When to Go
Summer temperatures hit 100 degrees, but it can get chilly and rainy in January and February. In all seasons, sturdy shoes are essential for negotiating the rocky, uneven terrain. If traveling during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, some services may not be operating or operating at reduced hours; however, all tourist sites and services are open for regular business. Check with your hotel or the tourist office ahead of time.
Planning Your Time
An overnight (two-day) trip to Petra is optimal. Be prepared for a lot of walking: it's about 2 miles from the entry to the Basin restaurant.
Begin at the Horse Square and walk through the narrow, mysterious Siq to the Treasury, Petra's most magnificent facade. From there, continue along what was once the city's main street, lined with monuments from Petra's glory days. Walk along the colonnaded street to the Basin for lunch. The route back is the same, but the sun striking the rocks at different angles reveals new dimensions of the site's beauty; note that the way back is uphill. The horse-drawn carriages you'll see are meant only for the infirm, but they can be hired, gypsy-cab style, by tired pedestrians. Expect to pay about JD 40 from the entry to the Treasury or JD 40 from the Basin to the entry. In the evening, enjoy the sunset from a hotel balcony or rooftop terrace. Check at the visitor center to see if the Petra by Night tour is on.
On the second day, you can return to the Treasury and explore other sites, perhaps making the climb up to the Monastery. There are lots of well-stocked souvenir shops by the visitor center if you want some souvenirs or gifts.
Getting Here and Around
El Al and Royal Jordanian Airlines both fly to Amman, Jordan's capital, from Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport. This option has limited appeal, as you must be at the airport two hours before flight time for the 15-minute flight, then drive three hours from Amman to Petra.
Twice a week, Arkia Airlines offers one-day guided tours in which you fly from Tel Aviv to Eilat at 6:30 am, drive to Petra in an air-conditioned bus, spend three hours walking through Petra, and take a return flight arriving in Tel Aviv at 9 pm. The rate per person is about $300 (www.arkia.com).
To get to Petra from Aqaba—the Jordanian town just across the border that shares the Red Sea shore with Eilat—two buses a day run at a cost of JD 5, but there’s no specific timetable.
To get to Petra from Amman, public buses run from Amman's Mujema Al Janoub, or the South Bus Station. They depart when full. Three private bus companies offer air-conditioned service between Petra and Amman.
A parking area on the Israeli side of the border makes it possible to drive a rental car here, but only cars registered to their drivers can be taken into Jordan. For those taking longer trips, rental cars are available in Aqaba and Petra. Hidab Hotel can book rental cars from local agencies. There’s an Avis agency in the Moevenpick Hotel in Petra and in Aqaba. The Hertz office in Petra is located next to the Palace Hotel on the main street of Wadi Musa.
Once you cross into Jordan from Eilat, shared taxis are available on the Jordanian side of the border to take you into Aqaba, where you can rent a car or take the bus to Petra if the scheduling is right. A shared taxi to Aqaba costs about JD 10, which is divided among the passengers. If your time in Petra is limited, consider taking the faster but costlier private taxi, which will run you JD 45 to JD 50; be prepared to negotiate.
Crossing the Border
The closest border crossing to Petra is just north of Eilat at what’s called the Arava crossing. Cross the border early in the morning to avoid waiting in line behind large tour groups and aim to be in Petra before noon. When crossing back from Jordan to Israel, bring JD 6 for the Jordanian exit tax.
Americans need a visa to enter Jordan. It can be bought on the spot for about NIS 88.
Most visitors take a taxi to the Jordan border from Eilat (10 minutes, NIS 35), walk across, and catch a taxi to Petra on the other side (about JD 45). The Arava border crossing, just north of Eilat, is open Sunday to Thursday 6:30 am to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday 8 to 8. The crossing is closed on the religious holidays Yom Kippur and Id el Fitr. Two other border crossings might be convenient under certain circumstances. The Allenby Bridge crossing (known in Jordan as the King Hussein crossing, four hours' drive from Petra) is about 45 minutes from Jerusalem. Remember to bring a passport photo. The northern Beit She'an border crossing (five hours' drive from Petra) is approximately 40 minutes from Tiberias.
The Jordanian unit of currency is the dinar, abbreviated JD. The exchange rate at this writing was approximately JD 0.71 to the U.S. dollar. You can change money at the Moevenpick, next to the entrance to Petra.
A number of operators run tours to Petra that you can reserve in advance from Eilat. They're a good option if you want to see the highlights without worrying about logistics. (www.petraisrael.com offers tips on arranging tours to Petra from Israel.)
Visitor Center. Petra's visitor center, next to the site entrance, has brochures and you can arrange local guides for a basic two-hour Petra tour for a flat fee of JD 15. 03/215–6029. www.petrapark.com. 1-day pass JD 50; 2-day pass JD 55. Summer 6–6; winter 6–4.
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