Petra - Deir
photo by Tarek

Petra, the fabled "rose red city, half as old as time", is a well known ancient Nabataean city in the south of Jordan. Due to its breathtaking grandeur and fabulous ruins, Petra was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985.


Petra was the impressive capital of the Nabataean kingdom from around the 6th century BC. The kingdom was absorbed into the Roman Empire in AD 106 and the Romans continued to expand the city. An important center for trade and commerce, Petra continued to flourish until a catastrophic earthquake destroyed buildings and crippled vital water management systems around AD 663. After Saladin's conquest of the Middle East in 1189, Petra was abandoned and the memory of it was lost to the West.

The ruins remained hidden to most of the world until the Swiss explorer, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, disguised as an Arab scholar, infiltrated the Bedouin-occupied city in 1812. Burckhardt's accounts of his travels inspired other Western explorers and historians to discover the ancient city further. The most famous of these was David Roberts, a Scottish artist who created a number of accurate and detailed illustrations of the city in 1839.

The first real excavations of the site were in 1929 after the forming of Trans-Jordan. Since that time, Petra has become by far Jordan's largest tourist attraction, partially due to the exposure by the Steven Spielberg movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, in 1989. Due to the fantastic engineering accomplishments and well-preserved dimension of Petra, the archaeological site was chosen in July 2007 as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World .

Getting there

By bus

JETT buses, both ordinary and all-inclusive guided tour, connect to Amman and Aqaba. Other tourists come with organized groups, including daily trips from Eilat. Tours to Petra from Taba, Sinai and Sharm el Sheikh are also gaining popularity with charter tourism.

It would cost 24 JD for two persons to travel by JETT bus, and allow you to see almost the entire site in an (exhausting) day trip.

By minibus

The minibus from Wadi Rum costs 3 Jordanian Dinars (JD) each. It takes 1.5 hours to get to Petra. Have the Rum Guesthouse or your tour operator call the bus owner the day before to arrange an exact time for pick up. The bus usually leaves from Wadi Rum at 8:30 in the morning, but may be delayed due to weather or tour groups coming the other way.

There are also minibuses from Amman departing from the Wadabat bus station - these leave when full, and tourists are almost always charged 3 JD to get on. DO NOT allow the drivers to charge you for your luggage, as they might sometimes try to do, considering you're already paying more than the locals (who pay 2-2.5JD).

By taxi

Taxi is also a viable option. For 75 JD or less (depending on how much you haggle) you may be able to get a private taxi from Amman to Petra and back, including the driver waiting around for 6 hours.

A taxi from Aqaba to Petra should cost about JD 30 one-way. If you arrange for a daytrip you shoudl be able to find a taxi who is willing to go with you for the whole day for 45 JD (January 2010, round trip, including the wait for the driver).

If coming from Eilat (Israel), opportunistic drivers at the border may ask for much higher fares; it's better to take one cab to central Aqaba and continue from there at the normal price. Most hotels in Petra can also arrange to have someone pick you up.

If you get there renting a minibus with a driver in the hotel at the Dead Sea, the one-way price would be 140 JD.

As of Jan 2010 a day trip to Petra by taxi from the Eilat border crossing costs 50 JD return for 3 people and the driver will wait for you in Petra.

Traveling around

The only modes of transport allowed within Petra are on two feet or on four feet (camel, donkey, or horse). When entering Petra, there is a brief hike down towards the Siq. Horses will be available for travel to the entrance of the Siq, or you can choose to take a horse-drawn buggy through the Siq (a distance of about .9 kilometers) and down to the Treasury. The prices for such rides are not set and are extremely negotiable, depending on one's bargaining abilities.

Once you arrive at the Treasury, there will be many camel and donkey owners jockeying for your business. Be prepared to do some bargaining and don't pay more than 10 JD, a more resonable price is around 3 JD a person. Often times the owner will drop his price in half simply by hearing a few phrases in Arabic.

Camel or donkey transport should be seriously considered. Riding a camel is a unique experience on more level ground, but a donkey is recommended for more ambitious climbs, such as the ones to the High Place or the Monastery. However if you are reasonably fit and the weather is good, the walk is quite nice.


Petra is an archaeological park, so the entrance fees are considered fairly steep compared to other Jordanian attractions. Visitors can purchase tickets at the Visitor's Center for 33 JD/person for a one day pass, 38 JD for a two day pass (as of Jan 2010). A 3 day pass is also available and will get you a 4th day for free. A valid student ID card used to allow entrance for 11.5 JD, however this offer has been discontinued, it is not sure if it will become available again. Do not attempt to purchase tickets from dubious scalpers around town! Time permitting, the two-day pass is recommended, as there is much to see and do in Petra.

