The ancient site of Petra Jordan is an absolute Jewel of architecture and history. I want you to make the best of your time there. So I have written this guide to help you plan your visit to Petra with: how to get there, how to explore, best Petra monuments, off the beaten path ideas, general tips... and of course a Petra Map to have a better understanding of the Unesco site layout.
Navigate back to the online Jordan Travel Guide.
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MAP OF PETRA - monuments & facilities
A lot of people are wondering how big the site is, if it is easy to find your path, etc.
First, the main path is very easy to follow, do not worry about getting lost on it!
Second, I have drawn a map of Petra for you.
This Petra Map is not perfect with some of the dimensions. And it does not list absolutely every rock to look at (LOL) and I think I am missing a toilet but this gives you a general idea of the layout.
Further in the article you can see pictures of the main sites.
Here are links to other Petra Maps for you to get a better feel of what it looks like:
- Simplified Map of Petra by On the Luce
- A copy of the map provided to Petra visitors
How to get to Petra - Tours & options
Petra is located in the South half of Jordan (number 10 on my map)
Driving times inside Jordan
- Amman to Petra - 3 hours
- Aqaba to Petra - 2h (from the Red Sea)
- Petra to Wadi Rum - 1h40
- Petra to Dead Sea North Hotels - 3h
Driving times from Israel (don't forget to add border crossing time)
Roads to Petra are in good condition. You can do a self-drive. Compare rentalcar.com
But if you want to just sit back and relax, there are plenty of tours allowing you to visit Petra from different cities.
1 day Petra Jordan Tour
Private return trip to Petra Jordan within the day, and enough time to have a good view of the main sites
Overnight Petra Tours with night in Wadi Rum
A great 2 day overview trip with Petra, a night in the desert, the Read sea and a float in the Dead Sea. You can do all locations in depth but you will enjoy the many beautiful landscapes of Jordan.
3 day Jordan experience from Amman
For a less intense experience and nights in hotels, check out this 3 day tour cvering Petra, Wadi Rum, Madaba and the dead sea
Multiday Jordan exploration from Jerusalem
Because of the driving time, it is better to plan a multiday trip from Israel. This will cover all the main sites: Petra, Wadi Rum, the Amman Citadel and the amazing roman ruins of Jerash.
or if you are just on a stop over, you can book transfer from Amman Airport to Petra and a return - check it out
BEST TIME TO VISIT PETRA JORDAN
Opening hours of the Petra site
Opening hours to visit Petra are from 6am to 6pm during the summer and from 6am to 4 pm in winter.
To avoid the crowds and the heat, I strongly recommend making the effort to be there at 6am. You will get a chance to see the Treasury with almost no one around.
For information on entrance fees, check directly on the official Petra website.
Best time for some places
- I know you want to sleep in during your holidays but make the effort. Having the Siq and the Treasury almost to yourself because you are one of the crazy want who was at the entrance at 6am will increase the feeling of mystery and your experience of it all. And bonus, it will be a lot cooler.
- Check the live webcam of the Treasury before living for Jordan to have an idea of when the Treasury will be fully lit (in May it was around 10am).
- Daylight in the Siq finishes one to 2 hours before sunset
- There are no really nice sunset spots inside Petra. However there is a municipal park outside with nice sunset views over the Petra area.
PETRA monuments and things to see
Below is a short description of the things to see a.k.a. the main monuments to admire once in the Petra site. You can find them on the Petra map above.
The Petra Siq
The Siq is a gorge, a 80 meter split in the rock. It is the main road to the city of Petra. It ends at the Treasury. It is roughly 1.2km long.
Early morning you can be almost alone inside and it is a phenomenal experience!
I recommend walking it, but you can also take a horse or a horse carriage.
Check out my experience and photos of the Siq
The Petra Treasury
The Treasury is the most famous monument in Petra due to its 40 meter high facade with detailed ornaments
Check out my experience and photos of the Treasury
The Petra Monastery
The Monastery, located 850 steps up, is a 48m high and 47m wide facade.
Although not as decorated, it is very impressive. See the size of the 2 people at the entrance on the photo!!!
