Guide to visiting Petra

Top Tips and Advice on travelling to Petra..

Here are our tops tips and guide to visiting Petra in Jordan. We have hopefully listed many of the frequently asked questions, and get in touch for help in planning your holiday to Jordan. 

How many days do you need in Petra?

You need at least a full day exploring Petra, so that would mean staying in nearby Wadi Musa for two nights. Those who explore the site for two days are certainly rewarded..

The first thing to think about is how you get to Petra, and quite often you are travelling down from Amman. We advise you to take the more meandering King’s Highway, rather than the faster, but less scenic Desert Highway. This means you can stop off at incredible points-of-interest along the way such as Madaba, Mt Nebo, Kerak and/or Shobak Castle. This means you usually arrive in Petra by mid to late afternoon.

We then suggest spending the following day in Petra and then spend a second night there. For those who really like to explore ‘Hidden Petra’ we advise a second day of seeing the site and a third night staying in Wadi Musa. We can, of course, find things for you to see if you want longer. 

1 Day in Petra (2 nights)

The Monastery is up 800-steps and best done after lunch. It has the best light in the mid to late-afternoon.

With one day in Petra, you usually start by having a private guide for about three hours and starting at the main entrance and walking through the Siq. The Siq is the famous canyon that takes you into the hidden city of Petra. It takes about 15-30 minutes to walk through before you arrive at the Treasury. The Treasury is the iconic facade of Petra and worth spending a good amount of time allowing your guide to give you an introduction to this ancient Nabatean city. You then turn into the Street of the Facades where you see dozens of buildings carved into the sandstone rock. On your right, you see the Royal Tombs that you can see in more depth on a second day. You then reach the impressive Roman amphitheatre. You then turn into the Colonnaded Street, lined with Roman columns. You then arrive at the Qasr al Bint Temple and restaurants where your guide usually leaves you. You can have lunch, and then make your own way up to the Monastery. It is up 800 steps to reach but has the best sunlight about mid-afternoon. You then retrace your steps back to the main entrance, leaving the site by about 4-5pm. See Petra By Night that evening.

2 Days in Petra (3 nights)

If you have time you can make the ascent to the High Place of Sacrifice for incredible views over Petra.

You have a couple of options here. Some guests ask about the ‘Backdoor Trek to Petra’, and this is done by first visiting the incredible site of Little Petra. You then walk into Petra, arriving at the Monastery and it takes about 3-4 hours. You walk down into the site for lunch, and see a little more of the Royal Tombs, and possibly the view from above the Treasury. If you have time you can make the ascent to the High Place of Sacrifice for incredible views over Petra.

Another option is to swap the ‘Backdoor to Petra’ trek and instead to the Wadi Farasa Trail. This starts from the Street of the Facades and takes you to the High Place of Sacrifice. Instead of turning back, continue over the other side into a secret wadi, containing the Lion Monument, Garden Triclinium, Roman Soldier Tomb, Renaissance Tomb and Broken Pediment Tomb. You emerge at the Qasr Al Bint Temple and restaurants. In the afternoon, return to the Royal Tombs and see the Treasury from above. For those who are fast walkers, you can climb Al Habis (the prison) – it takes another hour but the views back over Petra are incredible.

For those who really don’t like to either trek, you can see Little Petra and then be driven back to the main entrance and see the Royal Tombs in more depth with the possible gentler walk up the High Place of Sacrifice and/or the Treasury viewpoint.

3 and 4 Days in Petra

3 or 4 days in Petra means you can complete all the interesting, off-the-beaten-track treks and hidden tombs and places of interest in Petra. Four full days will mean a comprehensive exploration of the site.

Three days in Petra would mean four nights staying in Wadi Musa, and you could also then include the six-hour strenuous trek to climb Jabel Haroun. With four days in Petra, your first day would include the usual Day 1 laid out above. Day 2 would include Little Petra, the Backdoor Trek to Petra, the Royal Tombs, and the walk to the Treasury Viewpoint. Day 3 would include the Wadi Farasa Trail and Al Habis (the prison). Day 4 would conclude with the ascent of Jebel Haroun.

Top sights to see in Petra

The Siq: This is the canyon-way that you walk through from the main entrance that leads to the Treasury. It takes about 15-30 minutes to walk (800 metres). It has been carved by both nature and the ancient Nabateans. It was also made famous as the final scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as they depart from the Treasury on horseback.

The Treasury is the most iconic facade in Petra. If you arrive in the morning, you will be there with most of the other visitors. If you return in the mid-afternoon, you will largely have the spectacle to yourself.

