In a single word I can sum up this place… “Astounding!”. Petra is found in Jordan in the Middle East and borders Syria, Saudi Arabia, the Red Sea, Palestine, Israel, and Iraq. If this is not on your ‘bucket list’ it should be!
Petra is tucked away in a remote valley in the heart of Southern Jordans Shara mountains, this ancient city remains wreathed in mystery. The highlights of the ancient city do not disappoint. The epic walk in, through the tall, echoing Siq canyon, precedes a jaw-dropping encounter with the Treasury, Petra’s iconic facade, its columns and exquisite detailing carved directly from the cliff face. Further on, past the huge Theatre, you reach the giant Royal Tombs, gazing out over the hidden valley that shelters Petra’s city centre.
Walk along the Colonnaded Street, then tackle the stepped climb to Petra’s largest monument, the Monastery, carved from a mountain summit. Budget some downtime to take in the extraordinary late-afternoon views from the Qasr al-Bint temple up the Colonnaded Street towards the fiery East Cliff.
ℹ️ Travel: Arriving into Petra can be done in many ways. Either you can fly into Amman airport in Jordan or arrive via the Red Sea from neighbouring Israel or Egypt.
ℹ️ Currency: The Jordanian Dinar (JOD)
ℹ️ Credit Cards and Banks: ATMs are common place in almost every major shopping mall and restaurant, with several ‘bureau de change’ around the city centre and at the airports/seaports.
ℹ️ Weather: Winters in Jordan are generally short and cool. January is the coolest month, with temperatures of 5-10°C. 70% of the average rainfall in the country falls during this period. Amman can be especially cold in January and February and snow is not uncommon.
Cold season: From December to February, temperatures are usually a few degrees above freezing.
Warm season: Between June and August, the Summer temperatures are still comfortable with temperatures floating around the early 30c’s.
Petra is always appearing on those top travel lists – the top ten places to see in your lifetime, the new seven wonders of the world. But unlike some places that top those lists, Jordan is actually fairly easy and not too expensive to visit. There’s accommodation ranging from tented camps to five-star resorts, there’s good public transport, it’s safe and the people are incredibly friendly. Although the first sentences that seem to be spoken is “cheap as chips”.
So if you want to visit Petra, which is the best way? While there are plenty of companies which offer organised trips to the site, it’s also an easy place to visit independently. Here are some tips I picked up on my first visit to Petra – from the closest hotels to stay at, the best times to visit, and even the best places to stop for a drink after a long day of exploring.
A whole town – Wadi Musa – has grown up around Petra to serve visitors to the site. There are hotels of all types and budgets here, starting right next to visitor’s centre and stretching up into the hills. Closest to the entrance are the Petra Guest House and Crowne Plaza hotels, right next door to the visitor’s centre, and the Mövenpick across the street.
If you’re staying in Wadi Musa, then Petra’s either a short walk away or the hotels further out often run a free shuttle down to the visitors centre a couple of times a day, though it does mean you are limited to fixed times. Otherwise there are plenty of taxis waiting outside the visitors centre, especially in the afternoons, and you will pay about JD3–5 (GB£3.20-5.50) within Wadi Musa. If you are arriving from Sea then the bus stop is outside the Moon hotel.
Petra is one of those places where the longer you stay the better value it is. A one-day ticket costs JD50 (about £48) per person, but a two-day ticket is only JD55 and a three-day ticket JD60. These are the prices that apply if you are staying in Jordan; if you are on a day trip and not staying overnight then the price is JD90. Children under 15 get free entry. You can buy tickets at the new visitors centre, but they do not accept credit cards so you need to pay in cash. You can also pick up maps, guide books and hire a tour guide.
The best time to visit is in Spring and Autumn as the temperatures are not too high and the crowds are smaller. I visited early June and found it was just bearable without feeling exhausted from the heat.
The ticket office is open from 6am to 6pm in the summer and 6am to 4pm in the winter, and Petra closes around sunset. The quietest times are usually early morning and late afternoons. Petra is also open at night on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for the Petra by night tour. Tickets cost JD17 (£16) and the tour starts at 8.30pm and finishes about 10.30pm. It is really popular so I would recommend hanging back so you can walk down slowly and experience the Siq away from the scrum of visitors.
You will find yourself walking over sandy and rocky ground so walking shoes are probably the best bet, or sturdy sandals if you don’t mind picking out the occasional stone. There is very little shade around the site, so a hat is a good idea too, and don not forget to bring plenty of sunscreen.
Petra stretches over a massive 60 square kilometre (23 mile) area and you will end up doing copious amounts walking. But if it gets too much there are a choice of camels, donkeys and horses to do the hard work for you.
A horse ride from the visitors centre to the entrance of the Siq is included in the ticket price. It is an easy 15-minute walk downhill though so you might want to save the horse ride until the way back up as that final slog up a sandy path after a whole days walking is a bit of a killer.
Petra’s surprisingly well equipped with toilets, with proper toilet blocks at the visitor’s centre, near the Theatre and by the museum. There are also portaloo’s by the start of the Siq and at a couple of cafes.
There are stalls selling souvenirs all over Petra (with some pushy sellers)
Finally, if you are in need of a drink after a long day of walking, some of the nicest places to stop at on the way out are the Movenpick Hotel’s Arabian style bar or the Cave Bar by the Petra Guest House – a 2000 year old tomb which has been turned into a bar.