Little Petra and the Way to Wadi Rum

Climbing up stairs to the painted dining hall at Little Petra

Many people get in and out of Petra in a day.  If you’ve got a little more time on your hands then there are a couple of extra things to see in Wadi Musa and the surrounding area.  We’d recommend staying for at least a couple of nights to see Petra By Night and explore Little Petra if you possibly can.

Petra By Night

Wadi Musa from our hotel
Wadi Musa from our hotel

We arrived in Petra on a Thursday evening and had just enough time to dump our bags before heading straight out to see Petra By Night.  This isn’t held every evening and we re-arranged our schedule to make sure that we got to experience it.

The night starts with a candle-lit walk down the Siq.  It’s a totally different experience to walking through this narrow canyon in the daytime.  The group that we were with tore down the Siq as quickly as they could, probably to get seats in the front row.  Mobile phones were waved about to light their way which we felt spoiled the effect of the candle-lit path somewhat; but the path is uneven.  The kids were totally shattered from our long day driving along the King’s Highway so I carried Bee and the husband carried the Cub.  She complained quite a bit as we walked so we weren’t optimistic about the evening!

Petra By Night
The Treasury lit during Petra By Night

The Treasury was lit softly by the light of hundreds of candles arranged carefully in front of it.  We sat down on mats placed on the floor by the entrance to the Siq; when everyone had settled, our Bedouin host for the evening began to play the rababa.  This is a stringed instrument played with a bow but held on the lap.  It has an eerie, haunting quality; the sound is thin and reedy and perfectly suited to the desert.  The kids really settled down when the music began, almost as though they were hypnotised into silence (to big sighs of relief from the husband and me).

We were served apple tea and listed to a talk on Petra before a little free time to take photos.  However taking photos while holding a feeding baby is easier said than done so I hardly got a decent shot.  Never mind – at least the kids behaved!

Little Petra (Siq al-Barid)

Little Petra is only a short drive away from Wadi Musa and is worth a look.  It’s possible to hike from Petra to Little Petra if you’re feeling energetic and aren’t weighed down by toddlers.  We visited Little Petra on the way to Wadi Rum the day after our visit to Petra.

Walking through the mini-Siq at Little Petra
Walking through the mini-Siq at Little Petra

Little Petra is exactly what you’d expect.  As with its bigger sister, you find the carved facades of Little Petra’s buildings by walking through a narrow canyon, although it’s minuscule compared to the Siq.

The carved buildings of Little Petra
The carved buildings of Little Petra

Unlike Petra, the buildings of Siq al-Barad were not tombs, although they look very similar.  Little Petra acted as a rest-station for travellers to do business and feast in the cool rooms of the canyon.

Climbing up stairs to the painted dining hall at Little Petra
Climbing up stairs to the painted dining hall
Ancient painted scene depicting Roman deities in the dining hall at Little Petra
Ancient painted scene depicting Roman deities in the dining hall

There were several halls for feasting and, climbing up some steep stairs, we found a leafy pattern painted on the ceiling of one.  These old rooms seemed a lot more open and easier to explore than the ones at Petra so the husband and I looked around them while the Cub built some sandcastles outside.

Looking through the carved cave rooms of Little Petra
Looking through the carved cave rooms

The canyon is very narrow and fairly short.  It had rained about a week before our visit; grass was growing on the ground and we could see the channels where water flowed down the cliffs.  The Nabateans conserved water carefully and held it in large cisterns that you can peer into, helping to make Siq al-Barad an oasis in the desert.

As we walked back to our car we met a Bedouin chap just hanging out with his rababa, as you do.  He didn’t speak English but posed obligingly for a few dinar.

Bedouin man in traditional dress playing the rababa, Little Petra
Bedouin man in traditional dress playing the rababa

The Drive to Wadi Rum

Moses' rock and spring in Wadi Musa
Moses’ rock and spring in Wadi Musa

On the way out of Wadi Musa we made a very brief stop at a little shrine of sorts to see a spring coming out of a rock; allegedly the doing of Moses.  This is the spring that the Nabateans harnessed for Petra.  If you’re interested in religious sites, you can also visit the nearby Mount Harun where some accounts say that Aaron, Moses’ brother, died and was buried.

