The ancient city of Petra, nestled in the Shara Mountains of southern Jordan, dates back nearly 2,000 years. This once prosperous and vital trade city, nicknamed the “Rose City” owing to the pink-hued color of the surrounding cliffs, will awe you and your kids with its large facades carved directly into the mountainsides.
On a recent vacation to Israel, my husband and I decided to visit Jordan for a chance to see Petra with with our baby. Visiting Petra with a baby became an instant highlight of our family trip, and the site lived up to the hype. Even better, it was easier than expected to travel to Petra with our baby, which made it a winner on all fronts!
Whether you’ve always wanted to visit Petra with your kids or are just now adding it to your travel bucket list, I’m happy to tell you that your baby can tag along for this adventure!
Petra with a Baby or Toddler
- How to Visit Petra from Israel
- How to Get to Wadi Musa/Petra with a Baby
- Take a Petra Tour with a Baby or Toddler
- Stroller or Baby Carrier for Petra
- Top 7 Things to See in Petra
- Eating and Drinking in Petra
- Eating and Drinking in Wadi Musa
- How Long to Spend in Petra with a Baby
- Jordan’s Baby-Friendly Culture
- Final Tips for Visiting Petra with a Baby or Toddler
- Visit the Middle East with a Baby
- Pin It For Later!
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How to Visit Petra from Israel
We visited Petra with our baby as part of a more extensive vacation in Israel and entered Jordan overland. There are three border crossings between Israel and Jordan, but the Yitzhak Rabin Terminal/Wadi Araba Crossing near Eilat (Israel) and Aqaba (Jordan) is the most convenient border crossing for visiting Petra.
Border crossings can be time-consuming. However, with some research and preparation on our part, entering Jordan from Israel went smoothly and took just under an hour.
There are two important things to know about crossing the border overland from Israel to Jordan.
- There are fees to pay on both sides of the Israel / Jordan border. On the Israeli side, there is a per-person exit tax (this includes the baby) of 105 NIS (New Israeli Shekels) – approximately $30. If you stay less than two nights in Jordan, you will need to pay a visa fee (we stayed two nights and did not have to). There is also a Jordanian exit tax of 10 Jordanian Dinars (JD) per person – about $14.
- The second critical item for crossing overland from Israel into Jordan is that you must prearrange your Jordanian visa as it cannot be applied for at the border. This can be done at a Jordanian embassy (if you’re fortunate to live near one) or, much more conveniently, by your tour operator as part of your travel arrangements (more on this later).
Crossing the border from Israel to Jordan with a baby was a breeze, though admittedly our son slept through the whole experience.
If you nurse your baby, I recommend feeding him or her in Israel before crossing into Jordan. Breastfeeding in Israel is widely accepted, and mothers have the right to nurse in any public space.
The culture in Jordan is different and breastfeeding in Jordan will require you to be more discreet. Unfortunately, there is nowhere to nurse on the Jordanian side of the border.
Once your passport has been stamped and you’ve officially arrived in Jordan, it’s time to make your way to Petra!
How to Get to Wadi Musa/Petra with a Baby
The Israel / Jordan border crossing is in a suburb of Aqaba and there is no public transit from the border directly to Petra. If you have not prearranged your transportation through a tour operator, there are two options for getting to Petra:
- The first option is to hire one of the many taxis idling by the border to drive you to Petra. This two-hour drive will cost you approximately 65-75 JD ($90-$105) one way.
- The second option is to take a cab to the port city of Aqaba (5-10 JD; $7-$14). The taxis from Aqaba to Petra are cheaper (30 JD one way; $42), and there is also the option of taking a public minibus from the downtown bus station (5 JD; $7). You will need to negotiate with the taxi driver before accepting a ride – make sure you have agreed on a fare prior to setting off.
Take a Petra Tour with a Baby or Toddler
The best way to visit Petra with a toddler or baby is by booking a tour. Between visas, transportation, admission fees, and a guide within the park, the process to visit Petra is complex. A tour operator will pre-arrange your visa, provide transportation to and from the border, purchase your admission tickets, and provide a guide for your visit to Petra (which will add more depth to your experience).
Without a tour operator, you will have to figure out the logistics on your own, which is likely to be difficult, time consuming, and stressful (particularly when you are visiting Petra with a baby).
The financial savings of visiting Petra without a tour operator may not be as much as you expect either, as much will depend on your negotiation skills.
If you are traveling to Petra with a toddler or baby, the best option is to book a private tour. While this may seem more expensive than a group tour, be aware that group tours may charge the full tour cost for your baby if he or she takes up a seat in the van or bus.
We arranged a private tour of Petra with a Jordanian operator, and the convenience and flexibility were worth every penny (and cost less than the quotes we received from the group tour operators we contacted).
