Complete Guide to Petra, Jordan – Best Petra Tours, Sights, Hotels and Tips
The Ancient City of Petra is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Jordan and even all of the Middle East! In case you were looking for a complete guide to Petra that tells you everything you’ll need to know – from the best guided tours to practical info about how, what and when to visit Petra, you have arrived in the right place.
Scroll down to find everything you need to know before you visit the Lost City of Petra!
Why should you visit the Ancient City of Petra, Jordan?
It’s a well-known fact: no trip to Jordan is complete without a visit to the world-famous site of Petra. Otherwise known as the ‘Rose City’ due to the colour of its carved stone, Petra is one major archaeological and historical site that every adventurous traveller should have on their bucket list.
Located in the south-west of Jordan, near the town of Wadi Musa, the landscape surrounding Petra is stunning, with red, rocky mountains at the East of the Arabah valley. Petra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it has been called “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage”. So, needless to say, it is by far the most visited tourist attraction in Jordan, with over 1.1 million tourists per year. Well, that’s a lot!
If you ask me, Petra is one of the most incredible places I have ever been to. It was top of my bucket list for years and when I finally made the trip, it exceeded my expectations. There is no doubt as to why it is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World!
Now let’s jump right into it and find everything there is to know about visiting Petra:
What to see in Petra - Main sites
The Al-Khubtha Trail is basically a long trail that will get you from the entrance of Petra all the way to the Royal Tombs. This is an entire circuit that contains the most magnificent highlights of Petra – the Treasury, Monastery, High Palace of Sacrifice and more.
Here are all the sights you can see while visiting Petra:
1 - Al Siq
Al Siq Canyon is the main pathway that visitors take from the entrance to the heart of the city of Petra. Approximately 1.2km long, the narrow canyon takes about 30 minutes to cross and opens up to reveal Al Khazneh, also known as The Treasury.
For me, this was the most breathtaking moment of my visit! During your walk through the canyon walls of the Siq, you can admire the huge stone walls, man-made terracotta pipes and stone panels that were once used to filter and transport water to Petra from Wadi Musa. You can choose to travel the gorge by walking or you can be transported by camel, horse, donkey, or even by cart.
2 - Al-Khazneh (The Treasury)
The Treasury is hands-down the most famous site in Petra – a big plaza full of superb, intricate carvings and facades. But, as impressive as it may be, you should know that this part of Petra is just the beginning – there are plenty more carved buildings to see!
Be careful, as there will be lots of bedouin guides in front of the Treasury trying to sell you trinkets or offering their services to show you trails off the beaten path so you can see it from above – and they can be quite persistent! If you choose to climb on your own, know that the road up is pretty steep and there will be moments of scrambling up rocks, but it only takes 10min and the view over the Treasury is 100% worth it!
TIP: If you want to take the best photos with the Treasury without (almost) any tourists, here’s a tip: come back close to the closing time! Most tourists will visit this sight at the beginning of their visit, then proceed to other points and won’t make the long journey to return, so you’ll find this place almost empty in the late afternoon.
3 - The Street of Facades and The Amphitheatre
As I mentioned before – many more facades await! The Street of Facades is a superb path scattered with MANY more buildings carved in the red rocks, as well as caves and a cute Roman amphitheatre.
4 - The High Place of Sacrifice
This wonderful place requires a bit of hiking, all for a superb view overlooking Petra. The hike is a bit challenging and it can take a while (around 45 minutes), so if you’re short on time, you can always skip this sight and proceed to the next ones (the Monastery is a must; the Royal Tombs too if you have the time), as there’s plenty more to see. Plus, there isn’t any signage to guide you up, so if you really want to visit the High Place of Sacrifice, it would be best to have a guide with you for this one.
5 - Colonnaded Street
Short and nice, this pathway with Roman columns will take you to the next exciting sight – The Monastery!
6 - Ad Deir (The Monastery)
One of the most iconic sites in Petra, together with The Treasury, The Monastery dates back to 3 BC and it’s a monumental Nabataean tomb. It’s a long walk uphill to get there, with sparse patches of shade, so avoid the journey during the midday heat. Alternatively, if you’re too tired of walking, you can take a camel or donkey ride uphill.
7 - The Royal Tombs
If you know you don’t have much time to visit Petra, I strongly advise you to NOT miss the Royal Tombs – they’re incredible! The Royal Tombs include the Urn Tomb, the Silk Tomb, the Corinthian Tomb and Palace Tomb. Afterwards, you’ll reach Al-Khubtha High Place and Cistern, a place that offers an incredible view over Jordan’s Lost City!
