Uncovering the Hidden Gems of Petra: A Guide to Off-the-Beaten-Path Sites
Petra 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.
Petra has been carved out of the rock by the Nabataeans, an ancient civilization who lived there between 126 BC and 106 AD. The city was built in order to hide wealth from nomadic tribes who would raid caravans along the Silk Road.
Petra is located near Wadi Musa, which means “the valley of Moses” in Arabic. Legend says that Moses was buried there after he died at Mount Nebo, near Damascus.
The Siq is a canyon with high walls on both sides, leading up to Al-Khazneh or Treasury building – one of Petra’s highlights; it’s also called Al-Deir (monastery) because it resembles a monastery in shape and design. You can enter through its doors or climb up its stairs and enter through its roof!
Where is Petra?
Petra is located in the south of Jordan. From Amman to Petra it takes a 3 hours drive and from Aqaba to Petra a 2 hours drive.
Opening Hours and Best Time to Visit
Petra is open daily, in the summertime from 06:00 to 18:00 and in wintertime from 07:00 to 16:00. Especially in summer with the warm temperatures, we recommend starting your visit as early as possible. Plus, in the early morning, there are less visitors and you have the Siq and the Treasury nearly to yourself, which is a great experience.
How much time do I need to explore Petra?
The Archaeological Park of Petra measures 264 square km. Most visitors stay a minimum of 5 hours in Petra. One day gives you time to see the lower parts of Petra with the Siq, the Treasury (Al Khazneh), the Street of Facades, the Royal Tombs, Qasr Al Bint and to hike up to the High Place of Sacrifice or the Monastery El Deir. But if you are interested to see more of Petra and hiking along less frequented routes, a second or even a third day in Petra is necessary. For the hiking parts, a guide is strongly recommended.
How many km do I have to walk in Petra?
Be prepared to do a lot of walking. Certainly, it depends on which monuments want to see in Petra. As an idea, from the entrance gate to the end of the Siq, the way leading into Petra, it is 1.2 km walk one way. The regular standard tour in the lower parts of Petra covers about 5 km.
How much does it cost to visit Petra?
A regular pass for visitors staying overnight in Jordan is 50 JOD per person (= 71 USD per person). A two days pass is 55 JOD per person and a three days pass is 60 JOD per person. One day visitors from Israel pay 90 JOD admission fee. Jordanian citizens and residents in Jordan pay 1 JOD. Children under 15 years are free of charge. There is no student discount, only if you study at a Jordanian university.
What are the most important sites in Petra?
The UNESCO listed 1994 some 800 monuments in Petra. Certainly you can’t see all. The regular visitor follows the main trail, pass the Siq, the dramatic canyon with Nabatean water channels for around 30 minutes, leading the way to the Treasury. Known as Al Khazneh this is the most-photographed part of the site. You continue along the Street of Facades, the Roman Theatre on the left and the Royal Tombs on the right, the Colonnaded Street and Qasr Al Bint. Very popular is the walk up to the Monastery El Deir over 800 stairs or to the High Place of Sacrifice.
Are there restaurants in Petra?
There are two restaurants inside the Archaeological Park, the Nabatean Tent Restaurant and the Basin Restaurant open until 14:30. Both are located close to the museum in Petra, after you past Qasr Al Bint. If you don’t want to sit in a restaurant you can certainly bring a lunch box. On the main trails there are stalls – frankly too many and not a nice vista – to buy something to drink.
Are there toilets in Petra?
Yes, there are toilets in a cave below the Royal Tombs, opposite of the Roman Theatre, and close to the restaurant area.
What should I bring to Petra?
Wear sturdy shoes, comfortable to walk around in all day. Especially in summer bring a hat, sunglasses, sun block, light, covering clothes. In winter it is cold and warmer clothes are needed.
Horse Back Rides, Horse Drawn Carriage, Camels and Donkeys
The admission fee Petra includes a short horse ride from the Visitor Centre to the entrance of the Siq, the canyon. It is about 700 meters and the horse boy walks beside you and expects a tip of 3-5 Jordanian Dinar. They often act annoyed if they don’t receive a tip. There are 10 horse drawn carriages in Petra, first and foremost for elderly and handicapped visitors. These carriages take maximum 2 passengers and operate from the Petra Visitor Centre to the Treasury and back. Keep in mind the Petra terrain is uneven, so it is a bumpy ride. The price is 20 JOD per carriage. Handicapped clients can also obtain a permission to go with the carriage deeper inside Petra, but an advance reservation is to recommend due to the limited numbers of carriages. Inside Petra one can hire a camel or a donkey, price is a matter of negotiation with the owner and depends on the distance. There had been complaints about the maltreatment of animals in Petra. So, by hiring one of the animals make sure it is in good condition and even don’t hesitate to criticize the handler when being cruel. The people live from the work of these animals and have to get the message, badly treated animal means no clients and no income. Especially donkeys have a low status. And their hooves causing erosion to the sandstone stairs.
Like in all tourist sites you find in Petra stalls and eager sellers trying to make a deal with souvenirs. Some are persistent and if you feel hassled, it is best to ignore the offers and just shake your head assigning you to have no interest. Don’t buy rock fragments, encouraging vendors to break fragments from the Petra monuments, or fall for faked Nabatean coins.
Unfortunately, it is necessary to say, don’t drop litter when in Petra. This had been becoming over the past years a problem and though the park authorities deemed it necessary to place many rubbish bins over the site (not really appropriate for an ancient place like Petra), a big part of our contemporary humans have still difficulties and get rid of their waste wherever they stand. Actually, the best is to take your rubbish with you and dispose of it outside the park, certainly in a bin. And yes, don’t draw graffiti, don’t use caves as toilets, and don’t climb on the fragile sandstone monuments.