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21 Essential Things To Know Before Visiting The Lost City of Petra

Petra in Jordan is one of the 7 Wonders of the World, and it’s on many people’s bucket lists. The reason is simple: Petra is simply magnificent and the fact that has been chosen as a set for a lot of movies, it makes it even more palatable.

When we planned our trip to Jordan we immediately decided to spend more than a few hours in Petra: we really wanted to dig deep, move from what regular tourists see and enjoy the area at our own pace, hiking and letting the flow going.

And that’s what we did: we spent a whole day in Petra, from early morning to sunrise, hiked to hidden places, we went up to see the view, we talked with people. Eventually, we got tired but the feeling of having seen Petra in an unusual way has been so rewarding.

That’s why we want to give you all the advice and the information on the essential things to know before visiting the Lost City of Petra: if you search for advice on Google, you’ll find the usual stuff and the usual information.

We want to give you something more, something we wish we knew before traveling to Petra, something we’ve learned and discovered ourselves to allow you to have the best and most memorable experience ever.

You can click on the Table of Contents to read the paragraphs you’re interested in.

21 Essential Things To Know Before Visiting The Lost City of Petra

Here we are: this is our very long list with the top tips for visiting Petra like a pro, including the best hikes and logistic information.

What is Petra?

The Ancient City of Petra has been in use since prehistory, but it was under the Nabateans that it became a wealthy and cosmopolitan city. It was established in 312BC as the capital city of the Nabataeans until 100AD when Romans invaded it and took over Petra. Petra remained unknown to the western world until 1812 when the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt entered the Siq, discovered the site and brought the fable of Petra to the attention of the World. Petra has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985 and it’s Jordan’s most-visited tourist attraction.

How do I get to Petra?

Petra is located in the town of Wadi Musa, which is situated 235 Km from Amman, Jordan’s capital city.

The best way to get to Petra is by renting a car: you can rent your car at the airport in Amman or directly in the city. We highly recommend your visit to Jordan doesn’t include just Petra because the country is simply amazing and Petra is just one of its jewels.

You can also visit Petra from Aqaba, in case you’re vacationing on the Red Sea: Aqaba is 126Km from Wadi Musa and it’s a simple drive. Main roads out of Wadi Musa are well signposted, so there’s so need to worry!

If you prefer to join a tour to Petra, you really have endless possibilities from Amman and also from Aqaba.

This Full-Day Private Tour from Amman is one of the many: it lasts 10 hours and includes a private guide in Petra.

This Full-Day Tour to Petra from Aqaba is perfect if you wanna do something different while you’re on vacation on the Red Sea.

People visiting Israel sometimes decide to make a turn and cross the border just to go to Petra: in case you’re one of those, bear in mind the rules and the laws to avoid problems.

If you’re in Israel and you want to visit Petra, these are some of the tours we recommend:

If you’re in Amman and want to get a full taste of Jordan, you can also join this multi-day trip:

If you’re in Israel and you also want to visit Jordan, you can also join one of these multi-day trips:

How much does entrance at Petra cost?

Visiting Petra is expensive: you pay JD50 for one day, JD55 for two days, JD60 for three or four days. The price refers to consecutive days so let’s say you have got the two-day pass and you go on Monday, you then have the chance to visit Petra again on Tuesday but not on Wednesday. Children under 15 go for free, as do holders of the Jordan Pass, which is the best way to visit (almost) every site in Jordan and, at the same time, will waive your VISA fee, saving a good amount of money.

If you don’t hold a Jordan Pass, you can buy your ticket at the Visitor Centre: tickets are dated, personalized and non-transferable. Remember that there’s always a possibility that a ranger will ask to see your ticket (or the Pass) so make sure not to lose it.

We highly recommend to buy the Jordan Pass for the reasons above: Petra is included (the number of days depends on your Pass, as explained above) and also your VISA fee.

So said, we also think that the entrance fee is not that outrageous: Petra is a beauty, it has to be preserved and we willingly pay if our money contributes to the maintenance of such treasure.

What are Petra’s opening times?

Petra is opened daily from 6 am to 6 pm during the summer and 6 am to 4 pm in the winter. Return is allowed till dusk. It’s forbidden to stay inside the Archeological Site after dusk for security reasons but also for business reasons: three days a week Petra by Night is organized and people have to pay an extra ticket to see the show. We will talk about this in detail in another article.

What’s the weather like in Petra?

Petra is located in the mountains, at around 1100 meters above sea level. In spring and autumn is warm, in summer it’s severely hot during the day, while in winter Petra can be cold and there’s a huge change in the temperature between day and night (also, rain and snow are not unfrequent).

What happens if it rains or snows when I’m in Petra?

If it rains Petra stays open but some of the most important and faraway sites will be closed: the surface is extremely slippery and it can be dangerous. If it snows, Petra closes. We’ve been so lucky when we visited: the day I went the weather was amazing, the day after Petra was closed because it was snowy and it was closed for a few days after our visit. Locals say it never rains or snow in Petra but it does in wintertime.

What’s the best season to visit Petra?

