What Is Hidden In Petra, Jordan?
Petra is regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the World! It is known as the Lost City since it was only discovered in the 1800s by a European explorer. But with legends of treasury and immense gold hidden inside the city, it was plundered by tomb raiders unsuccessfully. But what really was there? What has remained? Read on to see what Petra, Jordan is all about.
In this blog post, you’ll find everything you need to know to plan a trip to Petra, Jordan. We have details on how to reach Petra, where to stay in Wadi Musa or Petra city, secret tips for cheap tickets and surreal Instagram viewpoints. We’ll also tell you a little bit about The Treasury and The Monastery amongst many more stunning sites inside Petra – this is your ultimate guide on what to see in Petra, Jordan!
History of Petra, Jordan
In the early 4th century BC, a nomadic tribe known as the Nabateans began to gather immense popularity on account of their business and trade. They relied extensively on the trans-Arabian trade routes to earn their livelihood. Many trade routes that originated from Africa (Egypt), eastern and southern Asia (the Mesopotamian and Indus Valley civilisations) and the Mediterranean regions passed right through the deserts of Southern Jordan.
The Nabateans eventually decided to establish their Kingdom’s capital within the sandstone mountains of the Arabah Valley. And that was how the great city of Raqmu was established. The Romans took over this city in the early 2nd century AD and annexed the Nabatean kingdom into its empire and renamed it as Arabia Petraea (Petra).
Today, Petra is a renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Wonder of the World! It has remained an open air museum for man’s most impressive skills of carvings, commerce and intelligence. Over 600,000 visitors have been visiting every year and it has been the most popular attraction in all of Jordan!
Pin it to read later!
Tickets to Petra
Buy tickets to Petra at the Visitor Centre which is the entry gate in the city. There are 3 types of tickets for visitors who are spending the night in Jordan:
1. One day pass: JD 50 (INR 5,350 or USD 71)
2. Two day pass: JD 55 (INR 5,900 or USD 78)
3. Three day pass: JD 60 (INR 6,450 or USD 85)
Those visitors who are not spending a night in Petra (Wadi Musa) need to pay JD 90 for a one day pass. Petra by Night tickets are JD 17.
Tip: We recommend getting the Jordan Pass instead. It is the cheapest ticket to Petra. The pass costs JD 80 (INR 8,500 or USD 115). It includes a waiver of the JD 40 VISA fees at Immigration.
The walk into Petra, Jordan
The main entrance to the City begins at the visitor centre. A road leads downhill towards the sandstone canyons which marks the actual entry into Petra.
The path is about 1.6 kms long and visitors can walk (free), on horseback (one ride complimentary with entry ticket but you have to to tip the caretaker) or a horse-drawn carriage (pricey but most comfortable). We walked and it was not so bad!
The Obelisk Tomb is located along this path. It has four pillars and one disfigured human statue at the centre and is said to be the tomb of five Nabateans. Most monuments in Petra are really big. And at different times of the day, the buildings wear a different shade from the sandstone palette: amber, red, magenta, pink and more.
The Al Siq (The Shaft) and the Al Khazneh (The Treasury)
The walk through the Al-Siq (“the Shaft”) is the most interesting experience for any first time visitor to Petra. It is a 1.2 km long path through the canyon with walls on either side ranging up to 600 ft in height! The Al-Siq was not cut by water but due to a natural fault. In fact it was smoothened later by flowing flood waters over many millennia.
The walk lasts 30 minutes and gets very rewarding at the end. You know that feeling that kicks in when you know you will see something really incredible? Yup, thats what we felt just before we got a glimpse of this. It really is one of the most impressive views in all of Petra!
Tip: The viewing of the Al-Khazneh (“the Treasury”) through this shaft is extremely popular. There’s a huge camera-wielding crowd at the spot all the time. Prepare you camera before going towards the opening and shoot a video. You’ll treasure that memory forever!
The Al-Khazneh or Treasury is really impressive. It is the most elaborate structure in all of Petra. Legend has it that it once housed a huge amount of gold within the urns at the top of the structure. The monument is so popular that it has even appeared in several movies like Indian Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) and Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen (2009). It spans about 12 stories in height and is the epitome of the architecture featured in the entire city. It has been carved right out of the sandstone canyon walls and not built!
