Petra is one of the most iconic travel destinations in the world. The image of The Treasury has graced the covers of esteemed travel magazines all over the world, and more recently, it has become one of those most-visit Instagrammable places. Yet there are so many more places to visit in Petra than just The Treasury.
Considered one of the Wonders of the World, Petra is an ancient Nabataean city, dating back over 2000 years.
The Nabataean Kingdom in Jordan flourished throughout the 1st century and Petra was a cosmopolitan marketplace and an important crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Syria-Phoenicia.
Today, it is an alluring World Heritage Site and sits top of many travel bucket lists. Fortunately, Petra is also relatively easy to get to and explore – in fact, far easier than you’d think!
I recommend spending two to three days in Petra, if possible. At a push, it would be possible to see all the sites with one day in Petra, if you’re in a rush.
However, exploring Petra is quite an overwhelming task especially in the summer heat. It’s hard to know where to start and which sites to visit. The most important thing you must know is that there is a lot more places to see in Petra than The Treasury.
This guide will help you to plan your day (or days) exploring Petra and its magical sites.
However, do check my complete guide to visiting Petra which should answer all your general questions about visiting this incredible place. I’ve also included detailed guides on where to stay and how to get around, but the main focus of this post is to detail all the main sites and attractions to see in Petra, Jordan.
The Must-See Sites of Petra, Jordan
With a few days in Petra, you can see a good number of the main attractions in Petra. In the map below, you can see the Visitors’ Centre on the far right. This is the entrance to Petra located on the far edge of the town Wadi Musa. The Mövenpick Resort is perfectly located by the entrance gate – ideal for resting weary legs!
The Obelisk Tomb
Once you’ve passed through the Visitor Centre and had your ticket stamped, you’ll notice the modern world fall away behind you. Whilst there’s some brief chaos from the local Bedouins who are (somewhat forcibly) offering horse rides, you’ll quickly notice things calm down. Everyone walks the length of The Siq at their own pace. Some rush through it to get to The Treasury, others – like myself- wander a little slower to see the sites.
For example, on route to the entrance of The Siq are some really interesting tombs, one of which is the Obelisk Tomb. There are four pyramidal obelisks – each surrounding a tomb – built by the Nabateans in 1st century BC. There’s a figure in the middle, and it’s quite a sight – yet so many people miss out on taking a moment to explore it.
You can even see where feasts were held in honour of The Dead in the lower half of the structure, known as Bab as-Siq Triclinium. It is a simple single room with rock-carved benches on all three sides.
Back to The Siq. This narrow mile-long gorge is quite something to wander down. But if you don’t watch out, you might be flattened by a horse and carriage racing by.
Despite this, The Siq is also one of the coolest places in Petra (temperature wise) as the sun cannot really reach through the steep walls. So walking through here offers some relief from the strong midday sun.
Technically, The Siq isn’t actually a gorge, as it was formed by tectonic forces which cause the rock to split down the middle. Following this, the flowing waters of the Wadi Musa came, and together with wind, the two elements smoothed the sandstone walls. Some of the walls are as high as 150m tall.
The walk can take around 20 minutes at a moderate pace. The best bit is when The Siq opens up dramatically to reveal The Treasury – it’s really quite something. Especially without crowds..
The Instagram-famous site in Petra is what most tourists come to Jordan to see and where many spend the most time during their visit to Petra. The Treasury is truly magnificent and so incredibly well-maintained.
Did you know Petra was only discovered by a Swiss scholar about 200 years ago? Whilst he was doing research and this is why it is called The Lost City. Can you even imagine stumbling across this!
The Treasury is one of the best preserved Nabatean temples in the world. It was designed in the 1st century BC to impress, and that it most definitely still does. Protected by a valley, the site was built to be sheltered from wind and rain from day one.
The detailing on The Treasury is so ornate. Make sure to spend some time to just stand, gaze and admire. The Treasury is actually crowned by a funerary urn, which – and this is very cool – conceals a pharaoh’s treasure, according to local legend.
Prepare to be hassled by local traders and donkey owners quite a bit here at The Treasury. I found them incessant – almost to the point that it started to detract from the experience.
The Streets of Facades
After the Treasury, following the path to the right, you’ll find yourself on the main street where you can see the remains of a marketplace, temples, an incredible theatre and a church. All structures that give evidence of the Nabateans, whose existence was relatively short-lived but their empire was wealthy and their influence far-reaching. All built into the sandstone rock, you’ll walk past tombs and houses – and you can even go and sit right in them.
Tip: For an amazing vantage point over this area, start climbing the route towards the High Place of Sacrifice and look back – it’s amazing!
The Theatre was carved into the side of the mountain at the foot of the High Place of Sacrifice between 4 BC and 27 AD. Seven stairways ascend the auditorium that can accommodate 4000 spectators. You can’t enter here (it has a barrier), but it’s quite something to look up at.
The Colonnaded Street
The Colonnaded Street is one of several key remains from the Romans who came to rule and dominate this area.
This street was one of the main shopping streets of ancient Petra. At the far end of the road lies the triple gate, which leads to the Temple of Qasr al-Bint, another site in Petra you should definitely visit.
The Great Temple
Directly adjacent to the Colonnaded Street is The Great Temple which was built in 100 BC. By the time you get to this part of Petra, you may find the crowds have lessened and it’s much easier to explore and wander amongst the ruins.
The Monastery (Al Deir)
If you have the energy and the commitment to climb the steps, then The Monastery is a must-see. Unfortunately, we chose not to make the journey and I do slightly regret it, so if you can – it’s highly recommended!
So that’s my complete guide to all of the must-see sites in Petra, Jordan. I hope it has proved useful and given you some guidance to visiting Petra ahead of your trip.
As mentioned, I’ve also written a detailed guide for visiting Petra, as well as feature on my excellent stay at the Mövenpick Resort in Petra.
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