Probably one of the most anticipated sights when planning your trip to Jordan is the chance to visit the Lost City inside Petra. I should state early on that Jordan holds many gems that are reason enough to plan a trip to this country, but Petra is the leading lady of the show.
Also known as the Rose City, due to the color of the stone it is carved from, Petra was established in 312BC as the capital city for the Nabataeans. The site remained unknown to the western world until 1812 when a Swiss explorer discovered it.
The Lost City of Petra was designated a World Heritage Site on December 6, 1985, and is Jordan’s most visited tourist attraction.
With all that lead up, I am sure you can imagine the excitement that revolves around a visit to Jordan. Our own visit was met by some fickle weather but turned out to be a very sunny, blue sky day.
With that said, this guide to the Lost City of Petra should give you everything you need to know to make your visit special.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Jordan (Travel Guide)
Planning Your Visit Inside Petra
Hours & Best Time to Visit Petra, Jordan
The ticket office for the Lost City of Petra is open from 6 am to 6 pm in the summer and 6 am -4 pm in the winter. Petra closes around sunset. The best times to visit are early morning and late afternoons when the tour groups have moved through. This will be the quietest time for your visit.
Petra by Night starts at 8:30pm and finishes around 10:30 pm, but only on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. There will be long lines when you arrive, so make sure that after you enter the site you hang back and let the crowd go.
This will give you a chance to photography the Sig without crowds of people.
How Much are Tickets for Going Inside Petra?
Entrance to the Petra site will cost you 50JD for a one-day pass, 55JD for a two-day pass and 60JD for a three-day pass. The price of your ticket includes a free horse ride to the entrance of the Siq.
If you are not up for walking, this is a great option but remember that it is only the ride that is free, not the tip. There is no set price for the tip so you’ll need to negotiate hard.
The cost of the site is not cheap but well worth the price you pay. As you can see, spending two days at the site is the best way to utilize the ticket price, since you only pay an additional 5JD for the second day.
Petra by Night is a completely different affair and takes place only on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. The cost is 18JD.
** This is the tour we took ** Book your own adventure in Jordan: 8 Day Jordan Explorer
Our Experience of the Entrance to the Lost City of Petra
Upon arriving at the visitor’s center, we gained access to the entrance of the historical site. At this point, we were offered the opportunity to ride horses to the entrance of the Siq. This is included in the cost of the entrance ticket, however, they do not disclose that you will be asked firmly for a decent tip at the conclusion of your ride.
We also saw horse and carriage options from the start point as well. This option can be utilized all the way to the treasury, giving you a chance to rest your legs through the Siq before you arrive at the site.
I won’t lie, there is a lot of walking involved in visiting Petra and those that are less fit should consider renting a carriage at the start of your visit. Carriage rides are not included in your ticket price like the horse rides are, and you must negotiate for a ride.
We opted for the walking and enjoyed watching the horses trotting by us in their designated lane to the opening of the Siq. This walk is a solid 10-15 minutes and is called the walkway to the Siq.
Once we reached the end of the walkway, it was hard to miss the entrance to the beautiful bright red Siq that leads straight into the lost city of Petra.
Petra Hotels: Location is Everything
The small town of Wadi Musa has literally been built up to sustain the tourist attention that Petra gets. It is a place with many hotels, restaurants and a local culture which makes the visit very pleasant. There is a wide variety of hotels available from budget to luxury and something that will suit everyone.
Make sure that you don’t miss out on a visit to the downtown area of Wadi Musa to sample local foods, shops the food stalls and search for souvenirs. Many people just blow through Wadi Musa, visit Petra and leave.
Don’t be one of those people, take the time to go for a walk and check it out. You will be rewarded with a charming little town.
Wadi Musa is also a really great place to tuck in and sample some Jordanian food. Don’t be shy, wander into some of the great shops and restaurants. The locals love the conversation too.
How to Get to Petra, Jordan
If you are traveling independently, most hotels have a shuttle available that will take you to the entrance of the Lost City of Petra. Some hotels charge for this while others do not. If you are part of a group tour, transportation to Petra will be included.
If you are not part of a group tour and don’t have access to hotel transport, then walk to the downtown area and hail a taxi. They are affordable and easy to find. You can expect to pay around 1-2JD for a 5-minute cab ride.
Getting back to your hotel from Petra is also easy, taxis will be available at the same place you were dropped off. They will typically charge 3JD, sometimes you can negotiate to 2JD for a ride back to your hotel in Wadi Musa.
Alternatively, you could also walk to Petra. The entrance to the site is a 20 minutes talk from most hotels in Wadi Musa.
Amman to Petra – if you’re in Amman and want to make a quick trip to Petra, this possible by renting a car or booking a tour.
What Should I Wear?
You will be spending the day on your feet and exposed to the elements. So it is important that you check the weather forecast for the day of your visit and dress accordingly. I highly recommend comfortable walking shoes and a hat. Be sure to bring long sleeves and wear pants to be respectful of local culture.
Apply sunscreen before your visit, even on cloudy days. During the fall and winter months, Jordan can be surprisingly cold and wet. Not something you would expect from a desert country in the Middle East, but we can tell you, it’s true.
Our day at Petra was sunny but windy and required us to dress in layers that we constantly shed and redressed during our visit.
I also recommend bringing a day pack with a minimum of 2L of water, a small packed lunch (most hotels will make one for you), sunscreen, sunglasses, some cash and clothes layers. Sometimes the wind whips right through the site.