How to go to the Instagram view point of Petra
There’s also a little rock trail you can climb (with a local guide for JD 5 or less) to get to a spot all the way up on the canyon top. You can enjoy a beautiful view of the Treasury from up there. Although the path is a little slippery, it takes only 20 minutes to get to the top. There are a few small shops up there selling refreshing bedouin tea for JD 1.
The Royal Tombs and the lower city
There are a number of buildings carved out of the huge sandstone walls of the mountain. Most archaeologists believe that these were tombs as they did not seem suitable for living in. There is one trail that leads to the High Place of Sacrifice from in between the Tombs. If you have the time, definitely hike up the trail to the High Place of Sacrifice.
One of the most interesting aspects of the City was the fine water conduit system that was set in place. The Nabateans had learnt to harvest water and store it all year round for their daily needs. despite being in an arid desert region. A large tunnel can be seen just around the corner at the entrance of the Al-Siq. This tunnel had only one purpose – divert all the flash floods away from the City’s main entry-exit point. The tunnel ultimately connected with the reservoir much deeper inside the City. Conduits supplied the water to the Nymphaneum and other public buildings from there. How ingenious!
The Amphitheatre and Colonnaded Pathway
The City has some other very exquisite buildings. For instance, The Nabatean Amphitheater was evidently built with the Greco-Roman influence of the time. Its quite massive and beautifully built. Most of the structure was cut from the rocks like other Nabatean structures in Petra. The final walls in the front and the stage were additionally reinforced with manual construction.
Tip: The Visitor Centre has a fare-chart for hiring the services of a Guide. Hiring guides is very expensive (over JD 50 for a 3 hour tour and JD 100 to go up to the Monastery). The maps which are freely available at the Visitor Centre are clear and good. If you follow the path and the sign boards along the way, you will not need a guide. But a guide can tell you a lot of stories and show you specific spots of importance. Alternatively, get a guide book and just explore on your own like we did!
The colonnaded streets and the remains of the cobble stones lend a wonderful reminder of how simple, yet well designed the city was. The Temple of Dushares and The Great Temple are some of the larger ruins there. They are located further down before the Basin restaurant. You can explore more of the deserted city or go up through the canyons from here.
Some locals dress up as warriors from the medieval times and stand guard at the end of the colonnaded pathway. Click a picture with them!
The Monastery Trail, an easy trek in Petra
A 2 km walk through the beautiful amber canyon leads to the resplendent Ad-Deir (“the Monastery”). The walk itself is quite challenging since there are about 900 steps. Its also difficult because of the incline, uneven path and the weather conditions. But, you can see more of the ruined city while climbing. You may also see small caves where the locals actually live. They make a living by selling souvenirs and providing donkey rides in Petra.
Tip: Walking up the Monastery path takes about 1 hour with small rest stops along the way. It is easy. Many people prefer to ride a donkey (JD 10 or less) to reach the top. The donkey takes about 40 minutes. Watch out for the donkeys as you climb down to the city!
The Al Deir or The Monastery
The Al Deir Monastery is absolutely massive! It is about 150 ft high and 160 ft wide and it made us feel like dwarfs. The Monastery was actually declared a temple after cross engravings were found inside. Explorers also discovered remains of a broken alter on the upper level. Since it was built like a cave and carved right out of one side of a mountain it was also called the Hermit’s Cell.
The building is characterised by its pillared walls and the carved facade. There is an urn at the top. This urn is sometimes visible from the path below while climbing.
Tip: Across from the Monastery, there is a small restaurant to grab a well-deserved sandwich, some tea and other snacks! We rested here for over an hour with so many other visitors.
Petra By Night, an exclusive experience
The Petra-by-night show begins at 8:30 pm and lasts for about two hours. This includes the time taken to walk between the visitor centre and the Treasury which is 1.6 kms one way. Visitors normally gather in a group queue at the visitor centre 15 minutes before and the guide takes the the group down into the valley. The path is lit with glowing lanterns on either side under the starry moonlit sky.
