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 better 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 $1,500. 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 (Jordandesertroad.com).
Wadi al Mudhlim is an easy alternative which follows a 2.5mi (4km) canyon. This route can be dangerous if heavy rains are prevalent – Classic Wadi Rum Tours provides more information.
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/day (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 is the best and most comfortable way to get there, which will cost around 60 dinar (US $84) one way, while a bus will run at less than 20 dinar (US $28) for a return trip. Jett is one company which offers services.
All of the above treks are covered in Toni Howard and Di Taylor's guidebook Jordan—Walks, Treks, Caves, Canyons, and Climbs. It’s possible to purchase e-book versions of this guide. It's an irreplaceable resource for trip planning – especially if you intend on guiding yourself. The guidebook extensively covers the best Jordan has to offer.
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.
A lifetime of adventures await the willing in Wadi Rum. Trekking, canyoning, desert camping, rock climbing, and the Bedouin guides provide unforgettable experiences.