Visit Petra: 10 Tips for a smooth experience

Petra been on our bucket list for years, but the timing never seemed quite right to visit Petra. There’s NO doubt in our minds why Petra is considered one of the seven wonders of the modern world after our recent visit! 

the magical petra wonder of the world

We loved Petra! The pictures do not do it justice. Gorgeous. Impressive. I could go on and on. The site is much bigger than we expected. We spent two full days in Petra and hiked 15km a day, yet still didn’t manage to see it all.

Petra treasury in jordan
The colors vary in Petra hour by hour as the sun rises and sets!

Petra is a Whole Entire City

Upon arrival at the ticket office in Petra, you are greeted by many Bedouins selling their guide services, and pretty much every souvenir you could imagine. It was a matter of minutes before Julian had proudly negotiated for a dagger with a carved serpent on the handle! We’ll get to what that meant crossing the border later!

petra in jordan the theatre in petra jordan

As we studied the map we were given, we realized what a vast City this is. Petra is comprised of many areas, not just the Treasure we see in the movies. Some sites are quite difficult to reach if you’re not physically fit and there are many offers to ride horses, donkeys or camels.

travel to petra with kids wantering around petra with family

I strongly recommend walking because you see so much more, and we personally had a hard time with the way the animals were treated. It was heartbreaking to see poor donkeys carrying tourists or families uphill. We could hear the animals breathing heavily and we were concerned for the animals welfare. At dusk, all tourists need to leave Petra, and I certainly wouldn’t want to be lost wandering around after dark!

Visit Petra – Don’t miss the Treasury

the treasury in Petra jordan with kids
We climbed to a secluded spot away from tourists to sit and enjoy the view…

Petra’s most famous monument is the Treasury. In fact many people think this one building is ‘Petra’. The two-story facade is the first thing you see after walking about a mile from the entrance to the end of the canyon, or Siq.

first glimpse of the treasury in petra
This was our first glimpse of the beautiful Treasury after a one mile hike through a canyon.

Most people recognize it as the temple where Harrison Ford found the Holy Grail in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” We walked about a mile from the visitor center to the Treasury building, and I’d recommend hiring a guide as there are many things to see along the way that you’d easily miss or not know why they are significant. Walking through narrow canyons, we were greeted with one stunning vision after the next. The coloring in the canyon is jaw-dropping.

the treasury in Petra jordan with kids walking to the treasury in Petra

The day was beautiful, and we felt as though we were in our own private movie. Glimpsing the Treasury for the first time as we reached the end of the Siq did not disappoint.

Petra treasury in jordan

Hike up to the Monastery when you Visit Petra

monastery in Petra hike with kids
The altitude was so high at the Monastery, that the fog was drifting in and out. It was eerie and gave us completely different views of the Monastery.
hiking to the monastery in Petra Jordan
We climbed 950 uneven steps to reach the top!

We decided we HAD to make the long trek to the Monastery.

the monastery in petra

The Monastery is situated at the very far end of Petra. The hike from the entrance to the Monastery and back took us about 6 hours, and we were moving at a pretty brisk pace.

hiking to the monastery in Petra Jordan

This included a few short breaks for pictures and snacks, and was by far our toughest day of hiking. This time frame does not include any side climbs or cave exploring, just a straight walk from the entrance to the Monestary and back. The walk was challenging, especially when we reached the part where we had to climb 950 uneven steps, but the stunning views of Petra along the way kept us going.

hiking up to the monastery in Petra

When we arrived at the top, we saw a small cafe facing us… and we all said “is that it????” But as we walked out past the steps we were greeted with the most unbelievable ancient architecture. It seemed twice the size of the Treasury, as we sat and soaked in this incredible view.

the beautiful monastery hike in Petra the monastery in Petra jordan

Jordan is Safe

The Kingdom of Jordan is working hard to maintain the stability of the country and keep it a safe place for tourists. Jordan has a tough reputation because of its immediate neighbors (Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Israel.) I can only speak for our short time in Jordan, but we never felt unsafe or in danger.

crossing the israel and jordanian border crossing into Jordan.

Overall we found Jordanians to be friendly, welcoming and grateful we were there. They rely on tourism, and with the instability in the Middle East, naturally many travelers are avoiding this area. Many of our friends thought we were completely insane for visiting Jordan, but we never felt unsafe or threatened during our time in Jordan.The guides and the whole country work hard to create a positive experience in their country.

Learn about the Bedouins

Bedouins are the original natives of Jordan. They wandered across desert areas between Palestine, Jordan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and many considered Petra their home. In the 1980s, the Jordanian government relocated Bedouin tribes living in the caves of Petra, to a ‘Bedouin village’ just outside the City of Petra, and provided housing, electricity and running water.

chatting with bedouins in petra

Depending on who you ask, some people feel they were forced to leave their homes, and others feel they welcomed the relocation, gaining access to education and housing for their children.

bedouins in petra jordan

Many Bedouins are fully dependent on tourism and as part of their relocation with the government, they are the only people allowed to sell souvenirs inside Petra. They are fascinating to chat with and are schooled in the art of the sale from birth. According to our guide, most of the Bedouins left Petra, however some refused eviction and remain living in caves inside Petra today.

8 Tips for when you Visit Petra

Visiting Petra was an incredible experience. Here are few tips that will make your visit run smoothly:

1) If you want to buy scarfs or souvenirs don’t buy it at the first few stops (Like Julian did!!!) The deeper into Petra’s old city you walk, the more choice and negotiating power you have.

2) Always negotiate. Bedouins are master sales people, and 75% lower than the asking price is a good place to start your negotiations.

3) Bring some snacks when you visit Petra. The food inside is minimal, and you’ll want to spend the full day exploring and avoid ‘hangry’ family members

petra jordan with the family

4) You’ll be asked many times if you want to use their ‘air-conditioned Ferrari’ (donkey or camel), but I’d strongly suggest walking. The animals are not treated kindly, and you miss many things along the way if you are trying not to fall off the back of a donkey.

5) Wear sturdy shoes that have good grip when you visit Petra. There is lots of climbing and slippery steps to navigate, and a twisted ankle would be an absolute nightmare if you were 6 miles deep into Petra!

6) It’s worth purchasing a two day ticket. It is 50 JD for one day and only 5JD extra for the second day. IMPORTANT to note you have to use the two day pass on consecutive days, and they asked to see pictures from day one before they’d let us into Petra for day two! They don’t want you selling your ticket to someone else.

7) During the low season, the Petra visitor center closes at 5PM, so it’s important that you arrive early in the day to maximize your time. 

8) Be sure to bring cash. You’re able to use credit cards once inside Petra, but you will be charged an extra 10% for  credit card purchases. And it’s important to negotiate the currency before you get to the payment.

9) Leaving Jordan with antiques is illegal, so when purchasing souvenirs, be sure they are replicas. If they are authentic, be sure you have the correct paperwork. We spent time with ‘friendly Jordanian security’ (I’m being sarcastic here… they were not so friendly) after they thought Julian’s dagger was authentic. He was thrilled and said “Mom, I told you it was a good one”, however we were not excited about the delay and inspection of our bags with a fine tooth comb.

Would you like to visit Petra? Or have you been?  What were your favorite parts of Petra?

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About The Author

Samantha

I’m a travel and health writer, digital brand consultant, breast cancer survivor, and supermom to two boys! I keep it real and share stories of raising an active family, life after a cancer diagnosis, and family travels around the world! Each story is shared with my dry, and sometimes naughty sense of humor.

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