Pack plenty of warm clothing plus a rainproof jacket for a winter vacation in Petra. Temperatures dip to an average high of 54°F (12°C) and a low of 39°F (4°C), just slightly warmer than January and February—the coldest months. A bitterly cold wind can sweep in from the Eastern Desert, with some days close to freezing. And Petra isn’t immune from a dusting of snow as December edges into January. December also sees the first rains of the five-month wet season, with rain falling an average of three days this month.
However, this all paints far too negative a picture: Most days are gorgeously sunny (December 19, the cloudiest day of the year, has clear or mostly clear skies two-thirds of the time) with temperatures perfect for hiking, and the deep blue sky and crystal-clear air are perfect for photography.
Pack a combination of cold weather clothing (including headwear) and some lighter summer clothing that permit you to layer your clothes and react flexibly to changing conditions. Comfortable yet sturdy walking shoes are a must.
For more on weather this month, see Jordan in December: Travel Tips, Weather, and More.
Crowds & Costs
As you’d expect given the cold weather, most visitors stay away in December. That’s not to say Jordan’s most popular tourist site will be empty, but if you hate feeling like you’re a lemming in a pack then December is a great time to visit. You’ll have a much more intimate experience. Plus, you can take advantage of bargain prices in Wadi Musa hotels and local tour excursions.
What to Do
Christmas is coming, and that means time for some shopping. Much of the Colonnaded Street is lined by stalls. Known as the “Nabatean Market,” it’s a facsimile of how it may have looked 2,500 years ago when Petra was a cosmopolitan market serving vast camel caravans that passed by, laden with frankincense and other precious items, en route to the lucrative markets of Rome.
You can buy wares such as raw frankincense and chunks of myrrh (perfect for Christmas!), plus perfumes and lotions, Dead Sea salt, handwoven Bedouin rugs, clunky silver “tribal” jewelry, and a keffiyeh—the traditional red-checkered Jordanian scarf. Bargaining is expected and is part of the fun. The local Bedul people can be persistent with their sales efforts, so if you don’t want to buy, be firm but respectful.
The Petra Archaeological Park (PAP) spans a massive 100 square miles (264 sq km) of rugged desert terrain, and at its peak 2,000 years ago, the ancient walled city had a population of some 30,000 people. The many sites are widely dispersed and signage is still a work in progress. Even if you hire a qualified guide, it pays to have a good map. The Visitor Center doesn’t always have its free Petra map in stock. Tourist shops in Wadi Musa sell the Royal Jordanian Geographic Centre’s contoured 1:5000 scale Map of Petra (excellent for hikers).
After a chilly winter day exploring the sites, treat yourself to a soothing steam bath and massage. Wadi Musa has several hammams (traditional “Turkish Baths”). You’ll begin by relaxing in the steam room to open the pores and induce deep breathing. Then you’ll lay out on a blissful hot stone slab before plunging into a cold pool, enjoying a soothing massage, and ending with a vigorous body scrub.
Christmas Day: Christmas is an official public holiday and Christians and Muslims alike get in the holiday spirit. Even some places in Wadi Musa get in the mood and are adorned with Christmas decorations.