Last Updated on 10/23/23 by Rose Palmer
There are many wonderful things to do and see in Jordan, but for most, a trip to the Hashemite Kingdom in the Middle East is not complete without a visit to the rose city of Petra.
Petra’s beautiful treasury was made famous by the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. And while this structure is the face of both Petra and Jordan, there is much more to see here than just this impressive facade carved out of the mountainside.
Petra was built by the Nabateans about 2500 years ago as their showcase city at the center of their vast trading empire. But most of what is left to see today are the remains of their rock cut tombs and temples.
When the Romans conquered this area, they added their architectural style to the living part of the city and those elements are also visible as you walk along the colonnaded street. A few hundred years later, the Byzantine Christians also left their mark with a church whose intricate floor mosaics can till be seen today.
Petra is often called the lost city because it was forgotten by all but the local Bedouin until it was rediscovered in 1812. Today, Petra is known world wide and has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site and also one of the Seven New Wonders of the World.
I have been to Petra twice in the last few years and am sharing what I learned from these trips to help you make your first visit to Petra memorable and hassle free.
My tips on how to visit Petra
1.How to plan a trip to Petra
Anytime I plan a trip to a new location, I always start with the official tourism board website. They will have all the most up to date information on what there is to see, the current opening hours, new places to eat and options for places to stay.
2. Get the Jordan Pass
If you are seeing a number of different attractions in Jordan along with Petra, then consider the Jordan Pass which comes with entrance options to Petra for 1, 2 or 3 consecutive days. In addition, getting the Jordan Pass also waives the tourist entry visa fee if your stay in Jordan is 4 days or longer.
3. Do you need a guide in Petra
I did a lot of reading and research about Petra before I went and also watched a lot of documentaries on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and National Geographic. As a result, I didn’t need a guide to tell me what I was seeing and knew exactly what I wanted to see and do.
As you go through the Petra Visitor Center area, there will be guides there that will offer you their services. It’s up to you if you want to hire one.
4. When are Petra opening hours
Official visiting hours vary by season: summer is usually 6 am to 6 pm and winter 6 am to 4 pm so make your plans accordingly. Though when I was there in November, I was not chased out at “closing time”.
5. When is the best time of year to go to Petra
I suggest going off season or shoulder season to avoid the crowds. Petra is a “must see” stop for land tours in the region and also for cruises. My first visit was toward the end of November which was shoulder season, and it was not as busy and also cooler. On my second visit in early October (peak season) Petra was much busier and it was also quite a lot warmer.
6. How many days in Petra
I know day trips to Petra are popular, but try to plan your itinerary so that you can spend more than one day at Petra. Most tours seem to only spend a day here, which I don’t think is enough time, especially if you want to do some of the longer hikes to the viewpoints, or if you want to focus on photography.
There is a lot to see and take in. I was there for most of two days on my first visit and I could have had another day just to explore more of the nooks and crannies at leisure and to have the time to also visit Little Petra. If you like hiking, three days in Petra will give you plenty of time to go off the beaten path.
I also visited Petra for just one day on my second visit and was able to explore the major sights in the time I had. Still, if all you have is a day trip, use my guide on how to see Petra if you have one or two days to get the most out of your time there.
7. Is one day in Petra enough
On my second visit to the old city of Petra, I had just one day and was able to see most of the main sights including the Monastery. My full post about how to visit Petra also gives tips for a 1 day Petra itinerary.
8. How to do Petra at night
Try to schedule your visit to Petra so that you can also take part in the Petra by Night event which normally occurs every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday evening. You will need to purchase a separate ticket for the Petra by Night event at the Petra Visitor Center ticket office.
Note that there is no limit on how many tickets are sold so it could be very busy or hardly busy at all depending on the time of year. You also need a valid day ticket to Petra to purchase a Petra by Night ticket.
9. Is it worth seeing Petra by Night
If you are thinking about doing Petra by Night, read the Trip Advisor reviews to get a sense of what others think about it. I don’t usually pay much attention to those kinds of reviews, but I think that in this case, it helps with managing the expectations.
Seeing the Siq and the Treasury lit up by hundreds of candles is unique. But keep in mind you will be doing this at the same time as hundreds of others alongside you.
10. Best place to stay near Petra
If you are staying over night, choose a hotel in the town of Wadi Musa that is close to the Petra entrance so you can easily walk to and from the site. I’ve stayed at the Petra Movenpick twice and loved my stay each time. The entrance to this luxury property is right across the street from the Petra Visitor Center.
Besides its ideal location, the resort also had great food, a very nice pool, a spa, and very comfortable rooms.
11. What to wear in Petra
Wear really comfortable shoes and clothing – you will be doing A LOT of walking. It’s almost 2 miles from the Petra Visitor Center to the Treasury. Then it’s another mile from the Treasury along the main trail to the Basin Restaurant at the end of the valley past all the major sites.
There will be more walking if you want to explore any of the tombs in the Street of Facades or the Royal Tombs.
If you want to take the trail up to see the Monastery, that will be another 800 or so stairs and one mile of walking uphill. Then, to get back to the visitor centre and the hotel, you have to back track.
To minimize the walking, there are electric carts available to take you from the Petra Visitor Center to the Treasury. At the Treasury and throughout the rest of Petra, the Bedouin offer carriage, camel and donkey rides. You will want to haggle for the price if you choose to take any of these.
