Must see attractions in Petra

  • Top ChoiceSights in Petra

    Petra

    The spectacular sandstone city of Petra was built in the 3rd century BC by the Nabataeans, who carved palaces, temples, tombs, storerooms and stables from the soft stone cliffs. Today it is a World Heritage Site that needs little introduction; suffice to say, no visit to Jordan is complete without at least two days spent exploring the remarkable Ancient City. It is approached through the adjacent town of Wadi Musa, which is the accommodation and transport hub.

  • Top ChoiceSights in The Ancient City

    Siq

    The 1.2km Siq, or canyon, with its narrow, vertical walls, is undeniably one of the highlights of Petra. The walk through this magical corridor, as it snakes its way towards the hidden city, is one full of anticipation for the wonders ahead – a point not wasted on the Nabataeans, who made the passage into a sacred way, punctuated with sites of spiritual significance.

  • Top ChoiceSights in The Ancient City

    High Place of Sacrifice

    The most accessible of Petra’s High Places, this well-preserved site was built atop Jebel Madbah with drains to channel the blood of sacrificial animals. A flight of steps signposted just before the Theatre leads to the site: turn right at the obelisks to reach the sacrificial platform. You can ascend by donkey (about JD10 one way), but you’ll sacrifice both the sense of achievement on reaching the summit and the good humour of your poor old transport.

  • Top ChoiceSights in The Ancient City

    Monastery

    Hidden high in the hills, the Monastery is one of the legendary monuments of Petra. Similar in design to the Treasury but far bigger (50m wide and 45m high), it was built in the 3rd century BCE as a Nabataean tomb. It derives its name from the crosses carved on the inside walls, suggestive of its use as a church in Byzantine times. The ancient rock-cut path of more than 800 steps starts from the Basin Restaurant and follows the old processional route.

  • Top ChoiceSights in The Ancient City

    Theatre

    Originally built by the Nabataeans (not the Romans) more than 2000 years ago, the Theatre was chiselled out of rock, slicing through many caves and tombs in the process. It was enlarged by the Romans to hold about 8500 (around 30% of the population of Petra) soon after they arrived in 106 CE. Badly damaged by an earthquake in 363 CE, the Theatre was partially dismantled to build other structures but it remains a Petra highlight.

  • Top ChoiceSights in The Ancient City

    Urn Tomb

    The most distinctive of the Royal Tombs is the Urn Tomb, recognisable by the enormous urn on top of the pediment. It was built in about AD 70 for King Malichos II (AD 40–70) or Aretas IV (8 BC–AD 40). The naturally patterned interior of the Urn Tomb measures a vast 18m by 20m.

  • Top ChoiceSights in The Ancient City

    Royal Tombs

    Downhill from the Theatre, the wadi widens to create a larger thoroughfare. To the right, the great massif of Jebel Al Khubtha looms over the valley. Within its west-facing cliffs are burrowed some of the most impressive burial places in Petra, known collectively as the ‘Royal Tombs’. They look particularly stunning bathed in the golden light of sunset.

  • Top ChoiceSights in The Ancient City

    Treasury

    Known locally as Al Khazneh, this tomb is where most visitors fall in love with Petra. The Hellenistic facade is an astonishing piece of craftsmanship. Although carved out of iron-laden sandstone to serve as a tomb for the Nabataean King Aretas III (c 100 BCE–CE 200), the Treasury derives its name from the story that an Egyptian pharaoh hid his treasure here (in the facade urn) while pursuing the Israelites.

  • Sights in The Ancient City

    Colonnaded Street

    Downhill from the Theatre, the Colonnaded Street marks the centre of the Ancient City. The street was built around AD 106 and follows the standard Roman pattern of an east–west decumanus, but without the normal cardo maximus (north–south axis). Columns of marble-clad sandstone originally lined the 6m-wide carriageway, and covered porticoes gave access to shops.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Little Petra

    Little Petra Siq

    An obvious path leads through the 400m-long Siq Al Barid, opening out into flat, sandy areas. The first open area boasts a temple while four triclinia – one on the left and three on the right – are in the second open area. These were probably used as dining rooms to feed hungry merchants and travellers. About 50m further along the siq is the Painted House, another small dining room reached by some exterior steps.

  • Sights in The Ancient City

    Obelisk Tomb & Bab As Siq Triclinium

    Between the Petra Visitor Centre and the entrance to the Siq (south side of the path), there is a fine tomb with four pyramidal obelisks, built as funerary symbols by the Nabataeans in the 1st century BC. The four obelisks, together with the eroded human figure in the centre, probably represent the five people buried in the tomb.

  • Sights in The Ancient City

    Qasr Al Bint

    One of the few free-standing structures in Petra, Qasr Al Bint was built in around 30 BCE by the Nabataeans. It was later adapted to the cult of Roman emperors and destroyed around the 3rd century CE. Despite the name given to it by the local Bedouin – Castle of the Pharaoh’s Daughter – the temple was originally built as a dedication to Nabataean gods and was one of the most important temples in Petra.

  • Sights in The Ancient City

    Great Temple

    A major Nabataean temple of the 1st century BCE, this structure was badly damaged by an earthquake not long after it was built, but it remained in use (albeit in different forms) until the late Byzantine period. A theatron (miniature theatre) stands in the centre. The temple was once 18m high, and the enclosure was 40m by 28m. The interior was originally covered with striking red-and-white stucco.

  • Sights in The Ancient City

    Djinn Blocks

    About halfway between Petra Visitor Centre and the entrance to the Siq, look out for three enormous, squat monuments, known as Djinn Blocks or God Blocks. Standing guard beside the path, they take their name from the Arabic word for spirit, the source of the English word 'genie'. Other than the fact they were built by Nabataeans in the 1st century AD, little is known about their why or wherefore.

  • Sights in The Ancient City

    Petra Church

    An awning covers the remains of Petra Church (also known as the Byzantine Church). Inside the church are some exquisite Byzantine floor mosaics, some of the best in the region. The mosaics originally continued up the walls. A helpful map and explanations in English are also located inside the church.

  • Sights in The Ancient City

    Palace Tomb

    The delightful three-storey imitation of a Roman or Hellenistic palace, known as the Palace Tomb, is distinctive among the Royal Tombs for its rock-hewn facade, the largest in Petra. The doors lead into typically simple funerary chambers while the 18 columns on the upper level are the most distinctive and visually arresting elements of the tomb. Notice the top-left corner is built (rather than carved) because the rock face didn’t extend far enough to complete the facade.

  • Sights in The Ancient City

    Garden Triclinium

    This hall was used for annual feasts to honour the dead placed in the Roman Soldier’s Tomb. The hall is unique in Petra because it has carved decoration on the interior walls. The Garden Tomb and this triclinium were once linked by a colonnaded courtyard.

  • Sights in The Ancient City

    Silk Tomb

    Next to the distinctive Urn Tomb in the Royal Tomb group is the so-called Silk Tomb, noteworthy for the stunning swirls of pink-, white- and yellow-veined rock in its facade.

  • Sights in The Ancient City

    Lookout

    Beyond the Monastery, this eyrie perched on a steep precipice affords breathtaking views.

  • Sights in The Ancient City

    Lookout

    One of several viewpoints across Wadi Araba is worth the extra hike from the Monastery.