What to See, Eat, and Where to Stay During a Day Trip to Petra
Only have one day in Petra and wondering if it will be enough time to adequately see all that this ancient city has to offer as well? Then you’re in the right place. Read on for a detailed guide that covers everything you must see, do, and eat while in Petra — even if you only have time for a day trip — plus where to stay to maximize your time.
Quick Background on Petra
The ancient Nabataean city of Petra is one of the most well-known UNESCO sites in the Middle East and is an absolute must-see when visiting Jordan. It is home to many impressive and historic sites, including the famous Siq Trail and Treasury.
The Petra Archaeological Park is a huge 2,640 acres, and you could easily spend weeks exploring the complex, however one day in Petra is perfect to see the main sights!
While it’s not known exactly when Petra was built, the capital of the Nabataean Empire was a thriving trade centre between 400 BC and 106 AD, before being annexed by the Roman Empire and later the Byzantine Empire. The city was abandoned during the 7th century and remained forgotten, except by the nomadic Bedouin people, until it was rediscovered in the 19th century by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt.
One Day in Petra Itinerary Outline
Before jumping to the details, here are the highlights in Petra you must see on your one day itinerary!
- Siq Trail
- Secret Treasury Viewpoint
- Street of Facades
- The Theatre
- Royal tombs
- Colonnaded Street
- The Monastery
Top Sights to See in One Day in Petra
And now for the details!
Start your day in Petra early (around sunrise if you can stomach getting up that early) to give you the most time to explore and to avoid the crowds at the main sights.
You will need to pay an entrance fee to visit Petra, with a one day pass costing approximately $70 (50 JOD). If you’re spending a few days in Jordan, consider purchasing the Jordan Pass for a free visa on arrival to Jordan for discounted entry to Petra and more.
The Siq Trail
The Siq is the historical entrance to the ancient city of Petra. The narrow trail snakes three-quarters of a mile through the stunning gorge, with towering rock walls that reach up to 260-feet high surrounding you. At the entrance to the Siq, you can still see evidence of the dams constructed to collect water and stop the city from flooding as well as statues and carvings of the gods, as water was considered sacred to the Nabataeans.
Around every bend, you’ll find more and more impressive sights as you meander through the Siq. Take your time to enjoy the incredible colors swirled together on the exposed rock face of the cliffs and keep an eye out for the elephant-shaped rock. Then you’ll turn one final bend and the Siq trail will open up to your first glimpse of the incredible Treasury built into the towering rock wall in front of you.
Be aware that the horse rides offered at the visitor’s center offering to take you to the start of the Siq trail may be included in your ticket, but once you get to the end you will be expected to pay a large tip.
Another thing to keep in mind if you’re arriving a little later in the morning is the horse and carriage rides that race through the trail. If you hear the hooves galloping through the trail move to the side quickly as these guys don’t muck around. If you have mobility issues this can be a nice way to experience the trail and main street of Petra without having to walk huge distances.
The Treasury (Al Khazna)
The Treasury (or Al Khazna) is the most iconic sight in the City of Petra. The magnificent façade is intricately carved into the sandstone rockface and reaches almost 130 feet high. It’s believed to be constructed in 1st century BC and is thought to be the mausoleum of the Nabatean King Aretas IV. It got the moniker ‘the Treasury’ from the local Bedouin people as they believed it contained treasures.
You can go just inside the entrance of the Treasury, however there isn’t much to see and you’re better off admiring the façade from different angles (including from above — find out about the secret viewpoint below).
The hour when the sun rises above the cliffs to bathe the treasury in light is a magical time and you can see why it’s called the ‘rose city’, however it’s also the busiest time to view the Treasury!
To get the treasury mostly to yourself, get there early or late in the day. Arriving just after sunrise is the perfect time to get the treasury all to yourself, with just a few camels for company. If you want to get the Treasury bathed in gorgeous afternoon glow but without the crowds, try and visit just before closing time (around 5.30-6 pm).
The Treasury Secret Viewpoint
Most guidebooks recommend the long hike up from near the Royal Tombs to the ‘best’ viewpoint for amazing views of the Treasury from above, however there is a much closer viewpoint that’s just as good, and will save you a lot of time (and energy) to explore other sites in Petra.
When you’re facing the Treasury (with your back to the Siq trail), turn right and you’ll see a small hill with rocks and rubble. To the right of this hill is a little cliff, often with a Bedouin tea stall on one side, that’s perfect for photos and selfies of the Treasury from a higher vantage point. Simply climb to the top of the rubble rock hill, head towards your right, and you’ll find a small path upwards (with minimal scrambling involved!). It only takes about 5 minutes to climb up, rather than over an hour for the ‘best viewpoint’ trail!
