Petra was a place I dreamed about visiting for as long as remember (well, since I first watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade). While I couldn’t wait to walk through the Siq and seeing the Treasury appear, I kept being told over and over about an even better part of the City of Petra: The Petra Monastery.
As excited as I was to check out this ‘epic’ and ‘amazing’ spot, I was also a bit hesitant. After all, you can’t google the Petra Monastery without getting articles and photos of the route to get to it: 900 wonky, uneven, shit-coated steps through the mountains.
Awesome. Steps are my favourite.
Said no one ever. Especially not me.
That being said, I’m a sucker for good viewpoints and even though I only had 1 day to visit Petra, I didn’t want to miss anything. However, I was also nervous about the hike. I don’t shy away from hiking, but I’m not exactly the fittest or in the best shape. I also had a bad asthma incident the week before climbing the Snake Trail in Masada and my lungs, still feeling tight despite taking my inhaler every day, weren’t working at peak performance levels. So, my confidence level going in? Not so great.
In fact, it wasn’t until the day of that I decided I was actually going to go for it. Since we only had one day in Petra as part of our 3 day Jordan tour with Abraham Tours, we really only had time for one hike (at least, for me). At first, I thought I’d try to do the Treasury viewpoint but then our guide indicated that it wasn’t exactly the best hike and that the shortest way was also the most dangerous. He said ‘at your own risk’ a couple dozen times which was enough to convince me that maybe, just maybe, that wasn’t exactly my best idea. Especially since our morning started with a warning and a story of another female tourist who had fallen to her death hiking only a couple days before our visit.
So at lunch, as our group shoved their faces with rice, chicken, and veggies from the buffet I pulled out my phone and frantically searched the internet for articles telling me just exactly how hard the Petra Monastery hike really is. Let’s just say I didn’t like what I read so I quickly put my phone away, shovelled some food fuel in my mouth, and prepared myself for the fact that I was likely going to be a wheezing, red, sweating mess really, really soon.
And so, with 2 litres of water bouncing against the small of my back, I joined my group and headed for the start of Petra’s monastery hike.
Wondering what to wear in Petra? Check my post: Jordan Packing List for women.
Hiking Up to the Petra Monastery
I’m not going to lie and say it was easy, but honestly, it wasn’t nearly as hard as I expected. Granted, I took my time and took breaks every 100 steps or so to catch my breath and have some water, but I was pretty pleased that climbing up took me 50 minutes when our guide told us 40. Not too bad for someone who figured she’d probably die halfway up.
The steps were, for the most part, pretty low. However, they were uneven and some were small; like just half of my foot would fit on them. On top of watching for the unevenness of the steps, I also had to keep my eyes open for the massive donkey turds splattered along the way. There was a lot of donkey shit and, with it, a lot of donkeys. I felt AWFUL for all the donkeys forced to run up these stairs with lazy tourists bouncing along on their backs. Please, for the love of God, if you don’t think you can do the Petra Monastery hike, then don’t. Don’t hire a donkey and make it carry you.
Despite reading that the Petra Monastery was more secluded and not crowded, there were a ton of people coming up and down those stairs which just added something else to dodge. I did have to stop a few times to let people pass, but the traffic flow was pretty consistent so it wasn’t too bad.
Another thing to definitely keep in mind is the sun. I visited in November and it was about 22 degrees Celsius which isn’t too hot, but it was full sun and that sun beats down on you up the whole trail. I was glad for my multiple water bottles bouncing around in my backpack, and despite the fact that I reapplied sunscreen after lunch, I clearly sweat it off and burnt a little bit anyway.
Along these 900 or so stairs, there are plenty of local Bedouin vendors selling souvenirs and cold drinks. They will hustle you a little, ask you to do some shopping and tell you that they have had a very bad day to try to guilt trip you into making a purchase, but just smile and say no thank you as you pass and you won’t have an issue.
The last stretch is the hardest. Here’s where the stairs get steeper so take your time if you need, and stop for breaks. Know that when you hit the steeper stairs you are on the last leg- the end is near! The last set of stairs is actually downhill (YES!) and from there you come off the trail and, in the cliff face to your right, you will find the treasure at the end: the Petra Monastery.
The Petra Monastery
When I reached the flat ground that was the end, I was red-faced and sweaty, but I wasn’t about to collapse. Which is good, because it turns out I wasn’t quite done climbing.
The end point is the Monastery. You can walk right up to it, take your photos and go back if you want. Or, you can follow any of the seemingly never-ending ‘best view here’ signs and climb up on a smaller mountain across from the Monastery for some pretty great views. I hit a couple of these viewpoints, but not all of them. I did get some pretty great shots though.
I recommend wandering around a bit, checking out the angles. Higher isn’t necessarily better, so just take a look around and see where looks best to you for photos. One of the great things about the Petra Monastery is that it isn’t as cramped as other parts of Petra, like in front of the Treasury. There’s lots of space and since most people walk further up the next hill you won’t get the crowds.
I recommend taking about 15-30 minutes up here to walk around and take a little break then head back down. Because, if I’m being honest, going down is the scary part.
Hiking Down from the Petra Monastery
Climbing up is always what everyone worries about, but climbing down somehow always manages to be worse. Remember those tiny uneven stairs I mentioned? Yeah, those are extra scary going the other direction. I ended up having to awkwardly step sideways on a bunch of them. Not to mention that they are still full of donkey dung and just plain slippery thanks to being so worn down. Definitely not something I would ever want to have to climb down in the rain.
Going down took about the same time as going up and involved a lot of dodging donkeys and other hikers. By the time I got to the bottom, my knees felt like they belonged to a 90-year-old woman, not a 29-year-old one, but it was done. I did it!
So, is Hiking the Petra Monastery Worth it?
Hell yes! It really is spectacular and I honestly would have felt like I missed out if I didn’t go. No, it wasn’t easy but it wasn’t as hard and terrifying as I expected it to be either. So if you are worried about it, just remember to take your time, take breaks as required, and bring water. Hiking to the Petra Monastery is not a race- so do it at your own pace. Just plan your timing accordingly (It takes 1-1.5 hours to walk back to the visitor centre from the base of the Petra Monastery hiking trail) and you will be fine.