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A trip to Petra, Jordan is the experience of a lifetime. Truthfully though, I’m hoping that I can visit several times in my life. After living in the Middle East for 4 years with our family, I can honestly say that the Jordanian people are the most kind in the whole region and they will welcome you with arms wide open into their country.
Petra is one of the most amazing architectural wonders of the world, and the chance to get up close and touch and explore it all make the experience so personal.
Here are 7 thing you need to know before you go to Petra Jordan to make your trip UNFORGETTABLE!
1. Be prepared to walk A LOT.
Unlike a lot of other historic sites, Petra is completely inaccessible to cars. You hike into it, and once you’re there, you hike all around it. It’s quite spread out, and the coolest sites that you absolutely should not miss, The Treasury and The Monastery are about 7 km apart so come in shape and be prepared for some hiking.
Focus on the exploration side of things to distract your kids from all the walking and you’ll be amazed how far they can walk (ours went 37 km in 2 days this way). If you’re worried, check out our hiking with kids: 20 tips to combat whining article.
2. Visit Petra when it’s cooler.
Although it’s super tempting to take your big family vacation in the summer when the kids already have time off of school, your trip will be much better if you resist the urge. In the summer months, you’ll be battling temperatures of around 110 degrees F during the day, which will quickly turn your family trip from uncomfortable to a pure nightmare. Remember that you’ll be hiking a significant amount of the time, and aside from the canyon into the treasury, most of the rest of Petra will be in the sun during the day.
In the winter months, it can actually get quite cold there, with occasional rain and even snow storms, so keep that in mind as well. The best months to visit are March, April, October, and November. When we visited in early October, it was about 85 degrees which was warm but manageable (We were also well acclimated to the heat since we were living in Saudi Arabia, so if you are coming from somewhere cooler, I’d wait until November).
3. Get off the beaten path.
As soon as you enter Petra, about 1/3 mile past The Treasury, head up towards the High Place of Sacrifice. Not only will you get an awesome birds-eye-view of everything from up there, but you’ll encounter significantly fewer people than down at the Street of Facades. Head down the back way from there for more solidarity and awesome trails. Always be on the lookout for all the little paths where you can have more exploration and less people, and you’ll end out the day much more relaxed.
As you hike through Petra, you’ll find that there are tombs all over the place that are perfect for exploring. Some of them are very well preserved and others are little more than a cave-like opening in the side of the cliffs. If you’re hiking with kids, they’ll love getting to explore all these different hidden places!
4. Hike out through the Small Siq in Petra – best secret hiking area of Petra
If you have energy left at the end of your sightseeing day, walk out through the slot canyon in the small siq (Wadi Muthlim) which is absolutely beautiful. It’s a longer walk than the regular siq, but you will not likely see anyone and it will leave you in awe of the deserts beauty. There’s a bit of scrambling over rocks and boulders required, but this was the highlight of all our hiking time in Petra. It was significantly cooler inside than hiking around the tombs and looking up to see the canyon walls towering straight above you is truly amazing!
For a little money, you can hire a local to take you through, or you can look up the coordinates on a map before you leave and DIY. Once you’re down in the main area of Petra, you’ll easily find someone willing to take you if you tell them that you want to go to Wadi Muthlim. It’s made up of a series of narrow passageways and full of boulder choked sections, so though it can be tricky, its definitely worth it. Just make sure to not go if there is any rain in the forecast or the entire area as slot canyons are very dangerous in rainstorms (think instant flash floods with no escape route).
5. Pack in your own food and water.
Although there are places to buy food in Petra, it’s pretty expensive and your options and the locations are limited. If you’re planning to be off the beaten path at all, bring in your own food and LOTS and LOTS of water! The town of Wadi Musa is right outside of Petra, and you can stop and buy food there before you go in. If you’re going with kids, this is also a really important option, unless they really love Middle Eastern food.
Don’t forget LOTS of water as well. You’ll probably need about 2L per person for the day. While you probably don’t want to carry that much with you (especially if you’re also carrying water for your family), carry what you can, and plan on buying a little more when you get inside. A great alternative to that is a Camelbak, which makes it SO MUCH EASIER for kids to carry more water with them while they hike (and my kids drink more that way too). My daughter is using the Mini Mule 50oz here in Petra which is great for kids from about ages 3-10.
6. Decide before you go if you’ll be riding any animals.
The first thing you will notice when you start hiking towards Petra’s Siq is that you are constantly bombarded by “Bedouins” wanting you to ride their donkey/camel/horse through the monument. In every area that’s highly populated, you’re going to encounter this. Honestly, it can get really frustrating to have so many people bugging you about it, but to make it easier on everyone, decide as a family when or even if you’ll be riding any animals and share the plan with your kids. That way you’re not being bugged about riding them from both the locals AND your kids! Note: although a carriage ride into and out of the siq is technically free with your ticket, be prepared to be gouged with a pushy high tip “request”.
On our second day there, our kids were absolutely begging us to let them ride the animals. So, we told them that if they would hike to the monastery and back down the stairs, they could ride camels to the treasury, which they were thrilled about.
Also, just so you know, while riding a camel looks like a thrilling and exotic experience, it’s actually rather uncomfortable and bumpy (not to mention smelly…)!
7. Be prepared to say NO!
No to the animal rides. No to the vendors constantly trying to sell you things. No to the people who constantly want to touch your kids. Practice a firm but polite NO before you go, but you’ll have a much more relaxing day if you don’t get sucked into a conversation with every single person who wants you to buy something from them.
One other tip, is that if you’re also planning on going to the Dead Sea, plan on doing that BEFORE you go to Petra. You can read all about our horrible experience there AFTER we let our kids explore through Petra…