The Street of Facades
As you continue past the Treasury you’ll find rows of tombs and small caves carved into the sandstone cliffs surrounding you. It’s believed the tombs were for wealthy officials, with the small caves a place for the family to visit and grieve.
If you’re the adventurous type make sure to save some time to explore the area; you’ll find some awesome hidden caves and little Bedouin stalls.
As you continue past the Street of Facades you’ll come to the impressive Petra Theatre. Constructed in Roman design, this theatre is unique as — like all the structures in Petra — it is carved into the sandstone rock cliffs, which was the Nabataean tradition. It’s estimated that this theatre could accommodate around 4,000 or more spectators during its heyday.
The Royal Tombs
While the Royal tombs no longer contain any bodies or treasures, the facades and caves themselves are amongst the most impressive buildings in Petra.
From the main road near the theatre and you’ll have a great view of the tombs all lined up above. Take the path leading off the main road and walk (or scramble) up to explore some of the tombs as well as some awesome caves. The Royal tombs are comprised of the Urn Tomb, the Silk Tomb, the Corinthian Tomb, and the Palace Tomb.
If you do want to do the longer treasury overlook hike this is the jumping off point, so might be a good time to squeeze it in.
Continue along the main street past the theatre and you’ll find the Colonnaded Street. Originally a Nabatean creation, and later refurbished by the Romans, this would have been the main shopping street in the ancient city.
Still present today are the original flagstone pavers, the remains of the Roman style columns lining the road, and many arches and temples still undergoing excavation, including the Byzantine Church and Winged Lion Temple.
Not as well-known as the Treasury building but equally as striking is the majestic Monastery. Compared to its famous counterpart the Monastery is far more difficult to reach; perched at the end of a grueling 850-step climb. Fortunately, the end result is certainly worth the trek, with a beautifully carved 157-foot high facade (taller than the Treasury!) and far fewer crowds than most other attractions within Petra.
There is also a very well stocked Bedouin café (with wi-fi) directly in front of the Monastery, so you can relax with a juice or coffee while you FaceTime your friends and make them incredibly jealous of your amazing view! The climb back down is much easier than the hike up, and you can stop at some of the many Bedouin stores dotted along the path and buy a celebratory souvenir.
Where to Stay Near Petra
Petra is often visited as a day trip from the cities of Amman or Aqaba, however we recommend staying in the town of Wadi Musa (the town where the main Petra entrance gate is located) to make the most of your one day in Petra.
Luxury Option: Petra Bubble Luxotel
For those with a big budget, you can’t miss the Petra Bubble Luxotel. Here you can stay in an incredible and luxurious bubble room, with air-conditioning, a private terrace with its own hot tub, and gorgeous sweeping desert views to watch sunrise and sunset.
Midrange Option: La Maison Hotel
A lovely hotel located less than a 5-minute walk from the main entrance of Petra, with wonderful staff, delicious breakfasts, and a picturesque rooftop bar to watch the sunset and enjoy the evening.
Budget Option: Petra Capsule Hostel
If you’re traveling on a tight budget (but still like your privacy) these cute capsules add some privacy and fun to a traditional dorm. Each capsule has a window with views of Wadi Musa and the surrounding desert, and a curtain over the entrance for privacy. The staff are super helpful, breakfast is included, and there is a nice seating area in the lobby to chat with other travelers.
Where to Eat Near Petra
Start your day early with a hearty breakfast from your hotel, most hotels include breakfast for guests and other breakfast options in Wadi Musa are limited.
Make sure to enjoy some friendly Bedouin hospitality while exploring Petra. Have some delicious tea, fresh juice, snacks, and a meal at one of the traditionally decorated Bedouin stalls dotting Petra’s main street. Plus, you can have a drink with a view at the Monastery, with a cute Bedouin stall located at the top of the trail overlooking the Monastery and valley.
For dinner and/or drinks in the evening, you can’t beat the Cave Bar at the Petra Guest House Hotel, right outside the Petra main entrance gate. The Cave Bar is a really cool bar and restaurant set inside an actual cave, with cute booths built into the cave walls, beautiful traditional décor, and tasty food and drinks!
Hopefully you now feel ready for a spectacular day in Petra. Enjoy your trip!
About the Author: Ashlea is the organized half of the Australian duo behind dashingaroundtheworld.com. She is a wine aficionado and huge travel addict and has visited four continents and over forty countries. Between trips, she is a registered nurse, but loves spending her days researching and planning new travel adventures (complete with spreadsheets), and sharing her travel experiences with others. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
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