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What to see in Jordan

Petra

Tourist attractions Petra

The ‘Rose City’ of Petra evokes awe and wonder. The rock-hewn temples, caves, and tombs reveal the secrets of the lost civilization of the Nabatean and the site is well situated between the Jordanian capital of Amman and the Red Sea resort of Aqaba. Intricately carved into soft pink sandstone cliffs on the rocky plains of Western Jordan, a trip to Petra is the chance to come face-to-face with the most famous archaeological relics in the world, making it a favorite bucket-list destination of all intrepid travelers.

The Nabatean capital, Petra was once a major trading hub and the complexity of its structures attest to the large population of around 20,000 inhabitants who are thought to have lived there during the civilizations Golden Age. After falling to the Romans, Petra slowly fell into decline. It was rediscovered by a Swiss explorer in 1812 and has enchanted visitors with its romantic facades and dramatic cave structures ever since. Today, a tour of Jordan is incomplete without contemplating the majesty of the Treasury, the postcard image of Petra, or climbing to the Altar of Sacrifice viewpoint, from where you can appreciate the full scale of the site. If you can arrange to visit Petra early in the morning or after dark, you’ll be greatly rewarded as the ruins fall quiet. In the evening, the Treasury is lit with the glow of thousands of candles, a spectacle that surpasses all expectations. There are few places in the world as magical as Petra.

 

What to see at Petra

As the entire site stretches out across more than 100 square miles, don’t expect to see all of the sights at Petra in one day. To get to the main site, visitors on a tour of Petra must pass through the narrow path of the al-Siq gorge, which leads to Petra’s most recognizable facade, the Treasury. Also known as ‘Al-Khazneh’, this elaborate temple believed to have been the mausoleum of the Nabatean King in the 1st-century, famously features in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

The most popular thing to see at Petra, the awe-inspiring rock-hewn facade of the Treasury is beyond Insta-worthy! Another highlight of a trip to Petra is the Nabatean Theatre, the remains of an ancient amphitheater, built during the Golden Age of Petra, between 9 BC and 40 AD, to hold a huge capacity of 8,500 spectators. Even more impressive is the fact that a large part of the theatre was completed carved out of solid rock! One of the younger parts of the complex is the Byzantine Church, home to lavish Byzantine mosaics depicting mythological animals, and personifications of the seasons, the ocean, the earth, and wisdom. Built around 450 AD, the Byzantine Church has proved an invaluable insight into everyday life in Petra during this period as in 1993, 152 papyrus scrolls were discovered in one of the church's rooms, dating from the 6th-century.

As well as exploring the site’s temples and churches, a trip to Petra should also include a visit to the ancient city’s tombs, the most impressive of which is the Royal Tombs, nestled in the western cliffs of Jebel Al Khutba. This is Petra’s most extraordinary burial site, reached by climbing a steep flight of stairs. The climb is worth it to discover this lesser-known section of Petra, where the great and powerful Nabatean kings were laid to rest.

Finally, the Obelisk Tomb, located on the road to the main entrance of Petra, gives visitors a taste of things to come with its extraordinary rock-hewn tombs, topped with obelisks dedicated to the people buried there. It’s though to have been the final resting place of Nabatean nobility and, come sunset, the pink sandstone casts beautiful, obelisk-shaped silhouettes across the entrance. 

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