7 Petra Tips You Truly Need but Nobody Tells You About

Just like everyone else who travelled to Jordan, I absolutely had to put Petra as one of my major destinations. I spent one and a half days in Wadi Musa where Petra is located, which I believe is proper enough to get the best out of the whole complex – if you know how.

Frankly, I came a little unprepared because the vacation was squeezed between two separate business trips. Hence, I did not manage to research any tips about exploring the site prior to the travel. That, however, led me to asking around extensively instead; from fellow tourists that I met there, the tourism office staff in Petra, to a couple of Petra local guides who were keen on helping me probably simply because they felt bad for this tiny Asian lady travelling alone. Those, in addition to experiencing all the strenuous walk and hike myself, made me come up with these tips I think people should know about to make the best out of their Petra experience.

So, if you are like me, or even on a shorter visit, or basically just want to make your trip as effective as possible, this will be the article for you to read on!

1. How to get a picture-perfect, tourist- and photobomb-free picture in front of the world-famous Treasury: If you’re only in Petra for a few hours, it is worth paying the local guides to bring you to any of the two photo spots that they guard. But if you have a whole day, see tip #2.

The Treasury is the most famous temple that you’ll most likely have seen in every Petra advertisement. Many might even think that Petra is essentially just this one monument, and I used to be one of them. Only when I came there I figured Petra consists of a whole ancient town and that famous Treasury is just one of the magnificent structures in it.

As you might imagine, it is indeed impossible to take a picture in front of the Treasury without having some tourists photo-bombing your pictures. Even if you arrive incredibly early in the morning, chances are you will not be the only one. And everyone else who is already there is probably there for the exact same reason.

But worry not! There are multiple ways to get that perfect, tourist-free photo – which also has a much better angle than if you had taken it from the ground-level view.

This first option may not be the greatest one if you are on a very tight budget, but if you care so much about having that perfect photo (I do!) and have a very limited time in Petra, paying a local guide to take you to the guarded photo spots will be your best option. Note that you will not be allowed to pass through unless you are accompanied by one of their guys.

There is no official, exact amount of fee, so it sort of depends on your guides themselves. I myself managed to negotiate to pay 20 JD for the two photo spots (which I kind of regret, should’ve chosen only one, and I will explain in a bit). For an Indonesian like me, 1 JD is already terribly expensive (the rate was 1 JD = around 20,000 IDR). With the equivalent of 20 JD in my currency, I can afford food for at least 3-5 days in Jakarta. That was what I tried to explain to the guides: that I can’t go any higher than 20 JD for both because my currency sucked and I was just travelling solo on a very tight budget. After a few back-and-forth negotiations, this young man finally agreed to take me to both locations for 20.

If you play hard to get at the beginning, you might get away with that much as well. Otherwise, they would probably start by offering you 50 or even 100. I guess it kind of depends on how you present yourself as well as well as how they perceive your “background.”

Another note was that my negotiation happened so early in the morning, so they were perhaps in a good mood to agree with the offer.

Then, after you decide you want to take this option, which photo spot should you go to?

The First Photo Spot – Closer, Lower Altitude, Much Easier to Reach

The first one is located on the right-hand side of the Treasury if you are facing the building. This one takes a very short trip from the Treasury and was super easy to climb as well. But the angle is quite nice. You will be at the same altitude as the Treasury, therefore anybody will be able to take a nice picture of you from a straightforward angle. The only minor downside is that because it’s a lot easier to reach than the next spot, there may have been a few other tourists lining up, so you’ll have to wait for a bit until it’s your turn.

The Second Photo Spot – Further, Higher Altitude, A Little Hike Involved

The second one is located at a much higher altitude. Also guarded by local guides, so you absolutely need someone to take you there. But even if it’s not guarded, it is practically impossible to get there by yourself because of the many turns of the route. This one requires at least the bare minimum hiking skills and you need to be fit for the short hike. Bring a water bottle with you!

I wasn’t the biggest fan of this spot, particularly because if the guides are not really familiar with choosing a good angle, it’s probably better to just take a photo in the first spot only. This one is a little challenging because the Treasury is below you, so the nice angles are not as straightforward or foolproof as the first spot where you are at the same height with it. But if you’re in for the hike and the view in general, this one might be worth a shot.

Personally, only based on the fees I would’ve opted to take the first spot only – or not at all. It is particularly because I did these two spots before I figured out the next tip below.

2. If you do have a whole day, skip the extra fees and opt to hike the Al-Khubtha trail and enjoy the reserved view of the Treasury from above.

The only catch is, the Al-Khubtha trail is a difficult trail to tame. However, it’s not because of its access, but simply because of the amount of energy you’ll have to pull.

