Petra Guide- A rose-red city half as old as time

Petra Guide- A rose-red city half as old as time

Carved directly into vibrant red, white, pink and sandstone cliff facade, the prehistoric Jordanian city of Petra was lost to the Western World for hundreds of years. In 1812 a Swiss explorer named Johannes Burckhardt set out to rediscover Petra. He dressed as an Arab and convinced his Bedouin guide to take him to the lost city.
After this, Petra became increasingly known in the West as a fascinating and beautiful ancient city and in 2007 was named one of the Seven New World Wonders.

The valley is over 6 km long and offers 15 sites. In total there are 8 trails in Petra. We spent half a day wandering around the lost city and followed the main trail as the most important sites are located alongside. It would be ideal to spend 1-2 days in Petra. This Petra guide will take you on a tour of the city that you can achieve in a day, with many valuable infos on the way.

Exploring to Petra is quite easy and you don’t need a local guide.

TIP : Make sure to collect the map together with your ticket- it contains all the directions and short descriptions of the sights.

Note : Don’t Forget to check our Jordan Travel Guide to make your Jordan tour unforgettable!

From the main entrance there is about one kilometer walk to Bab Al Siq- a gateway to the Siq.

There are horse carriages parked at the entrance that you can take all the way to The Treasury. But we highly recommend you don’t use them. The walk is stunning and not too long.

Siq is the main entrance to the city of Petra: a rose-red 1.2 km canyon with 3 to 12 m width and up to 80 m height. The naturally split rocks forming the canyon where decorated by Nabataeans and represent mostly their gods.

The Treasury

After 30 minutes walk through the beautiful Siq, the magnificent facade of almost 40 m high Treasury comes in sight. This is the most known part of Petra and it’s simply breathtaking. This is also a spot where you can buy water and rest at one of the small shops on the side admiring this unreal view.

Entering inside the Treasury is forbidden. However, there is another point from which you can admire the view. It’s illegal, but still allowed and it doesn’t damage the site in any way.

For a not-so-small charge the locals will guide you to the left of the Treasury, through a route up and around the mountain that arrives on the rock facing directly the temple from above. It’s definitely the most picturesque spot in Petra.

TIP : Bargaining is a common practice in Jordan. We lowered the price of this hike from 10 JOD each to total of 10 JOD for both.

Back on Tracks

Following the main trail to the right of Treasury you will pass by other incredible sights. Some of the structures are accessible but you are not allowed to climb. 

Walking into The Faros Valley, take a short stop to admire The Theater carved into the side of the mountain auditorium with room to accommodate 4000 spectators. 

Further on you’ll pass by The Street of Facades, a row of monumental Nabataean’s tombs. You can walk off the main trail and hike few of them. Some of those like the Urn Tomb which we climbed to you can enter. Inside space however is not as impressive as the outside mountain carvings.

Note : Speaking of Nabataeans, did you read about our Mars-like experience in Wadi Rum Desert?

Making Your Way Up

Back on the main trail you’ll pass The Colonnaded Street, a principal shopping street of Petra and The Great Temple, a 2 level structure dating from first century BC. This temple remained hidden under dust and rubbles for almost 2 millenniums and was discovered again in the 1992. 

TIP : You might be tempted to ride this part of Petra on a camel as it’s almost 3 km walk under the sun. Please don’t. Animals at the site are treated poorly and are overworked. 

Right at the end of The Faros Valley you will pass the Temple of Dushares and before the road will start turning right, your path will be blocked by men with donkeys. Those men will try to convince you to ride them all the way up to The Monastery. They will say that it’s mostly stairs to climb and donkeys are used to the road. They even tried to convince us that we wouldn’t make it before sunset, claiming that the walk from there will take two hours and donkey ride will shorten it to 30 minutes.

Do NOT listen to them and do NOT ride the donkeys. The whole way up took us 30-40 minutes (not 2 hours as they claimed) and we stopped many times on the way to take pictures. It was quick and easy exercise and if you have made it so far, you won’t have problems to finish the trail by yourself.
Also, on the way up and back down, we walked past few tourists on donkeys and let me tell you that it looked dangerous and super unpleasant! The way those animals put their hooves insecurely on the steep and slippery steps… No thank you I’m much more comfortable taking those steps by myself!

A 47m mountain carved into a temple called- the Monastery
A 47m mountain carved into a temple called – the Monastery.

