visiting ancient city of petra in jordan

Visiting the Ancient City of Petra Jordan

The ancient Jordanian city of Petra is located in the southwestern part of the country, 150 miles south from the capital Amman. Also known as the Red Rose City, Petra has quickly become a symbol of Jordan and has become the country’s most visited site. The Petra Archaeological Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985 and is considered a seventh wonder of the modern world. It’s believed to have been built around 312BC, but was only rediscovered in 1812 by a Swiss Explorer – giving it another name of The Lost City. We spent several days in Petra during our trip to Jordan, so hopefully this post helps cover how to get to Petra, entrance fees, what to bring and wear and different walking trails.

How to Get to Petra

How you get to Petra will depend on where you’re coming from within Jordan. Public transport is fairly limited in Jordan, so it’s likely you’ll get to Petra via a rental car or taxi. There are some tourist coaches available that’ll take you between the main cities and tourist destinations. We took a taxi from Dana Biosphere Reserve straight into Petra centre.

Jordan Airport to Petra

If you’re planning on heading to Petra directly from the Queen Alia International Airport, you can take a car or taxi, lasting approximately 2.5-3 hours. This typically costs around 85 JOD (£91/$120). There is public transport available, which is the cheapest option, however it is also the slowest option. You’ll need to take the Sarah Airport Express Bus to the Tabarbour bus station in Amman, before changing onto a JETT bus to Petra. This will cost around 13.50 JOD (£15/$19) and will take approximately 5.5 hours.

Entrance Fees and Tickets to Petra

Tickets can be bought on arrival from the visitor centre at the entrance of the park. The entrance fee will vary depending on who is purchasing it, length of stay and number of days at Petra. These can be bought with cash or card. It’s important to note, you’ll need a valid passport or ID with you to purchase tickets. The most common ticket type is for the ‘accommodated visitor’ who is staying in Jordan for at least one night:

TicketPrice
One Day50 JOD (£53/$71)
Two Day55 JOD (£59/$78)
Three Days60 JOD (£64/$85)
12yrs and underFree

The less common ticket type will include the accommodated visitor who goes to Petra on their first day from the border. For this, you’ll pay a border ticket fee of 90 JOD (£96/$127) and receive a 40 JOD refund upon returning the next day.

Non-accommodated visitors – one day visitors to Jordan who do not spend the night in the country – will pay a day ticket fee of 90 JOD ((£96/$127). For residents, the fee is 1 JOD (£1.07/$1.41 usd), as long as you have had a valid residence card for at least a year. As there’s a lot to see in Petra, I’d recommend two days at least to see the main sites.

Jordan Pass

Another way to get tickets for Petra is to buy a Jordan Pass. This is a pass that can be bought online, and it encompasses your Jordan entrance visa fee along with 40 of the most popular sites! I would highly recommend getting this as it saves so much time and money!

The Jordan Pass does not include the evening event ‘Petra by Night’ and you must bring the pass with you to the Petra visitor centre. It can not be used at any other entrances to Petra.

What to Do in Petra

Petra is enormous with 15 main trails and lots to see! We spent two days in the park and only touched the surface. Upon arrival to Petra, your first point of entry will be the visitor centre. Here you’ll find tickets, informational guides and a museum. There is also Wifi, toilets, coffee shops and ATM machines. I would recommend using the toilets here, as the ones in the park are sparse and often not restocked with toilet paper. Once through the visitors centre, you’ll walk about 30 minutes to the entrance of the Siq.

The Siq

Your journey into Petra begins with a walk through the Siq, a narrow gorge that stretches for about 1.2 kilometers (0.75 miles). The impressive towering walls, up to 80 meters (262 feet) high, create a dramatic entrance to the ancient city. As you walk, you’ll see remnants of ancient carvings and water channels that once supplied the city with water.

al-siq

Be aware of your surroundings as horse carriages come racing through here! It takes about 20-30 minutes to walk through here, which is important to note as you’ll need to factor this into your journey back. You need to get back to the visitors centre for closing and it’s about an hour walk from the Treasury (main area) in total – including the Siq walk.

The Treasury (Al-Khazneh)

Emerging from the Siq, you’ll be greeted by the sight of the Treasury, Petra’s most famous monument. This iconic façade, carved directly into the rock face, is believed to have been a royal tomb. The intricate carvings and grand scale made it an absolute highlight of the visit. As expected, it does get quite busy here. Get there early in the morning or stay late afternoon to see it less crowded. There’s also a great viewing point here, which you can climb up to get photos with the Treasury in the background. This was truely a bucket-list place for me and it was even more spectacular in person! Highly recommend coming to Jordan for the Treasury alone!

The Street of Facades

Continuing past the Treasury, you’ll find the Street of Facades, a row of monumental Nabatean tombs with elaborate carvings. These tombs showcase the architectural ingenuity of the Nabateans, the ancient people who built Petra. There are toilets and some refreshment stalls around here.

