21 Things To Know Before Visiting The Lost City of Petra in 2023
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Petra, located in Jordan, is among the 7 Wonders of the World and is a popular destination for many travelers. The site’s magnificence, coupled with its use as a filming location, makes it even more appealing to visitors.
When we planned our trip to Jordan, we consciously decided to spend more than a few hours in Petra. We aimed to explore the area at our own pace, hike to hidden places, and fully immerse ourselves in the experience. We spent an entire day in Petra, from early morning until sunrise, and had the opportunity to interact with locals, which was incredibly rewarding.
To help others have a similar experience, we would like to offer some advice and information on what to know before visiting the Lost City of Petra. While plenty of information is available online, we want to provide additional insights we discovered during our travels.
You can refer to the table of contents to find the sections that interest you the most.
Quick And Useful Resources To Plan Your Trip to Petra:
- Quick And Useful Resources To Plan Your Trip to Petra:
- 21 Essential Things To Know Before Visiting The Lost City of Petra
- What is Petra?
- How do I get to Petra?
- How much does the entrance to Petra cost?
- What are Petra’s opening times?
- What’s the weather like in Petra?
- What happens if it rains or snows when I’m in Petra?
- What’s the best season to visit Petra?
- What should I wear in Petra?
- Are there places to eat and drink inside Petra?
- Are there toilets inside Petra?
- How long is the walk through Petra?
- Should I ride camels or donkeys in Petra?
- Is it safe to go to Petra?
- At what time should I go to Petra?
- Should I get a guide to visit Petra?
- What are the best image lazy photo spots in Petra?
- What should I not miss in Petra?
- Where to stay in Petra
- Where to eat in Petra
- Overall, is Petra worth the trip?
- What about Petra by night? Is Petra by night worth it?
- Book your flights to Jordan with Skyscanner. Compare prices and duration and choose the most suitable flight to the destination of your choice. Start planning your trip.
- Book your hotel using Booking.com. Check the prices, the reviews, and the conditions, and spot the best hotels in Petra at the best price. Start looking for accommodation in your destination. Booking is our choice when it comes to hotels worldwide.
- Buy your SIM in advance using Airalo. With Airalo eSIMs, you can connect immediately when you land and avoid data roaming charges. We use this when we travel, and we cannot be happier. Explore Airalo and travel smart.
21 Essential Things To Know Before Visiting The Lost City of Petra
Here we are: this is our long list of top tips for visiting Petra like a pro, including the best hikes and logistics information.
What is Petra?
The Ancient City of Petra has a long and fascinating history, with evidence of human habitation dating back to prehistoric times. However, it was during the Nabatean period that Petra reached the peak of its wealth and cosmopolitanism. The Nabateans established Petra as their capital city in 312 BC, and it flourished until 100 AD when the Romans invaded and took control.
For centuries, Petra remained largely unknown to the western world, until the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt stumbled upon the site in 1812. Burckhardt’s discovery brought international attention to Petra, and it soon became recognized as one of the world’s most remarkable archaeological wonders.
In 1985, Petra was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it has since become Jordan’s most-visited tourist attraction. The site’s breathtaking natural beauty, coupled with its rich cultural heritage, continues to attract visitors from all over the world.
How do I get to Petra?
Petra is located in the town of Wadi Musa, which is approximately 235 km from Amman, Jordan’s capital city.
Renting a car is the best way to reach Petra, and it’s recommended to explore other areas of Jordan, as the country has so much to offer. You can rent a car either at the airport in Amman or directly in the city.
If you’re vacationing in Aqaba, located on the Red Sea, you can also easily visit Petra, which is only 126 km away. The main roads leading out of Wadi Musa are well-signposted, making it easy to navigate.
Alternatively, if you prefer to join a tour, there are endless possibilities available from both Amman and Aqaba. Whether you choose to travel independently or with a group, visiting Petra is an experience not to be missed.
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 the entrance to Petra cost?
Visiting Petra can be expensive, with admission fees starting at JD50 for one day, JD55 for two days, and JD60 for three or four consecutive days. It’s important to note that the price is for consecutive days, meaning that if you purchase a two-day pass and visit on Monday, you can return on Tuesday but not on Wednesday.
Children under 15 are admitted free of charge, as are those who hold a Jordan Pass. The Jordan Pass is an excellent option for visitors who want to explore multiple sites in Jordan, as it provides entry to almost every major attraction in the country and waives the visa fee, saving money.
If you do not hold a Jordan Pass, you can purchase your ticket at the Visitor Centre. It’s important to remember that tickets are personalized, dated, and non-transferable, and there is a possibility that a ranger may ask to see your ticket or Jordan Pass, so it’s crucial not to lose it.
We highly recommend buying 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 open 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 excellent, 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 snows in Petra, but it does in wintertime.
What’s the best season to visit Petra?
Based on the above, spring and autumn are the best seasons. We did have the opportunity to visit both in autumn and in winter, and we strongly recommend wintertime: fewer tourists, fewer people, and 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, and 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 dream place, but it’s not a place where you want 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 wholly 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 pretty clean. If you’re a woman, do not be shocked when you’ll notice that only 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 a 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 tiny part of all that Petra has to offer: the far you hike the better the scenery!
Remember: regular tourists stop at the Treasury and leave. A few more hikes 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, and 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 standard, 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 of 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 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 a few other people interested not in the Instagram-worthy pictures but in the place itself.
Should I get a guide to visit Petra?
It depends on what type of traveler you are: if you want to feel comfortable, then hire a guide.
If you want to be free and enjoy Petra at your own pace, you shouldn’t get a guide at all.
We personally recommend going and visiting 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, 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, and every single scene deserves to be captured. Everything is so beautiful that it is tough to 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 famous 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 is the primary 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.
The Treasury was undoubtedly 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.
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.
Located on the East Cliff, the Royal Tombs are magnificent. There are 7 Tombs in total, but you do not need to know the details: 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.
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.
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 must 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 relax. The only route back to Petra is the way you came up.
High Place of Sacrifice
The High Place of Sacrifice is 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 are 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.
The hardest hike to reach the flat mountain overlooking the whole of Petra. It’s a hard hike, 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 hiking 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.
These are just some things to do in Petra, but do you know there’s another place you can visit before, after or even during your visit to Petra? It’s called Little Petra, located about 9 Km from Wadi Musa: it’s 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 few accommodations in Petra worth mentioning. The majority are expensive, dirty, and uncomfortable, so we highly recommend you pay 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 a fantastic location. The roof terrace is perfect at sunset.
The second time we decided to stay at Petra Guest House Hotel because the location is perfect: it’s beside the gate to Petra and offers an excellent breakfast. The rooms are pretty 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 is the Cave Bar, a pub in a 2000-year-old tomb where you can drink (local beer is available), despite the excessive prices, and eat something.
Where to eat in Petra
There are 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 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 foul smell of the camels and the horses, the mass tourists flocking to see the Treasure and immediately leaving, and the expensive hotel (compared to other destinations).
What about Petra by night? Is Petra by night worth it?
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:
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, meaning we may receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase through a link.