Essential Tips for visiting Petra, Jordan
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The ancient city of Petra, Jordan is located approximately 3 hours from the capital city of Amman. While the Treasury is what comes to mind when thinking of the ancient city, there is so much more to see inside Petra. Here are some tips to make your visit to Petra, Jordan a memorable one.
Wear Comfortable Shoes during your Petra visit.
This should go without saying, but during my visit I saw too many people with improper footwear complaining there feet hurt. While walking through the Siq - the high walled canyon which leads to the Treasury - and on the main road through Petra the ground is even, when venturing off the main throughway the ground becomes uneven and rocky.
The inside of Petra is WAY bigger than you think it is.
When I thought of Petra, the Treasury is the only things that came to mind. However, according to Zeidoun Al-Muheisen of Jordan's Yarmouk University, who has been excavating in Petra since 1979, only 15% of the site has been uncovered. Even that 15% is huge! Currently, the site is estimated to be around 60 square kilometers. That space spans through canyons and over craggy mountains.
Bring Lots of Water and Snacks
Petra is located in the desert. I was there in March and it was still hot during the day, even though it was winter time. Staying hydrated will ensure you have a great time during your visit. Bring plenty of water with you, but know there are several places you can purchase water throughout the city.
The same goes for snacks. At some of the main spots - the Treasury, the monastery, along the main trail - there are vendors selling food. Because the site is so vast I recommend bringing food with you just in case you get hungry and you’re not near a place to buy food.
Take a short tour to get some History
Nabataeans have lived in Petra since 312 B.C. according to Al-Muheisen, that's over a Millennia of history! If you think you can get the most out of visiting Petra without knowing a thing about the place, I feel like you'd be missing out. Granted, I'm a history geek and want to know all about the places I visit.
You can get a guide in advance or you can hire someone upon arrival. A licensed private guide, hired at the Visitors Center, will run you 50JD. Arranging a guide in advance on TripAdvisor can alleviate some stress during the trip, if you’re a planner. While I did not go with him while I was there, Abdullah Nawafleh, is a private guide and comes highly recommended by friends of mine who visited recently and on TripAdvisor.
Give yourself plenty of time to Explore Petra
I would recommend getting to the sight as early as possible. It’s cooler in the mornings and there are less people. According to the Visitors Center, which is open form 6am to 6pm in the summer and 6am to 4pm in the winter there is no official closing time, they just request that all visitors exit the area by sundown unless you are doing Petra by Night (more on that later).
Like I said earlier Petra is huge! Many people say they are satisfied with doing a day there, but I wish I had 2. There are so many trails to explore and I think I saw about half of what I really wanted to see in the day I was there. With that said, I love wandering around ruins of any kind.
Petra: Approximate walking times and Distances
Main Trail: 2.7 miles, 2-2.5 hours, difficulty level: easy
Al-Khubtha Trail: 1 mile, 2-2.5 hours, difficulty level: hard
High Place of Sacrifice Trail: 1.7 miles, 4-5 hours difficulty level: hard
Ad-Deir (Monastery) Trail: 3/4 mile with over 800 steps, 2.5-3 hours, difficulty level: hard
Umm al-Blyara Trail: 1.25 miles, 3-4 hours, difficulty level:hard
Jabel Haroun Trail: 2.8 miles, 5-6 hours, difficulty level: hard
Sabra Trail: 3.7 miles, 6-7 hours, difficulty level:moderate
Al-Madras Trail: .31 miles, 3/4-1 hour, difficulty level: moderate
Photos inside Petra
When exploring Petra photos are a MUST! There is so much to see and turst me you’ll take a ton of pictures, I know I did. Whether you use your phone or a sophisticated high-tech camera, make sure you bring extra batteries. I didn’t and halfway through the day my camera died. Luckily I always bring my little point and shoot just in case.
If you are able to change lens on your camera I wide angle lens will be very helpful in capturing the beauty of the area.
Petra by Night
Petra by Night is a magical experience. You walk through the Siq, which is lined with illuminating paper bags. People are mostly silent during this walk making it seem other worldly.
Upon your arrival at the Treasury, you sit down in silence and are given a hot cup of tea. With the desert chill, your hands welcome the warmth. The area in front of the Treasury is dotted with flickering lights and enveloped with the stillness of the desert. You are then treated with traditional music that will have you closing your eyes and taking everything in. When the music stops lights turn on and the Treasury seems to glow.
However, be warned, there are a lot of people. If you are the type of person that can’t block out the stupidity of others, you probably shouldn’t got. On Trip Advisor, Petra by Night gets low reviews because of “Tourists”. Some people are rude, yes, but that’s the unfortunate truth everywhere you go. If you go with an open mind and heart, you will enjoy this experience.
Remember to dress warm as you will be sitting for some time, test out your camera without the flash to try and get the best photos you can, and bring a headlamp for the walk just in case. During my visit tri-pods where not allowed.