When it comes to visiting Jordan, a few places immediately come to mind as must-visit spots: the Dead Sea, the Martian-like landscape of Wadi Rum, and the once-“lost,” Rose City of Petra. And it’s no surprise that Petra is one of Jordan’s most popular spots to visit: it was made popular by Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and has been drawing visitors to the iconic location ever since.
If you’re planning a Jordan itinerary and know you simply must visit Petra, you’ve come to the right place. Here you’ll find a complete guide to visiting Petra – and a Petra itinerary that breaks down what to do with one day in Petra (or two if you have the time). It’s based on my own experiences visiting Petra in 2016 and again in 2022.
For any questions you have – what is Wadi Musa and how is it related to Petra? What’s the best time to visit Petra? How many days to visit Petra? and so on – you’ll find the answers below. Read on to discover the perfect Petra itinerary that fits into your bucket list Jordan trip.
Petra vs. Wadi Musa
Before I get into the weeds of planning your Petra itinerary, I need to address a recurrent confusion among travelers. People call Wadi Musa; Petra, which means they use it to name both the archeological site and nearby town. So, in this post, we’re calling it all Petra, and we’ll make it clear when I mean Wadi Musa.
Here’s a brief description of each place to clarify any confusion:
- Petra is a historical and archeological city in southern Jordan. It used to be the capital of the Nabataean Kingdom, which left behind stunning pieces of rock-cut architecture. Petra is also called the “Red Rose City” because of the color of the stone its buildings feature. UNESCO designated Petra a World Heritage Site in 1985.
- Wadi Musa is a little town located in the Ma’an Governorate in southern Jordan. It is the administrative center of the Petra Department and the nearest town to the archeological site of Petra. It has a population of 17,085 inhabitants and is where you’ll find most hotels and restaurants.
Best Time to Visit Petra
Petra is worth visiting any time of the year, and so is Jordan. However, spring is the winner if I narrow it down to the best time to visit Petra. Jordanian spring is mild and stable, meaning you get warm days and cool nights, but nothing too extreme. As you’ll see in a minute, this weather is perfect to comfortably explore the Nabatean Kingdom since all of Petra’s attractions, to a greater or lesser extent, involve hiking. Pleasant weather will be a good ally when you’re climbing up those steps to The Monastery.
How to Get to Petra from Amman or Aqaba
Since Petra is one-stop within your Jordan trip, there’s a good chance you’ll be coming to the Nabatean Kingdom from either two places: the capital, Amman, or Aqaba, Jordan’s only port city. Here are the best ways to reach Petra from both cities.
How to Get from Amman to Petra
I have a whole article on how to get from Amman to Petra you can read about all the transport options. Here’s a summary of the best ways to reach the Nabatean Kingdom.
Tours are the most convenient way to reach Petra from Amman. You’ll find tons of tours online, with different prices and itineraries. Most tours last one day to two days, depending on how long you want to be in the archeological site.
JETT buses are another alternative to get Petra from Amman. It’s a three-hour journey and costs 20 JD for a round trip. The buses are extremely well-equipped, offering great comfort for families or older travelers.
How to Get from Aqaba to Petra
Now let’s see how to get from Aqaba to Petra. Both cities are close to each other, and you can be in the Nabatean Kingdom in less than two hours. Like Amman, tours and JETT buses are the best ways to reach Petra from Aqaba.
Petra is one of the most popular tours from Aqaba, so travelers will find a decent offer of one-day and two-day tours to visit Petra at very affordable prices.
JETT buses are your second-best option to reach Petra from Aqaba. The first bus departs at 8:30 am from Aqaba and the last one at 4 pm from the Petra Visitors Center. The journey takes less than two hours and costs 12JD (17USD) one way or 20JD (30USD) for a return ticket.
How Many Days in Petra
So you’re wondering how many days in Petra you should spend. Well, it all boils down to how much you want to see of it.
- With One Day in Petra… You have enough time to get a decent view of Petra’s main sights – assuming you arrive early in the morning.
- With Two Days in Petra… You get the chance to explore the main sights plus a few other attractions that are further from the must-sees. Also, with two days, you don’t have to worry about squeezing in as many sights as possible and conveniently distributing activities between both days.
Keep reading to find out how to design a spot-on Petra itinerary for one or two days.
One Day in Petra Itinerary
Like I said before, a one-day Petra itinerary should cover all the main sights. Here’s a list of the things to do in Petra in one day.
The Main Trail is one of Petra’s easiest and most popular trails. It starts at the Visitor Center and takes around two hours to complete. The Main Trail goes through Petra’s main sights, including the Al Siq, Treasury, and Street of Facades. From its ending point, many other trailheads branch out, leading you to other attractions within the site.
The Treasury, or Al-Jazneh, is one of the most elaborate structures and has become an iconic sight in Petra. According to historians, the Treasury served as a mausoleum of the Nabateans. Its stunning details make it an amazing sight to behold. The Treasury is hard to miss as it is the first thing you lay eyes on when you exit the Siq.
Street of Facades
Go past the Treasury, and you’ll find rows of Nabatean tombs carved out of sandstone rock formations. While they aren’t as impressive as the Treasury, these tombs are another fine example of Assyrian architecture.
