Petra Jordan – Tips for Exploring The Lost City

Petra Jordan wasn't voted one of the New 7 Wonders of the world for nothing!

petra treasury with camels

Bedouin sit with their camels in front of the Treasury

Petra is one of those places that really lives up to the hype.

We saw it for the first time in the dark when we visited Petra Jordan by Night.

While the actual performance of traditional music was less than stellar, the walk through the candle lit Siq to view the legendary Treasury building was awe inspiring.

The Siq is a narrow gorge winding its way towards the ruins for over 1 km. With cliffs reaching up to 80 metres, it is absolutely one of the most phenomenal gorges on earth.

A Visit to Petra Jordan in Photos

We awoke bright and early to beat the crowds.

Our tour of Petra was led by an officer from Petra Jordan Development Authority.

He was hired to stay with us while we took photos of Petra. Lucky us! We retraced our route from the night before to Petra's most famous monument.

horse running to petra

A horse runs through the siq

Horse Rides into Petra

Later that day, we were told that a horse ride was included in our entrance fee. It would have taken us from the visitors centre to the entrance of the siq.

I wish we had known, that would have been cool. But something tells me we wouldn't be riding as fast as that guy above!

No Need to Arrive Too Early to Petra Treasury

As it turned out, we needed the extra time to walk anyway because we arrived at the Treasury too early.

We had to wait for the sun to make its way over the high cliffs.

petra treasury horizontal

The sun lights part of the Petra Treasury

It wasn't long until the sun peaked over the walls lighting the treasury with its golden rays.

The crowd was sparse at this time of the day.

petra treasury unobstructed view

A private vantage point of the Treasury in Petra, Jordan

Since we had the officer from Petra assigned to us from the Jordan Tourism Board and our guide Ali working together to keep the area clear for photographs, Dave managed to snap photos of Petra that people only dream of getting.

Petra Jordan's History

petra treasury different view

The Petra Treasury

We spent quite a while at the Treasury.

While Dave explored with the Petra, Jordan Official, I sat with Ali (our personal guide who rocked by the way) as he told me the history of Petra.

Check out more of Jordan's history at Jerash, The Roman City of the Middle East


petra photograph old man

Only Bedouins are allowed to reside in Petra

Little is known about Petra Jordan and its history.

It was built by the Nabataeans over 2000 years ago where it was an important stop on the Silk Route to China and India.

Petra was a flurry of activity with camel caravans stopping frequently en route to the Far East.

It remained under Nabataean rule until 100 AD when the Romans invaded. It was some time during the 12 century that it was finally abandoned and left to the local people.

petra jordan

Hard to believe Petra was lost for centuries

Surprisingly, Petra was forgotten by the Western world for centuries. It wasn't until 1812 that it was “rediscovered” by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt.

Petra Jordan in the Movies

In 1989, Hollywood chose Petra as a film location for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Most recently we have seen Petra featured in Transformers II. But we're trying to forget that that movie ever happened.

Other movies that used Petra for a location are: The Mummy Returns, Queen of the Desert, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Samsara,  Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger.

An Idiot Abroad stopped in  at Petra Jordan too!

petra treasury

Most History of Petra is Speculation

Ali told me that much of what we know about Petra is speculation.

The Treasury was named so because it was believed to have treasures hidden inside.

They say, the Bedouins used to shoot at the facade because they thought that Pharaoh put his gold and treasures there.

The official from Petra Jordan tourism told Dave that even his father used to shoot at it.

You can still see the bullet holes on its facade today.

People of Petra, Jordan

bedouin people of petra jordan

A permanent fixture in his Keffiyeh at the treasury in Petra

One of the most popular people in the entire complex is a dashing man who sits in front of the Treasury.

He's a local Bedouin who lives in the nearby caves.

He is pestered all day long by tourists wanting a photo with him or his camels.

Looking at him, I can understand why. He is the epitome of what a person thinks of when traveling to an exotic place like Jordan.

His striking eyes peer playfully from behind his keffiyeh (traditional headscarf) as he sits in his long robes beside his decorated camel.

Who wouldn't want a photo of him?

petra treasury with camels

Bedouin sit with their camels in front of the Treasury

The famous “model of Petra

As we chat with him we find out that he has already been featured in several magazines.

He jokes that he will allow us to take a photograph without signing a release because we are nice.

But he'll look us up online because he has Wifi in his cave!

We never did get his name, but we won't forget the fusion of ancient and modern life colliding.

Looking at him, you see a man from centuries past.

But talking to him you get a man in tune with the rhythm of today.

His earbuds connected to his iPod are hidden under his headscarf, he speaks with quick wit and references pop culture.

