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:
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 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
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 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
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
- 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.
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.
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:
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:
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?