When I first decided that I wanted to travel to Petra, I had massively underestimated just how vast the archaeological site was. I’d essentially seen pictures of the treasury and the monastery, thought that they looked pretty interesting and naively assumed that they’d be right by each other with Petra being some small ancient desert village. Au contraire! If you travel to the “lost city” of Petra you will be in for a tremendous amount of hiking. In fact, if you want to see anything of note (incredible views, notable buildings), then you will have to hike to get there. That’s not to say that having to hike is a bad thing. Actually, I think it gives you an added sense of achievement when you finally arrive at your destination through struggles of blood, sweat and tears. (slight exaggeration, don’t worry!)
It helps to arrive in Petra with at least a vague idea of what you want to see so that you can plan your day accordingly. You could essentially cover off at least two of these hikes on a Petra day trip, but to avoid dashing around in 35 degree heat like a mad thing, and actually be able to enjoy the scenery around you during your Petra visit, I would recommend opting for a two day Petra pass and staying overnight in nearby Wadi Musa.
So let’s take a look at some of the best hikes that Petra has to offer…
The Monastery Hike
Arguably Petra’s most impressive monument, setting eyes on the Monastery will take your breath away. This 148 foot elaborately carved structure is nestled within the rock face and its front door is the equivalent size of a house. The monastery is also one of the most taxing points to reach within Petra, requiring an uphill hike encompassing over 850 ancient steps and taking approximately 2 hours in duration. The hike isn’t especially difficult, given that you can walk its entirety without any climbing or use of ropes however it is the desert sun which makes it challenging.
As you approach the final few steps, panting and red-faced, and the narrow rock pathway opens out into a stunning open space with the monastery at the forefront, you feel an overwhelming sense of achievement. Not to mention, it is only a brave and adventurous few who attempt the monastery hike meaning that once you finally arrive you will have the place virtually to yourself with no hoards of tourists to get in the way of your photographs. For the perfect view and photo op, you can climb into the caves that face the monastery from the opposite side.
A local Bedouin man has opened a quirky cafe in one of the caves opposite the monastery so you can relax once you reach the top and enjoy your mint tea with a view before starting your descent.
Hiking Time: 2 hours
The High Place of Sacrifice
The high place of sacrifice is one of Petra’s easiest hiking trails taking just around 30-40 minutes to complete. The route leads you to a shrine dedicated to Nabataean gods Dushara and Al-‘Uzza and a location where animal sacrifices to the Gods were conducted. Once you reach the highest point, you will be greeted with a sacrificial alter, inscribed ancient obelisks, and a small seated area where attendees of the sacrifice would sit together and enjoy a meal after the ceremony.
To get to the place of high sacrifice, you can take a left turn at a pathway leading up into the rocky mountains just before the ampitheatre, and opposite the second set of Royal tombs. The pathway is incredibly well preserved, and sign posts to “the place of high sacrifice” are frequently dotted along the trail making it easy to find your way.
Hiking Time: 40 minutes
The Wadi Farasa trail is a pleasant little walk down into the valley by the Place of High Sacrifice that leads you along some of the more “off the beaten track” carved buildings of Petra, including the Roman Soldier’s tomb, the Garden Temple Complex, the Lion Monument, and some other tombs carved into the mountain. From the lion monument, you can actually join the ascending trail up to the Monastery, using Wadi Farasa as a scenic “long route” to this spectacular building.
Hiking Time: One hour
The Treasury From Above
That postcard shot of the treasury from above is something you’ve probably seen in many a travel blog or photo album of someone’s Petra visit. This is another relatively easy yet rewarding hike. Once you arrive at the treasury, you will encounter many local vendors and Bedouins offering to take you to the top of the treasury for a fee, but this is something that you really don’t need at all so don’t feel bad to turn them down.
To reach this stunning viewpoint, simply walk to the Royal tombs, and continue walking until you reach the end and then follow the path as it turns right. As you follow the pathway, you will note signs leading to the “best view” (no, seriously!) and the trail is easy enough to follow.
Hiking Time: 30 minutes
Temperatures in the Lost City can exceed 40 degrees Celsius in the high season and the thing that makes these hiking trails challenging is the intense heat. Always carry plenty of water with you and consider wearing a hat or headscarf to protect your head. Luckily, you will encounter many stalls offering tea, cold water and shelter from the sun as you explore the site. To avoid the scorching temperatures, consider travelling in the off season (October to April).
Have you visited the Lost City of Petra? Which hike was your favourite?