Based on the above, spring and autumn seem to be the best season. We did have the opportunity to visit both in autumn and in winter and we strongly recommend wintertime: fewer tourists, fewer people, the weather is way better. Downside: if you’re not lucky like us, it can be rainy and your visit will definitely be affected by the rain.

Still, we loved visiting in January… maybe because we got a sunny day?

What should I wear in Petra?

Petra is a dream for photographers and wannabe-photographers: we’ve really seen everything while visiting the Ancient City. People interested in only seeing the Treasury tend to wear dresses, even heels to get the “perfect” picture (we leave the definition of perfect to you).

But you’ve to keep in mind that you’re going to hike, sometimes climb and overall be in the dirt for a few hours!

Hiking boots are mandatory for exploring Petra, no matter how far you wanna go; hiking pants for men, leggings or hiking pants for women, a t-shirt is essential to wear in Petra. Do not forget a hat and a lightweight rain jacket. Do not forget a scarf!

Petra is a dreaming place but it’s not a place where you wanna get yourself hurt: not wearing the appropriate attire can cause problems!

Are there places to eat and drink inside Petra?

A few years ago, there was literally nothing inside Petra: today you can stop at a Bedouin tea stall, at a café or even get your meal completely sorted in the restaurant called The Basin where you can have a buffet lunch and bottle of wine. Water is available but expensive, so remember to bring your water bottle filled with water or the drink of your choice.

Are there toilets inside Petra?

Petra is well-equipped with toilets: there are toilets all over the place and at The Basin Restaurant they’re quite clean. If you’re a woman, do not be shocked when you’ll notice only the men are allowed to clean toilets.

How long is the walk through Petra?

Petra is not visible from Wadi Musa or anywhere else. The winding path through Petra’s Siq, the one revealing the Treasury, is 1.2 km long and will take you around 20 minutes if you are in rush, 40 minutes if you’re like us and you keep stopping to take pictures.

The Treasury will open up to you in all its beauty and you’ll start wondering if this is really the best thing you’ve ever seen. But the Treasury is just a small part of all that Petra has to offer: the far you hike the better the scenery!

Remember: normal tourists stop at the Treasury and leave. A few more hike to the Monastery, and then leave. Very few hikes around Petra and this bunch of people really enjoy Petra at its best.

We did hike for 7-8 hours, went to places where it was just us, got immersed in the place and nature: yes, we loved the Treasury but we loved the remote places and caves even more! We ended up hiking for a total of 26 km!

Should I ride camels or donkeys in Petra?

No, we totally advise against it: locals and tour guides offer tourists the opportunity to ride a camel or a donkey to see Petra without walking, and we know that for some people this is tempting.

Abusive practices with the animals are common and animals are visibly exhausted: someone can argue that animals are meant to carry people and this is partially true.

In the past, they were used to carry goods and people because there was no other way of doing so. Today, things have changed and animals cannot be used as workers anymore (except for special things, such as police dogs!): the duties these animals perform can be stressful, dangerous, and sometimes lethal.

So please, stay away from camels, horses, and donkeys riding in Petra!

Is it safe to go to Petra?

Petra, and the whole Jordan, is safe and stable. There are no travel warnings against Petra so the biggest advice is to exercise caution in the same way you exercise caution in every other place in the World. We also feel we need to give you some advice: mind camels and horses.

Beduins run around Petra in camels and horses and sometimes they don’t pay attention to visitors and visitors don’t pay attention to them: be aware of this while walking, hiking or climbing in Petra!

At what time should I go to Petra?

The earliest the better, no questions asked: we started our walk at 7.30 in the morning, and arrived at The Treasury when only very few people were already there. The big tours usually arrive later in the morning so if you can be there as soon as it opens you will have the whole site more or less for you and few other people interested not in the Instagram-worthy pictures but to the place itself.

Should I get a guide to visit Petra?

It depends on what type of travelers are you: if you want to feel comfortable, then hire a guide.

If you wanna be free and enjoy Petra at your own pace, you shouldn’t get a guide at all.

We personally recommend to go and visit by yourself: get a map, open Google Maps and you won’t have any problem at all.

What are the best image lazy photo spots in Petra?

This ancient wonder is one of the most picturesque sights on Earth, with no doubts at all, and everyone wants to take good pictures. That’s why we don’t want to show you the best image lazy photo spots in Petra: every single spot deserves a picture, every single scene deserves to be captured. Everything is so beautiful that it is very hard to just pick the best spots.

We know you wanna have information on how to take pictures of the Treasury from the top: in fact, looking down the Treasury from the top of the canyon is a shot made popular by countless people.

Do not worry: as soon as you will arrive at the Treasury, you’ll notice people climbing to the top to get to the view.

Some of the Beduins have made a business out of it: they ask for money if you want to take a picture, and you can of course refuse.

What should I not miss in Petra?

Entering the city of Petra is like stepping back in time and for this reason, Petra cannot be compared to any other place on Earth. You will find yourself wandering and staring at everything you’ll find on your way, with the eyes of a child. These are the things you should not miss in Petra:

As-Siq

As-Siq is the main access to the city of Petra: it was formed by tectonic forces that divided the mountain in two. The waters coming from the “Musa” found their way through the Siq and over time they eroded the corners into curves. The path along the Siq is 1.2 Km long and dotted along the walls at many points are votive niches. Almost at the end, the gorge becomes dark and opens up to the facade of the Treasury.

