A journey into the ancient Nabataean city of Petra in Jordan is every traveler's dream. While it’s possible to go the “easy way” through the front gate, there's another, more ancient option for hikers and trekkers to enter: via the remote desert canyons of the Dana Nature Reserve.
Petra was unknown to the western world until Swiss explorer Johann Burckhardt was guided into the “Rose City” by Bedouins in 1812. You can only imagine his astonishment as he emerged from desert canyons into the city. His first sight: the elaborate and towering treasury, one of Petra’s most striking structures.
Today, nearly half a million tourists visit Petra every year via the standard method: the front gate. For those who want a deeper experience – a memory to cherish for a lifetime – there are more adventurous ways to enter the city.
The biggest and most dramatic trek into Petra takes a 5-7-day itinerary from the north via the Dana Nature Reserve, on ancient pathways, and through remote canyons and valleys.
Tour providers like Experience Jordan or KE adventures offer all-inclusive trips starting around US $1,600. Expect to cover around 11mi/day (18km/day) on rugged trails, for a total over 49mi (80km). Two or three-day variations are possible if jeeps are used.
The Wadi Al Ghuweir canyon is a lush, jaw dropping part of this trail, which can also be trekked alone as a day tour ending at the Feynan camp.
Wadi al Mudhlim is an easy alternative to the classic Siq entrance, following a narrow, 2.5mi (4km) canyon. The trail starts just before the entrance to the Siq. This route can be dangerous if heavy rains are prevalent.
Another option exists to trek for one day, roughly 12.5mi (20km), into Petra through an approach from the west, starting at Wadi Arava and walking through Wadi es Siyyagh.
This trek is extremely demanding, and requires talent at complex wilderness route finding, up to grade 3 or 4 rock climbing, and high levels of fitness. It is recommended to seek out a guide. Nonetheless, it is a fantastic adventure, remote and thrilling.
The spring (March–May) and fall (October–November) are best seasons for trekking.
Apart from normal travel items, a GPS, water filtration system, good hiking shoes, long hiking pants, a long-sleeve shirt, high-SPF sun cream, a sun hat, and a basic first-aid kit are essential items to pack.
While it’s possible to avoid paying gate fees by trekking via alternative routes, this is highly discouraged. It’s best to arrange the 50 dinar (US $70/day) gate fees in advance – Visit Petra has info on gate prices.
Wadi Musa is the main staging city near Petra. A taxi or private car is the best and most comfortable way to get there, which will cost around 106 dinar (US $150) one way from Amman, while a bus will run around 20 dinar (US $28) for a return trip. Jett is one company which offers services.
Explore Amman, take a day trip to Jaresh, visit Dana Nature Reserve, or go trekking near the Dead Sea – this nomad knows how to find the less-traveled Jordan.
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