A first-time guide to visiting Petra archaeological site in Jordan, with all the information you need to know, from how to get there and where to stay to the best time to visit and how much it costs.
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The spectacular carved rock tombs of Petra in Jordan often top travel wishlists. But unlike many dream destinations, it’s actually fairly easy and not too expensive to visit Petra. There’s accommodation from tented camps to five-star resorts, there’s good public transport or it’s simple to drive yourself, it’s safe and the people are incredibly welcoming.
So if you want to visit Petra, which is the best way to do it? While plenty of companies offer organised tours, it’s also an easy place to visit independently. Here’s everything you need to know when planning a trip to Petra – including how to get there, the closest hotels, best times to visit and even the best places for a drink after a long day exploring.
What you need to know about visiting Petra
Where to stay in Petra
A whole town – Wadi Musa – has grown up to cater for visitors coming to Petra. The town has hotels of all types and budgets, which start right next to the entrance and stretch up into the hills, as well as plenty of places to eat, souvenir shops and travel agencies.
Luxury: The Mövenpick Resort* is just across the street from Petra. It’s a big five-star hotel with over 180 rooms and seven restaurants, bars and cafés on site, as well an outdoor pool and a roof terrace with amazing views where there’s often live music at sunset.
Mid-range: The four-star Petra Guest House* is a close as you can get to Petra, next door to the visitor’s centre. It has a mix of rooms and self-contained chalets overlooking the mountains around Wadi Musa, along with a restaurant, terrace and cave bar.
Budget: If you have a car then the hotels a bit further away up on the hillside are good value and come with stunning views. The Rocky Mountain Hotel* is a simple, family-run guesthouse with free tea and coffee on the roof terrace and free shuttles to Petra.
How to get to Petra
If you’re staying in central Wadi Musa, Petra’s just a short walk away. Hotels further out often run a free shuttle to the visitor’s centre a couple of times a day, though it does mean you’re limited to fixed times. Otherwise there are plenty of taxis outside the visitor’s centre, especially in the afternoons, and you’ll pay around JD5 (£6/$7) within Wadi Musa.
If you are driving to Petra, it’s 236km (around 3 hours) from the Jordanian capital Amman to Petra via the faster Desert Highway or 255km (4.5 hours) via the slower but more scenic King’s Highway. Or the coastal resort of Aqaba to Petra is a 126km drive (2 hours).
There’s a free car park in Petra opposite the bus stop, in front of the Petra Moon hotel. This bus stop is also where you can catch the JETT buses which connect Wadi Musa to Amman and Aqaba if you’re travelling around Jordan using public transport. The buses are comfortable and reliable, and you can pre-book a seat in advance on their website.
The bus from Amman to Petra takes three hours, departing Amman at 6.30am and returning at 5pm, and costs JD10 (£11/$14) one way. Aqaba to Petra is also a three-hour journey, departing Aqaba at 8am and returning at 5pm for JD15 (£17/$21) one way.
Or if you’re limited on time and looking for an easy way to visit Petra, there are various tour packages available which include transport and entry tickets. There are day trips from Amman* and Aqaba* in Jordan or Eilat* and Tel Aviv* in Israel. Or longer tours which give you two/three days at Petra, sometimes combined with a visit to Wadi Rum.
How much do tickets for Petra cost?
Petra is one of those places where the longer you spend there, the better value it is. A one-day entry ticket costs JD50 (£57/$71) per person, but a two-day ticket is only JD55 (£64/$78) and a three-day ticket is JD60 (£69/$85). Children under 15 get free entry.
Note that these are the prices you pay if you’re staying in Jordan; if you’re on a day trip and not staying in the country overnight then the price is JD90 (£103/$127). You also pay the higher fee of JD90 if you visit Petra on the day that you arrive in the country, but if you go back the next day you can get a refund of JD40 (£46/$56).
You can buy tickets at the visitor’s centre using either cash or credit card. You can also pick up maps, guide books and hire a guide here, costing JD50–100 (£58–£116/$71–$141).
If you’re going to be visiting other sites in Jordan, you also can get a Jordan Pass which includes entry to Petra plus 40 other sites and museums, including Jesash, Amman Citadel and Wadi Rum. The pass cost JD70 (£81/$99) for one day entry to Petra, JD75 (£87/$106) for two days or JD80 (£93/$113) for three days, and you can buy them online.
When is the best time to visit Petra?
The best time to visit Jordan is during the spring and autumn months – March, April and May or September, October and November. At this time of year it’s usually dry but not too hot, with average high temperatures from 19°C–28°C (66–82°F).
Summer can get very hot with average high temperatures peaking at 33°C (91°F) in July and August, and very little shade on the site so avoid the hottest part of the day. Winter is the quietest season for visiting Petra but can be cold and rainy. January sees around eight rainy days and average temperatures ranging from 2–13°C (36–55°F).
