Up before the sun, eager to explore Petra before the swarming crowds and before the blistering heat weighed down upon us with heavy hands. Camelbaks full with water and snacks, we made our way to the gates. Arriving early was a smart move, only a handful of people were as eager to get up so early.
The walk through Petra’s famed Siq trail was one of whispers and respect for the early morning solitude. The only sounds were footsteps echoing off the canyon walls and birds cheering in morning delight. Siq means gorge or Canyon and it is the naturally carved gateway leading into Petra’s stunning treasures. The Siq trail is roughly 1.2 km long and paved making it family/handicap accessible. This trail leads you to the famous Treasury, through sheer deep vertical walls, some portions so narrow it feels as if the canyon is swallowing you whole.
We got to enjoy the sheer wonder of this deep canyon alone and in silence, in the beautiful golden hour light.
When the Siq finally spits you out into the viewing area of the Treasury, it is a feeling that can’t be described. The magnitude of this temple makes you feel incredibly small. The Treasury known as “Al-Khazneh” in Arabic is one of the most elaborate temples in Petra spanning 131 feet high. There are many different viewpoints at the Treasury, you can climb up and see it from above but we loved standing right in front of it and marveling at the grandeur of its architecture.
We were lucky enough to experience Petra by night, the evening before. Petra by night runs every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday of each week. It begins at 8:30 pm, as with everything it is best to arrive early. You then proceed to walk the Siq trail by candlelight, candles line the path guiding you through the darkness. We were blessed with a full moon, so we had moonlight to create an even dreamier feel. Upon arriving at the Treasury, hundreds of candles are placed in front of it, illuminating the Treasury. The stars begin to reveal themselves as your eyes adjust to the darkness; you are given traditional Arabic tea and a Bedouin performance.
We truly enjoyed walking through the Siq in the dark and catching glimpses of the stars up above through narrow slots. This was our first impression of Petra and left much to be anticipated for the next day when we’d awake before sunrise.
Petra has many hiking trails, from beginner level to difficult, to choose from. We began from the main trail, The Siq which is the easiest and just followed the trail all the way to the top of Al-Dayr, another temple that is quite as impressive as The Treasury, just with less tourists.
Fair warning, the entire length of Petra is riddled with little souvenir shops and locals trying to make a living. From camel ride, to horse carriage, they will try to reel you in. For us, it took away the experience of being able to hike in nature in solitude but it was expected. When we are in nature we are not interested in shopping, we are interested in nature. Most vendors were polite and if you just firmly say no they would not hassle you. But as we went further up the trail toward Al-Dayr the trail became narrower making it difficult to avoid the shops and the locals were more aggressive in trying to sell to you. We had an unpleasant experience and ended up buying something we did not need or want, just so they would move out of our way and let us pass. Future tip, do not let them put items in your hands because then you will not be able to get away without being rude or having an unpleasant experience.
We stopped at many side attractions, visiting a colosseum made from the most beautiful rock it looked like Marble. One of the side temples we hiked to was made form the most beautiful stone, to me it seemed very similar to agate. The colors looked like a painting but it was all natural rock. It was so beautiful.
Locals still live in this area, in the rock, in caves. It was quite amazing to see them living so simply in such a beautiful landmark.
The hike up to Al-Dayr was more strenuous than we had expected. The entire hike is an incline up steep steps and switchbacks, so in the heat of a desert day it can be challenging. We began the hike following behind a little donkey who was carrying quite the load. We were astounded and quite saddened that he had to hike up the entire way with a load heavier than me on his back.. but he knew where he was going and stopped for many rest breaks.
The hike up the canyon reveals many views from different perspectives, we would stop and rest when shade would present itself and look back to enjoy the views. Having enough water is essential for this hike, we saw people carrying small water bottles and they were miserable, we each had 3 liters on our backs and it helped to keep us refreshed. After a series of switchbacks we did come upon a little rest area where locals had snacks and cold drinks in a cooler, we stopped to relax and enjoy the view before continuing the trek upward.
When we finally made it to Al-Dayr, the strenuous hike was so worth it. The magnitude of this temple, although not as intricate as The Treasury, was immaculate. There were hardly any people at the top so we got to enjoy it to ourselves. There is also a cafe at the top selling teas and fresh squeezed fruit juices.
All in all, our experience of Petra was quite beautiful and absolutely worth seeing this World Wonder. As with any tourist place, there will be crowds and it can be extremely busy. Timing is everything. Because we got up early we had an amazing experience, hiking with little to no crowds. We did about 13 miles of hiking in about 3-4 hours, with lots of stopping and enjoying the views. On our way out, back to the Treasury it was so crowded with people it was unreal. People were swarming by the bus load, making it hard to truly enjoy or get any pictures without hundreds of others in it.
We left feeling grateful and happy we woke up early, we went and spent the rest of the day relaxing our sore calves, enjoying delicious Arabic food and drinking cold wine. Feeling thrilled and excited to explore the rest of Jordan.