A traveller’s guide to Petra

Looking for your next travel destination? Find out why Petra needs to be top of your list.

Petra is one of the most incredible tourist attractions found anywhere in the world. Many people have never even heard of it, but it’s certainly not one to miss out on during a tour of Jordan or the wider Arab world. If it’s completely new to you, here’s what you should know to start with.

What is Petra and why’s it so special?

Petra is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed archaeological site and one of the most famous ancient cities in the world. Situated in the west of Jordan, it’s been inhabited for thousands of years and was the capital city of the Nabataeans – an ancient Arab nomadic tribe that settled in the area. 

It was the centre of an important and lucrative trade route between the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt and the Mediterranean. Fascinatingly, it was a place of great wealth, prosperity and ingenuity in the middle of the harsh desert landscape. With innovative water channels, cisterns and gorgeous architecture, it’s a truly wonderful place to see and experience.

The city attracts nearly 1 million visitors every year, making it a central tourist destination for the country of Jordan. Will you be joining them?

What can you do in Petra?

The archaeological site is vast, so there’s plenty to see and do while in Petra. Depending on how long you’re staying, you should try to include a few standout attractions on your journey. Some of the most popular include:

  • The Siq – On your way into the city of Petra, you’ll walk through a deep gorge up to 80m high that blocks the sun out almost entirely. This is The Siq which was the main passageway into Petra and is a stunning natural rock formation.
  • The Treasury – The iconic image of Petra. This building is one of the most impressive spectacles and some of the best-preserved ruins in the city. Built in a Hellenistic fashion on the front and carved into sandstone behind, it’s truly a sight to behold.
  • High Place of Sacrifice – Go here for one of the best views in Petra. Once a place of sacrifice, it now provides an amazing position from which to look over the jagged desert landscape.
  • The Monastery – Another impressive building which has been preserved well. It’s a fair hike to reach it, but it’s worth it to gaze upon the largest monument in Petra.

Where do I recognise Petra from?

If the ancient city of Petra looks familiar to you, you may have seen it featured in many Hollywood movies over the years. Most famous of all its appearances in popular culture has been Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade which aired in 1989. 

More recently, this wonder of the world has been featured in the 2019 remake of Aladdin, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) and The Mummy Returns (2001). The iconic city cut from stone makes for a spectacular backdrop for movies past and present.