Petra is reason alone to come to Jordan. As one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, the Ancient City is a massive complex of ruins and tombs. Famous for rock-cut stone that still marvel builders today, Petra has existed since 300 BC. It was a major trading hub in the region, and was heavily protected due to the site and surrounding mountains. The site remained under control of the Arab Nabataeans until Romans took control in 106 AD. Declining in power during this time, it was heavily devastated by earthquakes in 363 and 551 AD. It was finally abandoned in 663 when Arabs conquered the region.
Petra is one of the most remarkable places we have been in our last two years of travel. The history is beyond incredible. The Lost City is massive and takes some time to explore, but we loved every minute of it. The buildings amaze you how they were built. Historian still don’t really know, although there a a few good assumptions. In addition to the amazing city itself, the surrounding mountainous area is beautiful and a great place to explore.
How to Get There
Located in Wadi Musa, Petra is three hours by car from Amman and just under two hours by car from Aqaba. There are buses (http://www.jett.com.jo/) from Amman for 10 JD.
When to Go
Visit during the spring and autumn when daily temperatures are manageable with warm days and cool nights. Summer temperatures reach over 100° Fahrenheit (40°C). The area also can get very cold in the winter due to the high elevation.
Plan to come for an entire day or longer. We walked over 12 miles from the entry to the Monastery and the overlook side hike. For the least amount of crowds, it is best to show up at 7AM. Each Monday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings is the Petra by Night light show. The entire Siq is lit up with candles all the way to the Treasury. Give yourself a couple of hours for the night show.
Where to Stay
Because Petra is at least a full day activity or two days of exploring, it is best to stay the night in the area. We highly recommend getting to Petra as soon as it opens. This allows for amazing photography with little crowds. We stayed two nights at the Little Petra Bedouin Camp which includes dinner and breakfast for $25 USD per person.
The entry cost is quite expensive, however the cost is fully covered by the Jordan Pass. If you are not intending to get the Jordan Pass, there are several options to buy:
One day entry – 50 JD
Two day entry – 55 JD
Three day entry – 60 JD
Petra by Night – 12 JD (in addition to entry pass)
Little Petra – 2 JD
Just a short 15 minute drive from Petra, Little Petra is smaller version of Petra. It is great to do the day before exploring the main site. Idealy, two to three hours is needed to explore Little Petra.
MAIN SIGHTS OF PETRA
The main sights are in order of how the walking track takes you through this historical city. Along the way, there are many other places to explore. These were ones we felt were the best for photography. If you are tight on time, you can always pay for a horseback carriage to take you through the Siq or down the colonnaded street to cut out some time. If there are three spots you absolutely cannot miss, they are the Treasury, the overlook of the Treasury, and the Monastery.
This long walkway cuts through a narrow gorge with an impressive water system running along the side of the gorge.
The most famous building has a grand entry from the Siq. There are stunning features cut into the stone. The best view is actually from the overlook (see below). It is important to get here as early as possible. We arrived to Petra as soon as the gates opened and rushed to the Treasury. There were only a few other people there, so we all waited turns for pictures by ourselves. By the time we were at the overlook a couple of hours later, there were hundreds of tourists and horse carriages in front of the Treasury. If you want some good pictures, make sure to get here right away.
Street of Facades
Shortly after the Treasury, there are hundreds of tombs cut into the rock, an impressive view. This area takes some time to explore, and make sure to check every nook and corner. There are hidden caves and some very cool perspectives for photography.
The Royal Tombs
Some of the best artwork cut into stone is at the Royal Tombs. This massive complex clearly was important by its size and grandeur. You can walk up stairs and explore the area before heading up to the top of the tombs en route to the overlook of the Treasury.
This short hike starts behind the Royal Tombs. Head up the mountain and continue on the path to the end where a small shack has a sign for the “Best View in the World.” Once you go to the age, it is hard to disagree with the sign! Have a cup of tea or traditional coffee and enjoy the view. Oh yeah, don’t drop your sunglasses over the edge like I did. While I did recoup them from the nice shop owner who climbed down to get them, we could not find one of the lenses which popped out. Then you have to go the rest of the day walking around Petra with only one lens in your sunnies!
This roman style amphitheater is very large and was the main gathering place.
These grand colonnades are on the long street that was the main corridor and shopping area.
The furthest site and most difficult to get to, the Monastery is very impressive. It is massive and has beautiful artwork cut into the stone. This is the 2nd most popular building in Petra behind the Treasury. Luckily for those who do make it here, it is usually pretty quiet. Because of the climb up and long distance from the entrance, not everyone decides to come see the Monastery. We highly recommend the full experience of Petra, and this cannot be missed. While we do not recommend it, you can take a donkey/mule up to the Monastery. There is also a great little café where you can enjoy a traditional coffee with this view!
Check out our Jordan country guide:
Read our other articles on the Middle East:
- Egypt Country Guide
- Jordan Country Guide
- Petra One Day Itinerary
- Lebanon Country Guide
- Qatar: Doha City Tour
Visited in November 2016.