Guides can be hired from about 10 JD and up (depending on what you want to see) at the Visitors Center. You may want to take advantage of the knowledge of the Bedouins who work in Petra. Many of them were born and raised in Petra, and will gladly share their knowledge with you for the price of a camel or donkey ride. Alternatively, major hotels can rent you a portable Easyguide audio guide (JD 10/day) for commentary in English, Arabic, French and Spanish. Easyguide is also available as a mobile phone service on all Jordanian mobile phone networks, a map is needed to use this service.

  • The entrance to Petra is a long, winding sandstone canyon known as the Siq. There are minor carvings spotted here and there throughout the Siq, but the most impressive sights are the colorful and unusual sandstone patterns in the rock walls. There are also remains of terracotta pipes built into the sides of the canyon that were used in Roman times to carry water.

  • Upon exiting the Siq, visitors can view the jaw-dropping grandeur of the Treasury (al-Khazneh in Arabic). Be sure to note the urn atop the Treasury structure. It has been rumored that the urn contained a Pharaoh's hidden treasure, and the urn bears the bullet pock marks where Bedouin travellers throughout the years have tested the theory. Get there when the park opens at 6AM or 6:30AM (depending on the season) and you may have the Treasury all to yourself or with less than 5-10 people around.

  • Past the next bend is the outer Siq or Street of Facades, a large canyon lined with the facades of various tombs.

  • At the end of the Street of Facades is the 7000-seat Roman Theater. The theater was created by the Nabateans but later enlarged by the Romans. It is still used for occasional performances.

  • On the side of the valley opposite the Roman Theater and a short walk up the hill, are the Royal Tombs. The name was given because they are quite grand in scale compared to the others in the area, but it is unclear for whom the tombs were originally constructed.

  • The Monastery (ad-Deir), the largest carved monument in Petra, dates back to the 1st century AD. The interior, like that of the Treasury, is puny in comparison to the facade. The more than 800 steps up to the Monastery can take over an hour; many visitors choose to ride donkeys up to the top.

  • Princess Alia Clinic, Brooke Hospital for Animals located just inside the entrance to the park. As you can witness inside Petra, not all donkeys, horses and camels are treated right. A few are overworked, carrying overweight tourist or being excessively whipped. The Brooke charity educates owners about the treatment of equestrian working animals and treats the animals for free. The clinic is happy to tell you about conditions for working animals in Jordan. You can give a donation to the clinic.

Things to do

For the terminally energetic, there are a number of popular hikes around Petra.

  • In order to understand what in reality Petra is, it is better to spend there two days. The first day: Siq - Treasury - City - Monastery. The second day: another way to Petra through Wadi Muthlim - see the Treasury from above on Jebel Al -Khubtha - High Place of Sacrifice. If you enter Petra through Wadi Muthlim do not turn left immediately after the small Siq, first go right to see Aqueduct, Tunnel and Al-Wu'eira Fort and only after that return to Petra center.

  • The High Place of Sacrifice is a popular destination in Petra. The site at the top of the mountain contains elaborate rock altars used for sacrifices. From the High Place, one can view much of Petra from above. The trek down the back side of the mountain reveals many interesting tombs and carvings that might be missed by average tourist. The round trip generally takes 1.5-2.5 hours.

* The Mountain of Aaron (Jabal Haroun) is the highest peak in the area. At the top you will find a small church and the tomb of Aaron, brother of Moses. The route to the top and back will take you past the Monastery and will take 4-8 hours depending on your chosen path.



  • Al-Anbat 1 , +962 (06) 215 6888, +962 (06) 215 6888, Clean rooms with satellite TV (including BBC & CNN). All upstairs rooms have baths and the occasional balcony. Poorly located some 4 km from Wadi Musa, but breakfast and transport to Petra is included in the price. Internet cafe, restaurant and Turkish bath. In January 2009 the hot air from the air-conditioning system was being switched off at night and during the day (

  • Al-Anbat 2, +962 (06) 215 6888, All rooms have air-con and satellite TV.

  • Cleopetra Hotel, +962 (03) 215 7090, Basic hostel with common area with TV and couches. Some rooms have bathroom included. Located up the hill (near the bus station) but free transport is provided to and from Petra. Great reception with lots of advice and can organise trips to Wadi Rum. Mosleh will take care of you - he seems to know everyone in town. Breakfast is also included in the price which makes this hotel great value!

  • Petra Gate Hotel, +962 (03)215 6908, +962 (03)215 6908, Warm, welcoming, and friendly atmosphere; the rooms all with bath and toilet , offers free transportation to the site; free luggage storage; international telephone call service; laundry; wireless internet services; satellite TV; movies; tickets to Petra by Night; and a big buffet-style restaurant. English speaking, super friendly and helpful staff is there to answer all your questions, and they can organise trips to Wadi Rum and to the kings highway and Dead Sea and they will help you during your stay. Clean and quite cheap, breakfast included.

