The lost city of Petra in Jordan attracts visitors to explore unique features carved in the rocks. But don’t be mistaken. Although Petra is often referred to as “the ancient city”, it is actually a vast burial ground. Our travel guide to Petra will help you get the right practical information that will help you plan your visit city of Petra.

The beautiful formations carved into stone are in fact tombs where wealthy and important Nabataeans were buried. Their empire flourished around 62 BC when Petra was the capital of the entire Nabataean Kingdom. They were capable merchants, and so their kingdom was blooming.

History of Nabataeans and their ancient city of Petra

Historians have depicted the image of the then Kingdom of the Nabataeans as an advanced empire that was strategically hidden in the Jordanian rocks. Advanced civilization then used a sophisticated way of irrigation canals, which are still visible in the sandstone nowadays. The ingenious courses were leading the water into the pools flowed perpendicularly across the rock, or gushed from the heads of the stone gorges. The invasion of Rome set the Nabataeans a rough end, and they joined the territory to the empire.

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Petra has been inhabited by Arab Bedouins for centuries

The Romans immediately began to rule the area, and so we can find the remains of their buildings, such as the Roman paved road and the well-preserved amphitheatre. When a devastating earthquake broke into the area and the irrigation system was irretrievably destroyed, no one was redeemed to recover it. So Petra began to fall into oblivion and became a legend. For centuries, Arab Bedouins lived here who guarded the city against foreign visitors until 1812. Swiss researcher Burckhardt was the first European to come here disguised in Arabic clothes and he helped to discover Petra in Jordan for the world.

How to get to Petra in Jordan

The Petra Rock Cemetery is located near Wadi Musa, the closest point to Petra and main touristic centre in Jordan, from where you can get by foot to Petra. Many tourists go to Wadi Musa directly from the airport from the capital of Amman or crossing from Israeli resort Eilat to Aqaba for a one-day trip to Petra.

Petra in Jordan

Walking through the whole of Petra in Jordan is a really challenging walk

We flew to Eilat in Israel and crossed the border of Jordan on foot. Then, we rented a car in Aqaba and drove all over Jordan on our own. We planned the visit of Petra exactly on that day to see a candlelit night pilgrimage during Petra by night. Jordan is an ideal country for lovers of landmarks, culture and nature. It is absolutely safe throughout the country.

tom_profilIf you don’t have a rental car, we recommend you to choose a hotel in Wadi Musa somewhere near the visitor centre. Although Wadi Musa isn’t a big city, you will be tired after all day long, and the city is built on the hill as well. Anyway as we had a can, we choose a bit cheeper hotel bit away of the visitor centre – Seven Wonders |

When to visit Petra

Visiting city of Petra is possible all year round – it is a good idea to avoid the summer season though. The city is located in a desert area in the mountains where it is very dry. Be prepared for high temperatures in the summer, which will make difficult to walk on treks. The best time to visit Petra is early spring or late autumn. The temperatures are pleasant and as a bonus, you will avoid the greatest number of people.

The Sig and Treasury (Al Khazneh)

The Siq leads directly to the Treasury

Mornings and evenings can be very cold in Petra and on the other hand, the temperature can climb super high during the day. Prepare some warm clothes for the morning and some backpack for you to take off the layers. Most importantly, take plenty of water and we recommend taking your own snack as well. Several restaurants are on the premises, but the area is so large that it will be hard to guess when you come across one. Also, don’t forget to pack a sunscreen because the sun in Jordan can be pretty strong.

How to save on Petra tickets – Jordan Pass

We encourage every traveller to buy Jordan Pass. This is an entrance ticket package to more than 40 monuments throughout Jordan and entry visa fee the Kingdom of Jordan. If you buy Jordan Pass, you will save a lot of money. The ticket includes tickets to Petra and to other sights throughout the Jordan, and it is up to you to decide which one you choose to visit. The only condition is that you have to stay in Jordan for at least 3 nights.

If you are considering visiting Petra, then think about the other places Jordan can offer you. You can admire the ancient memorials of the ancient Babylonians, Romans, and Christians. Jordan also offers bathing in the Dead Sea, which is a great experience for many travellers and excursions to the beautiful desert, especially Wadi Rum. It would be a pity to visit only Petra and to miss the other beautiful places in Jordan.

How to plan your visit to Petra

As mentioned before, the stone city of Petra isn’t just a few known carved tombs in the rock, around which you will walk and you are done. Most of the territory of the former Kingdom of Nabataeans isn’t accessible for visitors. There are only a few routes where the most preserved monuments are located. Nabataeans’ tombs of the same character can also be found in Saudi Arabia. The city of Petra is so large that you cannot go through everything in a single day.

We recommend you to take at least 1.5 – 2 days for Petra. Therefore, it is important to plan the route carefully. One day, you can take a stroll through the most interesting sights you can find in the Petra valley. And the next day or at least a part of the day, visit a very interesting museum at the entrance. There you will find detailed information about the Nabataean culture and, among other things, how the tombs were built in Petra.

