Jordan: 21 things you wanna know about Petra
The fresh smell of the poo of horses and camels. Sky reaching walls with colors that seem to change every hour. It’s unbelievable that people created a place like this, 2000 years ago. How they changed these huge red rocks into tombs, houses and churches. Petra in Jordan is one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been to. In this blog I’m sharing 21 things you wanna know about Petra in Jordan, so you can prepare yourself for this epic journey!
1. Learn about the history of Petra in Jordan
Petra is built by the Nabataeans. Until I actually walked around here I didn’t realize people made this 2000 YEARS AGO. It’s no surprise this is now one of the 7 new wonders of the world. Because of the way the Nabataeans have built this city it’s maintained very well. The location of Petra was a smart, strategic move. Multiple trade routes from Europe in the west to the Orient in the east passed by this place. Because of that Petra became a wealthy city. After the fall of the empire of the Nabataeans some Bedouins moved into Petra and are still living in the mountains and the caves of Petra. Petra has been added to the World Heritage list of UNESCO in 1985. Most of the Bedouins had to move and leave Petra, but soms of them are still living and sleeping there.
2. You maybe don’t realize HOW BIG Petra is
Most people think the Treasury, one of the most well-known parts of Petra, is all there is to see. But believe me: you can easily spend 3 days in Petra if you wanna see it all. Petra is an archaeological park and there is a lot to discover. Walking from the entrance to the Treasury will lead you through a canyon: very impressive. After enjoying the view of the Treasury you can explore more. My favorites were the amphitheatre, the viewpoint above the Treasury, the walk to the Monastery and the Royal Tombs.
Most people buy a 1-day ticket for Petra, but it’s also possible – even recommended – to buy a ticket for 2 or even 3 days. Your name will be on the ticket when you purchase it, so don’t forget to bring your passport! You have to use the ticket on the day you purchase it. For 1 day you pay 50 Jordan Dinar, for 2 days 55 JD and for 3 days 60 JD.
3. Think about buying the Jordan Pass beforehand
Normally I’m not a big fan of tourism passes, but I think the Jordan Pass is a great solution for travelling in Jordan. With the Jordan Pass you are getting your Jordan visa for free and besides that you can visit almost every sight for free – including Petra. Other sights that are included are Wadi Rum, some castles for example in Ajloun and different musea. You can buy the Jordan Pass online and after buying it you will receive it in your mail. De price of the Jordan Pass depends on how many days you wanna visit Petra: for 1 day in Petra the pass is 70 JD, for 2 days it’s 75 JD and for 3 days you pay 80 JD. More information about the Jordan Pass you’ll find here.
4. The Siq: canyon and entrance to Petra
Not too far from the entrance you will find the canyon that will lead you to the Treasury, named the Siq. The walk through this canyon is about 1,2 kilometers. It maybe sounds like a boring walk, but you will not be bored. The rock formations and the colors keep surprising you during the walk and it’s fun to see the horses going to the Treasury. At the end of the canyon you will see the impressive Al Khazneh, that most people know as the Treasury.
5. The Treasury: checking it out from the ground and from the air
After the walk through the Siq you are surprised by this amazing view of the Treasury. A lot of tourists will only walk through the canyon, check out the Treasury and go back to the entrance. So expect a big crowd here, almost the whole day.
Besides checking the Treasury out from the ground you can also see this beautiful place from a higher place. There are 2 viewpoints where you can see the Treasury from upstairs.
1. There are some guides near the Treasury who will bring you to viewpoint 1. It’s a tough climb, which takes about 20 minutes. It’s almost impossible to find the way yourself, so ask someone to guide you (and give him some tip for his services).
2. There’s another viewpoint where you can go to yourself. Walk from the Treasury to the Royal Tombs until you see the signs with Al Khubtha Trail on it. This walk is about 30-40 minutes. At the end of this trail you will find a small hut and a lovely owner who will be happy to give you some tea. If you’re lucky he will place some music on his flute or the rababa – a traditional instrument of the Bedouins. Looks a lot like a giant violin with just 1 string. If you’re short on time you can take a donkey to go up this viewpoint, but for most people the walk is totally doable (I personally don’t like how they treat the donkeys for the entertainment of lazy tourists).
6. The Monastery: my highlight in Petra in Jordan
I’ve spent 2 days in Petra and I can say the Monastery is my highlight in Petra. This monastery, with the name Ad Deir, is the biggest monument in Petra and is because of the width even more impressive than the Treasury. It’s not easy to reach this place though: you have to climb 800 stairs and the walk barely has any shade where you can catch a breath and relax for a bit. My tip? Go as early in the morning as possible. It’s not only less crowded, but the walk upstairs is also less exhausting in the morning. Across from the Monastery there is a small restaurant where you can buy some drinks and snacks and there is another hill from where you can see the Monastery from upstairs as well.