Another reason we went with a private tour was that the tour operator provided a car seat, which meant we didn’t need to lug ours across the border. If you are willing to spend a bit more money to visit Petra with your kids, working with a tour operator is a worthwhile investment.
By booking through a Petra tour operator you will spend more time enjoying your visit and less time stressing over the logistics. Thankfully there are plenty of kid-friendly Petra tours to choose from.
Stroller or Baby Carrier for Petra
We don’t recommend visiting Petra with a stroller, however a good toddler or baby carrier for travel is a must when visiting Petra with a baby. In fact, we didn’t even bring our stroller to Jordan!
Visiting the archaeological park is akin to taking a long hike. While the main road is relatively flat and smooth, most of the sites involve climbing uphill and many steep ascents (with stairs). You will be carrying your baby all day, so make sure your baby carrier is comfortable!
If you are visiting Petra with a toddler, moving up to a toddler carrier will ensure both you and your toddler are comfortable all day.
Top 7 Things to See in Petra
The history of Petra and the Nabataean people is fascinating. The Nabataeans, who I admittedly had not heard of, were once a prosperous nation that controlled the Levantine trade routes for nearly 400 years. During the second century CE, the Nabataeans were absorbed by the Roman Empire and their legacy forgotten until the “rediscovery” of Petra by Swiss explorer Johann Burckhardt in 1812.
This history of a lost ancient city and forgotten culture is a big part of what makes Petra so fascinating. Add to that the incredible carved facades that have remained remarkably intact through the millennia, and it’s easy to understand why over a million tourists visited in 2019.
To get to Petra you must walk through the Siq, a narrow canyon whose walls tower over 600 feet tall. Along the way you will see a few carvings in the canyon walls, but nothing compares to that moment when you turn a corner and suddenly, through a break in the canyon walls, you see the Treasury.
1. The Treasury
It’s impossible to miss the Treasury when visiting Petra with kids as it’s the first thing you see when exiting the Siq. This facade is the most famous sight in Petra, and rightfully so. There is a vendor here selling tea, coffee, and other refreshments, and I recommend stopping here to rest, feed your baby, and take in your surroundings.
If you arrive early and it’s not too crowded, Petra’s Treasury is a good place to let your baby or toddler out of the carrier to run around a bit. Just be wary of donkeys and camels posing with tourists!
If you want a good family photo on the cliff overlooking the Treasury, face the Treasury and turn right. Walk until you reach the cliff wall and follow the trail until it ends (there will be a lot of other tourists doing this climb so it will be hard to miss!). The ascent is steep, but in just a few minutes you will be at a great vantage point looking over the marvelous facade of the Treasury.
2. The Theatre
Past the Treasury is a large Nabatean amphitheater that can seat 4,000 people! This is the only theatre in the world carved into rock.
3. The Royal Tombs
The Royal Tombs are a set of four facades carved high up the cliffs overlooking the valley. The hike to the Royal Tombs up is not too strenuous, and once at the top you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of the ancient city.
The uppermost facade, named the Palace Tomb, is five stories tall and was most likely used for banquets. It’s also one of the few facades you can enter, allowing you to view the Nabatean chisel marks up close. This open space is a good place to let your baby or toddler out of the carrier to stretch their legs.
4. The Church
Dating back to the fifth century CE, the church was constructed using repurposed materials from other monuments in Petra. Most of the structure was destroyed in earthquakes, though the intricate floor mosaics have been preserved.
5. The Monastery
The Monastery is one of the largest facades in Petra – even larger than the Treasury! Getting to the Monastery requires a strenuous 40-minute uphill climb, mostly up stairs. It’s worth the effort though, since once you reach the top not only are you rewarded with an incredible facade, but also stunning views of the Arava Valley.
Along the way to the Monastery you will pass by numerous souvenir stalls, as well as vendors selling water and sodas. When you reach the top there is a vendor selling coffee, tea, and fresh pomegranate juice (if in season), as well as snacks. The Monastery is a good place to stop for a break (you’ll need one after the hike up!), grab some refreshments, and feed your baby.
Prepare yourself for your family trip to Petra with our tips on hiking with a baby.
6. The Collonaded Street
Collonaded Street was the main thoroughfare and ancient shopping street for the city of Petra. Along it you’ll see many ruins, including the Great Temple, which was excavated through a multi-year effort led by Brown University.
The Collonaded Street is a good place to let an energetic child run around a bit. Our son loved pointing at the donkeys and camels and even socialized with some Bedouin children collecting pottery shards. If you do let your child walk around here, keep an eye out for donkeys that may run by at high speeds.