How Much Walking Can I Expect?
A complete full-day visit to the lost city of Petra can easily involve 10-15 miles of walking. The city is very spread out and also involves some stair climbing and slight grades to explore some of the off-path sites.
As I’ve mentioned a couple of times already, there are options to reduce the miles and hours spent on your feet by employing a donkey or camel ride within the city.
The camel ride can be a wonderful way to see the lost city of Petra as the handlers treat their camels well and sitting atop one is an experience you should have at least once while in Jordan.
Our Experience Walking the Siq of Petra
The Siq is the main entrance to the lost city of Petra. In my personal opinion, the Siq is one of the greatest attractions of Petra. The gorge stands between 91-182 meters high and is no more than 3 meters wide for the 2km it takes to reach the city.
Unlike some of the sites that are similar to the Siq, like Antelope Canyon in the USA that was shaped by water, the Siq is a natural fault that was split apart by tectonic forces and then later made smooth by water.
I like to imagine what it would have been like to discover this entrance complete with temples, tombs, and carvings. When you visit today, all that remains is the voids of their presence, filled only by imagination and a good guide.
We meandered along the path taking photos and listening to our guide as he told us the history of the site and the things we were looking at. At one point David and I actually got separated when he stopped to take some video and a group of people got between us.
We ended up walking the whole thing separately. Whoops! It wasn’t until I arrived at the treasury that I found him again.
Our Experience Exploring Inside Petra
After reaching the treasury we were able to start our visit to the city. There are 3 options to explore the city; by foot, by donkey, and by camel.
The rates can be a bit steep for a donkey or camel escort, but they will take you to the steps of each iconic site within the city and the Bedouins are good conversation. We opted for the walking at it ended up being one hell of a workout.
On a full-day visit on foot, we were able to visit most of the sites in the main part of the city. We even hiked some of the trails that lead to the back of the tombs and had the whole place to ourselves. Most people just stick to the main road that leads through the center of the site.
You absolutely shouldn’t miss the Tombs. It is a bit of a climb to get up to them, but they are beautiful and worth the hike. There are also a variety of sites including an ancient church, roman columns and ruined sites that lead you to the end of the main street. We didn’t have time to continue our tour to the monastery, so we regrettably missed out on that.
6 Sites You Cannot Miss in the Lost City of Petra
This will be the very first thing that you see when you reach the end of the Siq. You can’t miss it. Depending on what time of day you arrive here, take your time to check out the structure.
You cannot go into the Treasury, but you can get close to it and look at the tombs below. If it is busy when you get there, leave and come back later when there are fewer people.
Street of Facades
This is a walkway with various cutouts that have been weathered by the elements and time. Stroll along with this walkway imagine what it would have been like to arrive into this great city at the height of its power.
Imagine the trade, the entertainment and the way the facades would have looked.
The theater is small by Roman standards, but still worth checking out as it is carved out of the pink stone, right into the wall. Due to the wear and tear of it, you are not allowed to enter the theater, but you can climb up to a viewing platform to get an unobstructed view and some decent photos.
This is probably the coolest place you can visit in the lost city of Petra. Be sure to make the climb up to the top for a fantastic view of the whole city. Take your time to look at the market stalls along the way for some interesting souvenirs. The view inside the tombs is stunning as well.
Colonnaded Street will take you all the way to the romanesque structured parts of the city and the museum. There is also a restaurant at the end, opposite of the museum, that serves a buffet lunch at a premium.
Arguably a better site to see than the treasury, this site is a long walk away from the end of the Colonnaded Street. you should be reasonably fit and have arrived here with enough time to hike out and back before the site closes.
I recommend visiting the Monastery on your second day, first thing in the morning. Then you can wander back through Petra and get more photos of things in a different light in the afternoon.
5 Things We Wish We’d Known Before Our Visit Inside Petra
- Petra is a huge site: One day is simply not enough time to explore this massive, beautiful site. The tour that we were with allowed only one full day to explore the site and we regret that. Even though we were there from sun up until 5 pm, we rushed around the site and were not able to fit everything in that we wanted to see.
- You need 2 days at a minimum: Two full days would give you the perfect amount of time to see all the sites at a pace conducive to photography and enjoyment. If you want to hike, you could easily spend 3-5 days on this site. The site is huge and the weather unforgiving making it hard to rush through the site in one day.
- The crowds move through fast: Part of this mistake was that we were on our own rushed visit of the mighty site. The truth be told though, the crowds you will likely encounter when you first arrive disappear very quickly. This leaves sites like the Treasury and tombs completely empty to photograph. We came through the treasury area 3 times during our visit, the first time it was packed as that was close to the opening time of the site, the other 2 times, completely empty.
- Bring a packed lunch: There are a couple of restaurants inside the site that cater to tourists and they are very expensive. The USD is weak to the Jordanian Dinar, so think tourist prices and then the loss on conversion! Easily solved by bringing in your own water supply (at least 2 liters) and a packed lunch from your hotel.
- Petra is fragile so be respectful: The site suffers from a host of threats, including the collapse of ancient structures, erosion due to flooding and improper rainwater drainage, weathering from salt upwelling, improper restoration of ancient structures and unsustainable tourism. Be careful when exploring the site and avoid touching the walls of the buildings. If we are not mindful of these things, Petra will not be around for future generations.
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