Ultimate 2020 First Timers Travel Guide to Petra
No trip to Jordan is complete without a visit to Petra. Any type of traveler from children to adult with any kind of interests will be amazed to see this impressive caved town hidden in the valley of Wadi Musa. Petra is indeed one of the most incredible sights in the world, and it is no wonder that people come from all over the planet to see it with their own eyes. A walk through Petra is just what you need to understand men’s ability to turn barren rocks into a majestic wonder.
A visit to Petra is one of those things that you have to add to your bucket list since it will certainly complete your experience as a traveler.
For me, Petra, without doubt, is the most wonderful site I have seen during my long life of travel.
Since its discovery in the year 1812, by the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, Petra has been attracting the interest of everyone. In 1929, a project to excavate and survey Petra was launched and ever since its popularity has not stopped increasing. In 1985, the rock city of Petra was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and in the year 2000 the site was named one of the “Seven New Wonders of the World,” leading to a rapid increase in tourism.
This archaeological site has touched over one million visitors in the year 2019 alone.
Now, if you are planning a day trip to Petra, what I’m going to write here will give you some essential tips to best organize your visit to this archaeological site in Jordan.
How much does a Jordan visa cost and how much is the entrance fee to Petra?
The first most important thing you should do is buy the Jordan pass. Yes, don’t hesitate to buy the Jordan Pass if you have a plan to visit Petra.
Jordan Pass covers the entry visa and gives access to Jordan’s most popular tourist attractions, including the Petra archaeological site. The Jordan Pass costs 70 JOD and the one day ticket to Petra costs 50 JOD. If you think about how the Jordan pass includes the visa which is about 40 JOD you have already saved so much money. I highly recommend you buy the Jordan Pass online before your departure in order to avoid queues upon your arrival at the Queen Alia airport.
Take your passport with you. Children under 12 years old enter free of charge. Keep the ticket safe with you until the end.
How long is the walk in Petra and can you see Petra in one day?
Know that Petra is a huge site that you could easily spend most of a week exploring. In fact, this is the reason why they sell one, two, or three-day tickets. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time and sadly, we had to be content with a day visit. To date, I’m not happy with that decision. Petra is something beyond any imagination and worth spending money and time for it. Never again will you see something so glorious!. But if your main aim is just to walk through the entire Siq (the small canyon) and reach the Treasury (known as Al Khazneh) to take a few pictures, then one day ticket is more than enough.
Read Also: Things to know before you go to Jordan
When is the best time to visit Petra and what’s the best way to explore Petra?
Spring (March, April and May) is said to be the best time to visit Petra since the temperature remains pleasant. Summer can be extremely hot and winter could be unpleasant for some. As for us, we went to Petra in January and the weather was super fine. The temperature was around 18°C. What can I say? Weather is strange nowadays and the seasons seem to no longer exist. Just hope the rain stays away.
Vising Petra during the winter also means no crowd.
There are different ways to explore Petra. You can walk, you can do it by donkey or horse ride or even with a horse cart. For me, the best way to explore Petra is walking which I believe is a great option if you want to stop and take good photos here and there. At the entrance of the archaeological site, many will approach you as guides. If you have enough money, there is nothing wrong with hiring one at least until the treasury but after that you can explore it on your own.
Is Petra safe to visit and is there a dress code to visit Petra?
If we are talking about crime, there is nothing to be concerned about when visiting Petra. There are policemen everywhere making you feel safe and comfortable.
We found a phone in Petra and before we could ask around, a Jordanian man came to retrieve it on behalf of the lady who had lost it. This experience made us understand that they want to make you feel safe and that they will never risk ruining the tourism in Petra for this sort of silly thing. Anyways, remember that bad things can happen anytime in anywhere.
While planning your trip to Petra, there is something you should remember guys. Petra is a rock city, meaning it is made of natural rocks. As such, there’s no shortage of surprises.
