Compiled by Isabel Clift
A city of rose-coloured stone, carved out of Mount Hor’s rock-face by the Nabataeans in the 3rd century BC, there’s nothing else like Petra. If it’s not on your bucket list already, it really should be – so when you do finally scrape the moolah together for the trip, check out this handy list of things to know before you go…
1. When’s the best time to visit Petra?
Petra is a stiflingly hot place in the height of summer (36°C!): best instead to go during spring (March – May) or autumn (September to November). Temperatures then are pleasant and warm – around 18-25°C.
As for the time of day to visit, if you’re particularly determined get ahead of the crowds and go with the sunrise at 5am: Traveljunkette’s story on doing just this is a bit of an inspiration. It means you’ll escape the heat, and have the city nearly to yourself away from other day-trippers.
If you really can’t face an early morning, arrive at 3pm to miss the worst of the midday glare and stick around until sunset – the quality of light makes the rocks glow an incredible ruby colour.
2. How much time should I dedicate to exploring Petra?
You can comfortably see Petra in a day. Everyone has different levels of historic site tolerance: you could spend five to six hours exploring, or twice that time – but even so, a day gives you plenty of time.
3. What’s the best way to get to Petra?
Flying in from Amman airport, it’s a four-hour drive pretty much straight drive down a highway which has English signposting. For a lower cost than a hire car or taxi, you can hop on a public bus direct to Petra from Amman bus station (which is itself a taxi ride from the airport).
From Aqaba airport, it’s a 1.5 hour drive – though a lesser number of airlines fly here. You can only enter Petra by buying tickets at the Petra visitors’ centre in Wadi Musa, the closest town.
Once you’re at the site (2km from visitors’ centre), you enter through a rocky passage with very high walls called the Siq – you can do this on foot, or on horseback (horses are hired from the visitor centre).
4. How much does it cost to visit Petra?
A one-day visitor pass is 90JD. An ‘overnight visitor’ pass – ie someone who’s staying for more than one day in Jordan in overnight accommodation (including cruise ship passengers) costs 50JD. Jordanian citizens, residents, students and Arab nationals pay 1JD. Kids under 15 go free.
5. What are the top sights to see at Petra?
Entering through the Siq is a dramatic and atmospheric introduction to the ancient city. You come out the other side of this passage at The Treasury, a rock-cut temple that’s the most-photographed part of the site due to its starring role in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
The next big thing to do is to hike up 822 steps carved out of the mountain to the Monastery building – its large, intricately carved façade and views looking out over the surrounding valleys are stunning. Other things to see include the pillars of the Hadrian Gate and the Cardo beyond it – a long street that was once the ancient city’s main thoroughfare.
The rock-face holds the carved-out tomb of Nabatean ruler Uneishu, as well as other fantastical tombs named the Obelisk, Urn and the Silk Tomb. The ‘street of facades’ also holds smaller tombs that were used by less rich families.
6. Are there places to eat and drink in Petra?
There are restaurants on site, and you’ll receive a free map with your ticket so you can locate them. We’d suggest bringing a packed lunch and eating outside – you honestly didn’t come to Petra to sit in a restaurant, did you?!
7. What should I bring to Petra?
Wear comfortable, sturdy shoes you’re happy to walk around in all day. Bring a hat, sunglasses and sunblock. Also make sure you have a ready supply of water. Temperatures drop fast when the sun sets – bring an extra layer to stay warm.
8. How safe is it to visit Petra?
Petra and Jordan are safe and stable places to visit. Likely the biggest threat you’ll encounter at Petra is dehydration from not drinking enough water. Remember, you’re in the desert – bring plenty of bottled water to last you a day, or stock up in shops on site.
9. Will I be bothered by people trying to sell me things at Petra?
Bedouin stall-holders can be found on site, selling everything from jewellery to carpets. Sales techniques are persistent, and you’ll be offered a lot of stuff you didn’t know you needed. Turn down offers of “antique coins” (a scam) and unofficial tours. To avoid feeling hassled, don’t look at anything you’re not interested in buying, and respond to unwanted sales patter with a polite “no thank you” or “la’a shukran”.
10. What’s a cheap place to stay close to Petra?
HostelBookers has a selection of great-value hotels in Wadi Musa a ten-minute walk from Petra, all highly rated by our previous guests. Here are three of the best:
- Al Rashid Hotel scores 94% from other travellers, with free Wi-Fi, air conditioning and breakfast included in the rate. Rooms start at €16.66pppn. More info & booking
- Rocky Mountain Hotel scores 94.2%, and the hotel has free Wi-Fi as well as a traditional Arabic breakfast included in the price. They can also make up lunch boxes for you to take to Petra. Rooms start at €19.44pppn. More info & booking
- The owners of Rocky Mountain also run the Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp in Little Petra, where you can sleep under the stars in traditional Jordanian luxury. Customers have rated the experience 90.2%, and beds start from €22.21pppn. More info & booking