You absolutely must visit Petra during a trip to Jordan.
Most of people in my generation have been dreaming of visiting Petra since having watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade at the cinema. Although this is one of the most famous places to visit in Jordan, to be honest, many of us hardly read about it before visiting.
The few things you may know about Petra may be limited to the fact that there’s a building called the Treasury. You may also know that Petra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Everything else, you may learn once there.
My visit to Petra went really smooth though I had hardly planned it, but I believe it is important to go in with at least some basic knowledge to make the most of it.
This post highlights eleven important things you must know before visiting Petra and shares some helpful tips to make the most of your time there.
The Treasury is the most iconic building in Petra
13 Things To Know Before You Visit Petra
Petra is huge
If your original plan is visiting Petra for half a day, think again. You may want to get there after a 7 days hike from Dana, spend a few hours on the site and then make your way to Wadi Araba border crossing to go back to Israel, or you may just decide that you are pressed on time and that you need to make this visit fast.
You should plan to spend 3 nights in Wadi Musa (Petra port of access), and to get a 2-days pass to the site. A one day pass is 70 Jordanian Dinars (JD), which is around $99 USD; a two day pass is JD 75, around $106 USD. Keep in mind that Petra is one of the attractions included in the Jordan Pass, which can be bought online allowing to save money and time and also allows to wave the tourist entry visa fees and spend a minimum of 3 consecutive nights in Jordan.
The entire area where Petra is located is 264 square kilometers and there’s no way it can be possibly visited in a few hours. On my second day there I saw lots of people coming from cruise ships and wondered how they’d manage to visit the site in only a few hours.
If you only have a day, I recommend going with a tour guide to make the most of it. Day tours leave from various cities both in Jordan and Israel, which I’ll list below:
Aside from the main trail, which measures around 8 km (one way) and goes to the main points of interest, there are many other trails in Petra, of various levels of difficulty. You may end up walking 20 km on a day: the 8 km along the main trail; the hike to the Monastery and that to the High Altar of Sacrifice (both of them are all uphill).
The Monastery is worth the hike
It’s better to get a guide (especially if planning to walk some lesser known trail)
Most of the trails in Petra are well marked. The main trail is really self evident, as is the one to the Monastery. The hike to the High Altar of Sacrifice marked, though you may need to ask directions every now and then.
If you want to go to the view point of the Treasury you need to hire a guide as the path is pretty much unmarked you can easily get lost. The roundtrip will take you around 2 hours, and there are hardly people on the trail or at the view point (aside from two locals who apparently have a shop there, and who will offer you a highly sugared tea to welcome you there).
Once there, you get to see the crowds below. In any case, aguided tour of Petrahelps making the experience truly meaningful.
The view of the Treasury from above, and away from all the crowds, is worth the effort and the money
It is not always hot
Petra is at an elevation (around 900 meters above sea level). A chilled wind may blow during the winter and spring months and it surely isn’t as hot as you would imagine. I have even seen photos of Petra under the snow!
You must dress modestly and comfortably
Petra is a major tourist site, with lots of Westerners visiting every day. Yet, it is in Jordan, and for as open minded as they are, here most people still dress quite conservatively. Make sure to dress modestly when going to Petra, by which I don’t mean that you need to cover your head. Just don’t wear shorts or a mini-dress.
Besides, Petra is so huge and there’s so much hiking, that dressing comfortably is a key factor. Wear a pair of hiking pants, a colorful cotton t-shirt, and carry a light sweater and a wind-proof jacket for the evening, when the temperatures start dropping. I also suggest reading a guide to some fabulous, modest dresses for the most conservative countries.
I wore comfortable clothes and hiking boots (the kitty approved of my attire)
It’s better to wear hiking boots
You really should wear hiking boots to visit Petra. There’s a lot of walking to be done, on often uneven pavements and gravel roads. If you don’t have hiking boots, some good walking shoes will do. Just don’t wear flip flops!
There are lot of animals…
Aside from the many cats, the odd dog, and the goats that can be spotted round the site, Petra is packed with working animals. Horse carriages take around tourists; horse, donkey and mule rides are offered; and needless to say there are even camels. The Tourism Board of Jordan invites only those that are physically unable to walk to use the animals, and encourages to report episodes of animal abuse.
However, you inevitably end up seeing many people happily riding the carriages, the donkeys or the mules, and a few owners pushing their animals to go faster. I was regularly offered rides (the common pick up line is “do you want to ride my Ferrari?”). I generally ignored, or muttered a la, shukran (no, thank you).
As I have stated in my post “The use of animals in tourist attractions,” I can’t stand the idea that animals may be exploited for the enjoyment of tourists. I hope that more efforts are made by the tourism board to ensure that animals are never exploited in Petra, and that tourists (and owners) who do so are duly fined.
