Just a couple of hours outside of bustling Amman is an ancient, remote, and extraordinary place called Petra. The road to Petra is dusty and windy. When visiting you should be prepared to walk through narrow canyons & dusty paths to reach arguably the most Instagrammed location in Petra - the Treasury (Al-Khazneh الخزنة). The Treasury was built in the 2nd century BC and is one of many amazing structures that make up the ancient city of Petra. As a self-proclaimed history nerd, I was captivated by the mere idea of visiting this famed archeological site. One of my only regrets from my trip to Jordan was not spending more time in Petra.
How to get to Petra
Petra can be reached a number of ways. There are tours available from both Amman and Aqaba which can be great options if you have limited time. It’s also easy to hire a driver through your hotel or on Viator to take you to and from Petra, but it may be expensive. Finally, the most budget-friendly and flexible option is to rent a car and drive. Driving in Jordan is not for the faint of heart - the normal rules of the road do not seem to apply here. Cars are constantly passing each other (often without turn signals) and you may even end up sharing the road with a camel.
After consulting with friends, we opted to pick up our rental car from the Amman airport (Queen Alia International Airport) to avoid driving in the chaotic city center. The drive from the airport was about three hours. We encountered limited traffic and a few security checkpoints along the way. Regardless of which way you decide to reach Petra make sure you bring your passport since you or your tour/driver may be stopped at a checkpoint.
When to Visit Petra
There is virtually no shade in Petra so the earlier in the day that you visit the better. I recommend packing lots of sunscreen, wearing a hat, and dressing in breathable and light-colored clothing. It took us a while to get our rental car so we arrived at Petra around 11 AM. Hiking in the midday sun was not fun, especially in the August heat. In general, spring and fall tend to be popular times to visit Petra because the weather is more temperate.
When choosing the time of year to visit Jordan and Petra be cognizant of rainy seasons. Petra is known to have flash floods and there is a chance of closure during the rainy season. There was minimal risk of rain when we visited in August, but the heat was exhausting.
What to see in Petra
I wish I had spent more time in Petra because there is so much to see. The most well-known sites are the Treasury and the Monastery. The Monastery was by far my favorite site in Petra. Extraordinarily, the Monastery is a massive structure that was built as a Nabataean tomb. It is believed that it may have been used as a church at some point. What makes the Monastery so amazing is how well preserved and massive the structure is. It’s incredible to think that it was built in the 3rd century BC. From the entrance of Petra, it’s about a two-hour hike to the Monastery so I recommend going straight there to avoid the midday sun and visit other structures on your walk back.
It’s estimated that only 15% of Petra has been uncovered (the rest is still underground). It’s shocking how much of the site remains to be discovered because there is so much to see. Besides the Treasury and the Monastery, there are a number of other interesting sites in Petra. Some popular attractions are “the tombs,” High Place of Sacrifice, The Great Temple, and The Theatre.
One of the best ways to see Petra is by night. A portion of the site is lit up with candles every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I didn’t have time to see Petra at night (one of my regrets), but if you have the time I’ve heard it’s incredible. Next time I’m in Jordan it’s definitely on my list.
Most Instagramable Spots in Petra
Nearly every corner of Petra is #Instagramable, but there are a few spots that I loved for getting that perfect shot. Before I hop into recommendations I want to call out-out the need to exercise caution when attempting to get that perfect shot. Petra is an archeological site and there are a lot of cliffs, drop-offs, and loose rocks so please stick to the trails. No picture is worth harming yourself, others, or this incredible site. Also, I highly recommend wearing sneakers/hiking boots for exploring Petra. If you need special shoes for that perfect shot pack them in your backpack.
Cave by the Monastery
Yes, the hike to the Monastery is more than worth it for the picture alone. There are a number of Insagramable spots near the Monastery, but my favorite is a cave directly behind the cafe that is located from across the Monastery. The cave is maybe a 30-meter walk uphill behind the cafe (you can’t miss it). The view from on top of or inside the cave offers a unique perspective and makes for the perfect Insta.
View above the Treasury
The view from above the Treasury is incredible, but you won’t want to attempt reaching this spot without a guide and good shoes. Guides wait nearby the Treasury and you can easily negotiate down their rates (I believe we paid 6 JD for 2 people). The hike is more like a climb up a rocky cliff, but the view is more than worth the trek and 6 JD.
The Siq (pathway into Petra)
One of the most Instagramable spots in Petra is the easiest to get to. The Siq, which is the narrow pathway you take into Petra is not only eerily beautiful but the perfect place to capture a picture. My favorite view is the walkway when you start to see the Treasury peaking from behind the rocks.
For more planning tips for Petra I recommend using the Visit Petra site. There is a ton of great information including maps, information about local accommodations, and details about the different sites.
Also, if you haven’t already - buy the Jordan Pass if you plan on visiting Petra. The pass covers your entrance fee for Petra (for 1 or more days depending on the pass), your tourist visa, and entrance to many of Jordan’s most popular sites. I ended up saving money by purchasing it.