Despite its name, the Roman Theater (Nabataean Theater) was actually built by the Nabataeans over 2,000 years ago. This massive and impressive theater in the ancient city of Petra was carved out of rock into the side of a mountain, destroying existing caves and tombs in the process, though you can still see some tombs above the theater.
The auditorium and the orchestra area of the Roman Theater, built at the time of Aretas IV (9 BC–AD 40), were cut out of rock, while the stage building was built separately. The theater follows the plan typical of Greco-Roman theaters, where the seating extends to the orchestra level. Originally designed to seat 4,000, it was expanded under Roman rule after AD 106 to seat up to 8,500. The theater, damaged by an earthquake in AD 363, remains one of the most popular sites in Petra.
Visit the Roman Theater and other Petra highlights, such as the Treasury and the Monastery, on a guided tour. Those with more time can take a multi-day tour of top Jordan attractions, including Petra, Jerash, and the Dead Sea. Tours also originate from either Eilat or Tel Aviv in Israel, and include single-day and multi-day options.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Wear comfortable, sturdy shoes to explore Petra, as there will be a lot of walking.
- Bring sun protection and lots of water, especially in the summer.
- Cafés and stalls sell souvenirs near the Roman Theater.
How to Get There
The Roman Theater is located inside the ancient city of Petra, three hours by car from Amman and two hours from the port town of Aqaba. From Petra’s entrance at the end of the Siq, it’s about 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) to the theater, past the Treasury and the Street of Facades. Hiking around Petra, a huge site, can be taxing; some opt to hire donkeys or camels to navigate the complex.
When to Get There
The best times to visit Petra are in the early morning—independent travelers can aim to be at the gate at 6am—or late afternoon, to beat the crowds and the heat. Petra’s sights are known for the way the sunlight plays on them throughout the day, beginning at sunrise, but not for lovely sunsets. Photographers are better off aiming for an early arrival.
The Street of Facades and the High Place of Sacrifice are both close to the Roman Theater and worth a visit. You’ll pass by the Street of Facades, featuring tombs with beautiful carvings, on your way to the Roman Theater. The High Place of Sacrifice requires a decent hike up, but the expansive views over Petra are worth the extra work. Hike down through Wadi Farasa to see additional tombs, such as the Garden Tomb and the Soldier’s Tomb.