May is a Goldilocks month for weather in Petra, averaging a near-perfect 73°F (23°C) for the month. That means some days will be quite a bit hotter, particularly as May edges towards June. The average high is 82°F (28°C). But some days temperatures can sink into the mid-fifties Fahrenheit. Forget about rain, which falls as an average on only one day this month. Bring plenty of sunscreen, plus a shade hat, sunglasses, and comfortable yet sturdy walking shoes.
Beginning in May, Jordan is prone to the khamseen, a dry and sometimes gale force desert wind that can whirl in from the Arabian Peninsula, drawn by low pressure. Laden with sand and dust, it typically it dies down after a few days. Although it darkens the skies, the hot wind raises the temperature by as much as 50°F (10°C), and rapidly. Petra, at about 2,650 feet (810 m) is not immune.
For more on weather this month, see Jordan in May: Travel Tips, Weather, and More.
Crowds & Costs
May is with April (and October) one of the most popular months to visit Jordan. Petra will still be crowded, particularly at the beginning of the month, but the crowds begin to thin towards June. Airfares, hotels and tour excursions and packages are at their most expensive in early May, with relatively few bargains. If you’re on a budget, it may pay to visit at the end of May, when prices begin to drop. It’s wise to book flights and reserve accommodations well in advance for early May.
What to Do
After you’ve spent a day or two exploring the main archaeological sites and hiking the trails, visiting Petra by night offers an even more magical experience. Candles will light your way through the Siq, guiding you to the Treasury to witness a traditional Bedouin performance in a breathtaking setting lit by more than 1,500 candles.
The “Petra By Night” experience is offered every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Kids will love it (children under 10 are free). Sign up at the visitor center, or buy a ticket at your hotel or a tour agency. However, it’s a 1.2 mile (2 km) walk from the entrance to the concert and the rush of the crowd up the dim light Siq to get a good seat can be disconcerting. Likewise, the exodus after the show. It pays to be first at the gate, and to hang back after the show to enjoy a more sedate and stately exit.
Even the bars are ancient at Petra! In fact, the Petra Guest House Hotel boasts the world’s oldest bar. This neon-lit Cave Bar is a Petra hotspot, and not just for its chill cocktails and ace fusion and pub fare. The setting is a two-millennia-old, lantern-lit Nabatean tomb of solid rock with uber-romantic carved niches. Make it a must-visit!
With two or three days at Petra, spend a half-day for a guided trek up Mount Aaron—Petra’s holiest site (venerated by Muslims as the resting place of Prophet Haroun, and by Christians and Jews also, as according to Old Testament legend Haroun was Moses’ brother, Aaron). Wear respectful clothing (no shorts!) and take plenty of water plus snacks for the strenuous uphill pilgrimage to the rather modest mountaintop monastery, from where the view is sublime. Take cash for a small donation at the shrine.