Check out my experience and photos of the Monastery
The Royal Tombs
Located above the Lower road the royal tombs include the Urn Tomb with its many arcs and the Silk tomb
Check out my experience and photos of the Royal Tombs
Street of Facades
On both sides of the lower road, where the Siq widens, are many decorated Nabataean burial facades
Check out my experience and photos of the Street of Facades
Petra Temple - Garden Temple
Located in Wadi Farasa, The garden temple has a large retaining wall creating a water reservoir
Check out my experience and photos of Wadi Al Farasa
High Place of Sacrifice
The high place of sacrifice is a high central point in Petra. The ruins are not fascinating but the view of the landscape and cities are stunning
Check out my experience and photos of the High Place of Sacrifice
See how big it is. If you climb to the high place of sacrifice, don't forget to bring binoculars to see the extent of Petra. Check out my article about the best compact binoculars for travel.
The 6 meter wide street was rebuilt in 106 BC with its column on each side. The Jerash colonnated street is in better condition
Other Petra Monuments
The Visit Petra site also has some short descriptions of the secondary monuments in Petra
Petra world Heritage site
Petra was added to the Unesco list in 1985. Do you collect Unesco sites? Gary from Everything Everywhere is listing all the Unesco World Heritage sites he is visiting. This is quite impressive.
Petra is a must see on any Jordan itinerary
HOW TO VISIT PETRA - Walking & Options
Walking in Petra - Distance & Difficulty
- Gate to Siq: 15 minutes when you are very excited and full of stamina in the morning, 25 minutes when back after a long day walking (remember it is going up towards from the Siq to the visitor centre)
- To walk through the Siq: 30 min at an average speed. Of course if you stop every meter to take a picture it will take more
- Visitor centre to Museum: 4km
- Visitor centre to Monastery: 6km
- Going up to the Monastery: the path start with a little bit of sand and then I counted roughly 850 steps to get to the top (see my post about the climb) and it took me less than a hour (although I am overweight). Attention no toilets up there!
- Going up to the high place of sacrifice – can go via steps from the street of façade, or via wadi al-Farasa (Renaissance tomb, Lion fountain…) by yourself or hire a guide and mix it with the Madras trail. It is as steep as going up to the Monastery
Visiting Petra with kids
If you are wondering what you could actually see if visiting Petra with kids, check out this article by the Flashpacking family. They share about their experience walking to the various sections of the Unesco site and answer some FAQs.
Other Options - horses, camels, donkeys...
One day walking in Petra and you will be quite beaten. Other options to across the site include Horses, Carriage, Donkeys and Camels. I personally have not used them for the following reasons:
- I hate bargaining and their initial price is unreasonable,
- the idea of being on a donkeys on those steps did not reassure me at all,
- I wanted to challenge myself,
- I had read some reviews that only the camels are properly treated.
And I saw a kid hitting a donkey with a metallic chain, we stopped him but not for long. I also saw teenagers being brutal with dogs. Twice I had dogs come and sleep next to me very quietly. I had the feeling they knew that next to tourists they were protected. However, I believe some treat their animals very well and there is a place where you can report abuse. So check how the animal is doing before getting on him.
Note: a complimentary horse ride is included in the entrance but you have to give a tip to the owner. Discover it on foot on the way in and keep your ride for the return
VISITING PETRA Off the beaten track
There are plenty of trails to experience Petra off the beaten track. So if you have more than a day, consider hiring a guide to discover some other parts of the area.
An example is the Madras trail, a not so long trail that brings you to one of the main sight in Petra, the high place of sacrifice.
I met a group which did a 9h long hike in the mountains around Petra. They really enjoyed it. So check what is possible with a guide.
Staying healthy in Petra
Walking under the desert sun is exhausting here are some advices to help you through the day
- Rehydration: eat salty chips and drink juice – I read that before going and I must admit I was amazed. This is really efficient.
- Clothes: Cover your skin and you head. People always think that it will be less hot if they are less covered. But a light cotton is so much more confortable!
- Drink lots of water - Note that you can buy it along the way
- Avoid the hottest hours of the day – on the first day I stayed in the cave of the bar in front of the monastery during those hours and I really felt better afterwards.