Please don’t contribute to the exploitation of animals in Petra
… and even people living on the site
Before visiting Petra, my guide told me that the people that once lived in the site had been moved to a nearby city specifically built for them. Yet, there are still people living in Petra anyways. If you walk off the main path you will see caves that look like someone is living in them; and on a couple of occasions you may even spot a family.
Drinking lots of water is vital…
Between the sun, the dry air, the altitude and all the walking, dehydration may be an issue when you visit Petra. Carry two bottles of water and sip it regularly. The good news is that there are many local vendors spread around the site that sell cold water. A good water bottle may be a good idea to keep the water cold.
… as is wearing sunblock (and a hat)
With such strong sun, it is easy to get sunburnt in Petra. Make sure to apply lots of sunblock and reapply it throughout the day. Wearing a hat may also be a good idea.
The show starts at around 9:00 pm and ends at around 10:00 pm, but consider that it takes a good 30 minutes to walk all the way to the Treasury. The path and the Treasury are illuminated by candles, and traditional music is played for a truly enchanting experience.
The view of Petra by Night is spectacular
Solo female travelers are a target for scams (and more)
When the owner of theSharah Mountains Hotel where I stayed in Wadi Musa recommended not to trust anyone in Petra, I just assumed that, as in any other major tourist spot in the world, scams would be common in Petra and he was referring to that. Nevertheless, I asked him what I meant. He said not to trust the Bdouls – a local tribe. I told him that I was quite expert in scams, after having visited Cuba. Without going into much details, he clarified that the Bdouls “look for women.”
Sure enough, solo female travelers who visit Petra are offered anything from donkey to camel rides to tea, coffee and even dinner invitations inside the site. I certainly was. There is only one answer you should give to that: a firm no. These men are not trying to flirt and they are not trying to get to know you. They really want to take advantage of you – whether it is for sexual reasons or for monetary ones.
They invite them to walk around the site, to discover the hidden parts and to enjoy a full local experience, which includes drinks of Arak, the local liquor, and dinners in front of a fire. There have been allegations that drinks have been spiked and that assaults and rapes have occurred.
A lovely guy I shared tea with when I reached the view point to the Treasury: my experience was 100% positive
Guided tours of Jordan that include visiting Petra
If you’re looking into planning a trip to Jordan, most group tours will include time in Petra. Here are a few options:
Legal Disclaimer: This article is written in partnership with The Jordan Tourism Board, of whom I was a guest. All the views and opinions expressed are my own and based on my personal experience. The views expressed are honest and factual without any bias.
2017 has been a fantastic year packed with incredible adventures for me, and it will be hard to top it in 2018 (though watch this space, I will sure try to!). I have visited some beautiful places where I had been craving to go; returned to others that I already knew and loved; and did a bunch of things that pushed me beyond what I thought were my limits.
Sharing My Adventures With Family And Friends
Those who follow my blog and my social media, especially my Instagram, have surely seen all the beautiful photos I have taken in 2017. I wish could also show them to my family and friends who don’t use social media, though.
I have always found that sending postcards is a nice, old fashioned way to share my travels with people I care about. But sometimes postcards are just so impersonal. Besides, I don’t have time to look for good ones, and then find a post office to send them.
That’s why I am thankful for apps such as MyPostcard, which are incredibly easy to use. MyPostcard allows me to create beautiful and very personable postcards using my photos in just a few click, and have them shipped anywhere in the world.
I wish I had known about it when I was lost in the mountains of Nepal, or when I was baking in the sun in the Maldives!
Here is a round up of the most amazing adventures I have had in 2017, with just a few tips for those who wish to live similar experiences in 2018.
Seeing the Treasury from above was an unforgettable experience
Five Incredible Adventures And Where to Experience Them
Admiring Petra Treasury From Above (Jordan)
I had been wanting to visit Petra since I saw the Indiana Jones movie when I was a child. In April 2017, I finally managed to go. The minute I got there, I realized that the site is much larger than what people can imagine, not to mention crowded.
The view of the Treasury from the groun is stunning, and that of the Monastery breathtaking. Yet, the best view in Petra is that of the Treasury from above. Getting to the viewpoint isn’t easy peasy, though. While most of the trails on the site are well marked, the one to the viewpoint isn’t, and it is easy to get lost.
In order to go there, I had to hire a local guide (and pay dearly for that). The hike took about one hour, and the view at the top, the complete lack of tourists (I was the only person there, save from the guide and two Bedouls who had a tiny tea shop there) and silence made every penny I paid worth it.
Tip: hiring an official guide to go to the viewpoint of the Tresury and then around the rest of the site costs the equivalent of $120 USD. That’s expensive, I know. But I was traveling alone and had no time to wait around and see if I could put together a group to share the costs. So I had to pay the full price.
However, keep in mind that the larger the group, the lesser the price. The information office on the site, the office of the tour guides in Petra or even just the hotel or hostel are good places to ask around and see if anybody wants to share the costs of a guide.
Another option is hiring one of the local Bedouls, who know the area well. Their prices can be haggled, but keep in mind they are not official guides so won’t be able to give insightful and historical information. I don’t recommend this option to women traveling alone.
