The World Wonder of Petra got that designation for a reason. Out of the seven, it falls just behind Machu Picchu as my favorite. With its mystical history steeped in Nabataean, Byzantine, and Roman roots, Petra is a surreal place, sure to impress any type of traveler. Petra combines its its storied past with breathtaking natural landscapes. Even with all of the hype surrounding it, Petra truly blew me away. It should be the highlight of any Jordan travel itinerary.
However, I also feel like I had a perfect experience at Petra. I visited well before the crowds of tourist buses and hordes of local vendors could dampen the mystique. If you plan on visiting Petra on your own without a guide, this will contain everything you need to know before your visit, from the logistics of getting to Petra, to the perfect itinerary to see all the highlights without having to squeeze through sweaty tourists. Read on to make sure you have an incredible experience at this World Wonder.
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Table of Contents
- How To Get To Petra
- Where To Stay in Petra
- Entrance Fees for Petra
- How Many Days to Spend in Petra
- Recommended Petra Itinerary
- What To Bring to Petra
Oh, and before you go, make sure to have good travel insurance handy while you’re off adventuring across the world. I use SafetyWing to keep me covered throughout my travels for as low as $45 a month, and their coverage includes Jordan among the 190+ countries that they cover. It’s always important to have when hiking through remote deserts and rappelling down Jordan’s canyons and waterfalls.
How To Get to Petra
The first step is to fly into Jordan. Skiplagged is a great resource for finding cheap flights. Queen Alia International Airport in Amman is the main gateway to the country, and from there, you can proceed to Petra using other modes of transportation. The World Wonder of Petra is situated on the outskirts of a small town called Wadi Musa. The travel time to Wadi Musa from Jordan’s capital city of Amman takes about two hours, depending on the mode of transportation. From Wadi Rum, the journey takes about the same amount of time.
How to Take the Local Bus to Petra
Jordan has a reliable and affordable public bus network that connects major cities and tourist destinations. You can take a public bus from Amman to Wadi Musa, the nearest town to Petra, and then use local transportation to reach the archaeological site. The bus company in Jordan that I found most reliable was Jett Bus.
Taking a Minibus to Petra
There are also minibuses that go to Wadi Musa. These usually run based on demand as opposed to set schedules. I took the minibus from Wadi Rum to Wadi Musa, arranging with the bus driver to be picked up around 11 AM from Wadi Rum.
Renting a Car in Jordan
Renting a car provides the flexibility to explore the region at your own pace. Several car rental agencies operate in Jordan, and you can rent a car from Amman or other major cities to drive to Petra. Ensure you have a valid driver’s license and are familiar with local driving rules and regulations. Outside of Amman’s city center, driving in Jordan is pretty easy-going. The highways are well-maintained and for the most part, pretty empty.
Taking a Private Taxi to Petra
Hiring a private car or taxi is a convenient option, especially if you prefer a direct and comfortable journey to Petra from major cities such as Amman, Aqaba, or Wadi Musa. Make sure to negotiate the fare beforehand or arrange for a reliable transportation service.
Booking a Guided Tour to Petra
Lastly, there is the option of booking a guided tour. Joining a guided tour is a popular and convenient option for many travelers, as it provides transportation, guided exploration of the site, and insights into the history and culture of Petra. Many tour operators offer day trips or multi-day tours that include transportation, meals, and guided excursions. However, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are really strapped for time and simply want to see the highlights. I loved exploring Petra at my own pace with two of my friends. We passed by massive tour groups on our way out of the archaeological site and was beyond glad that we decided to experience the journey on our own.
Where To Stay in Petra (Wadi Musa)
Petra is the name of the archaeological site, and one cannot actually stay in Petra. The closest town to Petra is Wadi Musa, with many hotels and accommodation options right at the doorstep of Petra Archaeological Site. There isn’t much to do in Wadi Musa itself, and there is hardly anything in town that one could consider a “city center” or “downtown.” Because of this, I’d say the ideal place to stay in Wadi Musa would be as close to the Petra Visitor Center as possible. It’s also adjacent to the main bus station, so one could get to Petra, visit Petra, and leave without having to even set foot in Wadi Musa. And truly, you wouldn’t miss out on anything.
Nomads Hotel and Hostel
When picking a hostel, I chose Nomads Hotel. I had just spent a few days in Wadi Rum without internet, so finding accommodation that doubled as a workspace was an essential. I ended up not getting much work done because shisha and wine on the rooftop proved to be too difficult to resist. However, it’s a great option for both backpackers and digital nomads. I was traveling with friends so simply having a place to rest in between exploring Petra was the priority over making new travel buddies.
