While you can do plenty of research on Petra, nothing quite prepares you for experiencing this incredible lost city. Our very own Tim Johnson, who works in our reservations team in Australia, recently travelled to Jordan to experience our Totally Jordan group tour for himself. Returning after an amazing trip, he’s put together his best tips and advice for visiting this ancient wonder. So here’s what you need to know before you go to Petra.
Be prepared to walk
Be prepared to clock up your step count on a day in Petra. The distance from the car park to the entry is about 250 metres. From the entry to the start of the Siq is another 800 metres. Then it’s 1.2 kilometres along the Siq to reach the Treasury.
Before you know it you’ve racked up 2.5km and that’s just the beginning! From the Treasury there are a number of different trails you can take depending on your level of fitness. You can easily cover 20 kilometres in just the one day.
Wear comfortable shoes
All that walking is going to require some good shoes. So leave the heels and flip flops at the hotel. While you could do the hiking in a pair of Converse, you’ll be more comfortable in shoes with grip. If you’re planning on tackling some of the more advanced routes, or even just the 850+ stairs to the Monastery, hiking boots would be ideal.
Drink lots of water! I recommend taking a minimum of 1 litre with you. Water is available for purchase, however it can be expensive and you won’t be able to buy it between the entry and the Treasury. If you’re worried about bathroom breaks, there are plenty along the main trail from the Treasury to the bottom of the Monastery trail.
Bring sun protection
Apart from when you’re inside the Siq, Petra is an open site and there’s very little shade. Prepare for this by wearing light fabric that covers your neck and shoulders. Make sure you bring along sunscreen and don’t forget your hat!
Spend some extra time
It’s a common misconception that Petra begins and ends at the Treasury. In fact, this ancient city covers over 60 square kilometres across canyons and up mountains.
On the first day, aim to cover the main trails of the Treasury and the Monastery, then on the second day head up to the High Place of Sacrifice or over to the Royal Tombs. Even in two days you won’t cover it all. The two and three day passes are only slightly more than the single day pass, well worth the extra 5JD.
Get an early start
There are a couple of reasons to get an early start. Firstly, it’s hot! So the earlier you start, the more of the midday heat you can avoid. Secondly, there are also less crowds as groups of cruise ship passengers tend to arrive later in the morning. With less people around, you’ll get better photos and really be able to enjoy the experience.
Be aware of the animals
Apart from the dogs and cats that roam around, there are a lot of working animals in Petra. There are the horses you can take through the Siq to the treasury as well as camels and donkeys inside the city.
You’ll be approached and asked if you would like to ride them. This is not for everyone and while in recent years the local Bedouin and Jordanian government have been working to improve the plight of these animals, if this isn’t for you just politely say ‘no thank you’ and move on.
Experience Petra by night
If you’re wondering whether or not it’s worth going back to see Petra at night – it definitely is! Petra after dark is a completely different experience to during the day as there are over 1,500 candles lining the Siq and around the Treasury.
Once at the Treasury you can enjoy a tea and listen to the local Bedouins as they sing songs and play traditional instruments. Petra by Night operates on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, starting at 8.30pm and running for approximately 2 to 2.5 hours.
Use a qualified guide
Using a qualified guide will help you get the most out of your time at Petra, particularly if it’s short. Not only will they be able to help you see the most in the time you have, but there’s a lot of history to learn and information to gain from a qualified guide to make the experience truly memorable.
When you arrive at the Treasury, there will be a lot of locals offering to take you through a shortcut up to the lookout. However, this route is not maintained and can be extremely dangerous. A qualified guide will always take you on safe, official trails.