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Little Petra

Little Petra: What to see and practical information

Little Petra, also known as Siq Al Barid (which means ‘cold canyon’), can be considered the ‘little sister’ of Petra, or its smaller equivalent. And as is often the case, its beauty is very similar, but its tourist crowds are much smaller. Therefore, visiting this unique space can be very rewarding and recommended, especially for those who prefer to avoid large tourist crowds. So on this page, we will tell you what to see in Little Petra and provide other information that will be of interest to you.

Table of Contents

Where is Little Petra located and what is its climate?

Little Petra is located approximately 10 km north of Petra, specifically on the outskirts of the small town of Al-Baydha. It is located in the central-southern region of Jordan, within the Ma’an Governorate, about 220 km from Amman, 100 km from Wadi Rum, and 140 km from Aqaba.

The climate in Little Petra is similar to that of Petra, which means scorching hot summers during the day (cooler nights) and winters with potentially freezing nights (milder days but with higher chances of rain). This makes the months of March, April, and May, as well as October and November, the most suitable for visiting. Outside of these months, it is still possible to visit Little Petra, but you will need to take extra care with clothing and sun protection.

Cómo llegar a Petra

A Brief History

The history of Petra is closely linked to Little Petra, as both spaces are closely interconnected. While it wasn’t a city (unlike Raqmu, the name given to it by the Nabateans), it was a small settlement that likely served as an auxiliary center, perhaps as an agricultural or resting area for caravan traders passing through Petra due to their mandatory route.

Here are some key points that will help you understand the passage of time in Little Petra:

  • 7,000 BC: Al Beidha emerges as a small Neolithic settlement, one of the oldest in history, where its inhabitants began to lead semi-sedentary lives, farming and practicing animal husbandry.
  • 6,000 BC: Likely abandonment of Al Beidha by its inhabitants.
  • 6th century BC: The neighboring Nabatean city of Petra (then known as Raqmu) begins to experience significant commercial development due to its location along caravan routes that connected Syria with Egypt and Arabia. This likely required the emergence of a service area like Little Petra for traders and other travelers.
  • 1st century BC: The Nabatean culture, territorial politics, and economy reach their peak. Many of the constructions in Petra are dated to this period.
  • 106 AD: Rome, the dominant power to the north, annexes Nabatea to its empire. Palmyra in Syria had largely replaced Petra as the regional commercial hub by this time, and this likely also affected Little Petra as an auxiliary role.
  • 2nd-6th centuries: Period of decline for the Nabatean people, further exacerbated by earthquakes in the region.
  • 7th-19th centuries: After the Arab conquest, Little Petra is largely forgotten, except by the Bedouins, who used the carved rock spaces on occasion. The new Arab civilization, whose language largely derives from Nabatean, gave it the name Siq Al Barid (‘cold canyon’).
  • 1812: Swiss explorer Jacob Burckhardt discovers Petra. Explorations and subsequent archaeological work focus on Petra, considering Little Petra as part of that city.
  • Mid-20th century: Advances in knowledge and interpretation of Little Petra attract an increasing number of tourists.
que ver pequena petra Little Petra

What to see in Little Petra

Little Petra lives up to its name: its structures are reminiscent of those in Petra, but the complex is much smaller. In any case, Petra was clearly its inspiration, as many of its monuments and techniques are reproduced here in Siq Al Barid: a canyon articulates the space and numerous structures are carved into the rock, although they do not seem to have such an evident funerary function. In this case, it has two narrow entrances, one to the east and one to the west. The eastern entrance is the most commonly used to enter, as it is closer to Al Beidha and the road, while the western entrance is formed by a large staircase carved into the rock.

The main places to see in Little Petra are:

  • Canyon (siq) that provides access to Little Petra: it is wider, with lower walls and a shorter route (400 meters) than the one in Petra, but it is still surprising and captivating.
  • Temple of Dushara, carved into the rock, in two levels and with two elegant columns on the upper floor.
  • Houses and shops carved into the rock, where the inhabitants of this locality lived and where merchants passing through would spend the night and eat.
  • Painted House: probably also used as a dining area for merchants. What is interesting is that, despite its ceiling being blackened by later use by the Bedouins, fragments of Nabatean-era murals can still be distinguished, a rarity of great historical value.
que hacer pequena petra Little Petra

What to do in Little Petra

One of the most interesting activities to do in Little Petra is hiking. There are numerous trails in the surrounding area, in a very characteristic natural environment with spectacular panoramic views. It is no coincidence that the Jordan Trail passes through here, a route that crosses the entire country. The section that passes through this area can be done in 5 days, covering approximately from Petra to Wadi Rum.

However, for those looking for something shorter and more accessible, one of the most notable trails is the “backdoor trail,” so called because it connects the back part of Petra, where the Monastery Al Deir is located, with Little Petra. From the highest points of this trail, you can even see the terrain of Wadi Araba and beyond, the Palestinian Territories and Israel on the horizon.

History and archaeology enthusiasts also have something very important to see in Little Petra: the Al Beidha archaeological site, also known as Beidha. It is one of the most significant sites from the Neolithic period, precisely because it is one of the oldest. It is believed to have been active around 7000 BC and abandoned a millennium later. Paradoxically, in this region famous later for its nomadic lifestyle, it has gone down in history as one of the first to promote agriculture and sedentism, as evidenced here. The site is located very close to the entrance of Little Petra and will be easier to interpret with the guidance of an expert.

In addition to all of this, the accommodations available here are nothing like those in “Greater Petra.” If you choose to stay overnight in Little Petra, you can opt for Bedouin camps, which are an experience in themselves. These are much more humble accommodations, as they are tents set up on the ground. However, it offers a much closer experience to the traditional way of life of the Bedouins, the true keepers of the secrets and customs of Petra. In this sense, they can offer lunches with typical food, nomadic-style tea sessions, and other details that will make your overnight stay much more special.

How to get to Little Petra

The best and only way to reach Little Petra by motorized transport is by private vehicle, such as a taxi or private buses that usually depart from Petra as excursions. However, there are no minibuses or buses with direct stops at Siq Al Barid. All options will drop you off at Wadi Musa, the town near Petra. Here is a list of distances and durations that can serve as a guide:

  • From Petra/Wadi Musa: 10 km, 15 minutes
  • From Wadi Rum: 120 km, 2 hours
  • From Amman: 220 km, 2 hours and 45 minutes
  • From Jerash: 270 km, 3 and a half hours
  • From the Dead Sea: 150 km, 2 and a half hours
  • From Karak: 140 km, 2 hours
  • From Aqaba: 140 km, 2 hours

As mentioned, there are other ways to get there without using motorized vehicles: on foot or on the back of a camel or horse. These are traditional options that both Nabateans and Bedouins have used, which you can consider as part of your trip for an authentic experience.

Plan your trip to Little Petra

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