Ten Things Worth Knowing about Petra

The beautiful Royal Tombs, Petra.
Petra is one of those places I've always wanted to visit, one of the ones you know you'll get to eventually, but can't quite believe you haven't made it there yet. The iconic view of the Treasury, opening up from the narrow Siq, was so real in my mind's eye that I felt a dissonance when we turned the corner, and looked up at the view, see below. Seeing the Treasury was a moment of wish fulfillment, combining a sense of familiarity with the achievement of finally arriving.

Foolishly, I hadn't appreciated how much more there is to Petra than the Treasury. It is an enormous site and requires a lot of time. There are endless tombs and caves with walking trails criss-crossing the hills surrounding the valley. There is a great deal to see including freestanding temples, Royal Tombs (above), a Roman street,  the museum, a Byzantine church with mosaics and an amphitheater.

Our first glimpse of the Treasuryfrom the Siq

A city built on an important trade route, that continued north to Bosra and Damascus, Petra prospered through commerce. Built by the Nabateans, who were influenced by classical and Roman style, the city was eventually conquered by the Roman Emperor Trajan, in 106A.D. Yes, that's Trajan of Trajan's column in Rome!

...and the Treasury from the valley floor.


1. It's a great place to walk. There's lots of hiking within the site including a wonderful walk up to the Place of High Sacrifice, that takes you down to the valley via the Lion's Fountain and the scenic Soldier's Tombs. Try to plan your route to maximize the variety of the site. The first day we entered through the iconic route via the Siq. The second day we took the lesser used route from Little Petra. Arriving at the  monastery we descended into the valley, exiting via a canyon found past the Royal Tombs - which took us back to the beginning of the Siq.

2. You need to stay for three nights. If you have a serious interest in the ruins this this will give you two full days in the valley, with time to see Little Petra on the day you arrive, or leave.
Off the beaten track!
Hiking to the Monastery from Little Petra.
3. Stay out of town at Seven Wonder's Bedouin Camp.  We highly recommend this place run by Jane and Atef. We loved getting out of town and enjoyed the hospitality, food and friendship in the camp. You stay in a small tented room and share a communal bathroom.  It's fairly basic but well worth it. The other guests were very nice, it's a fabulous place and a great value!

Atef gave us a lot of advice on alternate routes through the valley.  Sammy brought us to the Monastery via the back route, which we couldn't have managed without him. The routing helped us avoid the 900+ step climb(!) and allowed us to approach the site from the desert. It was great to avoid all the other tourists, and gave us the opportunity to appreciate the valley without repeating the walk through the Siq. They encouraged us to visit Little Petra on our way out, and after we drove a small road over the mountain and through a fantastic desert landscape to the Dead Sea. It was a fabulous route and almost empty; without their guidance we wouldn't have had the same experience.

Atef and Sammy at the camp.
Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp outside Petra.
4. Climb above the valley floor to avoid the other tourists. While Petra is a busy site you don't have to go very far to find solitude. It's hard to escape the vendors, who seem to be set up on every path, but once you climb out of the valley there are far fewer people.

Lots of climbing and fabulous views, Petra.

View from the Place of High Sacrifice.
5. The facades of the buildings are far more impressive than the interiors. While the facades of the buildings are spectacular, they were carved out of the soft rock and were designed to awe. Most were used as tombs and the rooms inside are relatively small.
The Monastery @ Petra!
View from inside one of the tombs, Petra.

6. Don't forget to stop and relax, have a drink or write a postcard. There is a lot to see, but with three nights you have time to relax and enjoy. Drink lots of water and stop for an overpriced drink. After all of the walking we really enjoyed sitting a watching the camels as they went by, and I loved the mint lemonade at the Monastery. You can buy a box lunch at any of the cafes, or opt for a buffet lunch at  either of the restaurants. You'll find them at the end of the valley, next to the museum and just before the steps up to the Monastery.
Relaxing -why are you all rushing?
Stopping for some sweet Bedouin tea, Petra.
7. Take your time when walking downhill. People tend to rush up and then rush down the same way. We tried to take our time coming downhill, to enjoy the vistas or to see things we had missed on the way up. Petra isn't just about the "signature" buildings, it's about enjoying nature, admiring the smaller tombs and even the drainage system!

8. It really is  rose colored.
The Royal Tombs from the Temple of Jupiter, Petra.
Spectacular  rose sandstone pillar, Petra.
9. Don't worry about a guide. Technically the very expensive entrance ticket includes a guide, but as an independent traveller you'll have to wait for a group to assemble. This could take an hour or more, so we opted not to bother. There are a lot of helpful signs throughout the site and if you've done some reading beforehand you'll be fine. However if you want a tour, the tourist office can arrange a private guide for an additional cost, something around $75.

10. Don't forget you id when buying your ticket. They wanted to see id when we bought our tickets and luckily accepted the photocopies of our passports, which were all we had with us.

If you're visiting I hope this is helpful, if not I hope you enjoyed your armchair tour!


Mrs. Limestone said…
Thanks for sharing your experiences (and photos of what you wore!) Im having far more anxiety about my wardrobe choices than is normal :)
Reena said…
Thanks for the info. Planning to visit on the 23rd of this month and found this extremely helpful.
Thanks for visiting, so glad you found it useful!