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 must visit places. I’ve written a long and detailed guide covering everything you need to know about visiting Petra in Jordan here, but this guide details key the sites within Petra.
Considered one of the Wonders of the World, Petra is an ancient Nabataean city in Jordan, dating back over 2000 years.
Petra flourished throughout the 1st century as a cosmopolitan marketplace and an important crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Syria-Phoenicia. However, Petra was only rediscovered by the western world in 1812 as the Bedouin people had tried to keep it secret, for fear of people coming to hunt for treasure.
Today, it is an alluring UNESCO World Heritage Site and sits top of many travel bucket lists. Fortunately, Petra is 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. If you’re wondering how to plan your visit to Jordan and how to long in each place, do make sure to check out my one week itinerary guide to Jordan here. And if you’re wondering where to stay, then I recommend the Mövenpick hotel, and you can read my detailed review of this hotel here.
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 are a lot more places to see in Petra than The Treasury.
It’s also an idea to visit with a guide if you want to know more information on the sites, the history and the mysteries, as there are few signs to explain things within Petra. However, as a starting point, this guide will help you to plan your day (or days) exploring Petra and its magical sites.
The Must-See Sites of Petra, Jordan
With a few days in Jordan, 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 I mentioned above 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 from start to finish 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..
Also known as ‘Al Khazneh‘, 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? He was doing research in Jordan, and this is why it is called ‘The Lost City’. Can you even imagine stumbling across this! Petra was later declared a UNESCO World Heritage site on December 6th 1985.
The Treasury is one of the best preserved Nabatean temples in the world. Protected by a valley, the site was built to be sheltered from wind and rain from day one.
The detailing on The Treasury is ornate. Make sure to spend some time to just stand, gaze and admire. The Treasury is actually crowned by a funerary urn. This supposedly conceals a pharaoh’s treasure, according to local legend. However, so far nothing has been found.
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.
From the entrance of Petra, through The Six and to The Treasury takes around 30-40 minutes at a reasonable pace. Also, it’s important to know that you cannot go inside The Treasury.
Viewpoints of The Treasury
Looking to capture an iconic shot of The Treasury in Petra? You need to climb to the top of the (very high) platform directly behind The Treasury. The local Bedouin men will tell you that you’re not allowed to ascend this route alone. They might be right, I don’t know. But the truth is, the climb is challenging and you need to go up with a Bedouin purely to find the way.
I can’t believe there were no ladders, metal hand grips or even signs saying don’t go. It was a pretty treacherous climb that I found really challenging. Lots of Bedouins will offer to take you up for about 6 JOD.
There’s a small tent at the top to buy tea or take a rest at – there’s also some very cute kittens.
Alternatively, there’s a closer and easier viewpoint to the right of the Treasury. The path is not overly well marked, so you might need to ask a local.
Lastly, the final viewpoint is a far longer hike. Starting at the Royal Tombs, it’s approximately a 1 hour trail along to a viewpoint that’s very similar to the first one. You don’t need a guide for this route.
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 give evidence of the Nabateans. Although their existence was relatively short-lived, their empire was wealthy. 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.
Today, many of the columns are in ruins due to the flash floods that have happened here.
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 800 steps, then The Monastery is a must-see. Unfortunately, we chose not to make the journey and I do slightly regret it.
From the The Treasury to The Monastery, it is around 1h30-2 hours to get there, depending on fitness levels.
The Monastery offers incredible views across Petra from up high, offering a different perspective of the canyons and villages that surround Petra below.
Top Things to See and Do in Petra, Jordan
So, there you have it! My guide to the must-see sites to visit in Petra. I hope it has proved useful and given you some guidance to visiting Petra ahead of your trip.
Disclaimer: This visit to Petra was entirely paid for by myself. There was no involvement from the tourism board or a hotel. This is an independent guide.
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