The other main hostel in Wadi Musa is Rafiki Hostel. I didn’t stay here, but have heard good things about it from other travelers. It seemed to have a more social vibe than Nomads, so I would recommend this hostel for solo travelers.
For a full list of hostels in Petra, check out Hostelworld.
Entrance Fees for Petra
For my fellow backpackers, the cost of entering Petra might be what deters them. A single-day ticket sets you back about $70 USD, which can be a fortune to a backpacker on a budget. Listen to me. It is worth every penny. While the highlights of Petra can be seen in a day, I’d recommend spreading out your visit over two days. The two-day ticket only costs 5 Dinar more, adding up to about $77 USD.
There are multiple options for visiting Petra.
- One-Day Ticket: 50 Jordanian Dinar
- Two-Day Ticket: 55 JD
- Three-Day Ticket: 60 JD
- Jordan Pass: 70-80 JD
If you happen to be a Jordanian local, the ticket is a measly 1 JD.
I would recommend buying the Jordan Pass as you will easily get your money’s worth simply by waiving the tourist visa fee and the entrance fee to Petra. The Jordan Pass works out to just 20 Jordanian Dinar more than Petra’s entrance fee.
How Much Time To Spend at Petra
Petra is a huge archaeological site that can take even the most fast-paced traveler days to fully explore.
While Petra can be done in one day, exploring it at a slower pace over the course of two days is what I’d recommend. Petra is a huge archaeological site, and to see everything in one day would be exhausting. Throw in the heat and Middle Eastern sun, and it can be grueling climbing up and down Petra’s canyons over the course of a day. The two-day pass is only 5 JD more than the one-day pass, so the cost difference is almost negligible.
Recommended Itinerary For Exploring Petra On Your Own
Although having a guide will help you understand Petra, I enjoyed exploring Petra at my own pace. Here is a suggested itinerary for exploring Petra at your own pace in one day. I did all of this in two days, although we took plenty of time to enjoy coffee breaks and various viewpoints. We could have squeezed our two-day visit into one long day, but chose to explore at a slower pace. If you want to save money and avoid a multi-day ticket, follow this one-day Petra itinerary. Otherwise, just cut the day in half, ending at the viewpoint of the Treasury, and then starting the next day by hiking up to the High Point of Sacrifice.
6:00 AM: Arrive at Petra and Walk Through the Siq
Start your day by arriving at the entrance right as it opens. This allows you to beat the crowds and beat the heat. It truly transformed the experience. Once you walk through the gate, it’s about a 20-30 minute walk to get to the iconic Treasury. The views are incredible all the way, and you’ll pass the Djinn Blocks temple before walking through the Siq slot canyon all the way to the Treasury. This section takes about 30 minutes from the entrance to the star attraction of Petra.
6:30 AM: Arrive at the Treasury
The iconic Treasury of Petra is perhaps synonymous with the archaeological site. In fact, it was the only picture I had seen of Petra before I came to visit the site myself. This gorgeous structure etched into the red-rocked canyon is worth the journey alone. Getting here early makes all the difference, though. The courtyard was empty when we arrived, adding to the surreal experience of being at this World Wonder. It was a far different scene as we walked back out in the afternoon, as the courtyard was jam-packed with tourists, vendors, camels, golf carts, and more.
At the Treasury, there will be people charging you to climb up a little bit and get a better view. Don’t fall for it, the best view can be done on your own and for free. We’ll get to that later. Soak in your first glimpse of Petra’s many wonders and take advantage of the sparse crowds to get your killer photos.
7:30 AM: Hike up to the Monastery
Next up, chug along the main route and head to the Monastery. You’ll walk through the Roman Colonnade and pass through highlights like the Roman Theatre and Byzantine Church, but ignore those for now. Follow the signs up the mountains to reach the Monastery before the crowds arrive. This requires a steep hike, but I found it more impressive than the Treasury.
Take your time getting up here, as the views are incredible all the way up.
9:00 AM: Reach the Monastery
The crowds here are smaller, as it is more difficult to get to from the main entrance. There is a back entrance that allows you to reach the Monastery without the steep hike uphill, but very few people take this route. The Monastery has a number of viewpoints that are free, and we spent a good hour just kicking back and taking in the otherworldly views augmented by the early morning’s golden glow.
Once you’ve had your fill of the Monastery, hike back down to the Roman colonnade. From here, you can briefly visit the Great Temple and make a little detour to the Byzantine Church. There are maps at Petra’s Visitor Center and the trails are well-marked, and also show up on Google Maps. After the Treasury and Monastery, these weren’t as impressive, but still worth checking out.