There is no doubt that Nepal is hikers’ paradise. And in case this isn’t clear yet, I love hiking. Needless to say, I was thrilled to visit Nepal last May.
Hiking the Poon Hill Circuit was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. The hike lasted 5 days, during which I endured sun and heat on day one; over 5000 steps uphill on day 2; high altitude; rain pretty much every day after lunch time; and accommodation that was rustic at best.
Yet, all my efforts were repaid by the spectacular views of the mountains – as majestic as I had never seen in my life. I was also extremely lucky to be hiking with a fantastic group, which made my experience even more special.
Tip: the Poon Hill Circuit can be hiked independently and with a relatively low budget. However, joining a guided expedition means having a guide that arranges all accommodation (which is especially useful in high season, when the “tea houses” get packed), porters that carry lugguage (but either way, pack light!) and the company of a group.
Dressing appropriately for the hike is fundamental. Ankle high hiking boots provide extra protection from leeches; and give good support to the feet and ankles. Wearing long pants is also a good idea, for the same reason. Layers and a good rain jacket or a poncho are necessary because it does get cold and it rains often.
The sea is by far one of the top Maldives attractions
Finally Diving For The First Time (Maldives)
Sometimes dreams are meant to come true. I had been drooling over pictures of the Maldives for years. I considered the possibility of going in September, but reading around it looked like it would not be a good season to go. So, I opted to go to Sri Lanka instead.
But the Maldives are so close to Sri Lanka, that it felt like a pity not to take that short flight and visit. So I did, and it possibly was the best decision I took this year. And in my week there, it didn’t rain once.
The Maldives are as close to my idea of paradise as it gets: tiny islands with beautiful white beaches ringed by palm trees; a light breeze that makes the weather incredibly pleasant; some of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen, and marine life galore – so much so, that I decided to go diving for the first time in my life.
The minute I went under water, I regretted not having done it sooner. It was absolutely incredible, and it opened a completely new world for me.
Tip: most people thing the Maldives are a luxury destination for a few privileged travelers. While this has been the case for a long time, and luxury accommodation options are the majority in the country, it is now also possible to find budget guest houses and to visit the Maldives on a lower budget. Before ruling out this paradise as too expensive, do a bit of research to find out what the options are!
If you are a solo traveler like me, check out my post on “10 Things To Do In Maldives That Aren’t Necessarily For Couples.”
Enjoying the show of nature on Mount Stromboli
Hiking An Active Volcano (Sicily)
As I have said many times, I love hiking. Coastal trails, mountain trails, forest trails – I like them all. But hiking an active volcano? Now, that is something different!
In 2017, I visited Sicily and hiked 3 active volcanoes in 5 days. One of them was Stromboli, in the Aeolian Islands and one of the most active volcanoes in the world. It was an absolutely exhilarating experience.
The views throughout the hike were splendid: up until a certain point I could see the village below, and the dark blue of the sea. I made it to the peak in time to admire a beautiful sunset and only then realized that my experience would go well beyond seeing.
I actually heard, and also felt the volcano. I spent around 30 minutes sitting at the top, looking down at one of the various craters, and listening to the intermittent explosions. It was an absolutely thrilling experience.
Tip: only guided groups are allowed on Mount Stromboli. Expeditions usually start in the afternoon and come down after sunset. It can be quite hot on the way up, but it is windy at the top and it gets chilly as soon as the sun goes down: do carry an extra sweater and a good wind jacket.
Hiking a volcano is no piece of cake. The terrain is sandy, and the walk can be quite strenuous. Do not underestimate the effort it requires and do dress appropriately, because really, a mere pair of running shoes, though comfortable, won’t provide that much needed ankle support.
When I received an email with an invitation to visit Chernobyl my first reaction was to think that was a joke. In my mind, Chernobyl Exclusion Zone remained completely off limits, and no visitors would be allowed.
A quick research and I realized that actually, guided tours of Chernobyl Exclusion Zone have been allowed for the past few years and there’s virtually no radiation risk for visitors. And of course I would be interested to visit: I have some very clear memories of the accident, although I was only a child when it happened.
I visited Chernobyl Excluzion Zone last February, when it was completely covered in snow. The white blanket added to the eerieness of the place, muffling any sound around. The area is completely desolated, but fascinating.
Tip: while visiting Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in February means dealing with snow and extremely cold temperatures, it is good to know that snow acts as a blanket, preventing radioactive particles to fly. Needless to say, dressing properly is a must: I wore ski pants and jacket, plenty of layers underneath, hat and gloves.
What adventures are you planning for 2018? How are you going to share them with your family and friends at home? Let me know in the comments below!
HELLO, NICE TO MEET YOU!
Hi, my name is Claudia. One day I packed my life and started traveling… except I packed too much. Follow me as I fill my life with dreams, drop the weight and inspire you to live your dreams. View and download my media kit here (updated July 2019). Learn more about me here…