Situated close to the Roman Theater, the Royal Tombs are carved dramatically into the cliffs above the city, and their facades reveal many Roman and ancient Greek influences. Notable tombs include the vast Urn Tomb, later used as a church, the three-story Palace Tomb, and the Silk Tomb, with its natural swirls of color.
The Royal Tombs, which were carved from rose-red sandstone by the Nabateans more than 2,300 years ago, sit at the heart of the ancient city of Petra. As such, you’ll need a Petra admission ticket to see them; note that the two-day and three-day entrance tickets are excellent value compared to the single-day Petra ticket.
The vast majority of Petra day tours will allow visitors to glimpse the Royal Tombs from the outside and identify the signature tombs; however, only a few will ascend the many steps that can be involved in actually seeing the tombs up close. If an in-depth tour is on your bucket list, consider hiring a private guide.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Petra is a UNESCO World Heritage site; even if you’re not a history buff, it’s worth a visit.
- Use sunscreen and wear a hat; the Royal Tombs are in full sun for much of the day.
- Follow the steps between the Palace Tomb and the Sextius Florentinus Tomb for a spectacular view of the Treasury.
How to Get There
Minibuses from Amman and Aqaba stop at the station in the town of Wadi Musa, a bit over a mile (2 kilometers) from the Petra Visitor Center. If you aim to visit as a day trip, either drive or skip the hassle with an organized tour. The Royal Tombs are on the lower level of the Petra site.
When to Get There
The most popular times to visit Jordan are spring and fall: mid-March to mid-May and mid-September to mid-November. To beat the crowds, consider braving either the surprising cool of winter or the intense heat of summer. Whatever the time of year, the Royal Tombs look at their best in the warm light of sunset, so try to time your Royal Tombs tour to coincide with that.
Petra: City of the Dead?
Originally nomadic Arab traders, the Nabateans, who built Petra, began to rise to prominence during the 4th century BC, and were at the peak of their power around the time of Jesus Christ. Petra is home to more than 1,000 tombs, and the overwhelming majority of its surviving buildings are devoted to the dead.