A day in Petra is an absolute must for any visitor to the Kingdom of Jordan in the Middle East. This rose-coloured ancient city is undoubtedly the country’s most popular tourist attraction and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985.
The ancient city is also listed as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World alongside India’s Taj Mahal, Peru’s Macchu Piccu, China’s Great Wall, The Colosseum in Rome, Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janiero and Chichen Itza in Mexico.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. I only recommend products or services I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. If you use these links to buy something, I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your continued support.
What Is Petra?
Petra, located in the Jordan desert, is the site of an ancient city dating back to as early as the 5th century BC when Nabataean nomads settled there. Located in the south part of Jordan, the city was prosperous due to its convenient location along trade routes and many buildings were carved out of blushing pink sandstone, earning it the name “The Rose City”.
Petra eventually fell to the Romans in 106 AD and eventually was abandoned completely except for some Bedouin tribes who remained in the area. It wasn’t until the 1800s that Western explorers discovered the deserted lost city and the world became aware of its existence.
How to get to Petra?
The port city of Aqaba’s King Hussein International Airport is the closest airport to Petra, and it is around 100 kilometres away from the ancient site. However, most international flights are likely to come in and out of the Queen Alia International Airport in Amman which is over 200 kilometres from Petra.
An airport taxi from Queen Alia Airport will cost around 85 Jordanian Dinar (equivalent to around $150 AUD/ $120 USD) and take just under two hours.
From the capital, Amman, it is possible to take a bus from the Amman Abdali Terminal all the way to Petra, however departures may be scarce. The bus trip will take around three hours and will cost between $17 – $28 AUD. Be warned that the bus ride is a local bus trip through the desert and facilities along the journey may not be at the level of comfort you are used to – such as squat toilets and the like.
Join a tour
I absolutely wasn’t game enough to brave the bus solo, so I joined a wonderful Intrepid Travel tour through Jordan from Amman via the Dead Sea to Petra and then on to Wadi Rum and Aqaba.
For me as a solo traveller, this was the best way to get a taste of Jordan as I felt entirely safe, well informed and was able to travel around the country with a small group on a private bus. If you’re feeling daunted by travelling to Jordan, I’d definitely recommend taking an Intrepid tour as their ethos is all about small group, sustainable and local travel.
Where to stay in Petra?
Wadi Musa is the town where tourists staying overnight at Petra wilol set up camp. There’s a wide range of accommodation options there ranging from luxury all the way to budget.
The Movenpick Hotel is probably the nicest of the properties in Wadi Musa and if you can splash out for a stay there, its very centrally located as well which makes it super convenient.
Tickets to visit Petra
Petra can only be accessed if you have a ticket. You can buy tickets for one, two or three day visits to the site. Definitely consider at least a two-day visit which allows you to explore thoroughly and enjoy Petra by Night as well.
Tickets to Petra are not cheap, but totally worth the price. 50 JD (90 AUD/70 USD) will get you a one-day ticket and a two-day ticket costs an additional 5 JD. So, it’s a great idea to fork out the extra for an additional day, even if you just went exploring in the morning before departing for the next Jordanian destination.
Tickets can be purchased from the Petra Visitor Centre and guided tours of the area can also be booked here. If you’d like to see the Petra by Night presentation, then you’ll also be able to pay the extra for your night ticket here – the entrance fee is 17 JD (30 AUD/24 USD).
What to see on a day in Petra
Wow factors don’t come much more breathtaking than the first glimpse of the Treasury carved into the craggy cliffs of Petra. After a journey through the narrow Sikh, the canyon path between the cliffs that leads to the ancient city, the magnificent Treasury (or Al-Khazneh) is the first thing you will see.
This building is not actually a Treasury but is actually a tomb – though who the remains inside the tomb belong to is unknown. This building is the best preserved out of all the Petra sites and is one of the most photographed sites in all of Jordan. It was also featured in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Petra by night
If you have the chance to stay overnight, then you absolutely must visit Petra by Night. A spectacular candlelight journey through the Sikh to Al-Khazneh is the perfect way to experience the magic of the rose city.
Over 1500 candlelit lanterns twinkle along the 1.2km walk through the canyon leading visitors to the mystical wonder of the Treasury. Lanterns light the building from the front as traditional music plays. It is absolutely worth staying the night at Petra for.
Petra by night isn’t including in the standard Petra ticket price, so either buy tickets at the visitor centre or at most hotel lobbies in Wadi Musa.
Petra by night runs every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday starting at 8.30pm.
Ad Deir or The Monastery is a hugely impressive building in Petra with a similar design to the Treasury – think large columns and beautiful carved stone. The walk to Ad Deir is located in the hilly areas of Petra and visitors must make the trek up 800 steps to reach the building.
Whilst the walk up the mountain to get to Al Deir might be exhausting, the views from the top are remarkable, looking down over the valleys around Petra.
The Great Temple
The huge temple complex at Petra is definitely one of the highlights of exploring this ancient city. A day in Petra isn’t complete without a visit to this monument which sits in around the centre of the city – the Siq on one side and the Garden and Pool complex on the other.
The colonnaded street leads up to the main temple entrance and inside are public seating galleries and cisterns. Archaeologists have found many ornate carvings from this site over the years.
Like this post about spending a day in Petra?
Pin to save it for later!
- 9 Must-Visit Underrated Countries in Asia & the Middle East - […] best to visit. The unique Middle Eastern desert landscape, the phenomenon of the Dead Sea, and the ancient, deserted…
Oh Petra is so amazing right? I think 2 days is even better to really explore the site, but if 1 day is all you got, you covered the most beautiful spots !!
Yeah totally! I definitely think two days is best to really see the most of the place – especially to make sure you get to Petra By Night as well!
Petra is such a magical place! I’ve been there once, but didn’t get to go to Petra at night or make it to the Monastery. I would love to go back there. Great article 🙂
It is definitely worth another trip to do Petra by Night!
Petra on night looks stunning..Would love to visit Jordon someday. Thanks for sharing.
It is truly beautiful by night! Hope you make it there one day 🙂
Petra, the dead sea and wadi rum are high on my list.. I was supposed to go to Jordan last year but then covid happened :/ Definitely saving this for later!
Jordan is one of my absolute favourite places I’ve ever visited. You’re going to love it when you eventually get there!
Petra has been on my list for so long since I’m a big fan of archaeology! Thank you for all of the helpful tips about getting to the site and spending the day exploring it.
You are so welcome! Hopefully this helps when you eventually get to visit 🙂
Petra is huge! It’ an amazing place to visit But I didn’t get to see it at night! Thanks for sharing!
It is huge – definitely takes a good couple of days of exploring to see it all!
This post reminded me so many beautiful memories, I miss Petra sooo much! Your guide is very clear and easy, perfect for first-timers. Loved it!
I miss Petra too. It’s one of those places that I almost can’t believe I’ve been to and would love to go back again!