Al-Khazneh (Treasury)

The Treasury was certainly designed to impress and the effect is still the same: carved into the rock, the Treasury is very well preserved also thanks to its position, being completely protected from wind and rain. The best times to view the Treasury is in the morning between 9 and 11 and in the afternoon between 5 and 6: when the sun reflects on the facade, the colors are simply magnificent.

Roman Theater

The basic design of the Theater is Hellenistic and it was carved out of the mountainside: at a time, it could accommodate up to 8500 people.

Royal Tombs

Located on the East Cliff, the Royal Tombs are simply magnificent. There are 7 Tombs in total, but you do not need to know the details: just make sure you take time to appreciate the architecture and the colors, ranging from red to blue to yellow. Definitely one of the most striking sights of Petra.

Colonnaded Street

The columns are the remaining of the old markets: so far, there is still a lot to find and works to excavate the floors and the buildings remain ongoing. Still, a great location to understand how magnificent this city was.

Ad-Deir (Monastery)

The Monastery is one of Petra’s most inspiring monuments and it’s carved from a chunk of the mountain. To arrive at the Monastery, you’ve to climb 800 steps but the view over the valley is rewarding and incredible. Once you arrive, enjoy a cup of Jordanian tea at the local café and just relax. The only route back to Petra is the way you came up.

High Place of Sacrifice

The High Place of Sacrifice is definitely a diversion off the main path: we did climb from Wadi Farasa to have a better view and glimpse over the valley and the hike+climb is definitely worth it. Along the way, you encounter several other buildings carved in the mountains (The Triclinium, the Lion Monument, etc), very few brave tourists and very few locals as well. You can also hike up from the main street, following the signs near the Theatre and the Street of Facades: it’s steep but doable.

Wadi Farasa’s trail takes about 2.30 hours, the main path only takes 30-40 minutes max.

Umm-Al-Biyara

The hardest hike to reach the flat mountain overlooking the whole Petra. It’s a hard hike, no deny, but it’s worth the effort. Ascending the 1000 steps may make you feel a bit sick: take your time, and make sure you reach the top before sunset otherwise it won’t be easy to descend.

Many people recommend hike this trail only if you’re with a guide: again, it’s up to you but with a bit of organization, Google Maps open and the maps saved for offline consultation, you won’t have any problem at all.

Little Petra

These are just some of the things to do in Petra, but do you know that there’s another place you can visit before, after or even during your visit to Petra? It’s called Little Petra and it is located about 9 Km from Wadi Musa: it’s really the smallest Petra, with fewer tourists and less crowded. You may also decide to enter Petra from Little Petra but the path along the mountain is not very well marked and it’s better to get a guide unless you’ve time to waste and you want to get lost.

Where to stay in Petra

Despite being so popular (or probably because it is so popular), there are very few accommodations in Petra that are worth mentioning. The majority are expensive, dirty and not comfortable at all so we highly recommend you pay a bit more for a better room in a better hotel.

The first time, we slept at the Movenpick Resort: it’s considered the first choice for travelers, it’s supposed to be “luxurious” but it’s not. It’s just an average hotel, built in an amazing location. The roof terrace is perfect at sunset.

The second time we’ve decided to stay at Petra Guest House Hotel because the location is perfect: it’s beside the gate into Petra and offers a great and nice breakfast. Rooms are quite old and need an update, but we found this hotel a good compromise since we were in Petra to enjoy the Old City, not the hotel.

Big plus: part of the hotel si the Cave Bar, a pub in a 2000-year old tomb where you can drink (local beer is available) despite the prices being excessive, and also eat something.

Where to eat in Petra

There’s a lot of choices when it comes to eating in Petra: most of the restaurants serve average food, but if you do your research you will find great places where to eat something.

We had both our dinners at Petra Night: it’s located 5 minutes from Petra’s Visitor Center and it offers a traditional menu, with an abundance of meat and mezze. We did like the two separate ambients for smokers and non-smokers, something unusual for Jordan where smoking cigarettes is allowed everywhere (and it’s very annoying). The restaurant is managed by two young people and everything is fresh and local.

Overall, is Petra worth the trip?

Absolutely! Petra is worth the trip, despite the bad smell of the camels and the horses, the mass tourists flocking to see the Treasure and immediately leaving, the expensive hotel (compared to other destinations).

What about Petra by night? Is Petra by night worth?

If you are wondering if Petra by Night is worth it or if you should have a quiet evening wandering around Wadi Musa, check out our article:

Is Petra by Night Worth it?

Petra is really incredible and we really hope this article has given you the desire to book your trip to Jordan. Follow us on Instagram and get in touch if you want to have more information and subscribe to our newsletter to receive exclusive content by email!

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About the author
Veruska Anconitano
Veruska is a food and wine travel journalist awarded as Best Food Travel Journalist. Sommelier, in addition to cooking and traveling, she is often called upon to tell his experience during events and seminars.
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