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Itineraries

How to Make the Most of One Day in Petra, Jordan

The Nabatean city of Petra has been drawing visitors since long before Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, UNESCO protection, or even achieving “New World Wonder” status. The Rose City, as it is also called, is one of the incredible feats of past human innovation and artistry, and it’s impossible to forget the impressiveness of the site once you’ve had a chance to visit it.

While you can easily spend several days visiting Petra and hiking its many trails, most people only have one day in Petra during their Jordan itinerary – and maybe an evening and/or morning on either side of their stay. If your schedule only allows one full day in Petra, you might wonder what to do in Petra – and in what order – to make the most of your short time.

Based on my recent trip to Petra in March 2022, I’ve put together this one-day Petra itinerary to help you maximize your visit to Jordan’s most popular site. Read on for a step-by-step guide – and schedule with hourly suggestions – for how to spend one day in Petra and see as much as possible. Make sure to have a good breakfast, fill your water bottle, your shoes are laced tight, and your camera battery is fully charged – you’re going to need it all for this epic day of exploring Petra.

Example Schedule for One Day in Petra

To help you get a sense of exactly how to maximize one day in Petra, here’s an hourly schedule, assuming you start at 7am on the day of your visit:

  • 7:00am – Begin Siq trail from Visitor Center
  • 7:45am – Arrive at Treasury
  • 8:00am – Continue down the Street of Facades
  • 8:30am – Begin Treasury Viewpoint Trail
  • 9:30am – Arrive at Treasury Viewpoint
  • 10:30am – Pass Byzantine Church and Temples
  • 11:15am – Arrive at Basin Restaurant
  • 12:00pm – Depart for Monastery
  • 1:30pm – Return to Basin Restaurant Area
  • 3:00pm – Return to Treasury
  • 4:00pm – Return to Visitor Center
  • 8:30pm – Petra-by-night begins
  • 10:30pm – Visit Cave Bar

If this looks good – and of course it does! – read on. I’ll go into detail about each part of the day so you can see how they all fit together during your one day in Petra.

Start the Siq Trail near Sunrise

While I know your Jordan trip is meant to be a bit of a vacation, you’ll probably soon discover that sleeping in each day is a surefire way to end up stuck in the crowds during the heat of the day. This is especially true in Petra, where day-trippers from Amman and Aqaba flood into the historic site by mid-morning and the sun’s rays begin to bake the whole area during midday.

To beat the crowds, I recommend rising early – within the first hour after sunrise, grabbing breakfast, and getting on the Siq trail early. The main trail in Petra leads from the Visitor Center to the Siq to the Treasury in about 0.75 miles; the trail is mostly downhill but still takes quite a while as you’ll begin to see ruins, tombs, and carvings right away.

Give yourself about 45 minutes to make the hike to the Treasury.

Visit the Treasury without Crowds

Everyone knows the Treasury in Petra: it was made famous by Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and is the main movie filmed in Petra. However, as you’d expect, it gets crowded since it’s the first major sight along the main trail in Petra. If you’ve gotten up early and make your way to the Treasury at a decent pace, you’ll miss most of the crowds of fellow visitors.

You won’t be alone, however; there will be plenty of local Bedouin offering souvenirs and services like camel rides and photos, as well as a hike to the “best view” of the Treasury. I recommend politely declining these offers, grabbing a few pictures, and continuing down the Siq toward the Street of Façades. Stop here for 10-15 minutes before continuing on.

(As an aside, the “best view” hike that is offered is actually quite unsafe: it passes a “No Climbing” sign and goes up a dangerous rock scramble to reach a point about 10 minutes from the floor of the Treasury area. This is not the Treasury Viewpoint hike you’ll do later, which is much safer.)

Walk Down the Street of Façades

Leaving the Treasury, you’ll walk a little further in the Siq, and then it will start to widen revealing more tombs carved into the stone walls of the Wadi. These impressive façades have given this area its name as the “Street of Façades” and you can even peek your head into a few of them. (Some of the Bedouin seem to store their donkeys inside overnight, so it is definitely not fresh air in them!)

Continuing on, you’ll pass souvenir stalls and stands, and then notice a sign on your right leading up past the Royal Tombs. These huge elaborate structures are all in different architectural styles, so be sure to look up from the trail while pausing to admire them.

It takes about 30 minutes to walk from the Treasury to the Treasury Viewpoint Trailhead and past the Royal Tombs.

Climb to the Treasury Viewpoint

Continuing past the Royal Tombs, the trail begins to climb in earnest: it’s roughly 900 stairs from this point in the trail to the top of the hill where the trail flattens out on its way to the Treasury Viewpoint. So tighten up those shoes, grab those hiking poles, and start climbing! (There are plenty of spots to stop and rest along the way, and the stairs are wide allowing others to easily pass going up and down.)