The Treasury: This is the most iconic facade in Petra and is also known as Al Khazneh. It was built as the tomb for King Aretas III and is carved into the sandstone mountains. It is simply awe inspiring.

Petra By Night: Petra by Night happens on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 20:30. You meet outside the gates before walking into the Siq Canyon. The Siq will have been adorned by a countless number of lanterns marking the side of the path. You emerge in front of the Treasury, glowing against the backdrop of yet more lanterns. Local musicians play traditional Arabic instruments as you marvel at the sheer beauty of Petra’s most iconic facade. 

The Street of the Facades is also known as the Outer Siq, known as the Street of Facades which contain about 40 tombs carved into the sandstone.

Our top tip is to combine the High Place of Sacrifice with the Wadi Farasa trail. Quite simply, this is the best of ‘Hidden Petra’..

On your left is the turning to the 45-minute ascent to the High Place of Sacrifice. The High Place of Sacrifice is built on top of the Jebel Madbah, and takes about 45 minutes to reach from the Theatre in Petra. The views from the top are superb. The obelisks are 6m high and are actually carved out of a rock face. The site is dedicated to the Nabataean gods of Dushara and Al ‘Uzza and it is here that they sacrificed animals. There are even drains to channel the blood of the animals where it was collected and drunk at the alter, which were also cut out of the sandstone. The walk is steep, and not advised for those with any element of vertigo. We suggest combining a visit to the High Place of Sacrifice with a walk through Wadi Farasa and other elements of Hidden Petra.

The strenuous walk to the Treasury viewpoint is well worth the effort, and those who do this are also rewarded by seeing the Royal Tombs in more detail..

The Royal Tombs and Treasury Viewpoint are usually seen in detail on a second-day in the site. You visit the Royal Tombs, passing the superb Urn Tomb, with its arched portico – seeing these tombs in more detail that are often passed over on the usual tour. Pass the three-story Palace Tomb to the high plateau for the best views back over the Treasury.

The Theatre was built by the Nabataeans and chiseled out of rock. It was expanded by the Romans to seat 8,500. 

You then arrive at the Great Temple, dating from the first century BC. The Great Temple was once adorned in striking red-and-white stucco. Continue to Qasr Al Bint, one of the few free-standing structures in Petra. 

We don’t suggest opting for taking a donkey to the Monastery. They aren’t very well looked after and the reward of walking up makes the experience far better..

The Monastery is one of Petra’s most iconic monuments and rivals the more famous Treasury for its scale and design. The Monastery is, in fact, larger (50m wide and 45m high) and dates from the 3rd century BC and built as a Nabataean tomb. It was probably used as a church in Byzantine times, hence the name. You reach the Monastery by climbing the 800-steps from the main site of Petra. It takes about 40 minutes to walk up. The best time to visit the Monastery is in the late afternoon. It is also worth climbing up to the two viewpoints looking out over Wadi Araba, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories and south to the peak of Jebel Haroun. 

You can also reach the Monastery by taking the ‘Back Door to Petra’ after visiting Little Petra. For those with an appetite for a longer walk, and the best views do consider the ascent of Jebel Haroun.

When is the best time to visit Petra?

The best time to visit Petra is from March to May and September to November. The summer is a little too hot to be out walking all day in the site, and the winter months from December to February are actually a little too cold, and can be wetter. 

How much walking do I need to do?

You can do as little of about an hour, just walking in along the Siq to the Treasury and back to the main entrance. If you then do the standard tour going via the Street of Facades to Qasr Al Bint and back to the main entrance, you will likely be walking for 2-3 hours. Other trek times are as follows, and don’t include time to stop and look around. The trek to the High Place of Sacrifice (45-minute ascent), Wadi Farasa (1 hour from High Place of Sacrifice to Qasr Al Bint), Treasury Viewpoint, and Royal Tombs (2 hours ascent and descent), Monastery (2 hours ascent and descent).

How to get to Petra

We have a range of different suggested itineraries for you to visit Petra:

Classic Jordan (8 days), Jordan Family Holiday (9 days), Slow Jordan (11 days), Walking Holiday in Jordan (12 days), Grand Tour of Jordan (15 days), and Jordan & Jerusalem (11days).

Where to Stay in Petra

You usually stay in the small town of Wadi Musa, which is close to the main entrance. At the top-end look no further than the Movenpick Petra which is right beside the entrance. For those wanting something more authentic, consider the Old Village Resort of Hyatt Zamam. If you are on more of a budget, then Petra Guesthouse is well positioned and has the wonderful Cave Bar. If you like a more international hotel, then the Marriot is good. Movenpick also have the Nabatean Castle slightly out of town. For those wanting something different, then try the Bubble Hotel.

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