Little Petra (Siq al-Barid)

About this place

As the name suggests, “Little Petra” is like Petra but smaller! also known as Siq al-Barid, it is much smaller than the main Petra Archaeological Park, and it also has fewer structures and fewer tourists. Little Petra can be visited on its own or as part of your trip to Petra. Note that Little Petra is also an alternative entrance to the main Petra Archaeological Park.

Welcome to Little Petra, Jordan

Like the main Petra site, Little Petra was created by the Nabataeans about 2,000 years ago and has facades hewn from the cliffs and chambers dug into the rock. Experts are unsure about the purpose of these structures but they believe that Little Petra was perhaps a residential suburb of the larger Petra. Little Petra may have housed visiting traders passing through Petra along the ancient trade routes from Arabia to Syria and beyond.

ProTip: The Arabic name, Siq al-Barid means cold canyon, and its location in a narrow gorge means it doesn’t get much sun, so pack a warm jacket.

History of Little Petra, Jordan

In the 1st century AD, the Nabataeans expanded their growing city by building into the rock cliffs of Little Petra. After the decline of the Nabataeans Little Petra was abandoned and forgotten just like the larger city of Petra in the 7th century.

Ancient structures in Little Petra

In the west people had heard of the Lost City of Petra but they were unable to visit the region while it was under Islamic rule. In 1812 Swiss explorer Jacob Burckhardt reached Petra but he didn’t report seeing Little Petra. Between the 1950s and 1983 archaeologists were working on further excavations north of the main site of Petra when they came across Little Petra. 

In a later exploration of the site in 2010 a chamber was discovered that still had Nabataean decorative frescos. The frescoes depict grapes, vines, and cherubs in the Hellenistic style. This is the only surviving example of Nabataean interior art in situ.

In 1985 Petra became a UNESCO World Heritage Site together with Beidha and Little Petra. 

Where is Little Petra, and how to get there

Little Petra is located about 8 km north of Wadi Musa. It can be reached via a small road that stretches around Petra from Wadi Musa and through the Bedouin village of Umm Sayhoun. Pro Tip: Go a little further and explore the Neolithic site of Beidha. 

What to See and Do in Little Petra

Little Petra Siq

Like its bigger namesake, Little Petra is entered through a narrow canyon. Along the way, the canyon widens at several points where you can see temples carved in the cliffs with rock-cut steps leading to the entrances.

After the first Nabataean dwellings, the canyon narrows again and continued for about 50 meters to an open area. Here you will find the highest concentration of structures.