The view at the end is actually a little similar to the second viewpoint in tip #1 – just from a different side. Hence, if you have done that, you are probably not missing out too much if you skip this trail. Unless, of course, you’re in for the thrill of hiking itself and not necessarily the destination.

This trail ends at the Treasury viewpoint, so the whole route is essentially designed for that purpose. But along the way, you’ll get to enjoy a lot of majestic views along the trails as well, particularly the Theatre complex and around.

It is arguably one of the most challenging hikes in Petra because of the many stairs it involves. I hiked this trail at around 2 PM and arrived back at the beginning of the trail at around 5 PM. Do bring water, because even though there will be a couple of places along the trail where you can rest and buy some beverages or snacks, they tend to be overpriced and are located close to the top, past the most challenging bits of the route.

Tip: It’s worth paying to get into the little shop at the end of the spot, where the true viewpoint is located. The official trail actually ends before the shop and you can still spot The Treasury from there. But after that strenuous hike and a whole lot of effort, I’d say you might as well throw another 2 JD to see the actual, better viewpoint and get the most ideal view of it.

3. Many prefer the Monastery to the Treasury. Rather than taking the Ad-Deir Trail to get there, opt to take the Ad-Deir “Back Route,” and then back into Petra via the Ad-Deir Trail.

The Monastery is another majestic building which stands even taller than The Treasury. But it’s located much further than the latter, which probably explains its lesser popularity in the typical brochures.

If you plan to get there, consider taking the Ad-Deir Back Route instead of the Ad-Deir Trail. Take the latter to get back from the Monastery back into Petra, all the way to the entrance gate. This way, not only that you’ll get to save your energy, but also you’ll get to enjoy the best views of both routes.

The Ad-Deir Trail, which begins from the end of the main trail in the middle of Petra, involves taking thousands of stairs upwards. Not to mention that along that hike, it will be almost impossible for you to enjoy the scenery comfortably as you will be busy looking down and watching your steps to avoid stepping on donkeys’ dung. (Oh, yes, there are lots and lots of them.) Even if you look up, chances are you will be looking at only cliffs in front of you, since the better scenery is behind and you are walking away from it.

Meanwhile, with the Ad-Deir Back Route, you’ll get to enjoy views of expansive canyons and changing outcrops along the way. It is a completely different view than the ancient city of Petra which is partly surrounded by tall cliffs, so you might not want to miss it. If you are a geologist or a fan of rocks in general, be prepared to be in awe at all times. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but you’ll even see an intrusive body of basalt (a dyke?) cross-cutting the sandstone canyons.

To access this back route, you can take the free shuttle that is included in your Petra ticket towards the Little Petra. After enjoying Little Petra, you’ll have to pay a small amount of money to take a jeep to the beginning of the trail, from where you’ll have to hike for a couple of hours.

It’s a long hike, but worth every second. The fun part is that you’ll notice you are getting close to the ancient city of Petra as you spot the changing appearance of the outcrops – from pale-looking sandstone beds to red ones.

And before you know it, the majestic Monastery will have greeted you from the distance, right when you see that your surroundings have turned into mostly red.

4. A half-day itinerary to get the best of everything: Take the free shuttle to Little Petra, climb the Ad-Deir Back Route, walk all the way down to the entrance, and maybe get the local guide to bring you to photo spot #1.

If you start your hike from the entrance, you’ll have to pass the same route twice when you get back. With this plan, you’ll do a circular route and not repeat a trail twice so your time could be a lot more effective.

If you have a very limited time, I would say Little Petra may not be a priority to check out. You will still have to go to its entrance using the free shuttle just to get to the entrance of the Ad-Deir Back Route, though.

But if you have more than a day, of course, there’s no stopping you to explore everything twice, or three, four times maybe. I myself did that – as I was so overwhelmed with the many bits I could explore and did not know all these tips before, therefore I end up going back and forth a few times. Of course I have no regret, as each temple offers something different that you might not notice the first time you pass by it. But if you are on a tight schedule, the circular route will work just fine for you.

5. If you are doing Petra at Night, arrive way before 7:30 PM at the entrance. And if you want to take a good picture, do it before you claim your seat.

Petra at Night is only available every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday of each week. The show starts at 8:30 PM and the entrance typically opens at 8 PM. However, as you must have guessed, the queue will likely start at around 7:30 PM.

So if you really want the majestic, candlelight view all to yourself to get that nice photograph, it is better to arrive at the entrance gate even before 7:30 PM, so you get to hang with the front crowd.

And after you arrive at the Treasury where the show is run, don’t bother choosing your seat first. Get those pictures first!

Even if you don’t end up getting any chairs, there will always be a spot on the carpets and rugs among the candles. Therefore, no need to worry about sitting.

(Moreover, after watching the show myself, I don’t think you will miss out on anything even if you end up just standing at the back.)

