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  • Writer's pictureanusha gopalakrishnan

Navigating the Lost City of Petra | A Complete Travel Guide

Now, before I go into today's topic, I would like to put up a little disclaimer and say that when I mean a complete guide - it is based entirely on my own perspective. Just thought I should put it out there.

If you are one of those people who loves scrolling through the Instagram explore page looking at travel photos shared by travel bloggers #guilty; chances are that you would have seen some amazing photos of Petra.

Ever since Petra was declared one of the modern wonders of the world, tourists have been flocking to this ancient city. Well, Steven Spielberg may have something to do with this - Petra became insanely popular when he filmed the iconic Indiana Jones series (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) here.

I will start off with a brief historical context of the Ancient City of Petra.


Petra acquired its name from the Greek word "petros" which translates to rock. The reason the city was named as such could be due to the rock formation and sculpted sandstone.

History suggests that Petra was established as early as 312 BC which makes it one of the oldest cities in the world. Petra was first inhabited by the Nabateans and it used to be known as " Raqmu" which means coloured stone in Arabic.

This archeological treasure trove is the jewel of Jordan because of its unique architectural history. The whole city of Petra is carved into a red sandstone some 2000 years ago which is why it is also referred to as the Rose Red City.

During the Nabatean period, Petra was a thriving commercial city and a Silk Road that connected Greece to South East Asia. Petra was then conquered by the Romans and it continued to prosper until an earthquake destructed the city in 363 AD resulting in its collapse.

Petra was rediscovered in 1812 by a Swiss traveler Johann Ludwig Burckhardt who described it as "the ruins of the once great city".

Petra earned its status as UNESCO's world heritage site in 1985. On 7 July 2007, the ancient city of Petra was declared one of the New Wonders of the World, and today people from all over the world travel to Jordan to witness this marvel.

How to get to Petra?

As I have mentioned in all my previous posts, you will benefit a lot from renting a car to travel within the country. I strongly suggest that you consider this option.

Petra is situated close to the town of Wadi Musa and most tourists prefer to spend a day here before or after their visit to Petra. I would suggest that you spend a night at Wadi Musa if you plan to travel to Petra from Amman, Madaba, or the Dead Sea; given the long drive to and from.

If your hotel is located in Central Wadi Musa, Petra is within walking distance. Some hotels provide shuttle services and alternatively, you can take a cab which may cost you 4-5 Jds per trip.

Many people visit Jordan mainly to see Petra making it a key part of their itinerary. Therefore it will be useful to plan your trip around this. It takes about 4 hours to get to Petra from Amman, 3 hours from Madaba or the Dead Sea, and approximately 2 hours from Aqaba or Wadi Rum respectively.

If you are not comfortable driving, the next best option

on is to hire a private taxi or book a tour.

Alternatively, you can take the JETT bus which departs daily from Amman and Aqaba.

How much is the entrance fee?

I would strongly recommend that you purchase the Jordan Pass before your visit to Jordan. The Jordan Pass provides you access to 40 over attractions in Jordan including Petra. It also saves you a lot of money and is super convenient.

Entry tickets to the site can be purchased at the Visitor Centre and different rates apply to a different category of visitors depending on the duration of their stay.

Fees for the accommodated visitor (Visitor who stays at least one night in Jordan):

1-Day Ticket: 50 JDs

2 Days Ticket: 55 JDs

3 Days Ticket: 60 JDs

Fees for a non-accommodated visitor:

Entrance Ticket: 90 JDs

Entrance is free for kids below the age of 12 years.

Residents holding a valid resident card will be subject to an entry fee of 1 Jd.

Entrance tickets do not include the show "Petra by Night". This also applies to Jordan Pass holders. Visitors have to purchase a separate ticket to witness the night show.

The entrance fee for Petra by Night is 17 JD per person, kids below the age of 10 years are exempted from the fee.

Please bring along your passport or ID when purchasing the tickets for documentation purposes.

What are the operating hours of Petra?

The Visitor Centre is open daily between 6 am - 6 pm during summer and 6 am - 4 pm during winter.

Petra by Night takes place every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday on a weekly basis. The show begins at 8:30 pm and ends at 10:30 pm.

How much time do I need to cover Petra?

Personally, one day is sufficient to cover the main sights of this ancient city. We spent about 6 hours in Petra and managed to visit the top attractions.

However, if you are a history buff then two days or more would be ideal as it would provide you with ample time to explore the site and learn more about the Nabatean Civilizations.

Avid hikers will benefit from staying longer, Petra has many hiking trails that lead to stunning vantage points.

If you intend to spend two or more days in Petra, you should consider purchasing the multi-day entry ticket for better value for money.

Do I need a Guide to navigate Petra?

Navigating Petra is absolutely doable as you will be given a map at the Visitor Centre once you have purchased the entrance tickets.

For a more wholesome experience, one should hire a guide. This decision depends entirely on the visitor and the type of experience he/she would prefer. Hiring a guide comes with a few advantages. For one, you will be more informed about the site and will be able to appreciate the history behind this city more.