10:00 AM: Hike Back Down from the Monastery and to the Tombs
Thankfully, it’s all downhill from the Monastery. It will only take about thirty minutes to get back down to the Roman Colonnade. From there, one can make a detour to the remnants of the Byzantine Church, although I wouldn’t consider this essential. Continue walking along the colonnade until you reach the strip of tombs. Hope your legs got some much-needed rest because we are going back up, up, up.
11:00 AM: Visit the Tombs
Walk to the end of the colonnade and then veer left towards the tombs. These aren’t in as good condition as the Treasury or Monastery, but are also unbelievably impressive. You can even go inside a few of the tombs and get an idea of just how impressive these structures were. The Palace Tomb is perhaps my favorite structure in Petra behind the Treasury and Monastery.
11:30 AM: Hike up to the Viewpoint of the Treasury
Walk past the Palace Tomb and you’ll find yourself on a steep trail with many stairs. Follow the trail for 30 minutes. Your legs will be on fire, but soon you’ll be at the best view of the Treasury. There are panoramic views of the site along the way to rest at, including a gorgeous view of the Roman Theater.
At the end of the trail, you’ll find a cafe overlooking the Treasury. The signs say that you have to buy a drink to sit at the cafe, but it didn’t really seem all the enforced. We bought coffees for 2 JD each. Not a bad price to pay for a coffee with a view of a World Wonder. It’s a small cafe, so it can often get full pretty quickly. We stayed for over an hour just relaxing and taking in the views.
2:00 PM: Hike Back Down and then Up to the High Point of Sacrifice
Long day, hey? If you’re not worn out yet, it’s time to hike up to the High Point of Sacrifice. If you are, end your day here and come back tomorrow and start here. One can reach the trail from the Roman colonnade and veering left through the Great Temple. It’s another steep but short hike, home to panoramic views of the archaeological site and surrounding mountains.
4:00 PM: Hike Back Through the Nature Trails
From the High Point of Sacrifice, it’s possible to avoid the tourist crowds entirely and take a trail dropping you off close to the entrance. By now, the crowds will be in full force, and the Treasury will be flooded with tour groups, camels, vendors, and golf carts. It’s a far cry from the Petra of the early morning. Taking this route out of the site will help you avoid those crowds and the cramped walk back through the Siq.
The trail is well-kept but with hardly anyone on it. For nature-lovers, it’s a great way to get some more hiking in. The views were reminiscent of some national parks in Utah and Arizona. Petra’s setting amidst the rugged desert landscapes of southern Jordan creates a breathtaking backdrop for exploration and photography. The surrounding canyons, mountains, and sandstone cliffs add to the allure of the site, making it a visually stunning and unforgettable experience.
5:00 PM: Visit the Petra Museum
And voila, you’ve reached the end of Petra. There is a museum just outside of the archaeological site that is filled with artifacts from the Nabataeans, Byzantines, and Romans. It is a small museum, but is included with your ticket so it’s worth checking out for a few minutes.
Afterwards, head back to your accommodation and relax after a long day. Wadi Musa doesn’t have much in terms late-night fun, but I’d recommend stopping by Nomads Hostel and having wine and shisha while Indiana Jones plays on their projector. It was a wonderful way to wrap up our adventures in Petra.
What To Bring To Petra
Petra can be grueling, especially once the heat starts to kick in. Sunscreen is a must. Be sure to load it on because there isn’t much shade throughout the site. You’ll be able to find little pockets of shade, but vast parts of the park are out in the open valley.
I also recommend bringing your own water, although water is sold throughout the site. Buy a big bottle from a store just outside of the park, as the prices drastically increase once you’re actually in the archaeological park. The vendors are all cash-only, so be sure to bring sufficient cash for snacks and water. I didn’t eat at the restaurants, but they might accept credit card. Bring cash just to be safe. There is an ATM right outside of Petra’s entrance, so just stop by before you enter.
Although hiking shoes aren’t essential for exploring Petra, make sure that you’re wearing comfortable shoes. One thing I didn’t expect was just how much hiking a visit to Petra entailed. Many of the best viewpoints and attractions require a steep hike. The Monastery is pure incline for nearly an hour, as is the viewpoint overlooking the Treasury. At the very least, wear sneakers. It will make your time in Petra much more enjoyable.
All in all, Petra is as bucket-list worthy of a place as it gets. Follow along with these tips to make sure you have an unforgettable time at this World Wonder.
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If this post helped you out, show some love and support for the blog and help keep my adventures going by buying me a beer! My adventures are entirely self-funded, so any show of support is greatly appreciated, and allows me to keep writing helpful travel guides and creating travel content to help you all travel the world on a budget.