The Monastery in the Jordan Travel Guide

Visiting The Top Spots in Petra Archeological Park

This post covers everything you need to know when visiting Petra, Jordan. The top sites to see, how to get there, and tips on visiting Petra solo (which is very feasible).

This amazing must-see park is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. It’s a magnificent labyrinth of ancient red-rose, sandstone carved facades, tombs, and temples, both beautiful and steeped in mystery. It can be tempting to attempt Petra as a day trip, but it would just lead to disappointment. The core city center is about 2.3 miles² (6 km²) and the entire park spans about 102 miles² ( 264 km²), so it’s big. Plus there’s a lot to see, so it really is best to spend at least 2, if not 3 days here. There is a 3 day pass for the park for just this reason.

Visiting Petra Park
Petra

Petra’s Nabateans

The Nabateans of Petra were one of several nomadic Bedouin tribes in the Arabian desert. (Bedouin means ‘desert dweller’). Inhabited as far back as 7,000 BC, the Nabateans made this the capital of their kingdom around the 4th century BC. Built near key trade routes, between Arabia, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the eastern Mediterranean, they controlled the caravan trade here.

Skilled in trade, agriculture, harvesting rainwater, and carving stone, Petra grew as the Nabateans prospered. At its peak, about 2,000 years ago, there were an estimated 20,000 inhabitants here.

Visiting The Top Spots In Petra Archeological Park

Due to its elaborate temples, tombs, and religious sites, the Nabateans innovative water systems to provide and store water in the desert, and more, Petra was designated a World Heritage site in 1985. UNESCO describes it as, “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage.”

It really is a must-see, and one of those places you have to experience in person. Not just to see the top sites noted below, but to meet the descendants of the Nabateans that work in the park today (and some actually still live there in the caves). It truly is a cultural experience you will not forget.

See the site map below for the location of the sites below.

Map of Petra
Petra Map | Hobe

The Siq

The ‘Siq’ is the entryway into Petra. This entrance is almost a mile long and has a solemn majesty, with rock walls as high as 300-600’ (91-182 m), and at some points as narrow as 10’ (3 m). You can almost touch the walls with both hands as you wander it’s twists and turns.

If you get here early and walk it alone, you can really appreciate its natural beauty.

The Siq, or entryway, while visiting Petra Archeological Park.
The Siq, or Entryway
The Siq, or entryway, while visiting Petra Archeological Park.
The Siq, or Entryway

The walls of the Siq were once decorated with carvings, and some still remain. The carving (below left) is the remnant of a sculpture of a man leading two camels. It stands more than double life-sized.

Carving in the Siq when visiting Petra
Carving
Look for water channels in the Siq when visiting Petra
Water Channels

You can also see the channels running along the length of the walls, on both sides, that once provided water to the city. The Nabataeans, known for their ability to efficiently channel water in the desert, also built dams, cisterns, and water conduits to control flash flood water and store it for later use and for sale.

The Treasury

At the end of the Siq, Petra opens up to ‘The Treasury’, or Al Khazneh, one of the most iconic, architectural wonders in the park. At first, you only see a sliver of it through the narrow walls of the Siq, but when you step out, you see it in all its splendor.

Visiting Petra in the Jordan Travel Guide
The Treasury
Visiting Petra is a top destination in the Jordan Travel Guide
Entry To Treasury

It’s about 130’ (40 m) tall with columns, Corinthian capitals, and elaborate architectural details. All carved out of the surrounding stone. Although they’re not sure of its actual purpose, the current theory is that this was a tomb for Nabatean King Aretas IV.

The name, the Treasury, was given to this building as people believed it was full of treasure. Sadly, this is also why it’s riddled with bullet holes.

You’ll find many locals offering to act as guides near this structure. You can arrange one, or chose to explore on your own, as I did.

Even if you don’t hire a guide, it’s beneficial to befriend of few locals as they can show you some of the best spots, like the cliffs above the treasury (photo below) for a birds eye view and possibly a cup of the Bedouin’s famous mint/cardamom tea.

Don’t worry, if you don’t befriend one here, you’ll find plenty more in the heart of the park.

View of Treasury from above when visiting Petra

Street of Facades

After the treasury, you’ll find the ‘Street of Facades’, a series of tall carved, tomb facades, leading to the heart of the city. I took this photo from above to see it all at a glance, but each tomb, and there’s more than 40, is massive.

