You’ll need plenty of warm clothes to visit Petra in January. Don’t be fooled just because it’s in the Middle East. Petra’s mid-winter temperature averages a decidedly chilly 47°F (8°C) this month, with many days significantly colder and guaranteed frost at night. It can even snow! In fact, the coldest day of the year is January 21, with an average low of 32°F (0°C) and an average high of 50°F (10°C).
January is also the wettest month of the year, with almost one-quarter of Petra’s annual rainfall. The good news is that, on average, rain falls on only five days. Pack raingear and plenty of warm clothing, plus sturdy walking shoes. Since you’ll most likely be doing a significant amount of hiking, it’s best to dress in layers so you can strip off or add items as needed.
Be conscious that rains often come in sudden and torrential downpours. Utmost caution is required to avoid the narrow defiles and even broad canyons because of the threat of potentially deadly flashfloods. Those channels were formed over eons by such torrents! The Siq becomes a riverbed during heavy rains, while the stones become dangerously slippery. Be prepared for the entire site to close during heavy rains.
For more on weather this month, see Jordan in January: Travel Tips, Weather, and More.
Crowds & Costs
What crowds? While Petra has plenty to recommend it in January, most visitors stay away. In fact, only June and July—the searing mid-summer months--show lower arrivals, making your visit all the more personal. Airfare and accommodation costs are thereby also at their lowest, and you should be able to find last-minute bargains at Wadi Musa hotels and for tour excursions.
What to Do
Covering an area of 100 sqare miles (264 sq km), the Petra Archaeological Park (PAP) is not just about visiting the ancient ruins. The area encompasses a stunning desert landscape atop a high plateau above Wadi Musa—the Valley of Moses. Often overlooked Little Petra—officially Siq Al-Barid—is a far less-visited site, 3 miles (5 km) north of Petra. This off-the-beaten-track “Mini Me” clone of the main site is similarly entered through a narrow Siq (narrow slot canyon) that opens to rock-wall temples, tombs, and a noteworthy Nabataean irrigation system that once fed the ancient vineyards that are represented on frescoes that still grace the walls. In January, you may well have the site to yourself.
Hiking the many trails that lace PAP is a great way to ward off the January chill. Active travelers can lace up their boots and hike the 8-mile (13 km) desert trail from Little Petra to Petra. Of moderate difficulty, it provides a good work-out as it eventually climbs up Jebel al-Deir and descends to spill you out at The Monastery and Petra via the little traveled back door.
A good way to escape the evening chill is to cozy up to the stove at Petra Kitchen, in Wadi Musa. Local chefs will share their enthusiasm and joy of cooking with nightly classes, and a multi-night cooking course that includes food sourcing at local markets and a full-on experience, from the earth to the plate. Of course, you then get to enjoy the product of your labors. It’s a great option when the winter weather is inclement outside. Then try the sheesha pipe!