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Not-so-epic hike up to the Monastery – Petra, Jordan




Petra Monastery Hike

The beginning of the hike, near the Crowne Plaza restaurant

I’d heard about the grandeur of the Monastery before arriving. Reading blogs beforehand told tales of epic hikes, taking two hours along narrow ledges and avoiding rampaging donkeys.

Standing at the end of the valley it’s not possible to see the peak, but there are a lot of staircases visible on the way. I set off and immediately attracted a young boy selling donkey rides, who said I had two hours to go. I doubted this, so said no thanks to the ride. He angrily spurred the donkey, then hit it on the side of the head. The surprise attack sent it stumbling in a whirlwind of legs and teeth off the steep edge of the path to the floor about 15 feet below. Both donkey and rider quickly stood up unharmed, as though this were a regular occurrence. The boy looked angry at the donkey for being clumsy.

Petra Donkeys

Donkeys, waiting to be hit…

So the bloggers donkey stories may have been true, but the climbing effort was a bit exaggerated.

Looking back

Looking back down the hill toward the main basin

Petra view

The views get better the higher you get

Petra steps

More steps. Beyond that are some more steps.

In reality it took 36 minutes of solid climbing, including numerous breather stops and a brief check with a lady who seemed to be a bit too red in the face to be healthy.

Leaving the beetroot coloured woman having a cup of tea with a friendly trinket seller I finished the rest of the steps to reach the top.

Petra Seat

The are seats along the way…for short people – mind your head.

At the last peak I stopped for a couple of minutes to catch my breath and be able to arrive at the monastery looking reasonably fresh compared to the rest of the panting, red-faced climbers. I sauntered over the final steps and there was no one there to impress.

Arriving at the top I had the place to myself for 5 minutes before some shouty Germans arrived.

Petra Monastery

That’s what I came for – the Monastery at Petra

Inside Petra Monastery

You can go inside but there’s not a lot to see

There’s a friendly cafe at the top where I bought an overpriced but refreshing lemon and mint juice. The 4 Germans took up 3 tables and ate their packed lunch without buying anything.

Petra Monastery cafe

The view looking out from the monastery door

A couple of donkey passengers rode up. Took a selfies each to prove they’d been there and rode straight down again. None of the donkeys look very well treated. There’s a rescue sanctuary at the entrance to keep up appearances, but once inside the donkeys are worked hard, carrying overweight tourists down steep hills at speed. And being hit in the side of the head.

From the Monastery it’s possible to climb up further to a series of rocks where more photos can be taken, looking down from above. The rocks were full of British hippies communing with the Jordanian mysticism whilst eating Cadbury’s chocolate they must have brought from home.

Above Petra Monastery

Looking down on the Monastery

Petra Monastery panorama

Panorama from the highest hill opposite the Monastery

Petra Monastery tips

It’s not as hard a climb as everyone makes out – there are only a couple of sections of uneven ground. I did it in hiking boots but could have got away with trainers. As is usually the case the locals were running up and down in flip-flops.

Take plenty to drink – it’s hot in the middle of the day even in the winter and the cafe is a little pricey.

If you want chocolate, Cadburys is a lot tastier than the ‘chocolate-flavour-coating’ on the wafers I bought from the local shop…





Since leaving London in 2006 I’ve travelled, worked, volunteered and lived in over 90 countries. Highlights so far would be driving along the Silk Road from Beijing to Istanbul, a complete circuit of South America and volunteering with Habitat for Humanity in Costa Rica. I’m currently back in Beijing, as a base to visit more of Asia and attempt to learn Mandarin.


  • Great post! I too thought so many bloggers exaggerated the difficulty of the climb. And walking seemed much safer than riding a donkey. Your pictures are beautiful – thanks for telling it like it is!

  • Thanks for this post. This gives me a great idea what I am getting myself into tomorrow! On my to Petra and a little nervous and excited!

  • This post cracked me up. I stumbled up here while looking for articles on petra. I started looking around and noticed you stopped writing entries in 2016! Where have you been Steve? Surely you’ve been traveling. Please keep writing!


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