When time does Petra open and close?
Petra is open every day, with the ticket office opening from 6am to 6pm in the summer and from 6am to 4pm during the winter. The site closes around sunset and the quietest times to visit Petra are usually in the early mornings and late afternoons.
Petra is also open on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday nights when the Siq and Treasury are illuminated by candles for Petra by Night. Tickets cost JD17 (£19/$24) and the tour starts at 8.30pm and finishes at 10.30pm. It’s really popular so I’d recommend hanging back so you can experience the magic of the Siq away from the scrum of visitors.
How long should I spend in Petra?
Many people visit Petra on a day trip, but as it’s such a large site you need to prepare for a long day and focus on the highlights – the walk down the Siq to the Treasury, the Amphitheatre, Colonnaded Street, Qasr al-Bint and Royal Tombs. If you have a full day you can also add in the walk up to the Monastery, which is around 45 minutes each way.
Staying overnight in Wadi Musa the night before means you can get to the site early before the day-trip crowds – you could also add on Petra by Night if you’re there on the right day.
If you have time, then two or three days gives you time to see Petra’s sights at a more leisurely pace. You can also add in some of Petra’s hikes like the steep trail to the High Place of Sacrifice (4–5 hours) or the Al Khubtha trail (2–2.5 hours) for those famous views down to the Treasury. And with longer you could also visit Little Petra, 9km away.
What should I wear at Petra?
As you’ll be walking over sandy and rocky ground and covering a few miles, walking shoes or sturdy trainers are the best bet. As Jordan is a Muslim country, it’s advisable to cover your shoulders and knees – I wore a long-sleeved cotton top and trousers. It’s not necessary for women to cover their hair, though a scarf is a useful shield from sun and dust.
Early mornings can be cool if you’re visiting Petra in spring or autumn so an extra layer is useful, or a raincoat in winter. There’s very little shade around the archaeological site, so bring a hat or scarf and sunglasses, and don’t forget plenty of sunscreen.
How much walking will I have to do?
Petra stretches over a massive 60 square kilometres so you’ll end up doing a lot of walking. It’s around 2.5 miles/4km from the entrance to the site to the basin, the further point. Plus you’ll need to add on extra mileage for sightseeing diversions and any of the climbs up to the Monastery or the viewpoints overlooking the Treasury.
Previously you could take a horse and carriage from the visitor centre to the Treasury, but these have now been replaced by electric golf buggy-style carts. A ride in the carts costs JD25 (£29/$34) and it cuts out around 30 minutes’ walk – particularly welcome at the end of the day as it’s bit of a slog uphill on a sandy path after a long day of walking.
There are also camels, donkeys and horses around the site with handlers offering rides back to the Treasury or up to the Monastery. But we don’t recommend using them as there are concerns about animal welfare, with animals being forced to carry heavy loads and climb steep steps in the hot sun. Their hooves are also damaging the stone around Petra.
If you do decide you want to take a ride, do check that the animals look healthy, well fed and well cared for, as there have been reports of mistreatment. The animal charity PETA run a clinic at Petra where you can report any abused or injured animals.
Can I get food and drink at Petra?
Most hotels in Petra will supply a packed lunch if you ask the night before, and there’s a line of stalls outside the entrance where you can pick up drinks and snacks like chocolate and crisps. Prices inside the site are higher so it’s worth stocking up before you go in.
Bottled water is widely available at stalls in and outside the site, but it’s a good idea to bring a refillable water bottle with a purification system so you can fill up with tap water, both to save money and to cut down on plastic waste which is becoming an increasing problem.
There’s a mixture of places to eat and drink inside Petra, from Bedouin tea stalls and simple kiosks to cafés, and there’s even a full restaurant near the museum called The Basin, run by the Crowne Plaza hotel, where you can have a buffet lunch and glass of wine.
What else should I know about visiting Petra?
Petra is well-equipped with toilets, with toilet blocks at the visitor’s centre, near the Theatre and museum. There are also portaloos at the start of the Siq and at a couple of cafés.
There are souvenir stalls all over Petra (and sellers can be pushy) but one worth a stop is a jewellery stall by the museum run by New Zealander Marguerite van Geldermalsen. She came to Jordan as a backpacker in the 1970s and ended up marrying a Bedouin who lived in a cave in Petra. She’s written a book about her experiences called Married To A Bedouin.*
And finally, if you’re in need of a drink after a long day of walking, some of the nicest places to stop on the way out are the Movenpick Hotel’s Arabian-style bar or the Cave Bar by the Petra Guest House – a 2000-year-old Nabataean tomb converted into a bar.