Extra tip for visiting the Monastery
The Monastery is located high in the mountains of Petra, so you have to climb nonetheless. There is another trail at the other side of the mountain though. This trail is maybe longer, but less steep and there is a lot more shadow at this side. The start of this trail you can find on the road from Wadi Musa to Little Petra, nearby some Bedouin camps. At the left side you will see a small building: the other official entrance for Petra. Keep in mind that you can’t buy your entrance ticket here, you have to do that at the entrance gate in Wadi Musa. The walk to the Monastery is about 1,5 hour, so if you go in the morning you have plenty of time to explore more of Petra the rest of the day.
7. Walking or moving around by donkey/camel?
Most of the sights in Petra are easily accessible by walking. There are some places high in the mountains, like the Monastry and the High Place of Sacrifice – for those places you need to climb during your walk. For people who are not able to walk that far or climb those mountains there are camels and donkeys to move them around. This is the rule in Petra, because of the wellbeing of the animals. The problem is: nobody is gonna check if you’re able to walk or not. So basically everyone can pay for a ride on a donkey or a camel if they want to. I’ve seen a lot of young travellers moving around by donkey or camel in Petra. It can be a choice to use those animals if you’re short on time, but please consider walking by yourself through Petra if you’re able to do this.
8. It can be hot as hell in Petra
Especially in summer time it can be hot as hell in Petra: it can be more than 40 degrees and moreover there is not a lot of shade at some trails. It’s smart to cover your head with a hat, a scarf or a bandana. Besides covering your hat it’s important to keep drinking a lot during the day. I would recommend you to drink at least 3 liter of water per day, especially if you’re hiking to places like the Monastery.
9. Drinks and food in Petra in Jordan
There’s one restaurant, near the stairs that will lead you to the Monastery. It’s a good place for lunch, although it’s pretty pricey. Besides the restaurant you have a lot of small shops where you can buy some snacks and drinks. Along the trail to the Monastery you will also find some small souvenir shops who will sell water as well. The prices are of course for tourists, but still okay. For a big bottle of water you pay 1 JD in Petra. It’s one of the most touristic places in the country, so I expected higher prices. If you’re able to walk with some water you can also buy some bottles in Wadi Musa. I use a Camelbak that I can fill with 3 liter of water – it’s a perfect gadget for hiking, because it doesn’t take a lot of space in your bag and you can refill it easily.
10. Archeologists still have to discover a lot of Petra
The area of Petra has been hit by several earthquakes through the years. Because of these earthquakes a lot of the ruins are destroyed. Archeologists are still busy discovering more and more of Petra. But it’s unbelievable that everything we can see of Petra today is only 20% of all of Petra.
11. Petra by Night
Do you wanna experience Petra in a different way? Multiple times a week there’s Petra by Night; on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. In the evening you start your walk at the entrance, through the Siq to the Treasury. It’s magical how the Treasury is lighted by hundreds of candles in the dark. You have to buy a separate ticket for attending Petra by Night; you can’t use your Petra day ticket.
12. Little Petra, the little brother of Petra
A few kilometres north of Petra there is another archaeological place named Little Petra. It’s a tiny version of Petra, also with cave houses and tombs. Petra is definitely one of the highlights during your travels in Jordan, but you can easily spend an hour of exploring Little Petra as well. You can visit Little Petra for free.
13. Staying in Wadi Musa in Jordan
The village Wadi Musa – which means the Valley of Moses – is the place where you will find the entrance to Petra. If you’re travelling by bus through Jordan this is the place where you can grab a bus to Amman, Aqaba and Wadi Rum. You’ll find multiple restaurants and hotels here. A cheap but perfect option for budget travellers (both solo and couples) is Valentine’s Inn. For 5 JD you have a bed in a dorm, for 10 JD you have a private room. There’s good WiFi and there’s also the option to join breakfast and dinner for a few Dinars. There’s a free shuttle bringing you to Petra in the morning and picking you up in the afternoon. Especially in the afternoon it’s nice to use this shuttle, because you have to walk up again to go back to the city center. There’s also a great view from Valentine’s Inn over the city during sunset, don’t miss it!
14. Staying near Little Petra in Jordan
If you are looking for an unique way of staying near Petra you should stay in Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp. This Bedouin camp is nearby Little Petra. You have your own hut here and the food is amazing. In the evening the camp is lighted by lots of lights and candles and near the fire there’s always some entertainment: smoking shisha, making music, sharing stories, star gazing. It’s also a great place to learn more about the life of the Bedouins!