  • Saba'a Hotel , + 962 776250574 (Ibrahim)and +962 779753033 (Gail), + 962 776250574 (Ibrahim)and +962 779753033 (Gail), Wadi Musa, Petra, Jordan, From the bus station, turn left and walk along the main road to the roundabout, cross over and walk 100yards up the hill on the left., This hotel opened late 2009 and the couple running it are really welcoming - he's from Jordan and she's from the UK and they really make you feel at home. The rooms are simple and clean, they are all ensuite. Wireless internet; packed lunches; laundry service, luggage storage; satellite tv; book swap;local information; trips to Wadi Rum are all available.

  • Valley stars Inn , **+962** 3 2155733, **+962** 3 2155733, Clean and friendly. They can arrange transportation from any point in Jordan for a good price and they also arrange tours in Jordan. Wireless internet, homey feeling, arrangements for Petra by night trip, and free shuttle to main gate.

  • Valentine Inn , + 962 (03)215 6423, Wadi Mousa, Jabal Alzohour Str, Jordan., At the main roundabout, head up the (steep) hill about 200mt, entrance on the right., The place where every taxi driver will attempt to take you, the Valentine Inn has become very popular with budget travelers and backpackers. They offer a generous and tasty breakfast and dinner buffet (2.5-4JD), clean single bed dorm rooms, and sociable dining area with great views of the town. The staff and owners are always willing to help with directions, and offer you tea whenever they see you. Like all places they can arrange everything, and offer a free minibus to the park entrance at 7 & 8am and returning at 5 & 6pm.


  • Grand View Resort , +962 (3) 215 68 71, +962 (3) 215 68 71, Queen Rania Street, Beside the Marriott overlooking Wadi Musa, One of the top 5 hotels in Wadi Musa, the Grand View Resort offers excellent service with a fantastic view of Jabal Haroun (the Mountain of Aaron) and the surrounding area.

  • Taybet Zaman Hotel and Resort, +962 (06) 215 0111, Located in a renovated 19th-century village, this is quite possibly the best hotel and almost certainly the most stylish one in Petra, if not in all of Jordan. The 105 rooms are all located in individual houses decorated in Bedouin style. The inevitable handicraft shops are attractively camouflaged in a


Ancient coin, mister?

The Bedouin tradesmen around the area will display artificial "ancient" Roman or Nabatean coins which are rather large in size. If pressed further, they will generally have a hidden stash of small, authentic coins from various periods. However buying these coins encourages the illegal looting of archaeological sites. To supply you with a souvenir the local inhabitants destroy graves, tombs and buildings in searches for coins and other antiquities. The Antiquities Law of 1988 states that individuals who engage in illicit excavations and/or trading in antiquities are criminals.

Throughout Petra, vendors will offer bottles of decorative sand art. While they may appear similar to other such souvenirs found in other Jordanian locations, these are unique in that the sand used to create the art is naturally colored sand scraped from the rock walls of various Petra canyons and not artificially colored.

Stay healthy

The most cold and rainy months to visit Petra are December and January. In this time it is warm during the day and very cold in the evenings and at nights. That's why it is necessary to take coats, hats and gloves. And it could warm up your visit there if you take a thermos with hot tea with you. Avoid going if the forecast shows a lot of rain, as the guards may need to transport tourists out if the valley starts to flood (like on Jan 18th 2010).

Eat & Drink

  • Wrangler Bar, at Petra Palace Hotel, cosy bar with alcoholic drinks and oldies but goodies music There is only one restaurant in all Petra at the far end of the Roman Highway, which does a roaring trade despite steep pricing. It also has the valley's monopoly on beer.

For drinks hot and cold, there are a number of stalls and vendors scattered throughout the area.

Shade is sparse in Petra, and on a hot summer day you can expect to go through at least 4 litres of water (and more if you can afford to carry it). The need for water in the winter months is much less essential.

In Wadi Musa, there are many more eating options. Of particular note, is Al-Wadi Restaurant on Shaheed roundabout in the center of town. Reasonably priced, and the servers are extremely friendly. Also great food that you will be unlikely to finish. Expect to pay JD2-JD4 for a main dish.

Get out

  • Wadi Rum, a stunning desert valley in southern Jordan, lies about an hour south of Petra.

Contact & location

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The photos displayed on this page are the property of one of the following authors:

Tarek, William Stephens, Paul Stocker, bachmont, Vladimer Shioshvili, Mossaiq, David Poe

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This travel guide also includes text from Wikitravel articles, all available at WikitravelView full credits

Burmesedays, Ryan Holliday, Jani Patokallio, HJP, Larisa, Niels Elgaard Larsen, Greg, Peter James, Kenny Low, Nick Roux, hala z, Brian B., Rob Burke, Caron De Mars,, David Bjorgen, Michele Ann Jenkins, Simone Bravo, Evan Prodromou and Stuart Bishop, Globe-trotter, Upstream, Inas, Rein N., Tatatabot, Liorv, Morph, Cacahuate, PerryPlanet, W66LinkBot, Rakkar, Tnagy, Huttite and Pjamescowie

This travel guide also includes text from Wikipedia articles, all available at WikipediaView full credits

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