Petra Hiking Guide
Petra surprises people every day who show up looking for the single facade of the Treasury and get an entire town of rock-cut architectural wonders. In addition to the Treasury and the Monastery, there are hundreds of tombs and high places where religious rituals were performed, all awe-inspiring feats of masonry. It would be impossible to see everything in the typical single-day Petra itinerary, but a multitude of hikes can take the adventurous soul staying 3-4 days to some of the more seldom seen sites of Petra.
The great thing about hiking in this ancient city is that you’re free to roam all over the surrounding mountains. You’ll come across herds of dare-devil goats, bedouin women making tea over an open fire, and Nabataean caves that are so far off the beaten path they haven’t even been excavated. During our visit to Petra, we opted for a few of the more moderately-rated hikes that were in the 2-3 hour range. Though I doubt you’d be disappointed by any of the hikes around Petra, these are the few we can highly recommend:
The Treasury VistaIn the Treasury courtyard you can see steps climbing up the side of the mountain, but they are all roped off to visitors. Don’t despair, there’s another way to get that overhead view you may have seen on Instagram. Keep walking past the Treasury, past the Street of Facades, and go up to the Royal Tombs. Round the mountain to the right past the Palace tomb (the biggest of the Royal Tombs) and you will soon see stairs heading up the mountain. Keep following the stairs to get to the ridge directly above the Royal Tombs. The vistas of the town from here are incredible! Once you reach the top, you still have a ways to go before you see the Treasury. The path is not easy to see up here, so follow your intuition and just keep walking in the direction of the Treasury. This hike took us about 2 1/2 hours roundtrip including time to take in the views.
High Place of SacrificeFrom the town’s center, just before the theater, you will see a staircase ascending the mountain. This is the path to the High Place of Sacrifice, a holy place in which channels are built to drain the blood of animals down the mountain. The hike to the top takes about an hour and mostly involves worn stairs. Near the top, you’ll also see two giant obelisks which are carved out of the rock—not built upon it. Turn right at the obelisks and scramble up the rock to reach the sacrificial site. After taking in the incredible views, you can descend the mountain down the other side to see the Lion’s Fountain and the Garden Triclinium, about another hour’s hike which deposits you back into the city center.
The MonasteryOkay, so we cheated on this one. We wanted to save up our energy because we had a lot to see, so we took up an offer for a donkey ride to the Monastery (and then walked back down). Even then, the donkey can’t take you the whole way but leaves you at some point in the middle with still about a 15 minute walk. The donkey ride was pretty frightening because the “stairs” are so worn that in some places it looks and feels like you’ll just slip right off into the canyon. If you walk the whole way, from the back of the town to the Monastery is about an hour’s walk with 800 steps. The path isn’t marked, but it will be quite obvious from the trinket sellers along the way.
The Monastery is a hugely impressive facade that’s twice as big as the Treasury. Get a drink at the cafe opposite and sit to soak it all in. Then, continue past the Monastery to one of the many lookout points over the Wadi Araba marked by tea houses all claiming to have the best view. They’re all telling the truth!
Petra offers hikers dozens more trails of varying length and difficulty. If you’re spending more time at Petra, you may want to do some research and check out the possibility of hiring a guide to take you on some of the longer hikes around the area. Happy trails!
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