Ticket price for Petra
Petra entrance fee: 50 JOD (70.5 US$) for a one day pass, 55 JOD (77.5 US$) for a 2-day pass or 60 JOD (84.5 US$) for a 3 day pass. Tickets can be purchased from the ticket booth at the Visitor Center, located at the entrance to Petra.
TIP #1: I recommend investing in a Jordan Pass if you are planning on exploring more of Jordan. The price is 70 JOD (99 US$) and it includes access to Petra, along with 40 other sites such as Wadi Rum, Jesash and the Amman Citadel. You can buy the pass online on their official site.
TIP #2: There’s a catch in the price you should know about, though. If you are only visiting Jordan for one day, or you are going to visit Petra on your first day in the country, entry will cost 90 JOD. You will need to prove that you are staying overnight in Jordan for the price to drop to 50 JOD or return the next day for a 40 JOD refund. In short, if you aren’t spending the night in the country, the price will be almost double!
Petra by night
If you’re staying the night and want to explore Petra from another perspective, I would recommend joining Petra by night. Petra by Night is a walk that is offered three days a week – every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, beginning at 8.30 PM.
Petra by night is lit enough so you can take a few pics and marvel at the large Visitors’ complex that serves as the entrance ticket buying point and a hub of great restaurants to grab some dinner before starting your walk. The path to the treasury is beautifully lit all the way with candles, with the Treasury being the most amazing with thousands of candles lit around it! The entire journey to the treasury is about 2.4km.
The ticket fee for Petra by Night is 17 JOD (24 US$) per person. Sadly, this activity is not included in the Jordan Pass. I strongly recommend buying your ticket during the day to avoid the long queues that form around 8 PM, just before the walk starts. It’s also good to get in early to avoid large crowds and have a few moments inside by yourself.
PHOTOGRAPHY TIP: Remember that it will be completely lit by candlelight, so if your camera doesn’t work well in low-light settings, taking photos may be a struggle. If you’re bringing your DSLR, keep in mind to also bring a good tripod to avoid blurry pictures. Personally, I use this one.
Best Petra tours
Wondering how to visit Petra, now that you found out about all these incredible places worth discovering? Although you can totally see the Lost City of Petra by yourself, especially after reading THIS complete guide for visiting Petra. If you’re up for some walking and hiking challenges, I recommend you hire a guide to make the best out of your experience. A tour can also be an excellent idea if you want to see Petra as a day trip or if you want to explore some other sights around Petra during your trip to Jordan such as Wadi Rum, the Dead Sea or Aqaba, for example. This way, you won’t have to bother finding transportation and you’ll also have a knowledgeable guide telling you all kinds of facts about the history!
Here’s my hand-picked list of tours to Petra I can recommend:
ONE DAY IN PETRA:
- From Amman: 2-Day Petra Overnight Tour (hotel included, entrance fee not)
- From Amman: Petra, Wadi Rum, Red Sea & Dead Sea 2-Day Camp Tour (accommodation in a bedouin camp included)
- From Amman: Petra, Rum, Aqaba and Dead Sea 3-Day Tour (accommodation included, entrance fees not)
TOURS FROM ISRAEL:
Where to stay near Petra, Jordan
If you want to spend the night closeby after a long day of exploring Petra, my recommendation is to stay in Wadi Musa, a town that has grown exponentially due to the tourism activities at Petra. This town is located a short walk away from Petra’s main entrance (some hotels are extremely close, a few minutes away up to 20 minutes). Alternatively, you can take a taxi for 5 JOD (7 US$).
You can find all types of hotel options in Wadi Musa, for all pockets and preferences!
Here are some I recommend:
How to get to Petra, Jordan
There are several ways to get there if you’re visiting Petra and it all depends on where you’re coming from. The easiest and most convenient way of getting there from other cities in Jordan is by taxi or private car – and totally recommended by me!
Here are the distances and times, as follows:
WADI MUSA TO PETRA. Just a short walk away (maximum 2 km/20-25 minutes), depending on where your hotel is located. By the way, some hotels even offer a free shuttle bus to the entrance, so it’s always best to ask beforehand! Or you can take a taxi for 5 JOD (7 US$).
AMMAN TO PETRA. 236 km, 3 hours, 90 JOD (127 US$)
AMMAN AIRPORT TO PETRA. I have found this private transfer that can drop you off from the airport to the entrance gates and also does round trips.
