Petra, an archaeological city in southern Jordan, is renowned worldwide for its rock-cut architecture and intricate facades carved directly into the cliffs. For those considering things to do in Petra, exploring the Treasury, Petra’s most iconic structure, and walking through the Siq, a narrow gorge leading to the city, are top activities.
The city’s Monastery, another impressive rock-cut structure, offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Nearby, the High Place of Sacrifice provides insights into the religious practices of the ancient Nabataeans who built Petra.
Beyond its archaeological wonders, Petra is also known for its unique setting amidst rugged desert canyons and mountains, offering numerous hiking and photography opportunities. For those seeking the best places to visit in Jordan, Petra’s blend of historical significance, architectural mastery, and natural beauty makes it a captivating destination.
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Attractions & Things to Do in Petra, Jordan
1. The Siq
The Siq is a narrow gorge, the main entrance to the ancient city of Petra, and one of the most dramatic natural features in the region. Walking through this 1.2-kilometer-long cleft in the sandstone mountains builds anticipation before revealing Petra’s most famous monument, Al-Khazneh (The Treasury).
Travel Tip: Wear comfortable walking shoes, as the path can be rocky and uneven. Visiting early in the morning can provide a more personal experience and better light for photographs.
2. Al-Khazneh (The Treasury)
Al-Khazneh, known as The Treasury, is an awe-inspiring facade carved directly into the pink sandstone cliff face. Believed to have been a mausoleum or treasury of the Nabatean people, it is the most photographed structure in Petra.
Travel Tip: The Treasury is at its most photogenic in the morning when the sunlight illuminates its intricate carvings.
3. The Monastery (Ad Deir)
Petra’s largest carved facade, The Monastery, sits at the top of an 800-step rock-cut path. It resembles The Treasury but is much larger and less ornate. The hike up can be strenuous, but the commanding views of the surrounding mountains and valleys are rewarding.
Travel Tip: Consider riding a mule or donkey if the climb seems too daunting, but ensure that the animals are treated well by their handlers.
4. The Royal Tombs
The Royal Tombs are an impressive series of large tombs with elaborate facades carved into the mountain’s face. These include the Urn Tomb, Silk Tomb, Corinthian Tomb, and Palace Tomb, each with unique architectural details.
Travel Tip: Late afternoon is the best time to photograph the Royal Tombs, as the setting sun casts a warm glow on the stone.
5. The Roman Theatre
Originally built by the Nabateans and later expanded by the Romans, the theatre could seat around 3,000 spectators. Carved directly out of the rock face, it serves as a testament to the ingenuity of Petra’s ancient inhabitants.
Travel Tip: Visit the theatre mid-day when it’s well-lit and consider climbing the surrounding hills for a panoramic view.
6. The Colonnaded Street
Once the main thoroughfare of ancient Petra, the Colonnaded Street is lined with the remains of Roman columns and leads to the city center’s ruins. You can explore the remnants of shops, temples, and public buildings along the way.
Travel Tip: Keep an eye out for the intricate stone carvings that can still be seen among the ruins.
7. The High Place of Sacrifice
For those looking for a hike, the High Place of Sacrifice offers an adventurous trek with a reward of stunning views over Petra. It is one of the city’s most sacred sites, used for religious ceremonies.
Travel Tip: Start this hike early to avoid the heat of the day and carry plenty of water with you.
8. Al-Beidha (Little Petra)
Often overlooked by tourists, Al-Beidha, or Little Petra, is a smaller version of Petra and believed to have served as an agricultural hub and trading suburb. It’s a short drive from the main site and provides a quieter experience.
Travel Tip: If you have an extra day in Petra, this is a worthwhile excursion to see more Nabatean architecture and less-crowded ruins.
9. Street of Facades
The Street of Facades is a row of monumental Nabatean tombs with large facades carved into the southern cliff face that lies opposite the Roman Theatre. The area contains over 40 tombs and houses carved into the rock face, dating from the 1st century BC.
Travel Tip: As you walk along this street, take time to notice the varying tomb styles, which reflect the diversity of influences on Nabatean culture.
10. Petra by Night
An enchanting way to experience Al-Khazneh is during the “Petra by Night” show, which features the Treasury dramatically lit by hundreds of candles. The event includes traditional Jordanian music and is an experience unlike any other.
Travel Tip: Be sure to check the schedule as the event does not run every night, and be prepared for a potentially crowded experience.
11. Petra Archaeological Museum
The Petra Archaeological Museum provides context to the city’s artifacts and history. Although small, the museum exhibits a variety of finds from the site, which help visitors gain a deeper understanding of the ancient Nabatean culture.
Travel Tip: A visit to the museum is a good way to either start or finish your trip to Petra, as it can provide insights that will enrich your site experience or help make sense of what you’ve seen.
FAQ About Things to Do in Petra, Jordan
What are the must-see sights in Petra, Jordan?
The must-see sights in Petra include the iconic Treasury (Al-Khazneh), the Monastery (Ad-Deir), the High Place of Sacrifice, and the Royal Tombs. A walk through the Siq, a narrow gorge leading into the city, is also unforgettable.
Can I explore Petra on my own, or do I need a guide?
You can explore Petra on your own, but hiring a guide can enhance your experience as they provide historical context and may show you hidden spots you might otherwise miss. Guides can be hired at the visitor center.
Is it possible to ride a camel in Petra?
Yes, camel rides are available in Petra, offering a traditional and unique way to see the ancient city. Be sure to agree on a price before you ride.
What is the best time of day to visit Petra?
The best time to visit Petra is early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the crowds and the heat of midday. Sunrise and sunset offer beautiful light for photography.
Are there any evening activities in Petra?
Yes, ‘Petra by Night’ is a magical experience where the Treasury is lit by hundreds of candles three nights a week. It includes Bedouin music and storytelling.
What should I wear when visiting Petra?
Wear comfortable clothing, sturdy walking shoes, and a hat for sun protection. Modest clothing is recommended out of respect for local culture.
How much time do I need to see Petra?
At a minimum, you should plan to spend a full day in Petra. However, two or three days are recommended if you want to explore the area thoroughly without rushing.
Are there facilities like restaurants and restrooms inside Petra?
Yes, there are facilities within Petra, including restrooms and restaurants. However, they may be sparse in certain areas, so it’s wise to carry essentials like water and snacks.