A northern satellite of Petra, Little Petra centers on a narrow canyon known as Siq al-Barid. With its water cisterns, carved houses, and rock-cut stairs, it has more of a lived-in feel than Petra proper. Its signature site, the Painted House, is home to one of the only surviving Nabatean painted interiors, which features jaw-dropping frescoes.
Although it’s physically separate from the site of Petra itself, Little Petra can be accessed on the same ticket: the two-day or two-day Petra entrance tickets are both a great value. Little Petra has much less signage than big Petra, so you’ll probably want to hire a guide or join a Little Petra tour.
Some multi-day Jordan tours visit both Little Petra and Petra proper, and some Petra day tours also include a stop at Little Petra. Some Little Petra tours focus exclusively on the Nabatean ruins around Siq al-Barid, while others also take in the neolithic village of Al-Beidha and geological features.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Archaeologists believe Little Petra was built to house traders passing through on the Silk Road.
- While less spectacular than Petra proper, Little Petra is considerably less crowded.
- The ancient water cisterns outside Siq al-Barid are still functioning: local Bedouin sometimes bring their livestock into Little Petra to drink water.
How to Get There
You can reach Little Petra by taxi or by driving from either Petra or Wadi Musa, the jumpoff town for Petra; it’s around 6 miles (9 kilometers) from the visitor center. A fascinating walk leads to Little Petra through the mountains from the Monastery (Al Deir). The 4-mile (6-kilometer) hike takes about 2.5 hours, and you’ll need a guide.
When to Get There
Little Petra is less crowded than big Petra, but it does attract group tours, most of which visit in the afternoons. Aim to arrive in the morning, as close as possible to 6am, to get the best experience. Peak seasons for Petra tours and Little Petra tours—as well as Jordan tourism generally—are spring and fall: roughly mid-March to mid-May and mid-September to mid-November.
The Painted House at Little Petra
Hidden under the soot and grime of Bedouin cooking fires for centuries, the 2,000-year-old frescoes at Little Petra’s Painted House were discovered in the late aughts and carefully restored. Created by Nabateans in the Greek style, they focus on the worship of Dionysus, god of wine; the birds, insects, vines, and cherubs are startlingly realistic.