Ahh Petra! surely a destination that is on everyone’s bucket list! even more since it was added to the list of new wonders of the world in the early 2000s, but did you know that on top of the magnificent carvings straight from the mountain there are lots of trails to go hiking in Petra!?
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As part of my time backpacking in Jordan, I spent a couple of days exploring the ancient city of Petra and can tell you for sure, you can hike a lot in Petra!
Keep reading and I’ll give you all the details you need to know to visit this magnificent human creation and do some historical Hiking in Petra in between!
How to get to Petra
Most likely you will arrive to Jordan at either Amman or Aqaba. From both cities you can take a local bus or a JETT bus which is a tourist-friendly bus.
The JETT bus will cost 11-12 JOD and departs once a day from each city. Make sure to book at least a day in advance as I saw some people being turned away while trying to book the night before.
The local buses will be cheaper…in theory. As I heard different prices from other backpackers, with the fares being between 5-10 JOD.
I went from Amman to Petra with the JETT bus as it was departing close to my hostel in Amman. Depending on your hostel location it may be cheaper to do this as the local buses depart from Amman south station, so you need to spend 2-4 JOD to get there from the city centre.
Have you got your Jordan Pass?
If you plan to visit Jordan, take a look at the Jordan Pass as it’s a no-brainer to save money on this relatively expensive country.
Just a quick example to draw the picture on the savings. For many nationalities, the Visa fees are 40 JOD and the 1 day entry ticket to Petra is 50 JD. The Jordan Pass including a one-day visit to Petra costs 70 JOD, that’s already a 20 JOD saving. Plus, you can enter many other attractions all over the country.
I took the “explorer”Jordan Pass which includes 2 days in Petra at 75 JOD and it was totally worth it!
Make sure to note that the entry to Petra must be in consecutive days, so check the weather forecast if you go in winter like I did as one day we all got stuck at the hostel because of a terrible rain and fog which offered zero visibility.
Where to stay in Petra
Most hostels next to the ancient city of Petra are by the town of Wadi Musa (this is where the buses will drop you). From the stories that the locals told me, every year there are more and more hostels opening, so you will surely find anything for your budget.
I stayed at Rafiki Hostel, which was very well located. Near many restaurants and just a 15 min walk to the entrance of Petra.
Apart from the archeological site, don’t expect anything else in the town of Wadi Musa, so no need to stay extra days exploring the town.
Arriving to Petra
My days backpacking in Jordan were in winter and my first day exploring Petra was actually delayed by the elements, as we all got stuck at the hostel with heavy rains, strong winds and zero visibility, after waking up at silly o’clock to beat the crowds this was not the best start.
The forecast for the following days was snow and possibly more rains…definitely not easy to leave a warm bed for that!
So I prepared my layers on the second day. My starting gear early in the morning consisted of 5 top layers + 3 bottom layers + beanie + gloves…and it was still cold at times! Luckily the snow didn’t show up and at times even the clouds opened to show a beautiful blue sky!
One of the good things about travelling in low season is that the crowds are elsewhere, having said that, it’s still good to wake up early as it’s really impressive to have this Unesco World Heritage Site almost for yourself as soon as the doors open at 6am.
Another consideration to bear in mind to wake up early is that if you want to go hiking in Petra you will need to use all the time available wisely! as there are many trails and hundreds of places to admire! so, prepare to walk a lot!
I recommend getting the 2-day ticket (or 2-day Jordan Pass) so you can do 1 day for all the main attractions and another day for the rest of the Petra trails.
But wait, who made all this?
That’s the question I had until I arrived to Petra!
Well, we can thank the Nabateans, they were a group of nomadic arabs that decided to settle in this region around 4BC and establish the capital of their kingdom.
The most spectacular ruins are actually tombs or mausoleums, but they also carved an amphitheatre from a single rock and also made large temples. Many ruins are not known what they were exactly used for and remain a mystery.
They carved these magnificent tombs from the top to the bottom, some remained unfinished and there are a few theories of what could have happened with the fate of them.
What to take to go Hiking in Petra
The trails around the ancient city of Petra total up to about 40 Km so count on this to take snacks and plenty of water with you. In some places you will find people selling food and drinks and you can expect to pay “attraction prices” if you buy inside the archaeological area.
A good pair of hiking shoes/boots is also recommended if the weather has not been good.
MY HIKING ESSENTIALS
Rubbish is one serious problem in Petra, so please try to refrain of using single use plastics and take all your food wrapping back to town instead of using the bins at the park.
Tap water is safe to drink in Jordan so you can keep a reusable bottle with you or get a Water Reservoir to hydrate on the go while hiking in Petra.
Starting the 2-day hiking adventure in Petra
To get to the entrance of Petra is normally a 10-20 min walk from most hostels in Wadi Musa. Once you pass through the gate the landscape will slowly transform into something quite special.