Petra’s monumental Theater is just at the end of the Kingdom’s necropolis. Its design resembles Roman theaters, and archeologists believe the Nabateans gathered here to attend cultic or cultural performances. It is nothing short of imposing, fitting eight thousand spectators.
Built in 106 AD, Colonnaded Street used to be the heart of the city and a commercial hub. Its architecture doesn’t boast such a characteristic Assyrian look instead, it follows a Roman pattern with sandstone columns and covered entrances. Unlike other sights, Colonnaded Street isn’t as well-preserved, having been a victim of numerous floods over the years.
The Monastery is another of Petra’s architectural wonders. It was also a Nabatean tomb, and its facade is similar to the Treasury. The hike to the Monastery is only 1.5-2 hours from the Main Trail. However, it involves climbing up 800 steps to reach it. I know, this isn’t a hike for the faint of heart.
Quick note: if you’ve paid attention, you’ll notice you have to follow a single and direct route to go past each of these sights. So there aren’t any detours.
Petra by Night
If you ask me, experiencing Petra by Night is one of the highlights of any Jordan itinerary. The experience starts at 8:30 pm from the Petra Visitor Centre. A guide takes you through a candlelit Siq to the Treasury, where you find a cozy spot to sip a cup of tea and listen to some music under a star-filled sky.
Two Days in Petra Itinerary
If you’re staying for two days, you’re going to do day one as I detailed above, and, on day two, you can include a few attractions that are off the Main Trail. Here are some ideas!
If you’re spending two days here, make sure you check out Petra entrance fees to save money; typically you save by buying a two-day pass instead of two one-day passes.
You’ll see plenty of signs claiming to lead you to the best viewpoint in Petra. The Al Kubtha Trail is one of them. This trail starts from the end of the Main Trail and is an arduous uphill path. On top, you’ll find a small store which is the actual viewpoint. As the name suggests, the viewpoint grants stunning views of the Treasury below and of the valley.
The Royal Tombs make up the third stretch of the Al Kubtha Trail, right before the Treasury Viewpoint. So, by choosing the Al Kubtha Trail, you get to see two stunning spots of Petra. The Royal Tombs are a series of large mausoleums, boasting impressive facades carved in the western slope of the Jabal al-Khubtha rock massif. Archeologists aren’t sure whose tombs these are, but everything seems to point at the Nabataean King, Malchus II.
High Place of Sacrifice
Perched on top of the Jebel Madhbah, the High Place of Sacrifice is another of Petra’s intimidating trails. The site used to be an altar where the Nabateans practiced animal sacrifices to the Nabatean God Dushara. The trail takes 3.5-4 hours, and the first part of the path is all stairs. On your way back, you can choose to follow the same trail or through the Wadi al-Farasa Trail located behind the High Place of Sacrifice.
Where to Eat in Petra
In between all of your adventures in Petra, you’ll need to fuel up – and there are some lovely restaurants in Wadi Musa that are happy to host you for a meal.
- My Mom’s Recipe Restaurant – This restaurant might sound casual, but they’ve got the art of hospitality and great food down to a work of art. They are located on the main road approaching the Petra Visitor Center (Tourism Street) so easy to reach.
- Red Cave Restaurant – As the name says, this traditional Jordanian restaurant is literally in a cave. It’s also located on Tourism Street so a short walk from the Visitor Center and most hotels.
- The Aloe Vera Restaurant – Located in the Petra Guest House (see the hotels section below) this is one of the finest dining options in Wadi Musa.
There are also some fun food experiences in Petra, like Petra Kitchen which offers cooking classes, or A Piece of Jordan which used to offer dinner with a local family. (I did this dining experience with A Piece of Jordan on my last visit; it seems like it might be worth contacting to see if it is still offered.)
Best Hotels in Petra
In terms of where to stay, there are lots of options in Petra/Wadi Musa – but it all depends on your travel style and budget. Here are some options very close to the Petra Visitor Center on a range of prices:
- For those on a budget, Petra Palace Hotel is a good choice. This is a basic hotel but above the standards you’ll receive at guest houses and other accommodations in Wadi Musa. Rooms start from ~$78 per night; book on Booking.com or Hotels.com
- If you have a little bit more, consider Petra Moon Hotel. This standard hotel is nice; it’s where I stayed on my first trip to Petra. Rooms start from ~$122 per night; book on Booking.com or Hotels.com
- For convenience, the Petra Guest House is literally right next to the entrance to Petra. It has everything you need on-site and nice rooms too. This is where my Jordan tour stays when we visit Petra. Rooms start from ~$149 per night; book on Booking.com or Hotels.com
- If you have the budget to splurge, check out the Mövenpick Petra Resort. It’s the nicest closest option available and well-worth it if you can afford a stay here. Rooms start from ~$311 per night; book on Booking.com or Hotels.com.
There are of course loads of other options too; Booking.com lists over 150 properties in Wadi Musa, so there are plenty of choices if you don’t see something on this list that works for your budget or style.
Have any other questions about planning your Petra itinerary or visiting Petra? Let me know in the comments!