Guide to visiting Petra for first timers

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This guide to visiting Petra is meant to make this glorious site just a bit easier to get to. Depending on when you stumble upon this blog post, the data and information (especially the entrance fee) may not be accurate anymore, so do check from Jordan Tourism Board’s official website.

*****

Ah Petra, how do I even start?

I’ve known about Petra before it became one of the new seven wonders of the world, through a movie. Are you familiar with the last scene of the movie Indiana Jones and last crusade? If not, watch the movie.

Petra is the jewel of Jordan, and is a must see.

It is Jordan’s A-list attraction, a “lost” citadel whose prime landmark – the carved, colonnaded wonder Al Khazneh (“The Treasury”) – has illuminated countless documentaries and films.

Over the centuries, Petra was known only to occasional plunderers and the Bedouins who remained in the area. It was altogether unknown to Westerners until 1812, when a Swiss explorer, masquerading as an Arab in Egypt, heard tales of an ancient city in the mountains 250 miles to the east and coaxed a guide to take him there.

WHY SHOULD YOU GO TO PETRA

Petra is one of the world’s most compelling historical sites. The Treasury and other structures are sculpted from the red-rock cliffs of the Jordanian desert 2,000 years ago. Looking at the seemingly perfect symmetry and intricate details, you’d wonder HOW the Nabateans built the Treasury and most of Petra’s grandest buildings – as sculptures, carving them into the sandstone cliffs. It is this display of human creativity amid such rugged surroundings that makes Petra remarkable.

HOW TO GET THERE

From Dubai, Fly Dubai flies to Amman twice a day and has the best flight schedule, leaving early morning from Dubai and taking off from Amman at night on the way back. Air Arabia, Emirates and Royal Jordanian also flies to Amman non-stop.

Petra is located 250 kilometers south of Amman, about 2 and a half hours by car from the airport. There are taxis available right outside the airport as well as a public bus called Jett Bus from Amman. Unfortunately, I can’t vouch for either the taxi or the public bus since we had a private van with driver and tour guide arranged by Amani Tours for the whole duration of our trip.

We went to Petra after a day trip to the Dead Sea, arriving after sunset. The journey from Movenpick Resort & Spa Dead Sea to Wadi Musa (the village where Petra is located) took about 2 hours. Our driver drove through Kings Highway to Petra and there were parts of the highway which were not lighted at all.  There were random checkpoints as well with the Jordanian police interviewing the driver, etc. It’s all to make Jordan safer.

WHERE TO STAY IN PETRA

There are several hotels in Wadi Musa, catering to the surge of tourists who visit the town to see Petra, after it was declared one of the seven new wonders of the world.

movenpick-petra

If you’re staying in Wadi Musa, then Petra is a short walk away. We stayed at the Movenpick Resort Petra which is only across the street from the gate to the Visitor’s Center. One of the five stars hotel in the area, we had a clean, comfortable room but we did not have much time to explore other facilities and amenities since we arrived around 8 pm and checked out by 6 am.

movenpick-petra

The duty manager Ms. Rania was very kind to welcome us into the hotel. Breakfast is a large buffet that starts at 6 am which allows early risers to get into Petra at the crack of dawn.

The location of the hotel is its biggest selling point. It is really worth staying that close to Petra. Though you can visit Petra any time you like, it’s always best to go there early so if in case you oversleep, staying in a hotel close by will not ruin your plans.

COST (as of this writing, December 2016)

I must admit, the first time I thought and planned of visiting Jordan and most especially, Petra, I didn’t expect there was an entrance fee to the site. Then I spent some time doing Google searches and found out.

The following fees information are from the Visit Petra website.

The following table are fees for the accommodated visitor: Visitor who stays at least one night in Jordan.

Entrance Ticket (per person) Price
One  Day 50 JOD (approx AED250 or US$68)
Two  Days 55 JOD (approx AED275 or US$75)
Three days 60 JOD (approx AED300 or US$82)

** Children 12 years old and under enter Petra free of charge. **

A horse ride from the visitor’s centre to the entrance of the Siq is included in the ticket price, though you’ll still need to pay a tip which varies. This is a tricky part and you might find yourself on top of an animal the whole time you negotiate for what you feel is the right tip.

We did not do the horse ride to the entrance of the Siq because it’s an easy 15-minute walk downhill. You might want to save the horse ride till the way back up as that final uphill stretch of sandy path after a whole day’s walking is a bit of a killer.

carriage-on-way-back

My daughter was over 12 years old when we purchased the tickets to Petra at the Visitor’s Center so I had to shell out for a normal ticket for her.  The staff at the counter was very strict, I actually wonder if any families with small framed kids over 12 got away for free by telling the kid is less than 12 years old?

