Only 8kms west from the main Petra Visitor Centre is what can best be described as a miniature version of Petra! It is not as grand, and not as extensive, but for exactly this reason it can be the perfect stop for family travellers to Jordan to include on their itinerary.
This post is part of our series on discovering Jordan with Kids
History of Little Petra
Bearing a great resemblance to its big brother Petra, Little Petra is thought to have served as an agricultural centre, trading and resupply post for camel caravans visiting the main city of Petra during the Nabataean period.
The 350-metre long Siq al-Barid literally “cold canyon” is filled with rock-carved buildings, from the heydey of the Nabataean Empire dated back to the 1st century AD.
The nearby settlement of Al Beidha is thought to be amongst the oldest in the world, dating as far back as the 11th century BC.
What is there to see in Little Petra
The first thing that might strike you is the notable absence of big tour groups compared to Petra! In fact, the absence of any tourists really. You’d be unfortunate to meet a crowd at Little Petra.
You start in an open plaza area before the space between the rocks narrows. A grand temple face carved into the rocks beckons explorers forward, then there are several smaller rooms carved into the rock face to explore up small staircases.
There’s no signage (and no hand railings or other safety measures!) so without a guide or a guide book it’s a bit of guesswork but you can use your imagination what life may have been like during ancient times.
The most historically significant feature is “the Painted House”, a magnificent restored Nabataean fresco (the only part of the complex which is fenced off so photograph from the entrance only).
You then come to a narrow, rocky passageway through the Siq, taking you to “the best view in the world” overlooking the valley beneath. We’ll let you decide if it’s the best view!! Nonetheless, a fun explore for little ones with a sense of adventure.
The ancient neolithic period village is a short 15-minute walk away from the Little Petra site but can easily be combined into one trip. A fascinating history lesson in the transition from hunter-gatherer life to permanent settlements – though you will need to use your imagination a little!
Back entrance to Petra from Little Petra
Enthusiastic hikers can enter the back of Petra, to Ad-Deyr from the end of the canyon that leads through Little Petra. It’s recommended you only take this hike with a Bedouin guide that can be hired at the entrance to Little Petra. You can find a route map here.
(NB, this entrance is different to the “side entrance” to Little Petra in Umm Sayhon)
How to get to Little Petra
Little Petra is situated to the west of Wadi Musa township and can be found on Google maps, approximate 8km from Wadi Musa – around a 12-minute drive (if you don’t stop for photos!). It is in the Ma’an Governorate of Jordan.
From the Petra Visitor Centre, keep heading back up the hill and west – you may see signs for Umm Sayhon and Al-Badhya. Head through these small townships and as the road ends you will find (plentiful) car parking spaces for Siq Al-Barid.
You will pass by some small souvenir stands and there are some locals floating around as willing guides (though unlike other places we visited in Jordan, none seemed particularly pushy – or maybe just not keen in inviting our little explorers for a tour!).
The drive itself is scenic and serene, you will find families herding their goats and children playing in the streets, so drive slowly.
Wadi Musa is around 2 hours by car from Aqaba (King Hussein International Airport) AQJ and from Amman, 3 hours drive from Queen Alia International Airport AMM. The more scenic route via the King’s Highway will take at last 4.5 hours.
Public Transport to Little Petra
There is no public bus service out to Little Petra, but a local taxi (or even your accommodation hosts for a small tip) may be able to drive you to Little Petra if you do not have your own vehicle.
If you are coming by bus from either Aqaba or Amman, you can check the JETT Bus timetable here for the daily service times. It costs 11 JOD (around $15 USD) from Amman to Petra. To Little Petra, you would then need to pay for a connecting local taxi.
When to visit Little Petra
Like much of the country, it is best to visit during the pleasant spring and autumn seasons March to May and September to November. With the right clothing and preparation, there would be no problem trying to access the site in the peak of summer and winter.
What to pack for Little Petra
For your trip to Jordan, you will want comfortable outdoor exploration clothes on. Kids will want longer trousers or leggings for scrambling and sun protection in summer, a warm jacket and gloves for the middle of winter.
Always bring your own water supplies with you. If your kids are anything like ours, they may enjoy bringing their own little exploration tools like binoculars for exploring the site and looking out over the vast Great Rift Valley.
Eating and staying at Little Petra
As this really is only a half-day trip, we’d recommend eating back in Wadi Musa township, though you can buy some snack food bites from the small shop (or all good travelling parents will know to bring some snack supplies with you!). There’s even a small “coffee shop” at the very end of the Siq if you want to support the local traders.
Nearby accommodation you will find a few interesting camping and glamping experiences between Wadi Musa and Little Petra:
- Petra Bubble Luxotel
- Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp
- Little Petra Bedouin Camp (includes cave room options!)
What does it cost to visit Little Petra
At the time of our visit (2018), there was no entry charge to visit Little Petra. You do not need a main Petra site ticket to visit, though it is considered part of the greater Petra archaeological site.
If you are heading onward to Ad-Deir (the Monastery), you should have a ticket though there’s no ticket checkpoint.
How long do you need to explore Little Petra?
We only spent around 1.5 hours there, but for your under 6’s crowd, that is probably more than enough time to enjoy the highlights of Siq al-Barid. Adults with a longer attention span could add in the side trip to Al Beidha and easily spend 2.5 to 3 hours examining the site in detail.
There are no offers of camels and donkey’s to help you out, but most little legs will manage the walk to the end of the Siq and back. You will need to take care with small children climbing the staircases, an infant carrier may be advisable for this part of your visit.
It is really only a small side step of a larger Jordan road trip itinerary so if there’s flexibility in your schedule, it’s truly a must-stop for little explorers.
Would we visit Little Petra instead of Petra? No, I think you’d be doing yourself an injustice not to attempt Petra too, just be prepared for a big day ou. Read our complete guide to Petra to prepare yourself here.
Article contributed by Keri Hedrick, avid family traveller, mum of three and editor of Family Travel in the Middle East. You can keep up with more of Keri’s regional family adventures on Instagram @ourglobetrotters.