I didn’t get a nice picture because I was too busy reserving my front-row seat, which I regret. It is better for you to walk around to get those pictures before the show starts. Every once in a while, they will put on some lights on the Treasury facade which will help you to take pretty good photographs had you only brought a phone.

If you use a camera with adjustable settings, a tripod is recommended as you’re going to want to use the long shutter. It is quite dark at the site, especially before the show starts when the colourful light wasn’t turned on yet.

However, I personally don’t think the show is the most worth attending – particularly because at the time I watched it, I found the sound system was not working very well and the performances were not the most spectacular. If you want to check out the show, it’s probably better to do it for the photographs – if you really want one. Otherwise, I don’t think you’re missing out by skipping it completely.

6. No matter how cheap you find some souvenirs outside the Petra complex, you will find the same items at even cheaper prices within the site.

I bought myself some fancy-looking ceramic magnets from one of the souvenir shops outside of Petra for 2 JD each, while in fact, I can buy them for 1 JD for 3 inside Petra.

Especially if you are waiting towards the closing hour, the shops are usually ready to give you an even cheaper price. Not to mention if you are a solo traveller, especially a fellow Muslim from a different part of the world, those friendly locals are usually keen on giving you discounts for those little trinkets.

7. Be wary, but keep an open mind when talking to locals or fellow tourists. Especially useful if you try to get transport.

When I first tried to get into my accommodation, there were some troubles involved and I realized I had probably been scammed even though the place looks legitimate as I booked it from one of the most popular accommodation websites.

I was however very unfortunate that the restaurant owner next to the presumed hostel was very helpful, and offered to drive me around to figure out the actual location because he knew the hostel owner. After I settled in, he also drove me to the tourist center where the entrance of Petra is located.

From talking to locals to ask for help, not only did I end up saving some money, but I also made a local friend. On top of that, his restaurant turns out to be one of the best-rated in town. (So if you are passing through, you might want to check out this Time Out Cafe. I promise this is not a paid post.)

Another free ride I got was from two super nice Dutch ladies whom I met and talked to during my hike. They had rented a car so they decided to drive me back to my hostel after the Petra at Night event. This was particularly perfect because we came back around 10:30 PM, so it wasn’t really the safest time for me to travel around in a private taxi all by myself.

The next cheapest “cab” I got was because when I purchased a few mineral water bottles from a shop along Tourism St., I asked the guy if he knew how much should I pay for a cab to get to my hostel, so that I don’t get scammed. He then had this idea to just ask his friend to give me a ride, which I paid for less than half I would have, had I hailed a taxi from the road instead.

Of course, when receiving help from strangers, it’s important to use your instincts and be extra careful so you do not end up getting into unwanted troubles instead, especially for female travellers. This last tip therefore may only be legitimate if you have been solo travelling for quite some time that you’ve established a trained sense of awareness to distinguish genuinely nice people from the not-so-ones.

But overall, it’s always beneficial to present yourself as a friendly, genuine, but also “experienced” traveller so people would be willing to help you out, but at the same time, realize that you are not some random clueless tourist that they can fool around.

All in all, I found the locals to be very friendly, especially if you happen to be a fellow Muslim. (Sometimes they’re excited to guess where you might be from, which can be an icebreaker.) But of course, it’s always essential to be extra careful at all times.

These will be the personal tips I discovered by myself for you to get the best out of Petra if you have a limited amount of time. I guarantee that being there for a short time does not diminish the chance for you to get the greatest out of it – and this post will hopefully help you with that.

Let me know if you are visiting and finding these tips helpful! Or drop any question below should I not cover anything you want to know more about and cannot find somewhere else on the internet.

Until next post!

11 comments / Add your comment below

  1. sukak BANGETTT liat foto2 di trip ini kak ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜. Aku selalu suka nuasnya coklat didaerah Middle East gini tuh. Kayaknya tanpa edit yang gmn gmn gitu juga udh cakep bgt. Youre so lucky bisa lgsg menyaksikan the beauty of the place secara langsung ๐Ÿ˜

        1. kalau di Reader/Feed (dari mobile app) iya ilang Nad.. tapi kalo aku buka langsung dari browser muncul ni. gini deh WP kalo abis dianggurin berbulan2 selalu banyak masalah ina inu. :_)

  2. Baru di tulisan ini aku paham dan terinformasi lebih jelas mengenai spot foto dari atas sana itu. Sebelumnya mikir, “ini lewat mana ya?” haha. Salah satu wishlistku juga. Bahkan wallpaper HPku udah setahun lebih memperlihatkan suasana kota Jordan, hasil foto temenku. Biar jadi afirmasi suatu saat bisa ke sana ๐Ÿ™‚

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