Hiking in Petra is an absolute dream come true! There are many well marked trails with amazing views around every corner. You want to hike every single trails just to make sure your not missing out on anything!
Petra is best explored on foot. A certain level of fitness is required, as you will be walking on uneven ground and up and down many stairs. But it is worth it, you get to see so much and the more strenuous the route, the fewer other people you will meet.
There is theoretically the possibility to ride various animals, but unfortunately, they are treated really badly. So, this should only remain an option for emergencies.
As the temperatures can be high even in winter and also many day tourists arrive from 8am onwards, I recommend starting the day early. Then you will at least have the Siq and the Treasury largely to yourself.
Maps and information material in various languages are available at the visitor centre, and most routes are well signposted along the way. There are a few paths for which you need a guide. Everything else can be safely explored on your own.
The maps indicate a walking time for each route. I was always much faster! I am generally relatively fit, but not particularly well trained. And it wasn’t hot when I was in Petra. For reference, I have written down my walking times for the respective routes:
- Visitor Centre to Siq 10 min
- Siq to Treasury 20 min
- Path to the High Place of Sacrifice 70 min
- Wadi Farasa trail 60 min
- Monastery trail (Ad Deir path) 60 min
- Monastery to Visitor Centre 110 min
- Al Khubtha trail 90 min up, 60 min down
From the visitor centre, just walk downhill along the road towards the Siq. There are a few tombs on the way down, but they are rather unspectacular.
Hiking in Petra on the Main path (Visitor Centre to Basin Restaurant)
Siq to Treasury
The Siq, which is just over a kilometre long, was formed by an earthquake splitting the rocks, and not by water, like Antelope Canyon. As a result, it is very steep and narrow with walls up to 180 m high and, when it rains, prone to flash floods. So, you should keep an eye on the weather conditions in the region.
The walk to the Treasury (Al Khazneh) took me around 20-30 minutes, but I walked it multiple times and it depends on how many pictures you take. There are so many details to look out for, so maybe calculate a bit more time for this. The rock shows so many different coloured layers and in some places, where water runs down when it rains, it looks like wax or molten chocolate.
I kept expecting the Treasury to show up around every corner, so the anticipation kept rising. Once you get to that point, take your time and enjoy the moment you first lay eyes on it. I imagined what the first person to rediscover this place after centuries must have thought. I think I would have had to walk over and touch it with my hands to believe it to be real!
It is really interesting to look at all the details, there are Greek elements as well as Nabatean ones and it is hard to believe that all this was achieved without modern techniques and tools.
The earlier you get there, the better the chances of there being no to few other people around. But, the same is true for the late afternoon. This is also where Petra by Night happens.
Treasury to Basin Restaurant
From the Treasury to the Theatre you will walk by many tombs on the Street of Facades and many stalls with things to buy. Again and again you will be approached by children selling postcards. Please ignore them and don’t buy anything. They should be in school and as long as they bring money home, the parents will send them to work.
The Roman Theatre is quite impressive. Unlike typical Roman theatres, it is carved out of rock, like the tombs, and not built out of blocks, making it unique in the world.
From here you will walk down the Colonnaded Street with the original pavement still in place in parts. There are remnants of the Nymphaeum and the Great Temple along the way and finally the Qasr al Bint. It is the only brick building that wasn’t destroyed completely by the earthquake in the 4th century AD.
At the very end of the main street you will find a restaurant with (in my opinion overpriced) food and drinks. It is much cheaper to get a tea or cold coke around the corner towards the Monastery trail from one of the beduin stalls.
Hiking in Petra on the High Place of Sacrifice Trail
This was my favourite trail. Maybe because of the company I had (I met 2 American girls at the beginning of the trail and we spent the whole day together), but also because of the views you get to see along the way.
I recommend doing this tour first thing in the morning before it gets crowded or too hot.
The trail starts on the left after you pass the facades in the outer Siq and come to a square with many stalls.
The first hour or so you will climb up stairs after stairs. So make sure you have enough water with you and go as early as possible to avoid the heat. If you are afraid of heights, this might not be the right trail, as it is steep and requires some short climbs. Remember to turn around every now and then to enjoy the view along the way.
On the first plateau there is a small café where you can get tea or other refreshments. There is an old obelisk here and I am sure there is a sign somewhere showing where to go to the actual sacrificial site. But we didn’t see it. We were lucky to meet other people here for the first time. They were able to show us where to go from here. It was a short climb up some rocks and there it was, the stone altar used for blood sacrifices in the Nabataean period.
You can see the drainage system where the blood was supposed to run down from the altar. I really hope there were only animal sacrifices here.
The view over the mountains is great from up there, so take your time to enjoy it and take photos. A little further down, there is another café next to the official viewpoint over the Royal Tombs. There is no railing anywhere, so be sure to keep a safe distance. Even though it is very tempting to walk very close to the edge for the best view.
Hiking in Petra on the Wadi Farasa Trail
The best way down from the High Place of Sacrifice is via the Wadi Farasa trail. It winds down the back of the mountain and has some gorgeous views. You will pass the Garden Triclinium and the Roman Soldiers Tomb, both worth some photos and exploring. The path wasn’t very clearly marked towards the bottom of the mountain, but by then you can see the Qasr al Bint. So just make your way across the hills towards the main street.
From here you can either keep going and walk the Monastery Trail (Ad Deir) or head back to Wadi Musa on the main street.
Hiking in Petra on the Monastery Trail (Ad Deir Trail)
My absolute favourite place in Petra is the monastery, or Ad Deir. There is something very special about sitting in the café opposite, drinking a pomegranate juice and just looking at it.
To get there, you have to climb about 800 steps, but don’t worry, there are short, flat stretches of path in between and some cafés too. Here you can take a break and have a tea if needed. I actually hiked this path twice in the 3 days I spent in Petra because I liked it so much.
The beginning of the trail is on the right behind the Basin Restaurant. After that you can’t really go wrong, there is only one way to go. On the way, look out for the sign for the Lion Triclinium. It is named after the lion relief on the façade next to the entrance to the tomb.
After that, the stairs will feel like an eternity, but it’s really worth persevering. When you’ve finally made it, you can have a tea or a juice in the café and spend some time taking in the details of the Monastery.
If you still have some energy left, walk a bit further to one of the “best view” cafés. From where you have a great view over the Monastery and into the Jordan Valley.
There is also a “back entrance” to the monastery. You can hire a driver with a 4×4 in Wadi Musa to bring you to the beginning of the trail. Then you can start the day at the Monastery in a relaxed way and just walk down the steps to explore the rest of Petra. However, the light for photographing at the Monastery is best in the afternoon.
Hiking in Petra on the Al Khubtha Trail – View of the Treasury
This is, in my opinion, the most overrated hiking trail in Petra. It is stairs straight up for what feels like at least one hour, which reminded me of Frodo and Sam’s trek to Mordor in The Lord of the Rings. When you get to the top, you are harassed by Bedouins who want to sell you tea or Coke. And maybe even demand money for allowing you to photograph the treasury from above.
But of course, the view is great, if you are after the Instagram picture. If you only have one day, I would recommend the High place of Sacrifice Trail over this one for sure though.
Once you are back down, take some time for explore the Royal Tombs at the base of the mountain. They look best in the afternoon sun, when you can really see all the different colours. My favourite is the Silk Tomb with its blue and red rock.
You can also see a few graves from the inside here. The most impressive is the urn grave with its many caves.
If you still have a little time left, it is worth taking a look at the church and the excavations in that area.
Also check out these posts about Jordan