The Nabatean Theatre

Nearby is the Nabatean Theatre, which once seated around 8,500 spectators. Carved into the rock, this impressive structure combines Greek and Roman architectural elements, offering insight into the cultural life of ancient Petra. We enjoyed walking around the amphitheater and standing on what was once the stage.

The Royal Tombs

Climbing up to the Royal Tombs offers a fantastic view of the city. These large mausoleums are believed to be the burial sites of Petra’s kings. The Urn Tomb, Silk Tomb, Corinthian Tomb, and Palace Tomb are particularly noteworthy for their size and ornate designs. These are a fair walk from the entrance of Petra so be sure to visit these if you’ve gone early and have time to make it back.

The Monastery (Ad-Deir)

The Monastery is another of Petra’s grand structures and is even larger than the Treasury. Reaching it requires a hike of about 800 steps, but the effort is well worth it. The Monastery is less crowded than the Treasury, offering a more tranquil experience and stunning views of the surrounding landscape.

High Place of Sacrifice

For those who enjoy hiking, the High Place of Sacrifice provides a challenging but rewarding climb. The trail leads to a plateau where religious ceremonies were once performed. From here, you can enjoy panoramic views of Petra and the surrounding mountains. We did this and the Treasury on one day and the rest of the sites from this blog were done on a separate day.

What to wear in Petra

What to wear in Petra was a big concern ahead of my trip. Given that it’s a muslim country, my friends and I wanted to show our respect to the culture. However, it was very hot when we visited, so finding the right mix of being respectful and keeping cool was hard. We opted for activewear that covered our shoulders and either floaty trousers (think Thailand travel pants) or longer shorts. I’d say we were balanced compared to other travellers we saw – some wore strappy tops and short-shorts, others were totally covered up.

Petra at Night

Petra by Night is a unique way to explore this spectacular ancient city by candlelight. The tour takes you on a journey through the Siq all the way to the Treasury, with the beauty of 1,500 candles!! You’ll be treated to the famous sweet Bedouin tea, Jordanian flutes and unbelievable starry skies.

The Petra Night Show is held every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday and lasts two hours. It starts and ends at the visitor centre and is on between 8:30-10:30pm.

Entrance fee for Petra at Night is 17 JOD (approx. £18/$24 USD) and is free for all children below the age of 10. You can buy tickets at the park’s visitor centre, through local tour agencies in Petra or through most hotels. It’s worth noting that you can’t buy Petra by Night tickets in advance, but don’t worry, there are unlimited tickets! You’ll need a valid day ticket too for this, and you can buy these in advance (visitor centre between 7:30-8:30pm). Aside from this, Petra is closed at night and it’s not possible to stay overnight.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do this during my trip to Petra. For transparency, there are mixed reviews on the experience, with some people claiming it’s overrated and underwhelming. I imagine this would be somewhat tiring after a full day exploring the park too.

Tips and Essentials on Visiting Petra

Here are some tips to help you prepare for your trip to Petra.

  • Wear Comfortable Footwear: You’ll be doing a fair amount of walking, so wear comfortable shoes. There are some rocky areas and most of Petra is quite dusty, so I’d strongly recommend closed-toe shoes, like trainers.
  • Stay Hydrated: The desert is hot and dry, so bring as much water as you can carry comfortably. I took 2 litres each day. You can buy some water on site and at the visitors centre.
  • Guided Tours: Local guides can help provide in-depth historical context and insights into each site.
  • Timings: Be very aware of your time in Petra. It takes an hour to walk from the visitor centre entrance to the actual entrance of Petra’s sites. You have to factor this in for the end of day so you are out before it closes. I would recommend getting to Petra early so you aren’t pushed for time with the closing.
  • Respect Local Customs: As stated above, Petra seemed to have a fairly relaxed dress code implementation compared to what I had envisaged. Having said that, Jordan is still predominantly a Muslim country, so dress modestly out of respect for the local culture and people.
  • Weather Considerations and Time of Year: Petra is best visited in the cooler months to help avoid the extreme heat of summer. October to April are good times to visit. We went in September, which was very hot, but bearable.
  • Plan your visit: Petra is so big and there’s so much to do! We divided the different sites across two days in a way that made sense for seeing sites near each other. E.g. the High Palace of Sacrifice is a long hike and a bit far from the tombs. It made sense to divide the region to see across multiple days.
  • STICK TO THE PATHS!! We got a bit lost and thankfully found a local boy who helped us get back on track again. Do not deviate from the tourist areas or main paths as it can be hard to set yourself right again.

Visiting Petra was a huge bucket list goal for me and one of the most incredible places I’ve ever visited. You’ll discover fascinating history, culture and architecture at this Wonder of the World. I hope this has been helpful to anyone planning a trip to Petra, or Jordan in general. For more information on the Petra Archaeological Park, check out their official site www.visitpetra.jo. After our amazing trip to Petra, we took a taxi to Wadi Rum for our next stop.

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