Jordan: Petra in 2 days

By Cubie - January 27, 2020

Petra, an ancient Nabataean city forgotten for centuries until it was discovered by Swiss explorer Jean Louis Burckhardt in 1812. I was in awed, standing and staring up at Al-Khazneh. It was like a dream.

Getting to Wadi Musa from Queen Alia International Airport
Wadi Musa is a town in Ma'an Government and the nearest town to Petra. I touched down just passed 12pm and tried to get to the south bus station (Mujamma Janoobi /Alwehdat) before 2pm. 2pm because I read that minibuses are less frequent after. Even though minivans are said to to run the whole day but if there are no passengers, they would not run.

I took a taxi from the airport to the south bus station and paid JOD 25. I probably paid a little too much for this as I didn't see the counter for airport taxi which I read cost JOD 22 and went a driver with Avis car rental. My attempt to haggle for JOD 3 lesser wasn't successful and thought the price may have inflated a little and didn't push it harder, plus my haggling skill is really subpar.

Anyway, I got to the bus station at 1:17pm and the bus departed at 1:44pm. The taxi driver, Saed sent me right to the front of the minibus but on our journey there, he told me that his friend who lives in Wadi Musa was in Amman and would take JOD 25 for a taxi trip. That was a good deal as usually it could cost around JOD 85. Considering it was JOD 25 vs JOD 7, I chose the minibus.

Arriving at Wadi Musa, I got off the minivan with 2 other travellers just across the road from P Quattro Relax Hotel. I loaded up Google maps but the streets to Petra Rest Home looked a little confusing and I didn't want to spend too long wandering in the streets. The sun has set, it was winter after all. So I walked into P Quattro Relax Hotel to reconfirm on how to get to the accommodation I booked. The staff who was manning the front counter was super helpful and kind, he looked up the guesthouse and directed me.

On my way to Petra Rest Home

Getting in to Petra
If you hold a Jordan Pass, remember to show your pass at the ticket counter to get an actual ticket. This is the only site I went to that needed me to get Petra ticket, the rest only asked to view Jordan Pass which I just showed the mobile pass.

Free guide map from Petra

Trails in Petra
There are 8 different trails on the Petra guide map that I picked up from the Visitor Center.
1. Main Trail - as per the name, the main trail that leads to the heart of Petra
2. Al-Khubtha Trail - branching from the Royal Tombs, trail leading to view of the Treasury from above.
3. High Place of Sarifice Trail - this branch out from the main trail, going to the High Place of Sacrifice Trail, rounding back near the Great Temple
4. Ad-Deir (Monastery) Trail - continuation from main trail that leads to Ad-Deir, the Monastery
5. Umm Al-Biyara Trail
6. Jabal Haroun Trail
7. Sabra Trail
8. Al-Madras Trail

I did trail 1, 2 and 4 on my first day and trail 3 on second day. As you can see there are 4 other trails that I didn't do so Petra is huge!

The photos below were taken across two days, at different time of the day.

Main Trail
Approximate round-trip walking distance: 8 km / 5 miles
Duration (walking): 3.5 - 4 hours
Level of intensity: Easy

From entrance gate, you would be asked if you want a "taxi" or "ride", both referring to horse or donkey riding. They won't insist if you refused. Very shortly after you passed the entry gate, there would be a big change of scenery, as if you suddenly stepped into a film scene setting, only that these are real.

This is the stretch from entry gate to the Siq, along the way you will see massive Djinn blocks which are squared monuments. Also along the way is this Obelisk Tomb from 1st century AD.

Obelisk Tomb, from 1st century AD
Then the open surrounding changed into a path flanked by narrow gorge, the beginning of the Siq.

This natural splitting of mountain forming an exclusive 1.2km long walkway into Petra. I didn't really know how long this would be and I am terrible in estimation of distance so each turn was really a surprise.

Horseback, donkey back, camel back or carriage
Camel caravan
... at the last turn giving sneak peaks of what's at the end!

Possibly the most famous treasury in the world, Al-Khazneh.

The Treasury (Al-Khazneh / Al Khazna) is indeed the most spectacular monument carved by the Nabataeans. It was carved out of a single block and stood 39.5m tall. A local Bedouin legend has it that a pharaoh hid a treasure in the urn at the top, hence the name. It is, however, a mausoleum like many other monuments in Petra. It is believed that this is the mausoleum of King Aretas IV (9 BC - 40 AD).

If you have heard of Indiana Jones, one of the shooting scene for the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was at Al-Khazneh.

There is an unofficial trail to viewing Al-Khazneh from above if follow the rest of people and walk to your right (facing the Treasury).

This is where you start climbing, next to Al-Khazneh
The trail isn't very clear cut and felt more slippery to my clumsy self so please be careful. At the very top, I believe is a teahouse. In fact, probably all the signs that read "best view of ..." is actually leading to a teahouse. I didn't go all the way to the top, stopping at the first landing.

Spot the man at the top
Spot the man at the top to gauge how high up you can go. Here's another photo of Al-Khazneh taken at the first landing of this unofficial trail. It is about at eye level-ish.

Moving beyond Al-Khazneh one would arrived at the Street of Facades. This stretch of street showcases a row of Nabataen tombs

The next "pit stop" would be where the Main Trail branch out to High Place of Sacrifice Trail but continuing on the Main Trail, we will see the Theatre. This theatre was carved into the side of the mountain at the foot of High Place of Scarifice.

Taken from viewpoint at Al-Khubtha trail
I actually didn't notice the Nymphaeum when I first walked passed it because there was a stall selling souvenir in front of this semi-circular public fountain. Plus there were also some tired tourists taking a rest under the shade of a 450 years old wild pistachio tree.

Right after, you will hit Colonnaded Street. This street represent the main shopping streets of ancient Petra, and later Roman.