The Treasury Viewpoint trail is 2.2 miles (3.5km) out and back and takes about 90 minutes to hike in full, plus any time you spend at the viewpoint itself. There you’ll find an entrepreneurial Bedouin tent with tea and fresh juice for sale, as well as snacks, kittens who love to snuggle up (mostly to try and get a snack too!), and an incredible view.

Give yourself two hours total to hike to the Treasury Viewpoint, spend time at the top, and hike back down. As you can see, you’ll want to have enough time to soak in the view and relax a bit before your return hike back to the basin.

Pass by the Byzantine Church & Temples

After you descend from the Treasury Viewpoint (which takes about 30 minutes), you’ll notice a fork in the trail; take the right fork toward an upper trail that passes by the Byzantine Church with its mosaic floor and the temples within Petra. This walk and stopping for photos takes about 45 minutes to reach Basin Restaurant at the far end of the Main Trail (2.5 miles/4km from the Visitor Center, but longer since you added on the 2.2 miles/3.5km for the Treasury Viewpoint hike).

Lunch at Basin Restaurant

One Day in Petra - Basin Restaurant

I recommend stopping for lunch at Basin Restaurant; this is the main restaurant within the Petra site and – while expensive – is a good place to try traditional Jordanian food and refuel out of the sun and heat. There are both indoor and outdoor dining areas, as well as decent toilets as needed. I recommend giving yourself 45 minutes for lunch and to rest your feet before setting off for the afternoon.

Climb to the Monastery

After the Treasury and Treasury Viewpoint, the Monastery is the other main sight to see in Petra. This hike isn’t far – less than one mile each way (out and back) – but includes about 800 stairs. (Did I forget to mention you’d definitely be getting your steps in today???)

It’s worth it though: once you reach the top of this climb, you’ll be on a plateau where you can see the Monastery – an equally impressive stone carving façade to the Treasury at the other end of the Nabatean city of Petra.

Give yourself about 40 minutes for the hike up to the Monastery viewpoint, then 15 or so minutes at the Monastery for pictures. From there, descend back to Basin Restaurant for the facilities and to refill your water bottle if needed.

Return on the Colonnaded Street

From Basin Restaurant, you’ll begin the long, gentle climb back out of the basin that holds most of Petra. First, you’ll walk the Colonnaded Street, which is so named for the columns that line one side of it (originally they were on both sides). You’ll also pass two more of the temples in Petra, and plenty of Bedouin with souvenir stalls set up.

If you’re starting to feel footsore, you could hire one of the many camel, donkey, and horse drivers who offer rides in this area. They can only take you so far as the Treasury, but it does help cut down on the walking time and effort.

If you choose to walk, I recommend stopping off in a store called Lion Love Shop. In addition to other souvenirs, you can try the Bedouin kohl (eyeliner) for free. I absolutely loved it and bought a small bottle which has quickly become one of my favorite Jordan souvenirs.

Exit for Dinner in Wadi Musa

All visitors must exit Petra by sundown each night, so even though you’ll be headed back in later, I recommend making your way out to your hotel to freshen up and have dinner. I personally recommend staying at Petra Guest House which is actually within the boundaries of the Petra site; they have full-board accommodations including dinner and are the shortest walk possible after a long day of walking and climbing.

Enjoy Petra-by-Night

After dinner, there’s only one thing left to do: head back in for the Petra-by-night experience. I’ve already shared my review of Petra-by-night if you want more detail, but in short, you’ll walk back down the Siq trail to the Treasury, and then enjoy an evening of traditional Bedouin entertainment plus some epic photo opportunities of this iconic building lit by candles and colors.

Petra-by-night begins at 8:30pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays and lasts for about two hours. If you only have one day in Petra, doing Petra-by-night is a must even though you’ve already done a lot of walking on this day!

(Note: You may need to time your arrival in Petra the night before this one-day Petra itinerary to do Petra-by-night on that night… It just depends on which day of the week you’re planning to visit!)

Relax at the Cave Bar

One Day in Petra - Cave Bar

Even if you’re not staying at Petra Guest House, I recommend ending this long day with a visit to the Cave Bar at this hotel. There you can either sit and have a drink inside the cave – which is actually an old Nabatean tomb – or order shisha and sit out on the terrace to enjoy this Jordanian pastime. In either case, this ‘night cap’ will help you relax and reflect on a truly epic day.

As I said, it’s a long day – but if you only have one day, there’s no better way to spend it and see as much as possible in Petra. Have any questions about how to spend your one day in Petra? Let me know in the comments!

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