Nothing quite prepares you for your first sight of Petra; the ancient, rose-hued, rock-cut capital of the Nabataean people, with its otherworldly sandstone gorge, tombs and temples, feels like a secret portal into an intriguing period of history.
Once an important stop on the region’s trading routes, Petra was eventually abandoned in the seventh century, save for the Bedouins who continue to inhabit the area.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site lies 150 miles south of Amman and features on every Jordan itinerary. If you’re planning a visit, here’s everything you need to know for an Amman to Petra day trip.
When to Visit Petra
To make the most of your day trip, rise before the sun for an early start to Petra, a three-hour drive from Amman on the Desert Highway. Heading to Petra early allows you to avoid tourist groups and see a good number of its monuments before the harsh afternoon sun wears you out.
Otherwise, visit late in the afternoon. It’s worth witnessing either a sunrise or sunset in Petra; its sandstone monuments take on myriad hues bathed in the early morning and evening light and are especially breathtaking.
How to Get to Petra from Amman
Rent your own car and drive or hire a taxi from Amman to Wadi Musa, where you’ll begin your tour of Petra. Expect to pay around 50 to 80 JD ($70 to $110 USD) for a taxi, and be sure to agree on the price before your journey.
You can also take an air-conditioned JETT coach from Abdali Station in Amman to Wadi Musa (the nearest town to the archaeological site) that departs daily at 6:30 a.m. and returns from Petra to Amman at 5:00 p.m. and costs 11 JD ($15 USD) each way. It’s best to book online in advance.
How Much Do Tickets Cost?
A one-day ticket costs 50 JD ($70 USD), whereas a three-day ticket costs 60 JD ($85). Children under 12 enter for free. The ticket office is open from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. in summer and to 4:00 p.m. in winter.
What to See in Petra
The 3/4-mile-long hike through the Siq, a narrow gorge with rose-colored walls and cliffs as high as 262 feet, serves as a dramatic introduction to Petra. The gorge opens up to reveal the awe-inspiring, 130-foot-high facade of the Treasury, or “Al Khazna.” Adorned with magnificent Corinthian capitals and sculptures and bejeweled camels in the foreground, it is believed to have been the tomb of a Nabataean king and is Petra’s most photographed monument.
Next, head to the Street of Facades, pay your respects at rock-carved Nabataean tombs, and visit the Theater at the foot of the High Place of Sacrifice. Then make your way past the Royal Tombs to the Colonnaded Street, the center of all commercial activity in ancient Petra, before stopping for a refreshing cup of tea or a quick bite at the Basin, the only eatery inside the archaeological site.
From here, 800 steps lead up to the impressive 157-foot-high and 154-foot-wide facade of Ad Deir, or “the Monastery,” dating from the second century. If you’re too tired to walk, hire a donkey to take you to the top. Admire the edifice and then hike to vantage points around the area for even better views.
On your way back, visit monuments such as the Temple of Qasr Al-Bint, Black Winged Temple, Great Temple and Byzantine Church.
Petra by Night offers an unforgettable evening tour to the Treasury. Walk through the Siq and arrive at the Treasury, illuminated by the glow of more than a thousand candles. Tickets for the tour, only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays (8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.) are available at the Visitors’ Center and cost 17 JD ($24 USD) in addition to the one-day ticket.
How to Get Around in Petra
Exploring Petra involves a great deal of walking on sand and over pebbles and rocks, so wear sturdy walking shoes. If you get tired along the way, you can choose to hire a camel, donkey, horse or carriage to take you around. A carriage should cost you 20 JD from the Visitor Center to the Treasury (four kilometers).
Tips for Visiting Petra
- Wear plenty of sunscreen and bring a hat or scarf to protect your head from the afternoon sun. Don’t forget to bring a bottle of water or buy one at the entrance.
- If you’re visiting in summer, wear light fabrics like cotton. In winter, bring a jacket or shawl, as it can get chilly in the evenings.
- While the trails in Petra are clearly marked for tourists and maps are available at the Visitors’ Center, it’s worth hiring one of the licensed guides. Avoid venturing off the marked trails alone.
- There are restaurants and cafés available in and near Petra, most serving local food. Alternatively, request your hotel to pack you a lunch to enjoy at one of Petra’s incredible viewpoints.
- Expect to be followed around by boys as young as eight trying to sell you trinkets and postcards; it’s best not to encourage them, as this keeps them out of school. Don’t engage: They take that as encouragement, rounding up other friends to follow you till you buy something from each one. A curt “no, thank you” should suffice.
- Shop for souvenirs such as traditional pottery and handcrafted jewelry at one of many Bedouin-owned shops around Petra. Expect to haggle and pay with cash. Do not buy antiquities or coins; it’s prohibited, and they’re likely to be fakes.
- Toilets are available along the way, except at the Monastery.