5 unmissable experiences in the city of Petra

The famous rose-red, rock-cut city of the Nabataens, hidden in a valley in southern Jordan, is one of the Middle East's must-sees. Here are 5 great ways to experience the city of Petra
The Petra by Night experience. Photo: Shutterstock
The Petra by Night experience. Photo: Shutterstock

The Petra by Night experience. Photo: Shutterstock


The city of Petra is a truly bewitching place, one of the "New Seven Wonders of the World", and from sunrise to sunset a steady stream of tourists tread the millennia-old footpaths. Here are 5 unmissable ways to see Petra at its best on your tour

1. Sunrise at Petra

It is advisable to start your Petra tour as early as possible to avoid the heat and crowds – and get the best light for photos. To get to Petra you will walk through the 1.25km (0.75-mile) -long siq, a natural fissure in the mountain, which the Nabateans developed into a stately entrance to their capital city. What an experience it is as the siq opens to the drama of the iconic Treasury, Petra's most famous monument.

There are ruins and remains of Petra's remarkable past lying everywhere: small graves and chambers cut into the ground, cisterns, etc. To get the most out of your visit, we recommend a guided tour on which an expert will point out all the noteworthy niches and various inscriptions. Insight Guides' Treasures of Jordan holiday includes a two-day visit of Petra's iconic sights, so you don't miss a thing.

2. Horse-riding in Petra

This is one of the best ways to really experience the magisterial landscape of Petra. Visitors can choose to ride within the site or take on a longer route including the area around the complex too. These can all be organised at the main visitor centre. Alternatively, talk to Insight Guides' local expert for Jordan today, who can add a horseriding excursion to your trip itinerary. 

3. Hiking to Petra

For an experience you'll never forget, consider arranging or joining an organised trek from Shawbak, a distance of around 80km (50 miles) from the city of Petra, staying in Bedouin tents en route.Try to time your arrival to Petra at sunset. The road winds up through scrub-oak forest and energes on the scarpment, revealing a panoramic view of the rock-massif around Petra, a particularly impressive sight in the setting sun.

Cave dwellings in the canyon of Little Petra. Photo: Shutterstock

Cave dwellings along the siq at Little Petra. Photo: Shutterstock

4. Petra by night 

Take the Petra by Night Tour and see the tombs, monuments and cliffs lit up by the moon from above and thousands of candles from below. It's magical. These tours are available on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 8.30–10.30pm. Visitors are led from the main gate down a candlelit Siq to sit cross-legged in front of the Treasury. Here, a Bedouin musician and storyteller perform. This experience can be included on Insight Guides' tours to Jordan: review suggested itineraries online now.

5. Explore the little-known Little Petra

Lying 8km (5 miles) northwest of Petra, you can walk from the town, hike from the monastery, drive or take a taxi here. It is much less visited than its bigger sister, but just as interesting. Just like at Petra, you arrive to Little Petra from a miniature siq that gives access to a splendid collection of tombs, temples, houses, cisterns and other structures. Several immense cisterns carved into the rocks are still used today by local livestockers.

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