By Erica Bail, Creative Director at Baggallini
Petra is an ancient city settled as early as 9000 BC by nomadic Arab people called the Nabataeans. It’s famous for its gorgeous rock-cut architecture and water conduit system. You’ve probably seen its most famous building, the Treasury, on Instagram, but Petra is so much more than just that. Here are some of my favorite parts.
My friends and I visited at the end of February. The weather was mild, and it was before the busy tourist season. We stayed in Petra for two days, which was just enough time to hit the highlights and enjoy learning more about the place and the culture.
Hiking in Petra
Petra is a hiker’s dream with many miles of trails, as well as a history buff’s dream with incredible architecture from Roman times and earlier. Get an early start if you want to see everything. We started at the entrance to Petra just before 9:00 AM, which was perfect. It was starting to get a bit crowded, but we were still able to walk easily and get great photos.
It’s 1.25 miles of relatively flat walking to get from the entrance to the Treasury. This stretch of path is well taken care of, and if you get tired, there are lots of horses available to ride.
You’ll be tempted to go up to the lookout above the Treasury to get that Insta-famous shot, but I recommend you skip the lookout and spend your morning hiking to the High Place of Sacrifice. There are lots of stairs, but it’s well worth it for the view. Take your time and stop along the way to shop the local wares and chat with Bedouins. Bonus points if you pack a bag lunch. Stopping for a bite to eat on top of the mountain is magical.
The Monastery is Petra’s largest monument, and definitely my favorite. Most people hike to the Monastery from the main entrance of Petra. You’d pass the Treasury, walk to the Basin (about 2.5 miles from the main entrance), which is where a they have a nice sit-down restaurant, and then climb approximately 850 steps to reach this impressive site.
Since we had explored the Treasury and the Basin on our first day in Petra, we decided to take what’s called “the back door to the Monastery”. Our hotel arranged a driver to take us through the village and up to the entrance of the back trail. It took us about 45 minutes of hiking through gorgeous cliffs and mountains, and then there is was! Just around a bend in the trail, the Monastery rose up like something out of a movie.
Getting to Know the Locals
If you’re interested in learning about local culture, the Bedouin people who live in Petra are among the friendliest people I’ve come across in my travels. Take the time to stop and have a cup of tea with one of the dozens of women who sell jewelry and trinkets for a living within the walls of the ancient city.
The Best Beer EVER in Petra
After 10 miles of hiking and 123 (!!!) flights of stairs on our first day, we were more than ready to stop for a beer. The Cave Bar is right outside the entrance to Petra. The prices are steep compared to everywhere else in Jordan (about 9 Jordanian Dinar or almost 13 USD), but well worth it. We enjoyed resting our weary bones in their gorgeous courtyard and trading stories with other tired but happy travelers.