One of the first things you will notice (apart from the local guides offering you horse rides) are the Djinn Blocks.
Throughout Petra you will see several free-standing cube-shaped monuments, which are called Djinn blocks. This is the name for a type of spirit in Arab folklore. Petra’s Bedouin occupants believed these monuments were the dwellings of Djinn. Today, it is general agreed that these monuments served as tombs or memorials to the dead.
After just a few minutes you will arrive to The Siq which for me is one of the most imposing areas in all of Petra.
The Siq is a natural sandstone gorge that gently winds towards the ancient city of Petra for just over 2 Km until it opens to the Treasury.
A triumphal arch once spanned the entrance to the Siq but it collapsed in 1895. As you walk through the Siq, you can see water channels running along each side, these held clay pipes that carried fresh water to the city. In its glory days, the Siq was a bustling road that witnessed a constant procession of travellers, visitors and pilgrims.
The main trail, which you must take to enter the archaeological area from Wadi Musa is 8 Km long and about half way in you will find the highlight of this wonderful place.
The Treasury is the most spectacular monument carved by the Nabateans and definitely the most photographed place in all of Petra!
It stands at 39.5m high and is impressively carved out of a single block. The monument’s name come from a local Bedouin legend that a treasure was hid in the urn at the top, it’s actually possible to see many bullet holes from vandals that tried to retrieve this treasure. In reality, this is a mausoleum.
This is surely a spot to spend some time admiring it.
When you arrive to the Treasury, make sure to climb to a viewpoint nearby. The short trail is not marked but you can find it (if there’s no other people climbing it already) by walking a minute continuing the main path and then scramble through an area that looks like if a landslide happened not long ago, but it’s a safe and very short climb which is totally worth it!
Once you contemplate and admire the beauty of the Treasury it’s time to keep moving as there’s a lot more to see!
The area around the archaeological site of Petra is well linked by a few trails that were used in ancient times.
You can walk around 40Km to see the entire complex, this “little” walk rewards with incredible views but it’s also a constant reminder of how dedicated the Nabateans were with their stone carvings as you will have to climb thousands of steps carved directly into the mountain.
On all the hiking in Petra you will do, you will climb so many steps carved directly from the mountains (many are also renovated with modern materials) that you will either admire the Nabateans for their patience or feel some animosity towards them! XD
Before you finish the Main Trail, you will find diversions to other trails. I recommend you to try to split the trails for your two-day visit in Petra, considering not only the distance of the hike but also the climbs as most of them are mostly going up! (Hello Nabatean Steps!)
Hiking in Petra: The 8 Trails
Unfortunately, most hiking trails in Petra are out-and-back meaning that you have to retrace your steps many times, but that will give you the chance to admire twice this beautiful part of the world!
1. Main Trail. 8 Km.
This is of course the most transited one, and it includes the most highlights of your visit. On this trail you will walk through the Siq and then find the Treasury, the Theatre, Colonnaded Street, Great Temple and many other ruins. You will also see in the distance all the Royal Tombs.
The 1st trail is mostly flat and where you will surely spend more time discovering and admiring ruins.
2. Al-Khubtha Trail. 3.5 Km.
This trail is a wonderful mix of passing by all the Royal Tombs, climbing lots of steps, passing through a natural flattish area at the top of the mountain and then a cool viewpoint of the Treasury from high above! what else do you need!
At the beginning of the trail there are shops and even toilets, and to the right side of the spectacular Urn Tomb, you can go a little off-trail and explore some of the old ruins. This area is not visited by many people so it’s really cool to explore on your own some of the smaller ruins.
There will be a few places on this trail with wonderful viewpoints of the region surrounding the ancient city of Petra.
Along the trail you will find many signs pointing to “the best view in the world”…When you arrive to the end of the trail you will find a small shop that decided to “privatise” the area and asks for a fee to access the viewpoint of the treasury. This can be easily avoided by just climbing a little bit on the right hand side of it
3. High Place of Sacrifice Trail. 3 Km.
This is the only trail in Petra where you don’t retrace your steps as it starts just before you arrive to the Theatre and ends behind the Great Temple, almost by the end of the Main Trail.
This is another good workout trail, with lots and lots of steps right from the beginning!
As indicated by its name, it will take you to a high point with ruins where sacrifices and rituals are believed to have taken place. It’s not fully certain though on what sort of sacrifices were being performed.
Continuing the trail, it will take you down behind the mountain and will go through the less visited Wadi Faros valley which also features a few ruins, including the Tomb of the Roman Soldier and the Garden Temple.
At the later I found a friendly man and his son playing the flute and invited me for tea. They were there just selling souvenirs as you will find in most of the ruins all over Petra, but they didn’t push me to buy anything and it was incredible to be in such a place, just admiring the views and listening to the flute.