On the way to Little Petra, we drove along the cliffs surrounding Petra and got a last tantalising glimpse of the Royal Tombs before we drove through the nearby Bedouin town.  The Jordanian government made most of the Bedouins who lived in Petra’s tombs move out so that it could be opened up to tourists.  Most of the Bedouins who live here now work in Petra as guides or souvenir sellers.

Looking down into Petra's valley
Looking down into Petra’s valley

Just before we left Petra’s valley we paused for a look back over the desert.  What a view – even a little haze didn’t spoil it.  We carried on, through mountainsides covered in juniper trees, until we stopped very briefly at Shobak (or Montreal) castle.  This was a crusader castle originally, but it was destroyed about 70 years after being built.  Montreal castle finally fell to the famous Saladin after a two year siege, and most of what remains today was built by Mameluks.

Montreal (Shobak) Castle, Jordan
Montreal (Shobak) Castle

It was a shame that we didn’t have time to go inside.  But we had to get to Wadi Rum’s spellbinding desert for the afternoon, where we would spend the night in tents under the stars.

Know before you go

Petra By Night runs on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings.  Buy tickets from your hotel, tour representatives or in local shops for 17 Jordanian dinar per person (children under 10 are free).  The tour begins at 20.30 at the Visitor Centre and lasts for about 2 hours.

We were on a private tour with Jordan Select Tours.  If you’re travelling independently you can hire taxis to take you along this route.


Have you heard of Little Petra? Not far from its larger namesake, Little Petra is worth exploring.
Have you heard of Little Petra? Not far from its larger namesake, Little Petra is worth exploring.

55 thoughts on “Little Petra and the Way to Wadi Rum

  1. The Great Wide Somewhere says:

    First of all, I never knew there was a “Little Petra”, and these photos are gorgeous! I’m going to Petra and Wadi Rum this summer, and this is making me so excited!! I hope I can try to make it to this destination as well 🙂

    • Emily Cole says:

      Great, I hope you make it to Little Petra too! Even if you don’t I’m sure Petra and Wadi Rum will blow you away!

  2. gokulr27 says:

    Such a magical place. I always thought this to me a touristy place. Stunned to see that you guys got the whole place to yourself. Great photos.

    • Emily Cole says:

      The whole of Petra was amazing. Even though we saw the most amount of tourists in Petra, it still wasn’t as busy as we expected. Jordan as a whole was very quiet. There were about 3 other people at Little Petra which surprised us – we thought there would be more!

  3. 100cobbledroads says:

    Petra is really surreal, with all those rocky walk routes and the giant mountains. That’s an interesting musical instrument..the rababa. And i would love to know how that apple tea tastes.

    • Emily Cole says:

      Delicious – there’s more than a little sugar in it! Petra is beautiful! The music of the rababa really suited it.

    • Emily Cole says:

      You have to be prepared! Reverse psychology works a lot of the time – if we’re too enthusiastic about something she won’t want to look!

  4. Dang Travelers says:

    I feel like there are so many spots that we overlook as a longer stop. We visited Pompeii a few years ago and only allotted a few hours and in the end I wished we had the whole day. Thanks for sharing the tip!

    • Emily Cole says:

      I think that sometimes it’s worth slowing down if you possibly can, and get to some lesser-known places. I would also love to visit Pompeii and I’ll now make sure I go for a full day!

  5. corinnevail says:

    Isn’t Jordan a wonderful country to travel in. We loved it. It’s great you got to see Petra at night. That’s one thing we missed out on. Can’t wait to read about Wadi Rum.

    • Emily Cole says:

      Yes, it’s amazing! We will definitely go back; we felt there was much more we didn’t get to see and we would go back to Petra in a heartbeat.

    • Emily Cole says:

      It is an incredible place. We were lucky the kids behaved themselves during Petra By Night after such a long day!

