As to be expected, the main sights of Petra are within the Ancient City itself, but there are also dozens of small places of interest scattered around the vicinity, including Moses' Spring ('Ain Musa) in upper Wadi Musa, Little Petra (Siq Al Barid) and one of the world's earliest settlements at Al Beidha. None of these require an entrance ticket.
Petra and the immediate vicinity is a protected area, although it is administered differently from Jordan’s other nature reserves. Given the number of visitors it hosts each year, the area has its own challenges, particularly erosion and damage to antiquities. Visitors must avoid littering, wandering off paths, picking flowers, marking the monuments or disappearing behind a rock instead of using the toilet facilities.
Practical Tip: Top Tips for Making the Most of Petra
Petra at Dawn The Treasury is sunlit in the morning; it is a much-photographed sight, but the real thing is indescribably magical.
Tip: Tour groups arrive at 8am, leaving Petra at dawn for the early birds.
Photogenic Petra Mid-afternoon and most of Petra’s weary guests have returned to base. Those who linger catch the Royal Tombs turning pink at sunset.
Tip: The sun sets around 6pm in summer and 5pm in winter.
Petra on High The Siq, Street of Facades and museum all lie brooding in the wadi bottom. Climb a few steps, hike to a high place, sit on a camel and a whole new dimension to Petra opens up.
Tip: The Theatre seats give grandstand views.
Hidden Petra Petra doesn’t give up its secrets easily and most visitors leave without discovering the Monastery, at the top of 800 hand-hewn steps.
Tip: Best seen in the full sun of afternoon, beautiful views of Wadi Araba are just a 15-minute stroll from the Monastery. Using the 'backdoor' from Umm Sayoun saves walking time and distance.
Green Petra A parallel world begs to be explored along the hidden wadis that lie outside the Ancient City; lizards, snakes and scorpions are common but shy residents beside the rocky pools.
Tip: Pink oleander blossoms stripe surrounding wadis in profusion in May.
Living Petra Petra may be a pile of ruins to some, but for others it’s home; Raami Tours from Umm Sayoun shows how the Bdoul Bedouin interact with their famous monuments.
Tip: Saying yes to tea with the Bedouin involves participating in one of Petra’s age-old rituals.
Petra by Night Three times per week, the spirit of Petra is chased down the Siq by candlelight, often in the company of merry hoards.
Tip: Warm coat needed in winter.
Worth a Trip: A Dozen Unusual Ways to Enjoy Petra
- Enter Petra via the narrow Wadi Muthlim instead of the Siq (best kept for the second day of a visit; often closed).
- Gain an eagle's-eye view of the Treasury from a path above the Royal Tombs.
- Gallop across a plateau on horseback, high above the Treasury.
- Descend from the High Place of Sacrifice via the garden valley of Wadi Farasa.
- Take tea with one of the few remaining residents of Petra behind Al Habis.
- Unfurl a portable feast in a triclinium, a banqueting hall for honouring the dead.
- Hike with a guide from Little Petra along the back trail to the Monastery.
- Find a secret garden beyond the Siq at Little Petra.
- Saddle up a donkey for the two-day hike to Sabra via Wadi Tibn.
- Leave Petra with the Bdoul Bedouin via the road to Umm Sayoun.
- Walk between Umm Sayoun and Wadi Musa for a sublime view of Petra at sunset.
- Stop at the viewpoint on the scenic road to Tayyibeh for the ultimate Petra panorama.