The Garden Temple is not understood yet on its real function and it’s considered that it may have been part of the Nabatean Water System because of a structure that works as a natural water reservoir.
Continuing the High Place of Sacrifice Trail will take you down through some of the most scenic places I saw in Petra and even got to cross this horse running around!
4. Ad-Deir Trail (Monastery Trail). 2.5 Km.
This may be the second most visited trail after the Main Trail itself as this is where I found the most crowds on my two days hiking in Petra.
The trail starts at the end of the Main Trail where you will find some restaurants, shops and toilets.
The beginning is not particularly scenic, but soon you slowly start climbing and the views quickly transform into a magical place.
This climb will be long and even tedious if you find large groups of people, so it’s better to tick this trail off your list early in the morning.
There will be lots and lots of steps on the way to the monastery but I don’t consider this one to be the hardest trail in Petra.
Arriving to the monastery is surely a wonderful reward.
Upon arrival to the monastery, there’s a large area for refreshments and food, and you can continue hiking past this area for quite a few viewpoints and another High Place of Sacrifice. You will find signs for all these and you can also check all the trails on maps.me.
5. Umm Al-Biyara Trail. 4 Km.
This was my favourite trail when I was Hiking in Petra!
The 5th trail is kinda remote and perhaps because of that I didn’t see many people (I only saw 4 people on that hike!)
The trail starts behind the Great Temple and follows the same dirt path as the trails 6 and 7.
It was a little bit confusing for me to find the “diversion” leaving behind those two trails and start going up the mountain as there are no signs around and even checking on maps.me I couldn’t find the proper path. I ended up passing by the houses of some locals and then eventually found the right way.
To save you the hassle, the best indication I can give you is that when you’re still on the shared 5-6-7 path and you think you should geographically be on the turning right point, look to spot a black plastic pipe going on the right hand side of the trail (a few meters above you).
Climb a little and follow that pipe a few meters. When you leave a house behind you will be able to see the trail.
In any case, if like me you also have some problems finding the path, you can just keep slowly climbing up the mountain as the terrain is good enough for some cross-crountrying.
The way up is a mix of trail and carved steps on the rocks. There are some areas that look like a landslide happened not long ago and it’s impressive to see the size of some of those boulders that fell.
One area I liked a lot on the way up was another Nabatean carving. I’m not sure what it is, but I think this is a sort of “entrance” to some temple they may have had as it’s a big carving on a rectangular-shaped area which then opens to two “stairs” on each side.
The trail will be steep at times but you can take those catching-your-breath moments as a chance to enjoy the incredibly beautiful views of the valley.
Did I say this was my favourite trail in Petra!?
Once you make it to the top of the Umm al-Biyara mountain, a sense of peace invaded me instantly.
The summit is large and wide so you can still walk around for a fair bit admiring viewpoints in all directions!
This was the only trail I felt like I was just spending a day in the mountains instead of in a highly visited attraction.
After spending some time up there and making my way back down, I started improvising with some unmarked trails next to the houses that are in the area and made a clockwise route along the Al-Habis mountain. If you see the map I attached above there’s no trail there, but you will be able to find it if you look carefully 😉
6. Jabal Haroun Trail. 7.5 Km. | 7. Sabra Trail. 10 Km.
The 6th and 7th trails share a lot of the same path, hence I write about them together.
On this section I didn’t find any other hikers, just a few locals here and there as some houses are located in the area. Prepare to have the children around you asking you for things to give them…
I didn’t do these trails completely as when I was about 4 Km in, I just decided to turn back as the trail itself was not particularly exciting.
All I did was on a wide dirt path where occasionally some cars may pass. not my best idea of hiking.
I can only suggest that if you want to do these trails, prepare really well with water and food and contemplate the option of hitchhiking a ride back from their ending points.
8. Al-Madras Trail. 1.5 Km.
Admittedly, I didn’t do this trail either, but not on purpose…
The start of the 8th trail is actually almost at the beginning of the Archaeological area, before you enter the Siq and after you pass the Djinn blocks.
On my first day I didn’t even paid attention to it as I was just excited to walk through the Siq and admire The Treasury (of course!)
I saw the trailhead when I was leaving late in the day and thought to do it on the following day…
The second day comes around and I went straight to the High Place of Sacrifice Trail as I had that one pending from the day before, the hours passed by and again I completely forgot about the 8th trail…
If you go hiking in Petra and do this one, feel free to share your experience on a comment below!! 🙂
Ready to go Hiking in Petra!?
Go for it! what an incredible place. Not many times you can go hiking on one of the modern Wonders of the World and when you discover that there’s a lot more than just the touristy spots then it’s even better!
I was surely expecting this already, but my days in Petra were for sure some of the best ones I had on my backpacking adventures in Jordan!
Happy adventures! 🙂