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What to expect when visiting Petra

The Treasury at Petra, Jordan

Are you thinking of visiting Petra from Israel? A day trip or overnight trip is easily achievable if you have the time in your schedule – and Petra is well worth the visit! While there may be a few unknowns when booking your trip, here’s what to expect when visiting Petra, to help you relax and enjoy your time at this wonder of the world!

What to Expect when visiting Petra

About Petra

So what is all the fuss about Petra? Petra is an ancient lost city famous for its rock-cut architecture. It is also known as the Rose City for the amazing colours in the sandstone. The lost city was only recently rediscovered by an explorer in 1812, however its history spans as far back as 312BC.

Petra is an amazing example of accuracy in construction in ancient times and although the city is mostly carved out of sandstone, due to Petra’s protected location in the mountains, it has been safe from weathering and erosion, hence its amazing preservation!

Petra was a hub for trading as well as being a near unconquerable fortress.  The city was a display of power and wealth and has known been named one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.

The Siq (or shaft) is the narrow entrance path between cliff-like walls that were likely formed from an earthquake. The two sides of rock are nearly identical in the way they curve downhill – you can almost imagine them being split apart once upon a time!

Sky view in the Siq, Petra

Entrance to the Siq, Petra

The Siq path, Petra

How to book a Petra tour

If you are spending some time in Israel, day trips and overnight trips to Petra are very common to find easy to book. Trips normally depart from Eilat or Jerusalem, but if you are departing from Jerusalem you will likely go via the Eilat border anyway.

As there are many different companies that offer tours to Petra, there’s not really any need to book your visit in advance before your trip. As long as you give a few days notice you should be able to get on a tour. Prices between companies vary slightly but we went with one of the cheaper companies, which worked out fine for us. You can often book through your hotel and ask them any questions you may have too.

What to expect at the border

The tour company or group leader will generally walk you through the day and the border crossing process at the beginning of the day. Upon reaching the border our payments were taken and we lined up in the immigration to get our day passes. There are a few steps which you will be talked through by your guide on the Israeli side, as they generally doesn’t cross over the border with you. Instead, they will give you the name of the guide who will be waiting for you on the other side. We were told we couldn’t take any food or drink across the border, however other people in our group did and didn’t have any trouble with it! The whole border process took about an hour and a half as we waited for each person in the group to get through. Once we had been through the border process we were given a bottle of water and were on our way.

The trip to Petra from Eilat

Petra is less than two hours from the Eilat border however we made a couple of stops on the way, both at souvenir shops come cafes with bathrooms. It’s a good idea to buy snacks either on the Jordani side of the border, on the way or at Petra as you likely won’t have lunch until the end of the day.

Petra, the Rose City

The entrance to Petra lies at the bottom of a small town in the mountains. The temperature was significantly cooler than back in Eilat so make sure to bring a jacket. At the visitor’s centre in the entrance is the ticket office, bathrooms and small shops. From here there is a gravel road leading down to the Siq that you can walk or ride on horse-driven buggies (be aware of any mistreatment of the animals). There are also souvenirs and snacks to buy at different spots throughout Petra.

Our guide led us down the gravel road, pointing out a few ancient buildings along the way and was with us nearly the whole time at Petra. It was a good way to get insight into different parts of Petra and he even pointed out a few things we wouldn’t have noticed otherwise! At the end of our tour we got a little bit of free time and were told to meet back at the entrance at a certain time. From the theatre area it was around a 40 minute walk back to the entrance, so take this into consideration when meeting the group again – don’t be the person that makes everyone wait even longer for their lunch!

It was around lunchtime by the time we got to the entrance of Petra but we did not have lunch until after we had visited, so we were very hungry! We ate a buffet meal at a nearby restaurant that had lots of choice and delicious food. After lunch we were back in the vans, headed to the border.

Petra map
A map of Petra (source)
The gravel road entrance to Petra
The gravel road entrance to Petra

A first glimpse of the Treasury through the Siq

The Treasury at Petra and camels

A first glimpse of the Treasury through the Siq, and a closer look

Looking back at the Siq from the Treasury

Instax Polaroid of the Treasury, Petra

Looking back at the Siq from the Treasury and a fun pic of the Treasury!

A camel in Petra, Jordan

Curves in the Siq, Petra

A camel and more curves in the Siq

Petra-souvenirs
Knick knacks for sale
Sand jar souvenirs at Petra
Sand jar art – they can even write your name in the jar!
Amazing colours in the sandstone
Amazing colours in the sandstone
The Royal Tombs and urn tomb in the background
The Royal Tombs and urn tomb in the background
The theatre, about halfway through Petra
The Theatre

Currency

The stores you will stop at on the way and also the stalls in Petra will take not only the Jordani Dinar but also Israeli Shekel and US Dollar. Just be sure to ask what their conversion rate is for whatever you buy!

When to visit

We visited Petra at the start of November, and while the temperatures in Israel were still around the 30 degree Celsius mark, it was probably around 10 degrees cooler at Petra which made it comfortable for all the walking we did. The temperatures can get uncomfortably hot in summer so its best to go in either Spring or Automn/Fall. While there were other tourists and groups at Petra when we were there, as it is such a huge area to see, it generally wasn’t crowded.

Is visiting Petra safe?

More than half a million tourists visit Petra each year. Most of the day you will be with your tour group and Petra is a huge tourist attraction so there is no real danger at the site. Our guide even told us how safe the country of Jordan generally is and between the Israeli border crossing and Petra, there is not much to be seen apart from desert. However it is still a good idea to check your national travel website about recommended travel. For more information this is another great article about visiting Petra.

Consider spending a couple days at Petra to have more time to explore. We didn’t get to see the whole area or walk all the way to the monastery which was a little disappointing, however what we did see was still amazing and worth the trip! Have you visited Petra? What are your tips or thoughts?

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