While plenty of people couldn’t even find the country of Jordan on a map, it seems like everyone has seen a picture or two of Petra. This ancient city, with its impressive carvings straight into the mountainsides, attracts countless tourists each year. It has been named one of the new seven wonders of the world and tops many “place to see before you die” lists. If you are considering planning your own holidays to Petra, here are some things you will want to keep in mind.
Any visit to Petra will start in the town of Wadi Musa, which has grown up around the site as more tourists have come. Wadi Musa can be reached by bus from the capital city of Amman or for cruise ship visitors, from the port city of Aqaba. There are also bus transportation options for visitors coming directly from Eilat, in Israel.
Getting to Wadi Musa is quite easy and the fast Desert Highway makes it possible to even visit Petra on a day trip from these surrounding cities. While it might be tempting to squeeze Petra into a day trip, we highly discourage it. Petra is most magical in the early morning and late afternoon. By taking a day trip, you will only see the site at its worst – packing with tourists and in the hot, midday sun.
Where to Stay
Since we have now hopefully convinced you to stay in Wadi Musa at the entrance to Petra, it’s time to look at the town’s accommodation options. Jordon as a whole has a nice mix of both budget and luxurious hotel options for travelers on any budget. In Wadi Musa, you can choose from guest houses near the entrance to Petra, nice hotels closer to the edge of town, or even sleep in a tent nearby on a tour to experience the local Bedouin culture.
When to Visit
Petra is beautiful year round but for the best experience, I’d suggest visiting in the spring or fall. The hot summer heat in Jordan can make a summer visit a lot more exhausting, not to mention summer is when Petra fills up with loads of other tourists.
As far as the time of day to visit, wake up early and get into Petra as early as possible. The crowds are thinner at this time, the light is amazing for photography, and by getting an early start you will be able to see as much as possible. Another incredible experience that really shouldn’t be missed at Petra is one of the Petra by Night tours, which happen every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday night starting at 8:30pm.
Almost as important as when to visit is how long to visit. Petra can be seen in a day, a very exhausting jampacked day. Much better though is to see Petra over the course of a few days. The ticket prices encourage this as well with one day passes costing 50JD (Jordanian Dinars), two day passes costing 55JD, and three day passes only costing 60JD.
Once you are actually inside Petra, get ready for some serious walking. The site is spread out quite a bit and with the desert climate, it’s easy to get quickly worn out or dehydrated. If the heat or walking does get too intense, you can always hire one of the many camels, horses, or donkeys to give you a ride.
Thankfully, despite being spread out, Petra is a very well organized and managed archaeological site. There are bathrooms, food stands, and even a restaurant spread all around Petra with prices being higher than in town but still usually reasonable. Remember, if you were smart and got a multiday pass, you don’t need to rush through the park. Pack a lunch, take some extra water and nice walking shoes, and enjoy seeing the incredible sites of Petra at your leisure.