From Amman to Petra by car, bus, and tour options

The route from Amman to Petra (and then Wadi Rum and Aqaba) is one of the most popular in Jordan. Amman is the capital, the biggest city, and likely your gateway to Jordan, while Petra is… is Petra. Jordan’s most prominent landmark is the main reason why so many people travel to Jordan. One of the new seven wonders of the world.

This post will explore everything you need to know before going from Amman to Petra. We think the best way to visit Jordan is by renting a car, so we will initially focus on going from Amman to Petra by car. We will talk about the best route (and the alternatives), the best stops on the way, and the things you may need to know.

However, there are other options; it is possible to take public transportation, a private transfer, or even an organized tour—either a one-day tour or more.

From Amman to Petra by car

The most flexible way to explore Jordan is by car. It will allow you to spend as much time as you want in each place, stopping whenever you want and going off-trail if you feel like it. On the other hand, it can also be quick and convenient if you wish.

Renting a car in Jordan is not cheap, but it won’t break your wallet. Expect 30+ JD (over 40 USD) per day for a small car with AC. Larger cars should cost more. There are plenty of rental cars in Amman, and by the airport, so you shouldn’t have much trouble finding a car.

From Amman to Petra by car, bus, and tour options
Petra Jordan

Road trip itineraries from Amman to Petra

In general, the roads in Jordan aren’t great, but they are perfectly drivable with a small car. However, you should note that there are some potholes, and many bumps, particularly when entering, along, and exiting towns. They are also a bit difficult to spot, so be careful.

Jordan has no tolls, so you don’t need to worry about that. On the other hand, you should practice defensive driving; Jordanians are notoriously poor drivers.

There are three main North to South roads in Jordan; each one has its advantages and disadvantages:

  • The Dead Sea Highway – Road 65, along the Dead Sea and the Jordan valley rift, on west Jordan.
  • The King’s Highway – Road 35, the central Road.
  • The Desert Highway – Through the desert, the Eastern Road.
Roads from Amman to Petra
The Dead Sea Highway, one of the itineraries to go from Amman to Petra and then to Aqaba

Amman to Petra – the sightseeing route

The King’s Highway is our suggestion if you have the whole day to reach Petra. In our opinion, it is worth taking a full day as the King’s Highway goes through several of Jordan’s most famous landmarks, which is why we called it the sightseeing route.

Despite being the central route, it is 260 Km and is the slowest as it goes through several villages and towns along the way. It should take about 5 hours to go from Amman to Petra without stopping, but it makes no sense to take this highway and not stop a few times. So, let’s explore what you’ll find along the way (from north to south).

  • Madaba – is one of the most charming towns in Jordan. It is famous for its mosaics, particularly the Mosaic Map of Madaba, a 6th-century map of the Middle East.
  • Jordan Grand Canyon – A huge canyon formed by the Wadi Mujib River – one of the most impressive natural sights in Jordan.
  • Karak Castle -The biggest castle in Jordan. It’s a really pleasant attraction and a great stop along the way. Close to the castle, you’ll also find plenty of eating options. We loved the food at Adel Halabi.
  • Dana Reserve – Beautiful reserve for sightseeing and hiking.
  • Shoubak Castle – Another impressive castle along the way. It’s easier to visit as it is not inside the town as Karak is.
  • Little Petra – a preview of Petra, but you should be aware that it closes at 18h, so you need to get there before that. Note that even if you don’t want to go to Little Petra, we suggest taking the detour anyway. That Road is breathtaking.

Almost all the stops mentioned here are part of the most famous landmarks in Jordan. Have a look here to learn more about each one.

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Top Tip

It may be a good idea to escape Amman traffic and rumble the day before. You can drive to Madaba, spend the night there, and start the next day. Madaba has several excellent restaurants and Hotel options, and it is also only 25 minutes away from the airport.

How to go from Amman to Petra
View of Jordan Grand Canyon on The King’s Highway

The Dead Sea Highway

The Dead Sea Highway is possibly a better option if you are going all the way to Aqaba or even Wadi Rum. It isn’t as quick as the Desert Highway, nor has as many highlights as the King’s Road, but it is scenic. It goes through some villages but is much fewer than the King’s Road. Most of it is in good shape, but the worse part is around Potash city.

Thus, this may be a good return route, as it is quick and allows you to visit the Dead Sea and other attractions around. So, again you should plan accordingly, allowing the whole day for the trip.

