Petra Alternatives

Alternatives and related sites


For many years, the ruins at Petra were the only relic of the Nabataean culture that could be visited. There was a tendency to treat Petra as if it were unique: a singular artifact, the only creation of this particular culture.

In fact, the Nabataeans controlled an area that stretched across a large part of the Middle East, and left behind numerous sites. An increasing number of these sites have now been opened up to tourism.

Nabataean Sites

Little Petra

Located close to the main site at Petra, Little Petra or Siq al-Barid is a smaller collection of Nabataean buildings sometimes described as a ‘suburb’ of Petra. Little Petra is usually less crowded than Petra, and admission is free.

Mada’in Saleh

With more than 130 rock-cut tombs similar to those found at Petra, Mada’in Saleh in Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ula province is perhaps the second most important Nabataean site after Petra. Formerly closed to tourism, Mada’in Saleh can now be visited by foreign as well as Saudi tourists. By the end of 2020, it should be possible to visit the site year-round.

Avdat, Mampsis, Haluza, Nitzana and Shivta

Located in Israel’s Negev desert, these restored Nabataean cities were part of the extensive network of caravan routes that made up the Nabataean kingdom.

For a fuller list of Nabataean archaeological sites, see Wikipedia’s page about the Nabataeans.

Other tourist attractions in Jordan

In addition to Petra, visitors to Jordan often visit the desert at Wadi Rum, Crusader-era castles such as Kerak, and Greco-Roman ruins at sites such as Jerash and Umm-Qais.