A 35-year-old Italian tourist of my same region who was visiting Petra, died in a freak accident on 20/02/2020 after a rock fell on him. That is a real disgrace.
This means you must pay attention. Don’t climb everywhere and most importantly listen to the locals and let them guide you. Life is more than anything else.
There is no dress code for Petra but let me suggest that you wear a good pair of shoes and a backpack. They will give you a great hiking experience. A hat is helpful if you are visiting Petra during the summer season.
Where to eat in Petra?
Apart from a couple of snack stalls located inside the archaeological site of Petra, the restaurants serving tourists are in Wadi Musa. Therefore, if you want to have a proper meal, plan ahead. Because it is easy to end up skipping lunch once you get into the old city.
Most hotels in Wadi Musa offer great dining services. If you are looking for good Jordanian food at a better price I highly recommend the restaurant of the hotel where we stayed: Petra Aretas Hotel. You can dine there even if you are not sleeping there. In any case, there are dozens and dozens of restaurants in Wadi Musa, many of which are clustered on Tourism Street right near Petra Visitor Centre.
Petra by night.
Visiting Petra after sunset is said to be one of the most wonderful experiences. We didn’t try it but I can imagine that exploring the rock city by candle light is spectacular. The Petra by night group experience is held three nights a week, every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. It starts at 20:30 by the Visitor Centre and lasts around two hours.
During the Petra by Night visit you are taken through the Siq (the small canyon) to the Treasury. Once you reach the Treasury, you are asked to be seated. You are then entertained by the Bedouins with local music and dramas about Petra and the Nabateans. The Petra by night tour ends with the traditional Bedouin mint tea.
The admission fee for Petra by Night is 17 JD (22 Euros) and children under 10 are admitted free of charge. Tickets can be bought at the Visitor Centre in Petra until 16:00 or you can ask your hotel management to buy the tickets for you. Remember that the day visit tickets don’t cover the night visits. It’s an excursion that you pay for separately from your day admission ticket.
Also remember that candle light won’t give you a clear idea of what Petra really is. One thing I’d highly recommend is to visit Petra by day first. That way, you won’t feel as though you’re missing out on something. Then if you have time available you can also try the Petra by night experience.
Here is another tip. if you’re already inside Petra, you can actually stay and watch them set up for Petra by Night, and then just buy your ticket once it starts. If you want to take some good pictures of the glowing lanterns before the crowds arrives then don’t miss this opportunity.
Al-Khazneh Treasury in Petra
Al-Khazneh is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Petra. And indeed when the Siq opens onto Al-Khazneh you just feel amazed. Compared to all other the facades in Petra, Al-Khazneh is well preserved, probably because of its position since it is surrounded by high rocks which protected it from wind or rain.
The purpose of the Treasury is unclear. Some archaeologists believed it to be a temple, while others thought it was a place to store documents and some others say that it was a tomb. However it became to be known as Al-Khazneh, or the Treasury, in the early 19th century by the Bedouins as they believed it contained treasures hidden in the 3.5 m facade urn by the Egyptian pharaoh while pursuing the Israelites.
The Treasury consists of three floors: first floor, ground floor and an underground one. It is 25.30 meters wide and 39.1 meters high. Click here to see the recreation of Al-Khazneh.
Once you could go inside the Treasury in Petra but nowadays, since tourism has increased exponentially, they stopped allowing tourists to go inside. Don’t worry about that. Standing in front of it is already a magnificent experience that you will never forget. Yes, it’s truly stunning and amazing.
Where to stay in Petra?
Petra is an archaeological site and the accommodations hosting tourists are all in Wadi Musa, the city where one finds the archaeological site of Petra. As mentioned above we stayed at Petra Aretas Hotel and I would definitely recommend it. The rooms were very clean, the refurbishment was great, and the food was excellent. Another reason why I would recommend Petra Aretas Hotel is that hospitality reigns supreme here. Believe me; you will be surprised to see their warm hospitality and generosity. They are really very serious about putting you at ease. Let me say it was the best customer service we’ve ever experienced!