  6. Evie says:

    This was a real step back in time for me as I visited 20 years ago! I didn’t know there was a Little Petra! I would love to visit with my daughter too. Thanks for the inspiration.

  7. Becky Angell says:

    Ah fantastic post, Jordan is defintely on my list. I had no idea they did the Petra by Night, that looks great. I know you mentioned it’s not on all the time but is it just peak tourist seasons or is it on all year?

    • Emily Cole says:

      It’s every week, I think the only time it might be cancelled is if they have a lot of rainfall which can flow down the sides of the Siq. You’d need to take a warm jumper in the winter!

  8. Csecsi says:

    I have always wanted to visit Petra but I had no clue that there is a little Petra as well.I have to put it on our bucket list. I totally feel with you when you are travelling with kids and you are visiting places like this and you are hoping that they gonna behave or fell asleep. Nice post by the way!

    • Emily Cole says:

      Yes every minute is spent praying that they will be quiet at the right times! It’s just part and parcel of travelling with kids though. Glad you liked the post!

  9. sunsetscribble says:

    Wow, Petra looks beautiful! I’d love to visit there someday. Your photos are stunning, my favorite is of the Treasury lit by night. It sounds like quite a unique experience to be there at night with so many candles, and having the host play music, very neat.

    • Emily Cole says:

      Thanks; glad you liked the photos! I was cross I couldn’t get clear ones with the candles but a wriggling baby on your back means it’s very hard to hold the camera steady! It was a lovely experience though.

  10. manders1397 says:

    Little Petra sounds like an awesome place to explore! And the night show sounds very cool. I’ll have to add this to my list of places to go! Thanks for sharing your day!

  11. Tony (tonyandkimoutdooradventures) says:

    Without a lie I had to look up Little Petra. I don’t look too much into the middle east. Love the facades and narrow canyons. The morning sunrise and afternoon sunsets would be great to capture.

    • Emily Cole says:

      I hadn’t heard of it until I started to plan the trip. I wish we could have stayed at Petra for sunset but such is travelling with kids – you march to the beat of their drum!

  12. AllGudThings says:

    Little Petra looks different and those rocky walls and mountains look extremely magnificent. At sunset and sunrise the whole area will glow and I am sure the pictures will come with various hues.

    • Emily Cole says:

      I hope you get to go Ami! It’s wonderful. (Don’t forget Jerash and Wadi Rum too – they are also pretty incredible!)

  13. Dhaval Parmar says:

    Petra is really adventurist life to travel with prity kids, with all those rocky walk routes and the giant mountains. That’s an interesting musical instrument.. And i would love to know how that apple tea tastes.

  14. finaciofotografia says:

    Jordan in on my bucket list from long ago but to be honest I didn’t know about little Petra 😀
    And looks its not that far if we can do it by walk, I will do it for sure, loved the pictures… I believe at night just with the candles it looks magic!

    • Emily Cole says:

      It was definitely too far to hike with kids; but I know that people definitely do hike between the two although I couldn’t tell you how long it would take. And yes, at night Petra was truly magical!

  15. Rebecca says:

    Beautiful photos. This takes me back to when I visited Jordan in 2013 and hiked from Little Petra to Petra. Gorgeous scenery but some scary cliffs so definitely didn’t seem kid-friendly 🙂

    • Emily Cole says:

      Thanks Rebecca. We’d like to do more hiking when we return to Jordan in a few years. There were some pretty sheer drops when we walked up to the Monastery so we kept a firm grip on the kids!

  16. Sandy N Vyjay says:

    Petra by Night looks glorious and stunning. How could someone miss this beautiful sight? Little Petra is far more amazing and mysteriously beautiful. I loved all the pictures you put have put up

    • Emily Cole says:

      We would definitely say Petra By Night is unmissable! And Little Petra is worth exploring for sure. I’m glad you liked the photos 🙂

  17. Where Monica Goes says:

    Okay, so I must admit I have never heard of “Little Petra” before reading your article. It is a wonderful read and discovery! I must say I like the tours done at night. The Treasury looks magical with the candles! Would you recommend doing the same tour like you had or just doing it by myself?

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