12. Best month to visit Petra
When planning your trip, kow what temperatures to expect throughout the day. When I visited in November I had temperatures from the low 50’s at night to low 60’s during the day which was quite comfortable for me when I dressed in layers. Since November was also shoulder season, Petra was not as busy.
My second visit was in October, and it was much warmer so I did not need a jacket, but did need a hat to keep the sun off my face. I find that wearing lightweight long sleeve shirts and pants easily protects me from too much sun exposure. October was also peak travel season and Petra was much more crowded.
13. Best time of day to visit Petra
Start your day early to avoid the tour crowds. Walking through the Siq in silence provides a sense of the awe that travelers would have experienced 2000 years ago as they moved through this fissure and got their first dramatic glimpse of the Treasury. Another option is to go in the afternoon once all the tour groups have gone in.
14. Is the Monastery worth seeing
If you have the time, going to see the Monastery is definitely worth it.
I think the hike to the Monastery is best done in the afternoon when the path is more shaded and the long rays of the afternoon sun turn the Monastery a beautiful golden color. The disadvantage to this is that it will be more crowded at that time of day.
15. Bring a hiking stick
I like to pack a collapsible hiking stick in my backpack in case I need it for steep sections on a hike. This was especially helpful on the hike up to the Monastery where the steps were often uneven.
16. Stick to the official trails
When you reach the Treasury, the Bedouin will offer to guide you to an overlook for that popular selfie with the Treasury as a backdrop, for a fee. This is not one of the official hikes to the high viewpoints of the Treasury. This climb leads up the side of the cliff next to the Treasury and puts you on a ledge across from the Treasury that is almost level with the top of the columns.
Even though many were doing this when I was there, I chose not to take part. The trail did not look safe and appeared to be a makeship path up to the ledge. I did not want to help support and promote something that was not an official part of this UNESCO protected site.
I did take the Al-Kubtha trail to the high viewpoint which took longer but I did not need a guide to do this. It was also not as crowded and provided wonderful vies of all of Petra as I hiked up.
17. Can you get water in Petra
Pack water (though you can buy bottles from vendors inside). You will be doing a lot of walking and it will most likely be very warm. Or you can just plan to buy water and other drinks inside Petra.
18. Are there places to eat in Petra
There are lots of cafes / kiosks inside Petra where you can get snacks and a variety of drinks. Or you can pack snacks if you don’t want to eat at any of the cafes. The main spot for food is the Basin Restaurant at the end of the valley.
In the evening once your time inside Petra is done, consider a cooking class at the Petra Kitchen where you can learn how to prepare traditional Jordanian dishes and then eat the fruits (and veggies) of your labors.
The Petra Kitchen is just a short 5 minute walk from the Petra Visitor Center.
19. Are there toilets in Petra
Yes, there are good bathroom facilities inside Petra. It is common to leave a small tip for the attendants who keep the facilities clean.
20. Is there shopping in Petra
The local Bedouin are friendly and continuously vie for your attention (pester?) to buy something or to ride a donkey or camel. Some people find this annoying while others like the opportunity to interact with them. Some of the vendors can be quite pushy and aggressive. I just politely say no and keep moving on.
21. Do you need money in Petra
While you may be able to charge purchases at the restaurant or the cafe’s inside Petra, any purchases from the Bedouin or any rides in carriages, or on donkeys or camels will need to be paid for in cash. Don’t forget that a little haggling is expected when you make a purchase.
You’ll want lots of small bills for shopping and for tips. I always keep some cash on hand in a zippered pocket in my pants so that I don’t have to take out my wallet to pay for an item.
22. Can you take pictures in Petra
Photography is allowed in Petra and is a popular aspect of any trip to this famous site. I have a post, 13 Petra Photography Tips for All Skill Levels, that can help you get your best photos while you are there.
23. Visit Little Petra
As the name implies, Little Petra is a much smaller, more intimate version of Petra. Little Petra is about a 15 minute drive from the Petra Visitor Center and is normally not as busy as the main Petra site.
24. Visit the Petra Museum
Just outside the visitor’s center is the beautiful, new Petra Museum. Since the museum is open later than the archeological park this is a good options for something to do after your Petra visit.
I really enjoyed looking at the exhibits here which provided a lot of information about the Nabateans and increased my understanding of what I had seen inside the archeological site.
25. Enjoy the Petra scenery
Finally, build in time to just sit and take in the views in this ancient city, especially after a long hike like the one to the Monastery, or when you get that first glimpse of the Treasury that will take your breath away.
Petra is a very special place unlike anywhere else in this world and it should be enjoyed, not just tackled.
If you are planning on visiting Petra, I hope you found these travel tips helpful.
Please note that my second visit to Petra was hosted by the Jordanian tourism board. All content and opinions are my own.
Oher stories about my Jordan travels you may also like:
How to experience the Wadi Rum desert: Finding Mars on Earth at a Wadi Rum Bedouin Camp
How and why you should also visit Little Petra: Why I Was Thrilled to Finally Visit Little Petra
How to swim in the Dead Sea in style: Swimming in the Dead Sea in Style – Tips for a Dead Sea Visit
Thanks for visiting.