Animal mistreatment in Petra.
The lost city of Petra offers tourists the chance to explore by donkey, horse, or camel. This is definitely fascinating because you really feel like you are taken back in time, but there is a dark side hidden behind this. Animals are forced to take the tourists here and there under the hot sun, while they’re deprived of water and shade. They repeat the journey over and over again until nightfall.
Moreover, we often saw the handlers whipping and beating the animals continuously. You end up with leaving this beautiful ancient treasure with a heavy heart. Action needs to be taken against this. Petra must stop harming animals.
10 interesting facts about Petra.
- Apostle Paul was arrested by King Aretas in Petra after he converted to Christianity.
- Petra got hugely popular after the movies Indiana Jones, The Mummy Returns and the Last Crusade.
- Petra had an ingenious water channel system which was able to support the 30,000 citizens that are believed to have occupied Petra.
- The Nabataeans worshipped the sun as a source of light and life, and Petra’s most sacred spaces are designed to align with solar patterns.
- The Bedouins live around the ruins of Petra and they have a different access point. Few Bedouins still live inside the historic site of Petra. Most of them are working in the tourism industry.
- The B’doul tribe is the biggest Bedouin tribe in Petra. They used to live in Petra and claim to be descended from the Nabataeans.
- In 2016, archaeologists discovered a large and previously unknown monumental structure buried beneath the sands of Petra. Until now only 15% of Petra has been explored by archaeologists. The rest remains to be discovered.
- The treasure has never been found in Petra.
- Petra is a Greek word for stone.
- More than 400 children work in the tourism industry in Petra.
April 29, 2020 at 3:06 pm
It looks absolutely stunning here in a very unique way. It’s very sad how someone had died tho! It is also good to know that under 12s go free.
April 29, 2020 at 3:15 pm
Thank you for such a visually stimulating post that provided great information about traveling to this gorgeous destination. Petra looks beautiful and rich with culture and history. I will most certainly save this as a reference for when I have the opportunity to travel to Jordan, hopefully sometime soon.
April 29, 2020 at 8:49 pm
I didnt know there was a thing: Jordan pass that covers the visa and attractions. Ive seen these passes before but usually just for museums. Also, I thought Petra was one day…that is extremely useful to know!
April 29, 2020 at 9:54 pm
Those photos actually gave me the shivers. What an amazing place. I really have to put Petra on my list .. it just looks so amazing. Almost out of this world. It’s amazing that it’s stood the test of time, and is as preserved as it is. The colors are just breathtaking.
April 30, 2020 at 1:29 pm
I was planning to go to Jordan this month, so upset i won’t be able to check out Petra this year. I’m so glad i came across your post, these tips are super helpful! I’ve heard about the animal abuse that happens here, so sad.
April 30, 2020 at 4:30 pm
I was in Petra and Wadi Rum just a few months ago and I was also amazed by the site. Thanks for the 10 facts about Petra, very interesting ones! My name is also somehow close to the name Petra and yes, being Greek I can confirm it means stone. 🙂
April 30, 2020 at 6:07 pm
Petra is on my bucket list and your guide has made me dream more of visiting Petra. It’s great you didn’t sugar coat any part of your guide. I think this is very useful for travel bloggers to let people know everything so they are prepared for it.
May 1, 2020 at 8:41 pm
The treasure has never been found you say? Guess I’ll have to move Petra up on my to-visit list! 🙂 Your pictures are stunning. I think i agree with you that walking would be the way to really see Petra and embrace it!
May 2, 2020 at 4:03 pm
It is a great post, so many useful & helpful tips! Petra is on my list for a long time, hope to visit this ancient city one day. I would love to take pictures of the valley of Wadi Musa. I wouldn’ t like to take a donkey or horse ride to visit this place. I prefer doing it on foot. It seems to be a perfect idea to visit Petra by night.