Hiking in Petra
Hiking in Petra is almost unavoidable if you want to see all of what this ancient city has on display. Petra sits in a valley on the outskirts of Wadi Musa and was only “re-discovered” a little over 200 years ago. It is without a doubt Jordan’s biggest draw. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the 1980s, it now draws tourists from all over the world to marvel at the grandeur of this once mighty Nabataean city.
The best way to see Petra, in my opinion, is on foot. There are no motorized vehicles allowed so the only way to get around is to walk or hire an animal to ride on. You’ve even got a few four-legged options to choose from: horse, camel or donkey. Be prepared to haggle if you’re keen on getting a ride. And don’t worry, you don’t have to find the handlers, you’ll be offered a camel, horse, or donkey all along the main path.
There are lots of different hiking trails in and around Petra and to walk all of them would take several days. You could in theory walk almost all of them within 3 days (a 3 day ticket costs 60 dinars) but that would involve a lot of walking and not a lot of time to admire where you are. Taking some time to stop and appreciate the view is half of the fun of hiking. That being said, the paths shown in the map below can be completed within 2 days and allows for ample chilling time.
Park Entrance to the Monastery
This is the main path from the entrance through the Siq to the Treasury, past the royal tombs, colonnaded street, and up the 800 or so stone steps to the famed Monastery. From the entrance to the Basin Restaurant, which offers a buffet lunch for a steep 17 dinars, the terrain is quite flat and easy. It’s like a walk in the park and will take a little over an hour at a moderate pace. The path is marked in pink in the map above.
From the Basin to the Monastery comes the stone steps. They’re not at a steep angle or anything, but there are a lot of them and with the sun beating down on you it will be tiring. Be sure to bring enough water, although there is a cafe that fronts the Monastery where you can grab a drink or snack. This section will take about 45 min at a moderate pace. I recommend heading straight to the Monastery early in the morning to avoid the crowds. The big tour groups usually arrive at the monastery in the late morning and early afternoon.
There are 3 viewpoints a few minutes walk from the Monastery which are totally worth checking out. The closest viewpoint has an incredible view of the Monastery and the valley behind it. The others feature views of the valleys and mountains rolling towards the horizon.
Place of High Sacrifice
This path is a short and sweet one. It’s a 1.5 hour return hike, up a series of stepped switchbacks to the top of one of the hills overlooking the Royal Tombs. The views from up here are well worth the effort. There’s also a sense of calm and tranquility up here, away from the crowds. The path is marked in yellow on the map and there is a sign at the trailhead just off the main path, between the Street of Facades and the Roman Theatre. The path is marked in yellow.
This is a nice little path that starts from near the Place of High Sacrifice, goes down some steps and into the Wadi Farasa valley (wadi actually means valley). Along the way you’ll pass by the Roman Soldier’s Tomb, the Garden Temple Complex, the Lion Monument and some other tombs carved into the mountainside. This trail takes about one hour one way and is marked in maroon.
The trailhead for this 2.5 hour return hike is a bit difficult to find but once you see it there’s no mistaking which way you have to go… up! Umm al-Biyara is the highest mountain in Petra standing in at about 1180 meters. The mountaintop is flat and gently slopes downward towards the Royal Tombs. Paved steps have been carved into the mountainside and take you straight up to the top. There are loose rocks strewn everywhere so closed-toe shoes are highly recommended.
The 360 degree views at the top are great. You can see the Royal Tombs on one side and the beautiful landscape on the other sides. There are a few shaded spots on the trail to rest in, which is a welcome reprieve from the fierce afternoon sun. Be sure to bring plenty of water as always; there are no shops or vendors here. The path is marked in blue.
Above the Treasury
Walking north past the Royal Tombs, the path hugs the mountainside and takes you to the trailhead for the Above the Treasury hike. This 1.5 hour return hike starts with a newly minted set of steps going upward to the top of the mountain. At the top, there are great views of the Roman Theatre. Pressing onward, you reach a small (abandoned?) building. At this point, turn left and follow the rock cairns which gradually take you down to the viewpoint. There’s a small shop here run by some friendly guys drinking tea. The path is marked in gray.
There are other notable hikes such as the back entrance to Petra and Jebel Haroun. The back entrance hike is supposed to be quite nice but you need a guide with a proper 4×4 vehicle and it’s fairly expensive. The price I was quoted was 35 dinars per person for a 4 person group. Jebel Haroun (1350 meters) is a 6 hour return hike to the top of what is believed to be Mount Hor in the Bible. I heard this hike is not so interesting.
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