7. The Museum
At the entrance to the Petra Archaeological Park is a brand-new museum highlighting the history of the Nabataean people and artifacts unearthed through archaeological excavations. The Petra museum is an excellent introduction to the site and will take about an hour of your time.
I recommend visiting the museum first to provide context for your trip to Petra. However, if you are eager to enter the ancient city and beat the crowds, then rest assured that the museum is open late (until 8 PM).
Eating and Drinking in Petra
Once you are inside the Petra gates there is only one restaurant, which serves an overpriced but decent buffet. There are also many places to stop for tea, coffee, and snacks, but I recommend bringing in any food you need for your baby. Bottled water is readily available, so you don’t need to worry about running out.
If you breastfeed your baby, be aware that nursing in public may be frowned upon and draw unwanted attention. If you are nursing during the day while visiting Petra with your baby, consider bringing a good cover-up and choosing a comfortable and secluded spot away from crowds.
Eating and Drinking in Wadi Musa
Outside the park, the city of Wadi Musa offers plentiful dining options. There are numerous Jordanian restaurants to choose from and it’s hard to go wrong with your selection! All the restaurants we ate at in Wadi Musa had highchairs and the casual atmosphere was baby-friendly.
I recommend you try traditional Jordanian dishes such as mansaf (lamb cooked in yogurt and served with rice) or maqluba (a casserole of rice, meat, and veggies). No Jordanian meal is complete without mezze and salads, so be sure to order a few to sample (my favorites were kibbeh, a ground stuffed meat, and of course hummus).
After dinner be sure to grab some baklava at one of the bakeries. If you’re in the mood for a real treat, pick up a warm slice of knafeh, a Jordanian sweet consisting of melted cheese and vermicelli noodles smothered in sweet syrup.
How Long to Spend in Petra with a Baby
You only need one day to see the Petra Archaeological Park, and many visitors arrive in the morning and leave in the evening. While this may be practical for some travelers, it makes for a long day with lots of driving – not something I recommend if visiting Petra with a toddler or baby.
Also, on a one-day trip you will not have time to visit the Monastery, which is a definite highlight.
Instead, I recommend spending two nights in Wadi Musa. Arriving the evening before will be easier on your baby (and by extension on you!), and you’ll also be able to get an early start the next morning, maximizing your time at the Petra site. The two nights will also allow you to explore Wadi Musa in depth, which has excellent restaurants and dessert shops.
Jordan’s Baby-Friendly Culture
I don’t think any culture loves babies as much as Jordanians do! Everywhere we went people would fawn over our baby son. When we arrived at our hotel in Jordan the staff welcomed us with tea and cookies, and even gave our son his own giant cookie to enjoy!
One of the concierges was so enamored with our son that he picked him up and walked him around the lobby while we checked in. He even gave our son his own sand art bottle (the local crafts souvenir) for free.
This experience at our hotel was not unique, and we soon learned that babies are loved by Jordanians. On our second night in Wadi Musa we walked to the city center for dinner, and on the way stopped into a bakery to buy baklava. While deciding on what combination of the delicious sweets to bring home with us, the owner of the bakery handed our son a cookie to munch on!
If you’re on the fence about visiting Petra with a baby, I hope that knowing how much Jordanians love babies will be the extra nudge you need to go ahead and book that trip!
Final Tips for Visiting Petra with a Baby or Toddler
- Bring a portable changing pad to use on the ground for diaper changes. None of the bathrooms we went to in Petra had changing tables, so outdoors was the only option.
- Dress your baby in layers and make sure to bring a hat for them. During winter the days start cold and warm up. The sun is also strong and there is little shade. We dressed our baby in layers that we peeled off during the warmer times of the day.
- Your visit to Petra will require lots of hiking and time on your feet, so I suggest opting for a baby or toddler carrier that you and your baby will be comfortable using for many hours.
- The town of Wadi Musa has small convenience stores that sell diapers and wipes in case you run out during your visit.
- You don’t need to carry all the water you need for the day, especially since you’re already carrying your baby! There are countless vendors selling water bottles and refreshments throughout the archaeological park.
Travel has taken me to many ancient sites, but Petra is one of the best. Not only is the ancient city of Petra remarkably well preserved, but the carved facades are beautifully detailed and unique to this site. On top of being a remarkable archaeological site, it is also scenic and surrounded by natural beauty.
We loved our visit to Petra with our baby and were blown away by the beauty of the site and the hospitality of the Jordanians we met. I highly recommend you visit Petra and experience this marvel for yourself.
Thanks to Tamar of World By Weekend for this guest post!
Tamar is a New York City based data analyst who blogs about weekend adventures with her husband and one-year old son. She loves exploring her adopted home city, as well as adventuring further afield—when vacation hours allow! You can find her at www.worldbyweekend.com or on Instagram @worldbyweekend.