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Some tombs in Petra are really huge

You can see all the major sights in Petra in one day but get ready for about 15-18 km of walking, often walking up and down the stairs. Take comfortable shoes because you will probably get tired at the end of the day.

tom_profilDuring the visiting Petra, the local “businessmen” will offer you several times to ride a camel donkey. Believe that this is a pretty expensive thing here, and it’s not even a nice experience to get around on a camel through the crowds of tourists. If you really want to ride on a camel in Jordan, we recommend you take a trip to the Wadi Rum desert. Prices are much more favourable and the experience is much more authentic.

Get up early in the morning. Before you find yourself in the valley of the Nabataean Kingdom, you must pass a 2 km long gorge. When you get up at 6 o’clock in the morning, you will have enough time to reserve to avoid the crowds of tourists. Perhaps every visitor would like to make a photo of the Treasury (Al Khazneh), the main sight in Petra, without a huge crowd of people. About one million tourists visit Petra every year so count on the fact that there are many. Go to Petra early in the morning, ideally during the first hour after opening, and you’ll see that getting up early is really worth it.

Full day tour of Petra in Jordan 

Get up early in the morning and through the narrow gorge of The Sig (3), you will reach the main monument – Treasury (4). When you arrive early, you will be one of the first visitors and you will be there almost alone, with only a few local sellers.

Petra in Jordan Map

The locals will surely offer you a guide that takes you to the very top of the cliff, which is directly opposite the Treasury(Al Khazneh). There is a truly beautiful view of the entire sight. You can sit on the edge, have a tea and enjoy the growing sunlight illuminating an increasing part of the treasury. If you have time, we recommend that you pass this approximately 15-minute output. Believe that without a guide you won’t get there, the way up isn’t that simple. Do not forget to bargain for the price. We have managed to reduce the price for two people from the original 25 JOD to 10 JOD.

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The Monastery is probably the most beautiful tomb in the whole of Petra

When you get back down to the Treasury, take the main road towards the Amphitheater (6) but don´t go directly to it. As soon as the narrow valley begins to widen, turn from the main route to the left in the narrow way leading to High Place of Sacrifice (28). From here you will see a view of the whole valley. Getting here means going up a lot of stairs so you can go straight from the previous viewpoint to Treasury. A guide that takes you to the viewpoint will definitely offer you this shortcut to High Place of Sacrifice (28) for an extra charge. 

eva_profilEvery visitor is surely curious about what is inside the tombs in Petra. Unfortunately, most of them aren’t accessible but some are. At present, the tombs are empty and in most of them, there is only one room in which tombs were originally placed – in walls or on the floor. In some tombs, you can see holes in the walls where the coffins were originally placed. In one tomb we even found one family of local Bedouins who simply lived in this place.

From High Place of Sacrifice (28) then head out to Lion Monument (29) and you will see on your way a lot of interesting sights such as Garden Temple (30) or Triclinium (31). Thanks to this trail you will avoid the main route with a large number of tourists. The journey will take you to Qasr Al-Bint (19), where you will join the main road that most visitors take. Among other things, there are also two restaurants, so you can relax and replenish water and food supplies.

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Inside the tombs were the coffins – they are now empty

From the restaurants at the Archaeological Museum (22) go to Monastery (24). It is one of the largest and most preserved monuments in the whole City of Petra. Unfortunately, the way to it is quite long and full of endless stairs, but it is worth it. Once you get to the Monastery, go back down the same path down the valley. Here you can see the remnants of the Roman temple (17) or just walk along the Roman road around the Arc de Triomphe (18) towards the royal tombs (8-12). These tombs are one of the largest in Jordan but unfortunately, time left its marks on them.

At this point, you will have most of the sights in Petra. On the way back you can see the Amphitheater (6). If you are already tired, you should get to the horse-drawn cart before the Treasury (3) and get off to the exit. Prices are fixed here and you can find them in the morning at the visitor centre.

Petra by night – visit in candlelight

Plan your visit to Wadi Musa to stay here on Mondays, Wednesdays or Thursdays. These days it is possible to visit Petra (check the actual days Petra by Night here), more precisely The Sig (3) and the Treasury (4), even during the evening. The trip from the visitor centre directly to the Treasury (Al Khazneh) is lined with candles, and the trip itself is a great experience. Unfortunately, hundreds of other people will go with you.

Petra by Night

The Treasury is magical at night with candlelight

There are thousands of candles ready at the Treasury to give this place an unbelievable atmosphere. Here’s about a 20-minute program to hear about history, and the native Bedouins will play your traditional music. And the best at the end – Night Petra is part of a classic ticket (included in Jordan Pass too) so there is no need to pay more.

Have you already been in City of Petra in Jordan? Let us know in comments what do you think about it.

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