Anyway, we paid 50 JD x 2 = 100 JD (approx AED500 or US$135). While I would still say that Petra is worth visiting once in your life, the fees are outrageous with no student discounts or special discounts for minors! I hope the Jordanian government do something with this hefty fee as it will surely backfire and affect tourism to Petra.

When I told my sister and some friends about the cost to enter Petra, they were shocked and asked me, “so, what was inside the Treasury?”. I said, I don’t know because tourists are NOT allowed to enter the Treasury! Yeah, contrary to what we have all seen from the Indiana Jones movie! They all thought the steep entrance fee was for a tour of what’s inside the Treasury!

That said, Petra should really be marketed as an archaeological park made for hikers who want to spend 2-3 days exploring a unique desert landscape, with some cool ancient buildings to see along the way.

siq-without-crowds

BEST SEASON/TIME TO VISIT PETRA

The weather and climate in Jordan can vary dramatically depending on location and altitude. In the summer the weather in Jordan, especially in the deserts and Jordan valley is blisteringly hot while at other times of year the deserts can be freezing and snow is not unheard of.

It was cold in Petra (and in Amman too) when we were there in December. I was hesitant to bring my daughter’s thick, down jacket but someone from the travel agency told me to bring winter clothes and I’m glad I did! It was freezing in the morning.

Opening hours to visit Petra are from 6am to 6pm during the summer and from 6am to 4 pm in winter.

To avoid the crowds and the heat, I strongly recommend making the effort to be there as early as you can – we were at the gate buying tickets at 7am. Going early means you will get a chance to walk through the Siq without anyone blocking the view for photos or see the Treasury with almost no one around.

HOW LONG DO YOU NEED TO STAY TO ENJOY PETRA?

petra-at-dawn

Petra stretches over a massive 60 square kilometre area and you’ll end up doing a lot of walking but to just see the highlights, you can comfortably see Petra in a day.

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Everyone has different levels of fitness, however, you could spend five to six hours exploring, or twice that time – but even so, a day gives you plenty of time.

petra-map

Also, Petra is a early bird game, start at 7 am and you can finish everything on or before closing time, unless you are a archeologist 🙂

We spent 7 hours at Petra, starting at 7 am.

WHAT SHOULD I BRING TO PETRA?

taking-photos

1. Water – There is a mixture of places to eat and drink inside Petra, ranging from Bedouin tea stalls, simple kiosks to cafés but prices will be higher of course. Bring your own water not only if you want to save but also to have something to drink till you get to those places selling it.

2. Comfortable shoes – You’ll be walking over sandy and rocky ground so walking shoes are probably the best bet.

3. Warm winter clothing (if travelling during winter time) – I’m not kidding you on this, especially if you go to Petra in December like us. Don’t think this place is warm because it’s in the Middle East – it was 4C when we went on the 2nd week of December!

4. Cash – for tips in case you opt for a donkey/camel ride and buy food, drinks and souvenirs.

5. CAMERA – fully charged and SD cards with ample storage as you will be taking a LOT of pictures! Also bring power bank for your phone, if you’re taking photos with your phone.

CAN I TAKE MY KIDS TO PETRA?

me-and-p-at-the-siq

This deserves a separate, more extensive post but to make it short –

I traveled to Jordan and went to Petra with my (almost) teen and had absolutely no problems. However, traveling with smaller kids, I bet would be challenging. Not impossible but there are things you’d have to do and give up if ever you decide to go with your little tots. Lots of walking are involved and putting the child in a stroller will not be comfortable for him/her as the roads are not smooth.

I hesitate to advise against being brave and trying, but realistically, looking after a baby/toddlers is likely to take quite a lot away from your enjoyment of the site.

IS PETRA WORTH IT?

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No questions asked, YES.

Never mind the outrageously expensive entrance fee, I feel exploring this massive red stone city is an experience you will always remember. I will be writing a separate post about our journey to the Treasury through more than a kilometer stretch of canyon. It was absolutely stunning and by far, my favorite part of our visit to Petra.

4 thoughts on “Guide to visiting Petra for first timers

  1. Having visited Petra earlier in the year, an experience I’ll never forget. I agree with much of what you say, apart from the fee. Given what conservation costs, etc must be, I thought it was a bargain. Anyway, great post as always.

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  2. Hi,
    It’s really a nice post shared here with detailed tour guide to Petra. I also knew about Petra when it declared the second wonder of the world. Thanks to Mantis Tours for providing Petra tour package with an affordable price. I had booked a 3 days trip with my family this year & enjoyed a lot. The stones & the small particles of sand speaks about the ancient history of the world. I think it will be better if it placed on the top wonder instead of second. Really the Petra is a best destination to collect some memories on sand.
    Thanks for sharing this post.

    Like

  3. Hi, I ‘ll organize for next fall trip in 2019.I new discovering your blog. thanks for your detail information. I find all wondering about there.

    Like

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