On one side of the street is the Great Temple and on the opposite, a little up a hill is the Church.

Great Temple
A little different from the rest of the monuments, the Church was covered to protect the floor mosaics.

The unassuming Church

Just a little further is the last monument on the Main Trail, the most important temple of Petra, a squarish Qasr al-Bint.

Ad-Deir (Monastery) Trail
Approximate round-trip walking distance: 2.5 km / 1.6 miles
Duration (walking): 2.5 - 3 hours
Level of intensity: Hard

Aside from the Main Trail, the most popular trail must be this one, the one to the monastery. A friend who visited before said that it was a hard climb and she had to use both hands to climb up so I had the impression of it being a really tough trail. Fret not, it wasn't as hard but it was a busy trail indeed and needing to make way for donkeys too.

The trail continues from the Main Trail, next to The Basin Restaurant. When I first read about Petra for information I was always wondering what is The Basin, so it turned out to be a restaurant.

Closer to the start of the trail, detour a little to see the Lion Triclinium. It got it's name from the 2 lions carving that flanked the entrance.

To get here from the Ad-Deir Trail, you'll have to pass under a boulder.

This is taken from Lion Triclinium going back to Ad-Deir trail
There isn't any other monuments along the way up to the Monastery but the view was great! I sent a random photo of this trail to a group chat with my friends with caption, "lunch view today" and one of my friend replied "it looked like Jordan". I am most impressed, didn't think it is so obvious especially when there wasn't any monument in the photo that I sent.

Walk or ride?

Many steps and uphill trail later, the reward at the end is Ad Deir (the Monastery). It is said that the hall was later re-used as a Christian chapel and there were crosses carved into the rear wall, so it was named the Monastery.

If you are too young to hear of Indiana Jones, maybe you have heard of Transfromers: Revenge of the Fallen where one of the scenes was filmed at the Monastery.

Right opposite the Monastery is a cafe/restaurant. I wanted to find a shady spot to have my lunch box from the guesthouse (JOD 7) which consisted of a sandwich, a cake, combination of 3 fruits (apple, orange and/or banana), a bottle of water and a packet of box drink. It was very windy when I was there, so not an ideal time to eat when I need to protect my face and food from the flying sand.

If you don't want to eat at a paid establishment, there is somewhere you can climb to get a view just slightly next to the cafe. When I was there, there was a local resting at this covered area. Further behind is a viewpoint and of course a teahouse right at the top.

From the viewpoint with the Monastery on the left
I stopped midway on my way down the Ad Deir trail to have my lunch. Lunch view was amazing.

Actually I did the Al-Khubtha trail prior to finishing the Main Trail because I accidentally de-tour to the Royal Tombs after the Theatre. If you have done both the Main Trail and Ad-Deir trail, and still want to continue, you can return to the Royal Tombs followed by the Al-Khubtha trail. I did 3 trails on my first day because I was early. Thanks to jetlag, I was already in Petra just after 6am.

Al-Khubtha Trail
Approximate round-trip walking distance: 3.5 km / 2.2 miles
Duration (walking): 2.5 - 3 hours
Level of intensity: Hard

This trail was far more quieter than Ad Deir trail and no need to avoid donkeys, but possibly because I was early when I did it. It made this trail much enjoyable.

Before you start on the Al-Khubtha trail, do visit the Royal Tombs that is made up of Urn Tomb, Silk Tomb, Corinthian Tomb and Palace Tomb.

Inside one of the Royal Tombs
Going around the Royal Tombs after visiting them, you will soon reach the Al-Khubtha trail. There are signs to indicate the trails so most people do these trails (the ones I've done) without a guide.

Al-Khubtha also starts with a series of steps, like this.

There are 3 different panoramic view reward at the top.

A short walk from here will be bring you back to viewing the magnificient Al-Khazneh but from above.

Featuring my trusty boots
There is a free spot to enjoy the view but a little away from here, possible a more front view of Al-Khazneh. However you'll need to pay for a drink at a teahouse, of course.

Then I returned to catch a panoramic view of the Theatre.

I returned to the guesthouse after this as the weather wasn't great so it was not confirmed if Petra By Night would run as scheduled, also I made reservation for dinner at the guesthouse. I did, however, returned for Petra By Night after though!

High Place of Sacrifice Trail
Approximate round-trip walking distance: 3 km / 1.9 miles
Duration (walking): 2.5 - 3 hours
Level of intensity: Hard

See... another trail that starts with steps. Up and up to the High Place of Sacrifice.

Petra is so big that this trail almost feel like it is at another location. High Place of Sacrifice is right at the top on a mountain plateau. At the last part, you'll have to walk up a small hump. This place of worship is at the third hump. On the day I was there it was rainy and windy making it a little scary. There is a less scary way to go up if you go around to its left and go up from there.

Rainy and windy but still excellent view at the top.

Teahouse at the top of the mountain
The fun thing about the High Place of Sacrifice trail is that you don't have to backtrack all the way till Main Trail again. All you need to do is walk back to where the sign indicate Wadi Farasah and follow that.

Mountain goats showing off to me how to go downhill gracefully
On this trail, there is the Lion Fountain and Garden Hall.

Lion Fountain
I spy with my little eyes - the Garden Hall
This trail will bring you back to behind Qasr al-Bint. My lunch spot for day 2 was close to the start of Jabal Haroun/Sabra/Al-Madras trails. From the map, all 3 trails starts from a similar point but branched out after.

Petra was way beyond expectation and blew my mind away. Yes, it is expensive but definitely worth a visit.

Side note: If you scroll all the way to the end of this really long post, thank you! ^^

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  1. Wait ... Trail 1, 3 and 4 ... so you walked 14 km on day 1 alone?

    1. Ya I did, totally tired by the end of it!