Walking in Petra, Jordan

Many people say that you need a week to visit Petra. That may be true if you want to see everything in detail, but 2 well planned days can get you around the must see parts. Here’s our 2 treks taking in the Petra Highlights

Day 1 - The Monastery Loop

All routes start from the sun gates by the Petra Guest House. From here it’s a half mile gentle trek down to the Siq

The Siq is a narrow cavern created by an earthquake that split the rock thousands of years ago. The half-mile walk down through the Siq needs to be made slowly to take everything in. The Siq opens up at a T-junction with the Treasury rising up in front of you.

This is the point as far as most people, including myself before this, had heard about Petra. In reality, the Siq and The Treasury are a fraction of the site. Turning right and continuing along the main route, you’ll pass the theatre, Royal Tombs, the Collonade and the Basin. It was here that our useless guide left us and we paused at the Basin Restaurant for a break.

From the Basin there’s a few options but the main event is the walk up to The Monastery. It’s a 45 min to an hour climb and well worth the effort. In some ways the Monastery is even more impressive than the Treasury. Its huge, and the climb to get there makes it all the more rewarding.

Day 2 - Wadi al Farasa and Royal Tombs

Take the same route as Day 1 to The Treasury. Turn left and you’ll see some steps leading steeply upwards. There will be local “guides” hanging round the base waiting to take you up. I’m not convinced it was necessary to take a guide. There was an official looking sign at the base so we negotiated 5 JD with a local boy to take us up.

There’s only 1 tricky section of the climb, but it’s otherwise an easy 10 minutes to a great view looking down to The Treasury. The boy pointed out a path to the High Place of Sacrifice where he would take us for an extra 10 JD. We offered 5 which was more than generous. This was the point that he revealed that the original 5 JD was a 1-way trip, not a return to the base. After a bit of a commotion where he spat at me, threaten to call the police and picked up a rock to throw at us, we sent him on his way and continued upwards on our own.

I found it best to assume that the local guides are all lying. They either say that the routes are long and difficult or you can only go with a guide. None are true and when you get one, as we did on Day 1, they’re pretty useless. Don't take this as a generalisation of all Jordanians though. Everyone else we met were friendly, generous and welcoming of tourists. Its just the local guides in the historic sites that are a particular breed of lazy arsehole.

The route to the High Place and the Wadi al Faraza trek are well worth the effort. They’re quieter than the main routes at ground level and have some amazing vistas and tombs to explore.

The trail ends at the Basin restaurant at the start of the route to the Monastery. It’s a great place to stop but be prepared for a fleecing on food and drinks. From here, you can return back to the Treasury via the Collonade, stopping off at the Royal Tombs on the way.

Below: The Treasury at Petra