He's a living contradiction.

Petra royal tombs

The Royal Tombs are a sight to behold in Petra

We can't decide if he is teasing us and actually lives in a cave or if he goes home each night to an apartment with big screen TV and modern conveniences.

The cave wouldn't surprise us because we learn that many people still live in the surrounding ruins and that the families who work in Petra are granted permission to stay there there.

People no longer live in Petra Caves

After writing this post, it was brought to our attention that people don't live in the caves anymore.

We did some further investigation and found out that people are not allowed to live in the caves anymore and have been moved to a nearby village by the Jordanian government.

petra royal caves

Caves are scattered everywhere throughout Petra, Jordan

Royal Tombs to the Monastery

The walk to the Royal Tombs involves scrambling up rocks, ducking through caves and getting lost in passageways.

This route takes us to the top of a stone mountain overlooking the complex.

It is here that we see the paths to both the high sacrifice and the Monastery. We can also look down on the Petra Theatre.

This 3000 seat amphitheatre looks to be Roman architecture but was actually build by the Nabateans in the 1st century.

petra caves

There are countless monuments and it is hard to believe that much of Petra was destroyed during a massive earthquake hundreds of years ago.

Imagine what this great city looked like in its prime?

Book Your Petra Tours

Get Your Guide is a great company offering tours and discounts check out these tours to Petra.

From Amman, Full Day tour –  This tour leaves from Amman for  full day tour of Petra. It includes the 800 metre horse ride that we missed and entrance fees to Petra.

Petra 2 Day Overnight Tour – This overnight tour from Amman gives you a four hour guide at Petra, transportation from Amman and overnight accommodation. This is a great choice for those wanting more time at Petra to possibly explore Petra by night.

Petra Monastery

petra jordan monastery

The Monastery of Petra, Jordan

To us, The Monastery is the most impressive building of the entire complex.

Reaching 50 metres into the air, it is also the largest in all of Petra.

Dating back to the 1st century B.C.  it is worth the 45 minute hike to the top.

Not only will you be treated to this majestic structure, you will also view magnificent panoramic views of the valleys and rocky landscape of the area of Wadi Araba.

Tips to seeing the Monastery

Don't waste time upon your arrival.

You will be tempted to wander around the ruins after witnessing the first and most famous building The Treasury.

Instead, head directly to the Monastery right after the Treasury.

You will want to get there early before the tour groups arrive. People will tell you to wait until later in the afternoon, but by then it will be too late.

The crowds will have already amassed and you won't have a chance to see anything in peace and quiet.



steps to the monastery of petra jordan

If you can't walk to the Monastery, you can ride

Instead go to the Monastery before noon and you will be able to capture this treasure free and clear. Contrary to popular belief, we found the conditions to be perfect for photography.

If your lucky, you may spy a Bedouin relaxing by the rocks like we did above.

Once you have checked out the remarkable vistas and view points near the Monastery, you will be free and clear to enjoy the rest of Petra at your leisure for the rest of the day.


If we were wise we would have hired a donkey for all of us to scramble our way up the stone path.

petra jordan sign to the end of the world

Welcome to the end of the world Petra style

We paused to view the Monastery before walking higher to gain a better vantage point.

Following the trail we came upon a sign stating The View of the End of the World.

I've always wondered what the end of the world looked like, so we marched on.

petra jordan view from the end of the world

A view of the end of the World…scary!

Reliving History at Petra

It may not have been the end of the world, but I can see how the Nabataeans believed it to be.

There seemed to be nothing beyond the borders of Petra.

One would think that people would see no reason to leave the safety of this secluded city that was once the crown jewel of the Middle East.

Gazing towards the horizon I could almost imagine a camel caravan descending upon the city.

Petra would be a welcoming sight after a long journey through the arid landscape and as I stood atop the mountain, I had visions of the generations who came before me.

What did they think as they stood in this exact location gazing over the desert while admiring the beauty of the monastery below.

Petra Jordan by Night

petra by night

Did you enjoy our Petra Jordan travel guide by day? You can also visit Petra by Night.

Read about our experience in the Siq and in the Petra Treasury after the sun went down.

For more information on Travel to Jordan visit our Jordan Travel Guide

Read More:

10 Exciting Things to do in Jordan to Make You Pack Your Days

Jerash, Welcome to the Ancient Roman City

Getting Down with Nature at the Dana Reserve

Wadi Rum – Bedouin Camping and Camels

Ma'in Hot Springs

Walking Amman

Sharing is caring!

Join the Conversation

109 Responses to "Petra Jordan – Tips for Exploring The Lost City"

Join the Conversation