Accommodation in Petra
2 OPTIONS to stay in Petra Jordan:
- Stay in the town of Wadi Musa, at a walking distance of the entrance
Pros: Can walk to the entrance early morning, close to all the restaurant at all prices
For example, I stayed at the Petra Palace Hotel. The location was very practical as I wanted to be one of the first ones to enter the site in the morning. Check availability and rates.
- Stay outside of the city on higher grounds
Pros: Incredible views over the regions, great for sunset - if you are looking for resort style hotels, this is where they are.
For example, you can stay at the Marriott Petra Hotel with its amazing views (see photos via the link). Check availability and rates.
What to wear in Petra and Jordan
Petra is a touristic site, so quite open to the western ways. However I think it is better to cover knees and shoulders by respect to their culture. And it will protect you against the harsh sun. I recommend
- Tops with technical fabric that allow breathing considering how much you are going to sweat, or a light shirts or blouse.
- Light pants such as:
- Good Summer hiking shoes (unless you visit in December to February, then normal hiking shoes.
I have had Jack Wolfskin shoes for years, since I've lived in Germany and I love them.
- Something to protect your head from the sun. I personally don't wear caps or hats because they are annoying when trying to take photos. I love my UV protected Buffs
I also recommend to travel with Binoculars. This way you will be able to see the details in the stones and if you climb to the high place of sacrifice, you will be able to spot all the tombs even in the distance. My tour guide really enjoyed using mine 🙂
You can check out my complete guide to choosing your compact binoculars.
Extra: Visit Little Petra
What is Little Petra?
Little Petra is a smaller version of Petra, one of its suburbs. Entrance is free and there is one tomb which paintings remaining.
Should you visit Little Petra?
You can read very different opinions and reviews about the interest of doing Little Petra. If you have only one day I would not recommend it.
If you have more time, you should consider it check out my Little Petra post to help you decide.
Extra: Petra by Night
What is Petra by night?
For an extra fee, you can walk again along the Siq all the way to the Treasury at the light of candles
Should you do Petra by night?
I have not done it. But check out the reviews on tripadvisor, opinions vary greatly. Personally I was too tired and did not want to be in a big crowd.
Remember that it means walking the whole Siq both ways once again!
The most useful advice I have read though is: when it is finished and everyone is leaving just wait a bit, let the crowd move along and then you will be able to enjoy the walk quietly almost to yourself.
If you want some stories of experiences check out:
- Landlopers for whom the Petra by Night experience turned bad
- and a passport affair thought it was magical
To finish I would like to share some link to other blogs that I found useful myself when I was planning my trip to Petra:
- On the Luce and her first time guide to Petra
- Ken kaminesky and his amazing pictures of Petra
- Ottsworld tells us how to escape the crowds in Petra
- Travel junkette explains why morning is the best time to visit Petra
- The Indiana Jones way to discover Petra by Young Adventuress
Want to see MORE of JORDAN?
Discover more things to do with planning information and photos in my online Jordan Travel Guide.
Amazing, isn't it?
Susan @ Travel Junkette says
Thanks for including my post about Petra here. This is quite a comprehensive resource — great job! Hope you enjoy your time in Jordan!
Hi Susan. Thanks! You are the first one the comment on my blog. YEAHHHHH!!!
Your post on Petra was the one which really convinced me to get there at opening and it was so worth it. Therefore I wanted other people to get a chance to read it!
Hrusikesh Patra says
Comprehensive yet concise, exactly the information I needed for our family trip in October. Thank you for your time and effort for putting all these here.
Thank you so much for your comment! I am very happy that you found it useful. Enjoy your trip!
Thanks for the lovely postings and the photos along with the useful tips & maps.
If I only have 1 day, what would you suggest? I was thinking of doing everything on your map (not hike up The Monastery) but adding a hike up High Place of Sacrifice and return the way I came. I’m going with my parents in October.
Thanks you for your comment Christina. I am glad you are enjoying my posts.
You can really do a lot in one day but it really depends on your level of fitness. I did not hike the classical way up to the high place of sacrifice (as I arrived via the Madras trail) but there are also stairs. It also depends at what time you start…
I would recommend you do the Siq, the Treasury and the lower road. And then you can decide based on your state. With all the info you have now you can decide on the spot.
If you choose the high place of sacrifice I would recommend going back down via Wadi Farasa as you will see a lot more than through the stairs. There are plenty of tombs, the scenery is narrower and there are o lot less tourists which I loved.