Wall of facades is one of the sites when visiting Petra
Street of Facades

The Theater

Next is ‘the Theater’, or en-Nejr, positioned for maximum viewing of the ‘Royal Tombs’ across the way. Enlarged by the Romans after their occupation (around the 1st century), it seats about 7,000.

The theater is a top site when visiting Petra.
Theater

Royal Tombs

The ‘Royal Tombs’ are carved out of the Jamal al-Khubtha rock massif. These mausoleums were once surrounded by elaborate gardens.

The Royal Tombs are a sight when visiting Petra.
Royal Tombs

Urn Tomb, the large tomb in the center above, is thought to be the tomb of King Manchus II. It requires a series of steps to get to, but offers a beautiful view of the city. There’s also the Silk Tomb, Corinthian Tomb, Palace, and Sextius Florentinus Tomb.

Colonnaded Road

The colonnaded road was once the main shopping street in Petra. In the 1st century BC, during Roman occupation, it was widened and refurbished.

Colonnaded Road is a site when visiting Petra
Colonnaded Road

Area of High Sacrifice

Perched on Jebel Madbah Mountain, the area of high sacrifice was used for the sacrifice of animals to the Nabatean God Dushara.

Sacrifice Point offers stunning views when visiting Petra
Sacrifice Point

It’s one of the highest points in Petra, providing stunning vistas of the park.

Sacrifice Point offers stunning views when visiting Petra
View From Sacrifice Point

It’s about a 30-40 minute walk up to the peak, with some other key carvings along the way, like the Carved Lion and Soldier’s Tomb.

Carved Lion

This lion is carved from the rocks near the High Place of Sacrifice. Some think there was once a fountain here and why his head eroded away.

Carved Lion while visiting Petra
Carved Lion

Soldier’s Tomb

Also behind the High Place of Sacrifice is the Tomb of the Soldier, one of the best preserved tombs in Petra.

Soldier’s Tomb | Wikimedia Commons

Across from the tomb is the triclinium, a formal dining room. They believe columns were once positioned between them, connecting the two.

The Great Temple

Excavators are still trying to determine if the Great Temple, built under Nabatean King Aretas IV, was religious or administrative.

The great temple is one of the top things to see while visiting Petra.
Great Temple

Byzantine Church & Blue Chapel Church

The mosaic floor in the Byzantine church depicts the seasons, animals, and plants.

The mosaic floors at the Byzantine church is one of the top things to see when visiting Petra.
Byzantine Church Mosaics

There’s also a church made with blue Egyptian granite, called the Blue Chapel.

Blue Chapel | Jeff Rozwadowski

Temple Of Dushares

The Temple of Dushares, or Qasr al-Bint Far’un, was a temple dedicated to the main Nabatean God Dushares. The name means “Castle of the Pharaoh’s Daughter” and was based on local folklore. After the Roman conquest, it was modified and adapted to Roman gods.

This temple was built, rather than carved. One of the few that survived a 4th century earthquake here. It survived as it was constructed with wood inside the masonry, which acted as a damper, and protected it.

This temple is located northwest of the Great Temple.

Temple of Dushares

The Monastery

The Monestary, or Ad Deir, is another one of the most iconic buildings in Petra. It’s located near the back of the park, up an 800 step path. They’re not sure of its use or purpose, but think it was also a royal tomb.

The Monastery in the Jordan Travel Guide
The Monastery

You can hire a donkey to take you up here, but this path on a donkey is precarious. I rode partway, but then got off an walked the rest.

After visiting the Monastery, you can also walk up beyond it for amazing views into the valley and desert beyond. It’s beautiful. I’ve read about guided hikes in Petra and throughout Jordan…maybe a future adventure.

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Details on Visiting Petra

Entrance Fees

There are several entrance fee options when visiting Petra. You can purchase a 1 day (50 JOD or $70 USD), 2 day (55 JOD or $77 USD), or 3 day pass (60 JOD or $85 USD) with either cash or credit card. Prices noted are as of January 2023.

I opted for the 3 day pass and am so glad I did. Even with that, I didn’t see all the sites within the park.

‘Petra by Night’ is a special event and additional cost of 17 JOD. They light the Siq and Treasury with over 1,000 candles. They also play Bedouin music and tell stories, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights at 8:30.

