudly in this spot for over 2,000 years and remains one of the most impressive sights in Petra.
While you’re here, spend time admiring the front of the façade before heading to the steps on the left of the Treasury. They’ll take you across a small section of rocks where you can climb a small platform that offers the best view of the Treasury in all its glory.
We reached The Treasury early in the morning when the sunlight showed us the most beautiful sight, but we recommend going back between 5 and 6 pm when a stunning rosy glow overtakes the whole cliff.
Hey – it’s not nicknamed the “Rose City” for nothing, guys!
Unfortunately, you can’t step inside the treasury anymore as it was closed off to the public in 2018. But you’re unlikely to be disappointed by its striking exterior.
And don’t worry, it’s just an empty chamber anyway, so you’re not missing much.
A cheeky fun fact
If you didn’t already know, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was filmed around the Siq and the Treasury. If you keep a keen eye out while watching the film, you’ll spot the façade of the Treasury in several shots!
3. The Monastery (Al-Deir)
Reaching The Monastery is a little adventure by itself.
There are 800 steps that are waiting for you on the ascent to the top. But, even if you feel like you have had enough of monuments carved into the rock, the route itself, with the wonderful views of the desert, should be enough to convince you to keep climbing.
During the climb, you will find yourself thinking often “We must be almost there”, or, “It can’t be much further”, only to turn and see another steep set of steps to climb.
There are lots of kids that will offer you to ride a donkey to the top by saying “Air-conditioned taxi, mister?”.
These trips are affordable (around 5 dinars for a single ride if you haggle, which is about $7.50USD) as the local Bedouins are always trying to compete for tourists.
But I would avoid riding them. Donkeys and horses aren’t well cared for.
And then, after what seems like the longest possible climb in the excruciating heat…you get there!
It takes a while to take it all in.
The Monastery facade is bigger than The Treasury, and although less ornate, its size is sticking.
There’s a small tea shop set up in a cave right across from the Hellenistic façade, which is a perfect place to rest after your trek up the stairs.
Sit in the shadow and take time to enjoy the view.
Sunsets up here are breathtaking, and you’ll get unbeatable vistas over the cobblestones and sandstone as the sun falls.
A quick tip!
If you want to get here before anyone else, get a taxi to the back entrance of Petra, then walk through the national park and start your day at the monastery. This saves you walking to the monastery up and back!
4. Hike through Petra
There are several glorious hikes that you can check out during your visit to Petra, and I’ll run through a couple of my favorites below.
The “Main” Trail
This 8km round-trip trail covers most of Petra’s most popular attractions and starts right at the Visitor Center.
The Petra Visitor Center is worth checking out anyway, as it acts as a quasi-museum that runs you through the major points of interest around the city. You can also grab maps and ask any questions you have about the area.
You’ll then pass through the Siq, the Treasury, the Street of Facades, the Royal Tombs, and the fabulous Great Temple.
If I’m being honest, this trail is probably the most efficient way to cover Petra’s most historical sights and takes around 4 hours to complete from end to end.
I recommend starting this trek as close to sunrise as possible. Even though most of this trail is on flat ground, the Jordan heat can quickly get unbearable when you’re carting a backpack around!
If you’re hungry for a slightly longer trail, you can add approximately 4km to your trek and head over to the Monastery. This challenging path takes you right through the Monastery and includes the dreaded 800-step trail I mentioned earlier!
Other great options for hiking through Petra
If you’re not feeling the Main Trail (or are searching for more strenuous ones!), you can try the Al Khubtha Trail (sometimes called the Treasury Viewpoint), the Sabra Trail, the Umm Al-Biyara Trail, and the Jabal Haroun Trail.
Travelers visiting Petra for several days can also take the 9km walk to Little Petra, tucked away in the charming town of Wadi Musa.
5. The Royal Tombs
The Royal Tombs are a majestic group of mausoleums that include the popular Urn Tomb, the Silk Tomb, the Palace Tomb, the Corinthian Tomb, and the Tomb of Sesto Fiorentino.
The tombs are slightly more worn than the Treasury or the Monastery (you can thank flood damage for that!). But there’s still a remarkable amount of detail etched into the façade of each tomb.
If you were to explore a single tomb while visiting Petra, I’d suggest taking a closer look at the Urn Tomb. It boasts three unique burial chambers, a relief plate, and an eerie doorway blocked by a large stone that supposedly conceals Malchus II.
Once you’ve hiked through the tombs, stop by the souvenir stalls tucked underneath the arches. They’re slightly overpriced but are worth a quick browse!
6. Colonnade Street
Colonnade Street runs right through the center of Petra, and it’s believed to have been one of the main shopping areas in the ancient city. It dates to approximately 106 AD and is one of Petra’s most impressive Nabatean creations.
Unlike other parts of the city, the Colonnaded Street lies in ruins as it wasn’t adequately protected against flash flooding (like the Siq was – as I briefly mentioned earlier!).
Even so, there’s still tons to love about this historic area.
From Colonnade Street, you’ll get an amazing vantage point of the Royal Tombs, be able to make out intricate carvings from the top of a few columns, and spot the arched Triple Gate, which leads you to the Temple of Qasr Al-Bint.
7. The Great Temple
The Great Temple is a large complex that boasts exquisite Nabatean architecture at the end of Colonnade Street.
It was uncovered in 1921 by German archaeologists and spans approximately 7560 square meters.
Unlike many of Petra’s other major attractions, the Great Temple is made from red and white brick-like materials, making it stand out beautifully against its surroundings.
It doesn’t look as grand as it once did (I mean, it has been over 2,000 years!). But it remains one of the city’s most impressive and monumental structures.