AQABA TO PETRA. 120 km, 2 hours, 75 JOD (106 US$)
WADI RUM TO PETRA. 110 km, 1 hour 30’, 45 JOD (63.5 US$)
DEAD SEA TO PETRA. 190 km, 3 hours, 90 JOD (127 US$)
There’s also the option to take a bus for your visit to Petra. You can take the JETT express bus from Amman to Petra or take one of the minibuses which are essentially almost everywhere in Jordan. The advantage here is that they’re cheaper, although it will take longer to arrive. For more info on bus prices and schedules, check the official site here.
BONUS: FAQs & My top travel tips for visiting Petra, Jordan
YES, visiting Petra is COMPLETELY worth visiting, at least once in your lifetime – but, before going, here are some tips and useful information to keep in mind:
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT PETRA?
The best time to travel to Petra is during autumn (October-November) and spring (April-May) if you want the perfect weather and not too many tourists flocking around you. In the summer, the temperatures are pretty high.
WHAT ABOUT THE OPENING HOURS?
You can enter the site everyday from 6 AM to 6 PM in the warm seasons and from 6 AM to 4 PM in the winter.
DO I NEED A GUIDE?
You can either visit Petra on your own, by creating your own itinerary and taking care of transportation (and accommodation, if needed) by yourself, or you can leave all these tasks in the hands of a guide. A guide is my recommendation if you’re short on time, as you’ll have less to worry about during your trip - plus you’ll get lots of interesting information about this unique place!
HOW LONG SHOULD I STAY?
Let me tell you right from the start: Petra is one of the most unique spots on Earth, so I would say it’s worth exploring as much as you can. That being said, although it is do-able to visit in a single day, I strongly advise you to stay for longer if you can - I took 2 days, and could have easily returned for a third. So, I recommend two days or even three. Take your time to explore everything there is to see; you’ll regret it if not!
WHAT TO PACK FOR YOUR TRIP TO PETRA, JORDAN
Except for a water bottle which you have to carry around with you unless you want to get dehydrated and faint in front of a carved building in Petra, I advise you to have the following in your travel bag:
- comfortable walking shoes - (I’d avoid flimsy sandals unless you enjoy tiny rocks getting stuck in your shoes);
- quick-dry, airy clothes;
- a hat, a cap or a scarf to cover your head from the midday sun - keep in mind there’s not much shade around;
- lots of sunscreen;
- CASH in the local currency - unfortunately, you’ll have to pay in cash 99% of the time while you’re here, as there aren’t many credit card-friendly spots around.
DO I HAVE TO WALK A LOT?
How do I say this… err, yes. I mean… the entire site is stretched over 60 km! But it’s all very enjoyable, as there will be plenty of unique sites and intricate carvings to stop and admire along the way, all the time! And, if you get tired, you can always take a donkey, camel or horse ride - there are Bedouins offering them everywhere. For example, a carriage ride from the entrance to the Treasury is 20 JOD (28 US$).
CAN I BUY FOOD AND DRINKS THERE?
Although you might expect a different answer, yes, there are some small restaurants and kiosks inside Petra, as well as restrooms. BUT! I recommend buying snacks and refreshments from the stalls right before entering, as the prices will be a bit cheaper than inside. Plus, if you ask nicely, I’m sure your hotel can prepare a packed lunch for you; just make sure to tell them the night before. By the way, make sure you get a map from the Visitor Center upon entering, so you don’t waste time trying to find those around.
TIP: If you want to cut down on plastic, I advise that you bring your own refillable water bottle. Win-win!
TIP #2: If you want to enjoy a fancy drink at the end of the day, you can stop by the Cave Bar at Petra Guest House - it’s an ancient tomb transformed into a bar a few years ago and it looks pretty cool!
IS PETRA SAFE?
Yes, you can safely travel to Petra. In fact, Jordan is one of the safest countries in the Middle East and they always welcome tourists with an open heart. Plus, the tourist spots (Petra, Wadi Rum, Amman etc) are surely the safest in the country.
This was my complete Petra guide for everyone that’s planning a trip there soon! As I mentioned many times in this post, Petra is an incredibly unique spot and one of those unmissable places to see in Jordan, so it’s well-worth a (longer) visit. This article is here to tell you literally everything you need to know before you travel – from the main sites to see, best tour recommendations and plenty of info on how to get there and where to stay.
But as much as I fell in love with Petra, I must admit that it’s not the only place worth seeing while you’re in Jordan. If you want to read more about other exciting tourist destinations for your Jordan holidays, I recommend clicking here and reading about all my adventures in this country.