Once lost, the famous city of biblical Nabateans is now of one of Jordan's most famous landmarks. 

The golden-red façade of Petra’s Treasury is one of the most iconic historical images in the world. But there’s so much more to this Wonder of the World than this one building. The ancient city of Petra is awash with history and culture – from the nomadic Bedouin people still populating the surrounding areas and mingling with tourists, to the countless ancient sites and walks to suit a range of fitness levels. You’ll have ample time to explore this UNESCO world heritage site, with the expertise of your local guide to tell you fascinating stories of the Nabatean people who lived here.

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Map of Petra

Saying Petra is big is an understatement – it's a sprawling metropolis filled with ancient buildings, tombs and more ruins than you can shake a camel at. You can easily spend a whole day wandering from the the Siq to the Ad-Deir (Monastery), with plenty of options to explore hidden paths on the side too. Check out our map of Petra to get a real sense of its scale, and some of the highlights we think every visitor should try to see. 

Check out our detailed map of Petra, Jordan's ancient city.

Highlights of Petra

The Siq

The Siq is the narrow entrance into Petra, created by a natural split in the rocky mountain, that ranges from 80 to 200 metres high. It’s just over a kilometre long and in some places only three metres wide. Visitors will need to walk the length of The Siq to reach the famous Treasury and to enter the rest of Petra. Don’t worry, you won’t be bored on the walk, as there are many tombs and ancient relics to spot along the way.

Al Khazna (The Treasury)

When most people picture Petra, it’s The Treasury façade that they’re really thinking of … that or Indiana Jones racing around looking for the Holy Grail. And to be fair, it’s such a magnificently preserved building that it’s worthy of the hype. Almost 40 metres high and adorned with intricate figures and columns, your first glimpse of this 1st century BC masterpiece when you reach the end of The Siq is a sight you’ll never forget.

The Street of Facades

If you can tear yourself away from The Treasury and continue deeper into Petra, the next thing you’ll encounter is The Street of Facades. This is the name given to the southern cliff face with a row of Nabatean tombs carved into it. The tombs vary in size and decoration, some having steps and pillars, while others have deep upper caves inside them, that are believed to have been used for royal burials.

High Place of Sacrifice

An ancient place of worship, with stunning 360-degree views of Petra, the High Place of Sacrifice was used by the Nabateans for important religious ceremonies. When you look at the walk on a map, it doesn’t look as though it will be much of a challenge, however, it’s a steep and steady climb up rock steps with a challenging but beautiful trail down the other side, with views of Wadi Farasah.

The Royal Tombs

The four most spectacular facades on the main path are known as the Royal Tombs, made up of the Urn Tomb, the Silk Tomb, the Corinthian Tomb and the Palace Tomb. The Urn Tomb is adorned with a small jar on top of the pediment, the Silk Tomb’s façade is made of uniquely coloured, swirling rock and the Corinthian Tomb is named because of its Corinthian style architecture. The Palace Tomb is the most magnificent of all, with a five-storey façade and rainwater pool.

Ad Deir (The Monastery)

The Monastery is one of the biggest monuments in Petra, clocking in at 47 metres wide and over 48 metres high. It dates back to the early 2nd Century AD, where it was used as a meeting place for religious associations, before later being adapted to a Christian Chapel. Similar to the High Place of Sacrifice, you can’t reach the Monastery without a fairly intense walk – but it makes the cup of tea at the top taste even better.

FAQs

All our Jordan trips include at least one full day at Petra, with most itineraries giving keen travellers the opportunity to spend part of a second day there too. Depending on your fitness level, you will be able to explore The Siq, Treasury, city centre and two to three main sites such as the High Place of Sacrifice or the Royal Tombs in a full day.

The peak tourism seasons in Petra are between March and May or September to November, when the weather is mildest. In Jordan, the weather can be very hot during summer and very cold during winter. June to August are the hottest months, with maximum temperatures reaching approximately 40C. There is very little or no rainfall in these hotter months. Over December and January, temperatures only reach a maximum of about 13C and rain is to be expected

The safety of our travellers, leaders and operators is our number one priority, so consequently we monitor world events to ensure we amend itineraries when necessary. Generally, Petra is very safe to visit, although there are two unauthorised trails that will take you to the top of The Treasury that are not on the maps provided and are not deemed to be safe.

Yes, your local leader will provide you with your ticket and any other information you need about visiting Petra while on your trip. Make sure you take your passport with you if you’re visiting Petra for two days, as it may be required upon entry alongside your ticket. Refer to our trip notes for more information about how many days are included at Petra for different itineraries.

We recommend a moderate fitness level on most of our Jordan trips, as Petra covers quite a large area, with many steep steps. However, how much of Petra you see is entirely up to you, and there are plenty of places to sit and rest around the city. If you stay around the lower, flatter parts of Petra, most travellers will cover an average of 12 kilometres over a full day. The walking trails have intensity ratings of easy, moderate and hard, so be guided by the maps you receive with your ticket when choosing which areas of Petra, you are best suited to explore.

In most cases, our itineraries can be amended to accommodate travellers with disabilities. Since the degree of impairment, and the level of amendments needed to our itineraries, can vary from person to person, please contact us to discuss any specific needs you may have.

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Yes, there are a range of cafes and shops inside Petra where you can purchase meals, drinks or snacks. At the top of many of the walking trails, you will find locals selling refreshments such as tea or soft drink. We recommend travellers take a reusable water bottle with them so they stay hydrated and avoid buying single-use plastic water bottles.

Subject to availability, your leader may give you the opportunity to undertake an optional activity and visit Petra by Night. Petra by Night takes place on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, but can be cancelled due to bad weather. The two-hour long show includes a candlelit walk to the Treasury, with local music and entertainment. Some travellers love seeing the monuments lit up at night, while others feel it is crowded and very touristy. It’s completely up to you whether you go along, but please note it will be an additional cost to your day ticket.

The entrance fee to Petra includes a ‘free’ ride on various forms of animal transport and you will be offered this transport by a number of local Bedouin on the walk into the ancient city. While free to ride, there is a strong expectation that you will need to tip the animals' owners.

In 2018 the animal rights group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) launched an international campaign highlighting the mistreatment of working animals in the ancient city of Petra. The animals – horses, donkeys and camels - carry both tourists and supplies to the city and through it.

The situation is a complex one – Jordanian organisations and their international partners are trying to improve the conditions for the animals, and for many local Bedouin this activity provides their only income, yet issues around animal cruelty are raised on a regular basis. UNESCO themselves have stated that switching to motorised transport is not the preferred option in the ancient city.

It is Intrepid’s request that our travellers avoid riding these animals where possible, due to the poor working conditions. On Intrepid trips, animal rides included in our itineraries are only undertaken once animal wellbeing has been previously established by a professional team. You can read our Animal Welfare policy for more information.

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About Bedouin culture at Petra

The traditional Bedouin people lived in Petra for hundreds of years until they were resettled in nearby villages in 1985.

The local tourism boards ensure Bedouin are still included at Petra by allowing them to sell souvenirs, snacks and via the inclusion of animal rides in the ticket price.

While we don’t support animal riding at Petra due to the poor working conditions of the animals, we do recognise that this is the main income for the Bedouin and therefore ask that our travellers are respectful when declining rides. 

We also discourage visitors from purchasing items from or donating money to children at Petra, as it encourages them to skip school and continue working. If you want to buy souvenirs, it’s best to purchase them from the many local Bedouin shops around the site, which may be more expensive, but provide support the Bedouin community.

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