There is absolutely no problem in finding a guide in Petra. You will be approached by guides volunteering their services in exchange for a fee of course as soon as you arrive in Petra. You can also engage guides at the Visitor Centre. The guides that are available for hire at the Visitor Centre are licensed; therefore legit. However, there is no bargaining as their rate is fixed at 50 Jds per guide.

For a more economical rate, you can engage the Bedouins within the site to show you around. You can negotiate with them to reach a deal that works best for you. However, you many need to verify some of the information shared by the Bedouins as it may not always be accurate.

On the bright side, it is an opportunity to interact with the locals, and what better way to learn about Bedouin history. Your guide may share some interesting insights about local culture during the course of your tour. You may gain access to off-beaten paths that are not popular- a chance to uncover hidden gems. So it really depends on how you would like to tailor your experience.

When is the best time to visit Petra?

According to Google, the best time to visit Petra is in Spring i.e. between March to May when the temperature is too hot or cold.

I visited Petra in February and the weather was pleasant. Despite it being the peak of winter, the weather wasn't too cold. Please be mindful that a lot of walking is involved when you are visiting Petra and I personally don't tire easily in a cooler climate.

I would avoid visiting Petra in summer because the temperature peaks during the day and

there is almost no shade on site. This could potentially dampen your experience.

Top Attractions

Bab Al Siq - It means gateway to the Siq in Arabic

Siq - The main entrance leading to the Treasury

The feet of a camel and its handler carved into the rock at the Siq

The Dam - This Dam was constructed to shield the city from flood due to heavy rains from the mountains across the canyon

The Treasury - The most iconic monument of Petra and it is what put Petra on the Map. This majestic monument was entirely sculpted from a sandstone cliff

The Street of Facades

The Theatre

The Buildings, Pond and Great Temple

The Church

The Monastery

Click here for more in-depth information regarding each of the attractions listed above.

Distance to Cover

Please be prepared to walk a lot as the site is huge. The distance between the Visitor Centre to the Treasury is about 2 km and you will be able to cover the distance in 20 minutes if you walk at a reasonable pace.

The distance from the Treasury to the steps leading to the Monastery is approximately 4.5 km and you can complete it within 1.5 - 2 hours. To access the Monastery, you will have to climb a set of very steep steps - 900 steps to be exact. This should take about 40 minutes.

Be sure to wear comfy shoes and stay hydrated throughout. Don't forget your SPF cause sun damage is real!

Dilemma - Animals in Petra

Petra spans over 60 square kilometers so you can expect a lot of walking to explore this ancient ruin. So you will find many animals such as camels, donkeys, mules, and horses on-site. These animals are used as a mode of transportation to ferry visitors around the site.

You will find handlers at every nook incessantly offering rides. We were approached by a few horse handlers outside the entrance offering to take us to the main entrance These guys would not take No for an answer; so we caved in an opted to take a ride since it was only a short distance.

We were mindful of the ethical riding of animals and only opted to ride these horses because they appear fit and well-treated.

Unfortunately, it saddens me to say that most of the animals, especially the donkeys and mules are mistreated or neglected. These donkeys are used as a mode of transportation to carry visitors up the hill leading to the Monastery - a grueling 900 steps. Most of these animals appear weak, malnourished, and are forced to work in harsh conditions.

So I urge you to strongly avoid riding donkeys or any other working animal for that matter if you suspect any form of animal cruelty is inflicted on these animals.

Having said that, in recent days there is a lot of awareness surrounding the animal cruelty front. PETA has initiated an action against Petra for the exploitation of animals. This action culminated in the establishment of a free PETA veterinary clinic onsite to provide care and treat injured working animals.

Petra has since introduced electrical golf carts to transport visitors from the Visitor Centre to the Treasury. This is a step in the right direction and hopefully, more efforts can be taken to replace these animals with a more humane mode of transportation.

If you witness any form of animal abuse while you are there, you can report it to the Petra Police Authorities. If you see an injured animal or an animal in need, please contact PETA directly.


There are many stalls selling little trinkets, souvenirs, traditional clothes and etc. in Petra. I have to warn you though that the Bedouin stall owners are incredibly persistent . Chances are that you may get annoyed at a point. However, the best way to deal with this situation is to decline politely and continue walking.

If something catches your eye and you are thinking of purchasing it; please do not hesitate to bargain. The practice of haggling is common and widely practiced.

One stall that merits a visit is the jewelry stall run by Marguerite van Geldermalsen. She is a New Zealander who first came to Jordan on a holiday and fell in love with a Bedouin and later married him. She moved into his cave and adapted to the Bedouin lifestyle. She has penned down her story in her book entitled Married to a Bedouin.

She now runs the stall with her son Raami and the exclusive pieces showcased at her shop are made by local women from her village. This is a chance to support the local community.

Food and Drink in Petra

There are plenty of tiny stalls and kiosks selling hot beverages, light snacks, and water within the site. Like all tourist attractions, the prices are a rip-off. So I think you are better off bringing your own snacks and water.

Well, that sums up my experience and I hope the information that I have shared will be useful to you to plan your trip.

Extremely blessed to witness another wonder of the world! Yes, one more thing crossed off my #travelbucketlist.

Till my next adventure, Toodles.

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