Where to Stay when Visiting Petra

Wadi Musa, just up the hill from the Archaeological Park, is the closest town and perfect for visiting Petra, offering many places to stay. Some are within a walking distance, while others offer rides to the park for free, or a small fee. Wadi Musa also has many restaurants and some shops for tourists.

Um Sayhoum village, where many Bedouin’s were forcibly moved when Petra became a park, would provide a better cultural experience than Wadi Musa, but there are no, or few, tourist amenities here (like restaurants).

Obelisk Tomb

Getting To Petra From Amman

If you’re traveling solo and don’t want to book an organized tour, visiting Petra from Amman is relatively easy.

Jett Bus leaves Amman’s Abdali bus station at 6:30AM. The air conditioned ride is about 3 hours, costs around $14 USD, and drops you near the Petra Park entrance. It’s best to arrive at the bus station in Amman by 6:00AM. If coming from downtown Amman, it’s a 10 minute taxi ride. In peak season it’s also best to buy your ticket the day prior.

If you’re staying at a hostel or hostel in Wadi Musa or Um Sayhoum, ask if they will pick you up at the bus stop so you can drop off your luggage. Although it may be temping to try to see Petra as a day trip from Amman, it’s best to spend 2-3 days at the park to see everything. If you must, the return bus is at 5:00 PM.

A taxi from Amman to Petra is another option, but this is expensive at about 85 JOD, or about $120 USD each way.

View of Petra from Wadi Musa

About Visiting Petra Solo: My Lessons Learned

I visited solo and had 2-3 young Bedouins follow me for most of the three days I spent in the Petra Archeological Park. I honestly think they work as a team on their cell phones, letting each other know where certain tourists are in the park. As they’re on donkeys and you are usually waking, it’s almost impossible to walk alone. After a while I just gave in and decided to get to know them.

And after at least 100 requests to have dinner with one of them, I caved and said yes. We met near the park entrance and bought food at the local convenient store and walked into the desert with his donkey. Probably not the smartest thing in the world for me to do, but we sat, ate, and talked until the sunset. I felt safe the entire time, but don’t recommend doing this for obvious reasons.

It’s common knowledge, and actually considered a scam, that some Bedouins use their good looks to charm women, then ask them to wire money. Most are harmless, but be careful, and never be conned into sending money.

If traveling solo, befriend another traveler in the park to avoid harassment. Befriending a male is best, but just walking with someone else helps. If you decide to go opposite ways inside the park, just find someone else. Others quickly understand the issue and are happy to help. I would not let this deter you from traveling solo.

I also had the owner of the hostel forcibly kiss me when showing me the balcony. It was sudden and very frightening, but when I pushed him away and said no, he stopped. I wrote a bad review to warn others. My suggestion is to thoroughly read reviews and vet hostels/Airbnb’s before booking a place.

Other Things To Watch Out For When Visiting Petra

This is the desert, so make sure to bring/drink plenty of water for a day in the park.

Horse and carriage drivers will tell you that a ride with them is ride is free, included in the ticket price. It is, however, at the end of the ride, they may demand an unreasonable tip. Negotiate the tip before you accept the ride.

Also, if you do hire a camel or donkey ride, don’t pay until the end of the ride. Otherwise they may speed up the ride, so they can get back and provide rides to other tourists.

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Final Thoughts

I’m surprised Petra Archeological Park is not on more bucket lists. I think the details of this park don’t get enough exposure and that people are concerned about visiting Jordan independently. Although, it really is easy to visit to get around on your own, and relatively safe, so highly recommend it. In fact, I definitely plan to go again!

To help plan your trip, see my Jordan Travel Guide. It provides an overview of all the key sites in Jordan, how to get around, money matters, safety, scams, and more.

It also includes other key sites, like visiting Amman, to see its ruins, learn about the culture, taking day trips from Amman to the Dead Sea, Mount Nebo, and other areas, as well as spending the day exploring the spectacular red, lunar landscape of the Wadi Rum Desert and sleeping in tents there under a zillion stars.

Safe Travels!

Julie

Hello! I resigned from a corporate career in product development to explore the world. Although my goal was to travel for a year, 8 years later, I’ve been honored to have explored more than 60 gorgeous countries and met some unbelievably amazing people. Our world truly is a beautiful place! Follow me into the gorgeous unknown by subscribing below. You’ll receive details on fabulous destinations, comprehensive travel guides, travel tips and tidbits, and information on travel trends, like experiential, sustainable, and transformational travel. Where is your next gorgeous unknown? Julie

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