While the King’s highway has plenty of landmarks for you to explore spread through the way, the Dead Sea Highway has them concentrated in the north:

  • Baptism Site – you’ll need a slight detour, but it’s perfectly doable. You’ll need about 2 to 3 hours to visit it.
  • Dead Sea – You can simply see it and stop at the several lookouts. But if you want to dive, there are no public beaches. Allow time to go to one of the wild ones. There’s no infrastructure.
  • Wadi Mujib slot Canyon – Amazing hiking and canyoning trail. One of our highlights of Jordan, but allow at least 3 hours for it.
  • Wadi Arabi – There’s an activity center by the Road where you can take an ATV tour. We haven’t done this, but it looks so much fun!

Top tip: About halfway through the Dead Sea highway, you can take a road to Karak, which will take you to the King’s Highway and allow you to visit a few more Jordan attractions. Again, most of the best Jordan Landmarks are explored thoroughly here.

From Amman to Petra by car
The Dead Sea Highway – Road 65, along the Dead Sea

Desert Highway – the fastest way

The Desert Highway is the best choice to go from Amman to Petra by car if you are in a hurry. This is your route if you don’t have time to make leisurely stops. The Road is reasonably good; there are very few villages and towns where you need to slow down, and consequently, there are fewer bumps.

From Amman to Petra through the Desert Highway, it’s about 230 km, taking roughly 3 hours, which is considerably quicker than the King’s Road, but there’s not much to do in between.

You can take a detour to Madaba or Umm Al-Rases, but that will take some time. Plus, it defeats the purpose of taking this Road. Little Petra is also reasonably close, but going there means returning back a bit.

Fastest way from Amman to Petra
Camels walking alongside the Desert Highway

Amman to Wadi Musa by Bus

Public transportation in Jordan isn’t well developed, but some options are available. Although there are “local buses,” travelers usually use the JETT buses to move around.

The “local buses” are the vans and minibusses you see everywhere in Jordan. They depart between 9:00 and 16:00, but drivers only go when full – you may need to wait a while. We have never taken these minibusses, but from what we saw on the Road, they are not good drivers.

The JETT Buses are “normal” scheduled buses with aircon. They can be booked online or at their office in Amman. Have a look at their schedule if you are interested.

JETT means Jordan Express Tourist Transportation, and they are a good option if you:

  • Don’t want to drive;
  • Want to save a few dollars;
  • Don’t want to go anywhere else but Petra and other significant sites;
Amman to Petra by Bus
Al-Khazneh “The Treasury” in Petra

From Amman to Petra – Private transfer

Besides public transportation and driving a rental, there’s also the option of taking a private transfer. This is obviously much more expensive, but it will cater to your needs. This option may be advantageous if you travel in a group or with family, as it’s charged per group, not per person.

With a private transfer, you can make the trip exactly when you want, and most companies will pick you up at your hotel or the airport if you prefer. They will also offer complimentary WIFI.

Private transfer is a great option when:

  • You want a quality, custom service;
  • Don’t mind spending a bit more;

You can book private transfers here.

From Amman to Petra - Private transfer
Entrance to Petra in Jordan

From Amman to Petra – Tour

The last option we will explore is simply taking a tour instead of organizing a trip yourself. While we usually encourage people to organize the trip themselves, as we enjoy it and like the flexibility it brings, Jordan isn’t the most accessible country to travel to.

When joining a tour, you don’t have to worry about anything; they will show you and take good care of you. The tour will fetch you from the hotel, you’ll have AC and WIFI, and the driver is usually excellent and friendly. Note that meals and tickets are not typically included in these tours, but they will help you get the tickets and take you to restaurants.

There are two main tour options:

If you are taking a tour of southern Jordan, you should go to Wadi Rum. It is a fabulous place, and the bedouin tours are typically excellent. So, if you have time, take the three-day tour- it’s well worth it.

From Amman to Petra - Tour
Coffee and tea from Sami’s Best Coffee on the King’s highway

As we have seen, there are plenty of options to go from Amann to Petra, and the best choice will certainly depend on your trip and the type of traveler you are. We have explained the pros and cons of each option, and hopefully, you can now make an educated choice. In short:

  • Car – great for flexibility and sightseeing along the way. Ideal if it’s part of a more extended trip to Jordan;
  • Bus – Good for saving money, and it’s pretty fast. Perfect for budget travelers that don’t want to drive;
  • Transfer – More expensive but more flexible and comfortable;
  • Tours – Great if you don’t want to organize. Just relax and enjoy; Including Wadi Rum is a beautiful idea.

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