A quick tip
This place doesn’t look like much on the surface, but you should spend at least an hour walking around the complex.
If you’re savvy, you’ll spot acanthus-topped columns, friezes, and the remains of an amphitheater.
If you head to the open plaza, you’ll also get spectacular views of Petra Valley, the Royal Tombs, and Qasr Al-Bint!
8. See the Treasury from above
If checking out the façade of the Treasury from below wasn’t enough to satisfy your inner archaeology enthusiast, you might want to admire this immense sight from above.
I strongly recommend that you ask around for someone to guide you to the top of the Siq.
I suggest you not attempt the hike alone, as it’s not particularly safe to wander around these routes unless you are confident about where you are going.
It’s a steep, long walk to the Treasury Viewpoint, which is tucked away near the Royal Tombs. It’s also known as the Al Khubtha Trail and takes approximately 40 minutes to complete if you’re relatively fit.
The views from the top of this trail are some of the finest in Petra.
So, they’re worth the difficult climb!
Along the way, you’ll also spot the Great Temple, Colonnade Street, and the Qasr al-Bint, which are all major bonuses.
The only thing that you’ll need to consider before heading up is whether you can physically handle it. This trek is hard, and some people don’t bother attempting it as it’s steep, long, and doesn’t feel like the safest thing in the world.
On the plus side, this means that the trail is rarely crowded, giving you plenty of time to stay at the top of the trail to snap photos of the Treasury from above.
A quick tip
Once you reach the top of this trail, you’ll find a charming Bedouin tent packed with souvenirs. There are usually a few local cats up here (who are always ready for pets!), as well as piping-hot cups of tea.
Just know that you’ll need to pay a euro to take a photo on the iconic red rug that’s in front of the Treasury. It’s a steal for the ultimate Instagram snap though, so don’t miss it!
9. High Place of Sacrifice
If you’re visiting Petra, you simply cannot miss the High Place of Sacrifice on Jebel Madbah Mountain. It’s considered holy ground thanks to the religious ceremonies to the Nabatean God Dushara that were once carried out here.
Although it’s an amazing way to get your 10,000+ steps in, it’s not an easy trek by any means.
It takes anywhere from 3.5 to 4 hours to complete depending on your fitness level, and the steep climb will wear most people out.
As there are no railings or protections for trekkers, I don’t suggest trying this one out if you’re remotely put off by heights either. You’ll feel very uneasy otherwise.
But if you’re up for the challenge, this is one of the best things to do in Petra, as the views overlooking the Streets of Facades are just incredible from this angle.
10. Admire Petra at Sunset
When the sun sets in Petra, the rose-colored rocks turn a gorgeous ruby red.
It’s one of the most incredible sights in the city and is certainly worth hanging around for.
The Royal Tombs and the High Place of Sacrifice are both premium spots for watching the sunset in Petra, as they allow you to survey the city from above.
If you’re brave enough, the Monastery is an exceptional spot.
Just be careful navigating the steep steps on the way down with minimal light!
11. Visit Petra by Night
Petra by Night is one of the best things to do if you’re visiting Petra at the right time. In my opinion, it’s the after-hours event of the century.
On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, the city stays open between 8:30 pm and 10:30 pm for a gorgeous tour around the city by candlelight.
The Siq is lined with over 1500 lanterns that lead you to the illuminated Treasury where you’ll be treated to live performances on a traditional flute, storytelling, and divine cups of Bedouin tea.
The event is always relatively busy, but it’s one of the most spiritual and relaxing activities that’s worth the extra cash.
The financial stuff
Tickets for this event cost 17 JOD and can be purchased at the Visitor Center or on the Petra website. Children under 10 go free!
12. Petra Kitchen
Okay, this probably won’t be on most guides you’ll find to visiting Petra – but Petra Kitchen was one of the best places I checked out on my trip, and I just had to share it.
This unique experience allows guests to cook authentic Jordanian dishes (like this flavorful lentil soup) alongside prized local chefs.
Everything is made using premium local ingredients, and you’ll even be given a copy of all the recipes you cook during your visit.
If nothing else, it’s certainly a unique way to boost your next dinner party!
The program aims to introduce guests to traditional Jordanian flavors while educating tourists on the culture and history of the area.
There isn’t a single fridge or freezer onsite, so you’re guaranteed to work with uber-fresh ingredients sourced from local vendors.
If the food itself wasn’t enough to tempt you, Petra Kitchen has a wonderful terrace where you can enjoy a glass of local wine, smoke sheesha, or simply check your social media channels using their free Wi-Fi (I won’t judge!).
We spent a lovely evening here – the food was delicious, but most of all, we met a lot of incredible people and shared an unforgettable experience with other visitors.
Best Petra Tours
If you’re not feeling confident enough to stroll around Petra without an expert – don’t sweat it!
These safe and secure Petra tours will have you uncovering the best of the city without completely breaking the bank.
From Amman: Petra Wadi Rum and Dead Sea 3-Day Tour
The tour departs from Amman and takes you through the entire city of Petra. You’ll also get to spend the night at an authentic Bedouin camp.
From Amman: Private Day Trip to Petra with Pickup
This tour takes you through the Siq, the Treasury, and even up to areas like the High Place of Sacrifice and the Monastery.
Petra Full-Day Private Tour from Amman
This well-reviewed tour from Amman takes you on a 10-hour adventure around the best of Petra. You can get picked up from virtually any Amman hotel, get an English-speaking driver, and you’ll cover all the top attractions
There You Have It: The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Petra in Jordan!
As you can see, Petra is an incredible place everyone should include on their Travel Bucket List.
If you’ve been to Petra before or have any questions whatsoever, feel free to reach out in the comments below!