It’s not surprising that Petra is among the seven new world wonders. In fact, it’s majestic beauty is almost taking your breath away when you walk through the 1.5 kilometer long Siq and stand in front of the Treasury for the first time – at least if you are lucky enough to be there super early in the morning, or after the majority of the tourists have already left.
In this post, I want to give you some essential tipps on visiting Petra.
For fast readers:
- Buy the two-day pass
- Pre-plan your visit
- Go in late, or very early
- Dress appropriately
- Bring water, snacks and cash
Visiting Petra isn’t a cheap adventure. As mentioned in my post about Jordan, I recommend getting the Jordan Pass, which includes the admission to Petra for one, two or more days, depending on which pass you get. I got the «Jordan Explorer» for $106, which included a 2-day visit to Petra. If you don’t have the Jordan Pass, but spend at least one night in Petra (or Wadi Musa, as the town is called) a single day will cost you around $70, and 2-day visitor pass $78. It’s even more expensive if you don’t spend the night in Wadi Musa or only come to Jordan to visit Petra. Since the Jordan pass also waives the visa entry fee of $40 you will have already saved yourself money when you only get the one day pass. But don’t let the prices shy you away from this mystic wonder.
As mentioned, Petra can get very crowded. If you want to experience the place in relative peace, you have two options: go very early or head in late. Since I’m not a morning person, I opted for the second and my visiting tipps below, are for this option. Petra covers over 264 square kilometres and has so much more to offer than the Treasury. If you want to make the most out of your visit, pre-plan your visit.
Here’s what I’d suggest: if you first go into Petra, head straight for the Treasury (you’ll walk the Siq about 5-8 times while there, so you don’t have to lose time here in the beginning). In theory, a horseback-ride to or from the Treasury is included in your ticket. In reality, the Bedouins working there expect that you tip them heavily. After the Treasury, just take a stroll past the «Royal Tombs» towards the «Great Temple», get an overview and then head out again.
The second day, start early and head straight to the «Royal Tombs». At the Treasury, you can access a great viewpoint if you go up the stairs behind the Royal Tombs. Keep left on the trail. You will pass a small building and it may look like the trail has ended but keep going until you reach the viewpoint. If you want to see the Treasury in sunlight, there are 2 time slots per day (one in the morning, one in the afternoon), when the sun is shining into the canyon. Check the exact times so you can be at the viewpoint when the sun hits the Treasury.
There is a shortcut to see the Treasury from above. The Bedouins will take you up a forbidden way if you pay them. We haggled with many of them and asked around and they won’t go below 10JD/Person. I didn’t know about the other trail and I feel like you have the better view from the Royal Tombs trail.
After that, head to the «Monastery» and once you’re back, you can hike to the «High place of Sacrifice» on your way back. Be aware that this is A LOT of walking and the trail signs are inexistent. It’s totally doable and we hiked all those trails in one day but were completely exhausted when we got back out.
Having said that, bring snacks and plenty of water. There are restaurants inside of Petra, but they didn’t look too appealing to me. Water costs 2 JD per bottle in the shops outside of Petra. If you have a car, stock up on water before you go to the Dead Sea and Petra.
A word about «Petry by night»: I decided against it because of the mixed reviews. While I think that it’s a very nice idea to light the Treasury up with candles, I feel like it’s getting ruined by the massive amount of people they let in. Petry by night is not included in your ticket and you’ll have to pay extra. Since I already hiked all day that day, the thought of walking those 3 kilometers to the Treasury and back was another reason I stayed away. I positioned myself right outside the entrance and watched as a long, long line of people started to pile in and was very happy I wasn’t among them. Do you have any questions or useful information about Petra? Feel free to leave a comment below.
A word of caution
From my experience, Jordanians are generally extremely friendly and very helpful people. But like in every country, there are some people who try to harm other people in one way or the other. In Petra and Wadi Rum, there is supposed to be a group of Bedouin men, referred to as «love pirates». They vaguely resemble Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean with dark, kohl-rimmed eyes, wild hair and a head scarf but they are in fact professional romance scammers that try to chat up women traveling solo or in a group and seduce foreigners for financial gain. They offer free tours and follow women along pretty persistently.
When I was visiting Jordan, I was accompanied by my boyfriend. I have seen Jack Sparrow and the lot, but since I was traveling with a man, I wasn’t approached by them but saw some young girls on «tours» with them or being followed by a group of young men. Back then, I hadn’t read about this problem and it wasn’t obvious. Scammers are usually professionals with years of practice, so don’t expect a clumsy approach or an easy to see through story. I have been scammed once while traveling through South America. I have been extremely careful the whole time while traveling back then, but then this guy approached me one evening on the street. Bottom line: the man (a Belgian guy in his 40ties) seemed very trustworthy and it looked like he was in a really bad situation so I gave him money (very little, since I was leaving the country the next day and only had a couple of pesos left). However, what stuck with me was that feeling, that something wasn’t right. Something just felt really off, but I decided against my gut feeling and tried to reason over it. Apparently that’s the number one mistake you can do. Trust your instinct, be aware that scams exist and don’t expect that you’re smart enough to detect the scam.
I’m all about being open-minded, trying to not offend local culture and not suspecting the worst in people from the beginning. Just please be careful, read up on that subject and use common sense. Following strangers to a secluded spot isn’t the most brilliant idea in any country. Whenever possible, book licensed guides from the visitor center and If you’re a woman traveling solo, be extra-cautious, don’t fall for that romantic story and don’t be shy to ask for help from fellow travelers/tourists/bystanders. If you’re a man witnessing a situation where a woman is looking like she’s in in an uncomfortable situation, please step in and ask if she needs help.