Royal Tombs of Petra Royal Tombs of Petra

The Rose-Red City of Petra

Petra is one of the world's most compelling historical sites and Jordan’s biggest tourist attraction. Also known as The Rose-Red City, Petra (a Greek name meaning rock) is a spectacular Nabatean city located in western Jordan. Its massive façades have been carved entirely out of the existing red sandstone, magnificent temples and tombs are like no other religious buildings in the world. The surrounding rugged landscape dotted with historical sites are a hiker's paradise. Petra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and receives thousand of visitors daily.
Petra was the impressive capital of the Nabataean Kingdom from around the 6th century BC. It was carved from sandstone outcrops by the Nabataean people. The Nabateans were originally a tribe of Arabian nomads who ventured out of the desert around the 5th century BC and settled in the Shara mountains of southern Jordan, at a crossroads of trade routes. Standing at the pivot of trade between Africa, Europe and Asia, the Nabataeans established their city of Petra, and began to spread their influence throughout the region. In the 1st century AD, The Rose-Red City was a major trading hub and home to 30,000 people. In 106AD, the Nabateans ceded power to the Romans, founding an era of prosperity that lasted until after the adoption of Christianity in 324. However, there was a succession of earthquakes and a change in the vital trade routes away from the region which led to the decline of Petra. By 749, when an earthquake destroyed almost all freestanding buildings, The Rose-Red City was more or less deserted. Its ruins were known only to local tribesmen until its rediscovery in 1812 by the Swiss explorer Jean-Louis Burckhardt. Today Petra is a major tourist attraction, recently accorded status as one of the updated seven wonders of the world.
Search and Compare hotel deals on hundreds of travel sites | View Hotels in Petra »
Because Petra has been a city of great religious significance since ancient times, it is one of the foremost pilgrimage centers revered all over Jordan. It has a number of connections with the Old Testament: Aaron is said to have died in the Petra area and been buried atop Mount Aaron; and the nearby Ain Mousa is believed to be where Moses struck a rock with his staff to extract water.
A jouney to Petra usually comes in two parts. First, there’s the walk through a natural cleft in the rock more than a kilometre long. It’s about Siq – the most dramatic route into Petra. After 1.2km, here comes the second part - the iconic view of Petra: the carved, sunlit façade of the Treasury (a Nabatean temple) framed by sheer rock walls.
But Petra isn’t just about a walk and postcard view. It is a vast area of tombs, ceremonial buildings, temple ruins and a theatre. The most popular attractions in Petra are listed below.
  • Treasury is the most magnificent of Petra's sights. Treasury is carved out of solid rock and stands over 40 meters high. It was constructed in the 1st century BC and the purpose of the Treasury is uncertain. Researches bealive that it was a temple or a royal tomb.
  • Byzantine Church was constructed over Nabataean and Roman remains around 450 AD. It is a three-aisled basilica, about 26 meters by 15 meters, with three apses on the east end and three west portals. Each of the side aisles of Petra Church is paved with remarkably preserved mosaics, whose subjects include a variety of animals and personifications.
  • The Street of Facades is lined with tall, impressive tombs, with large facades or false faces on their fronts. All are simple in design, most having a plain rectangular entrance and their only adornment one or two rows of small crow-steps. This street leads down into the heart of the city proper.
  • Monastery is the most impressive monument of The Rose-Red City. It was probably a beautifully carved Nabatean temple, so huge that even the doorway is several stories tall. The Monastery is similar to design to the Treasury, but it is much larger (50 m high x 45m wide) and much less decorated.
  • Royal Tombs are the tombs of Petra’s kings. The tombs including the Khasneh, the Urn Tomb, the Palace Tomb and the Corinthian Tomb demonstrate an outstanding fusion of Hellenistic architecture with Eastern tradition.
  • The Great Temple is a two-level structure dating from the 1st century BC and one of the largest Nabatean complexes in Petra. It rises about 25 meters above the Colonnaded Street and consists of a Lower Temenos, accessed by steep staircases, and an Upper Temenos that contains the temple proper.
  • Theatre was constructedin the 1st century AD by Romans, at the foot of the mountain en-Nejr. Its position brings the greatest number of tombs within view. The amphitheatre has been cut into the hillside and into several of the tombs during its construction.
Petra is easily reached by road, lying roughly 250km south of the Jordanian capital, Amman. Hotels for all budgets are close at hand, and visiting independently or on a package tour is straightforward.
Bookmark and Share