After accommodating all visitors on mat the locals serve everyone with hot bedouin tea (yumm). Then the guide begins a tale of the historic city and its grand past! The story telling is accompanied by classical bedouin music about how the city formed the epitome of success of the Nabatean kingdom.
Tip: Petra By Night is hosted only thrice a week on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. You can buy tickets to Petra by Night at the Visitor Centre for JD 17 (INR 1,800 or USD 24). Highly recommended by us!
Read more about Petra By Night here
How to get to Petra
Petra is about 2.5 hours away from Queen Alia International Airport in Amman. There are two main ways to travel to Petra:
1. Bus: There is very poor public transport service in Jordan. A few chartered bus companies transport tourists from Amman to Petra. The JETT Bus service is the most popular and offers bus rides from Amman to Petra and Aqaba to Petra too. The prices are reasonable at JD 8 (USD 11.5 or INR 850) per person.
2. Rental car or taxi: Taking a car is easier than taking the bus and offers a lot of flexibility and safety in Jordan. Rent a taxi car with a driver will cost you about JD 90 (USD 130 or INR 9,900). If you plan on using the car for a longer duration/route, you will have to bear his lodging and meal expenses too.
Tip: Self-drive is the best option. Rent a car from the airport for as little as USD 20 (INR 1,500) per day. It makes a lot of sense with the cheap fuel prices in Jordan.
Where to stay in Petra, Jordan
The ancient city of Petra is an archaeological site – there are no hotels inside it. The town of Wadi Musa, in which Petra is located has a huge number of options! Ranging from JD 5 (INR 530 or USD 7) hostels to The Mariott, there’s something for everyone’s budget and taste.
We suggest that you consider finding an economical hotel room over a hostel, close to the Petra gate. Exploring Petra can be hard work, so reward yourself a little bit after the exertion. We stayed at the La Maison Hotel which was just a few hundred metres from the Visitor Centre.
Check out all accommodations in Petra here
Where to eat in Petra, Jordan
There are many shops inside Petra selling water bottles (JD 1 for small bottle), soft drinks (JD 2 for Coca Cola) and yummy bedouin tea (JD 1). There are a few shacks on the Main Trail to the Ad-Deir (Monastery). Sandwiches, Bread-and-hummus rolls (JD 3) and other snack items are easily available. There is also one restaurant managed by Crowne Plaza, called the Basin Restaurant in the heart of Petra. So food (including vegetarian) is definitely nothing to worry about!
Tip: Walking in Petra can get very tiring. We recommend carrying some water bottles with you to avoid dehydration especially in summer when it can get torturously hot.
Best time to visit Petra, Jordan
Jordan experiences very dry, hot summers because of its desert geography. But the cooler months are from late October to March. This is the best time to visit Jordan. Watch out for rains in December/January.
Wear cotton clothing and dress modestly. During the winter months dress in layers to adjust to the sunny afternoons and the freezing evenings. You could wear blues, dark oranges, reds and such contrasting colours against the sandstone landscape for good photography!
How many days to spend in Petra, Jordan
Spend at least two nights in Petra. This way, you can explore the Al-Siq, the Al Khazneh (the Treasury) on the first day and spend some time photographing the monument. Spare an hour to climb up to the Instagram view points at the top of the canyon for a brilliant perspective of the Treasury. Later that night, you can witness the luminous Petra by Night.
On the second day you can hike up to the Monastery (Al Deir) and explore the Amphitheatre, the royal tombs, the temples, the bath houses and aquaducts, and the colonnaded pathways. You can also trek on the harder trails if you have time. Later that night, attend a cooking class in Petra Kitchen (or similar restaurant) in the city.
Shopping in Petra
There are a number of souvenir shops at the visitor centre. But the best deals are the ones you get inside Petra when you buy from the local bedouin people in the shacks. Most small souvenirs are JD 1 and interesting things like a mosaic-design metal handbag, scarves and other trinkets are very cheap compared to buying at the shops outside.
Read more about Jordan here
If you have more questions or want to explore Petra and Jordan with us, write to us – we’d be very happy to help!
Bookmark this post for reading later!
Shishira & Navneeth