15. You can’t stay in Petra… or can you?
It’s not allowed to stay in the area of Petra. You are allowed to stay in the archaeological park until closing hour, but honestly there is nobody who will check if you left the place. My guide asked me if I would like to stay for a night in the Monastery. He brings you to this place during the sunset and camps with you at this amazing place. Partly because I was sick and partly because I was travelling by myself (a woman) I turned down his offer. But it sounds pretty amazing, right? It seems that a lot of Bedouins never left the area of Petra and are still sleeping and living in this area.
16. What’s the best time to visit Petra in Jordan?
Spring and autumn are the best periods to visit Petra in Jordan. It’s warm, but not hot as hell – like in the summer. I visited Petra in September and it was still warm, but I enjoyed it. So if you’re able to choose go for either march-april or for September-october-november.
17. What should I wear if I go to Petra?
Jordan is a country where the majority is muslim. Jordanians are not thát strict about the rules for clothing, especially for foreigners. Petra is also the most touristic place in the country, so they are used to the way foreigners dress. Nonetheless I think it’s polite to remember that you’re in Jordan. You will not be denied at any sights, but maybe you will feel like people are watching you when you’re wearing shorts – especially girls. I would recommend to wear something that will cover your knees and shoulders. For girls long skirts are ideal. If you do want to wear a sleeveless shirt maybe you can bring a scarf to cover your shoulders when you are talking to the locals.
18. How annoying are the vendors in Petra?
Honestly I expected the worst for Petra. And I am someone who can get really annoyed by vendors who are trying to sell you something ALL THE TIME. But luckily it was not bad at all. Of course some people will ask you if you want to look inside their shop, if you don’t need anything. But if you just say “No thank you” or “La, sukran” it’s okay as well. The only people who annoyed me were the ones who are offering you “free” horse rides, at the entrance of Petra. Apparently these rides are included in your ticket – and in that way for free – but afterwards you have to pay some tip. So it’s not so free after all.
19. Do I need a guide to visit and explore Petra?
Of course this is personal. Most places you can easily visit by yourself. At the entrance you can take a map of Petra and in the park itself you will find signs to guide you. I love visiting places by myself, so I have time to take pictures and all – I can imagine not every guide is happy to wait forever to take one picture and I don’t wanna feel rushed. But because I had an entrance ticket for 2 days I decided it would be fun to visit Petra with a guide as well. Because of my guide everything got more interesting. He told me about the caves – which was not longer a cave but a former hospital or a house where his nephew was born. I see how the amphitheatre was filled with people during his stories and how traders would make their way through the canyon on their way to Petra. The details make the place more alive. Most guides are Bedouins who have been living here for ages. At the entrance there is an office where you can ask for a local guide – the official ones have certificates and are trustworthy to tell you everything about Petra.
20. How are you going to Petra in Jordan?
Public transport in Jordan is not what I was used to. There are not that many busses going from one place to another. I was even surprised to find out there is only 1 bus per day going from Wadi Rum to Petra and back. The bus from Wadi Rum to Petra leaves around 8.30/9.00 in the morning in Wadi Rum Village. The trip is 2,5 hours and costs 7 JD. There is also a bus from Amman going to Wadi Musa, around 7.00 in the morning. This trip is more than 4 hours and costs 10 JD.
You can also go by taxi to Petra. The taxi from Wadi Rum to Petra is for example 35 JD. It’s an option to check out if you can split the bill with multiple travellers.
Another great option to travel in Jordan is by renting a car. Driving in Jordan is easy and with a rental car you can go to any place you want to. Amman, Aqaba or the airport are the best places for renting a car.
21. You can also visit Petra if you’re travelling in Israel
A lot of tourists who are travelling in Israel also wanna go to Petra (and Wadi Rum) in Jordan. The best place to cross the border is in the southern part, from Eilat to Aqaba. If you’re travelling by car keep in mind that you can’t move the car from one country to another. You can leave it at the border or park the car in Eilat.
Remember that there are different rules for your visa if you’re travelling only for 1 day from Israel to Jordan. The costs for your visa and the entrance fee for Petra are much higher if you’re leaving again within 24 hours. The best option to avoid those high extra costs is by staying at least 1 night in Jordan. For example: go explore Petra for 1 day, spend the night in Wadi Musa, move to Wadi Rum the next day, sleep in the desert and travel back to Israel on the third day.
This is everything I want to share with you about Petra in Jordan. Do you have more tips about Petra? Or do you still have questions after reading this? Please let me know in a comment!
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