The Monastery

Hidden high in the hills, the Monastery is one of the most stunning structures in Petra. Similar in style to Treasury but far bigger (47 m high and 50 m wide). The best time to hike to the Monastery is late afternoon, as the golden light makes it most photogenic. There is a cave café on the opposite of the site: the perfect spot to rest after the hike and admire this incredible structure. 

We must admit that we went up the temple. That being said, we do not recommend to do it as it’s dangerous and forbidden (which we didn’t know at the time, as we were invited to do so by one of the nice locals that joined us in the café). 

Together with him we climbed the left side of the mountain all the way up to the top of the Monastery. You can see some carved steps on the side and for sure there’ll be few crazy adventures (like us) waving from the top, but do not take that risk. 

Enjoy a well-deserved Sunset

On your way out do not rush, even if the closing time of the site is approaching. We were almost running towards the exit as it says that the site closes at 7 PM, when 3 different locals told us on the way back not to worry about closing time: nobody will start chasing us out once 7 PM arrives, and that we should stay for the sunset as it’s so beautiful over Petra.

That last man even stopped his horse and walked with us for a while showing the best place to climb up to watch the sunset. And so we made our way up to The Urn Tomb. We sat on the edge in front of the temple and watch the sun set in the distance.

Shortly after we arrived, one of the local seller joined us and we had a nice conversation about the country, its people and its traditions. As we visited Jordan during Ramadan, as soon as the sun set behind the mountain, our Jordanian friend lit up a cigarette and told us told us about the new ways younger Muslims approach the religious period. He said that as he was standing in the heat all day for his job. So he could not restrain himself from drinking water. Therefore he made the decision to fast on something else that gave him pleasure and enjoyment- cigarettes.

When To Go

The best time to visit Petra in Jordan is from May to June and from September to October. During those summer months the weather is beautiful and dry and the temperature is hot but bearable. Have in mind that the nights are usually much colder than the days, temperature will dance from up to 35 Celsius during the day to roughly 10 Celsius during the night.

Note : During the winter months Petra experiences lots of floods and the whole site gets evacuated and is closed for a few hours or even days. Be careful not to go on a rainy day! 

Jordan During Ramadan

We traveled to Jordan at the beginning of June and arrived in the middle of Ramadan- the Islamic holy month when for the whole period Muslims fast from the sunrise to sunset and restrained themselves from any pleasure or enjoyment. During Ramadan, some shops and restaurants are closed during the day and locals basically start living after sunset. 

At first, We worried. Will it be hard? Will we be able to find water and food during the day? How will it affect our travel?

It turned out we couldn’t have picked better time. We didn’t have any problems with finding places to eat and buy refreshments, the locals were extremely open and welcoming and didn’t bother them that we do not follow their tradition. And there were fewer tourists. 

How many days to stay in Petra

You can visit the most important sites in one day (or even half day as we did) so we recommend staying one night. 

TIP : Each Monday Wednesday and Thursday you can experience Petra by night when countless candles are placed in front of the Treasury and you can soak in the energy of the place accompanied by soft traditional music. Petra by night starts at 20:30, last two hours and you need a separate ticket for it. 

Wondering what else to do in Jordan? Why not swim upstream of a 500 Million years canyon called Wadi Mujib!

Entrance tickets

The entrance to Petra is 50 JOD (approximately 62 EUR) for one day. Visiting for 2 days has a better value as the price increases only by 5 JOD and cost in total 55 JOD (approximately 68 EUR). Children under 12 are admitted free of charge. 

Petra by night cost 17 JOD (approximately 21 EUR) and it is also free for children under 10. 

Note : You need to have your passport with you to buy entrance tickets! 

Is Petra Safe?

Yes! Like the whole country visiting Petra is very safe. Locals are very welcoming and kind. 

Out of respect for their culture we recommend you dress modestly and in accordance to their traditions. Cover your shoulders and avoid shorts or miniskirts- although it is not required.

How to get to Petra

The best option to travel around Jordan is by rented car. The roads are in great conditions and gasoline is cheap. We highly recommend ACE car rental, we had great experience with them and they have very competitive prices. 

Rent a car in Jordan: Ace Rental Company

Hotels around Petra

All Petra hotels are located in Wadi Musa, a perfect location for exploring the site. Major hotel websites offer a variety of hotels from budget to luxurious options.

Find all hotels in Wadi Musa / Petra on

We recommend: The Old Village Hotel & ResortPetra Guest House Hotel

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