Just also note that there is no café or toilets at the high place of sacrifice but the view is worth the climb, you really get the sense of what Petra was!
Enjoy your trip!
Thanks. Is it doable to hike down via Wadi Farasa after the High Place of Sacrifice without hiring a guide?
You are right, I did this part with a guide. From memory most of it is easy to follow with steps and a path. Maybe once you are at the bottom this is where it is less obvious but you just have to remember the map and go to your right (without starting climbing…) and you will be fine.
And at the top, to find the beginning of the path, you can just ask one of the person selling souvenirs.
Anyway you will not be alone in the middle of nowhere. People take this path and there are women selling jewelry along the way.
Thanks for the tip 🙂
Hi! Just wanted to thank you as well for the notes and the map – we are planning to visit Petra in about two months and your blog is a great resource. Love the hand-drawn map 🙂
Claire Robinson says
Thanks for leaving a comment. Makes me so happy you found it useful. Have a great trip!
Tara Potter says
This is a very useful blog! Thank you.
Stan Hatlas says
Awesome write up. Going over thanksgiving week.
I live in Pakistan, back in 1974 once I was 4 years old I used to live with my family in Jordan. My father was a military doctor in Pakistan Army. He was posted in Jordan on deputation, during summers of 1974 in the month of June I along with my family visited Petra and its surrounding tombs, I still have a glimpse of these in my mind but my father took lots of pictures which reminds me being there. Now in Jan of 2018 I myself being a retired military officer still cherish those childhood memories that I also have visited this great site some 44 years ago. Your article is comprehensive and very detailed. Most beautiful thing is this that my present-day wife was also with me there and at that time she was just 2 years old. You can say we both met each other in Petra for the first time in our lives. We have three children and my eldest daughter in now almost completing her university degree. It’s a great site to visit at least once in a life time. Time passes in a flash.
Louise Lajoie says
Is there any WC (toilets) at the entrance center or anywhere else?
Claire, the Travel Planning Geek says
As you can see on the map (letters T).
There are toilets near the ticket office, at the entrance of the Siq, on the lower road where shops and restaurants are and at the museum.
However none of the higher locations have toilets.
William Morris says
I’m 87 years young. Is walking through Petra really do-able? does it make sense to fly from Tel-Aviv to Petra rather than drive.
Claire, the Travel Planning Geek says
I really can’ tell you. I have seen 87 years young people with extremely different level of ability.
It is quite a lot of walking.
You could pay for a carriage through the Siq to the Treasury and back to be in better condition to enjoy the main monuments of the lower road.
For Tel-aviv to Petra it is 50/50
– Drive takes 6h plus time to cross the border.
– You can fly to Eilat or Amman and then drive. Plus the time to get luggage and early waiting for flight etc. Ends up being similar time
Sandra Jankowski says
Thanks for your descriptions and the map of Petra. We are going next year and we have a travel agent helping us to book the trip. We are requesting a mule or animal to get to Petra, it looks like the walk is not that bad. I am concerned about the 850 steps to the Monastery. Mostly, my concern is the way down. It does not make sense to me that they actually ride mules down the steps, does that occur? I am especially appreciative of your comments on how they treat the animals. I am a big animal advocate and own a horse ranch, so …civil respectful treatment does not sound like what happens there. There are four of us going and although older, all in good physical condition. Do you recommend that we climb to see the Monastery, or should we do other outings and hikes around the Petra area? Please respond to my email address. Thanks very much.
Claire, the Travel Planning Geek says
I don’t remember if I saw any but the mules can probably carry you down (in the Grand canyon they do walk people down and this is far less scary).
There is already a lot to see in the main road with the Siq, the Treasury, the tombs, the theater… It already takes a whole day if you don’t rush and climb a little to see the buildings on the side.
It also depends on what time of the year you are traveling and how the weather is that day. There is no shade, so you would do much less on a very hot day.
I recommend you plan on walking the main path down with the many sights and once you are at the bottom of the stairs for the monastery, you consider how you feel and look at the mules to see if they look well treated. This way you can take a better decision. You just have to discuss the price with the people at the bottom.
I wish you wonderful travels.