Coming down from the Al-Khubtha Trail, you have to walk along the Colonnaded Street to get to the trail that will eventually take you to Ad-Deir, also known as the Monastery. Originally Nabataean, the road was refurbished during the Roman occupation:
It was a wonderful place to find some shade and devour our lunches (packed from our continental breakfast! – There are limited options within Petra proper).
Sated and ready to begin our short but steep hike, we said goodbye to the Colonnaded Street, Great Temple, and all of its Roman influences.
Soon we were back in the natural landscape of Petra. The lower levels were bathed in light, enhancing the golden shades of the sandstone. The higher we traveled, the more muted the colors as the Ad-Deir (Monastery) Trail was luckily covered in shadows for the afternoon.
Just like the Al-Khubtha Trail, while easy to follow, the steps did have a tendency to fall into disarray. We started to see more visitors on donkeys (while plenty of people take the Al-Khubtha Trail, the trail to the Monastery is much more frequented), but they always looked more nervous and less secure than those of us who decided to take on the 800 steps by foot.
One of the best benefits of walking (vs riding a donkey), other than safety and animal cruelty arguments, was that you could pause and enjoy the scenery whenever you wanted. The estimated travel times listed in the Petra Guidebook are excessive, but I could see how someone could come close to them if they stopped to enjoy the view as much as it warranted.
Less than an hour after our hike began, with no ceremony whatsoever, we rounded a corner to find the Monastery:
Much less adorned than the Treasury, the Monastery is much larger. Originally built as a tomb, it was named for its quiet location and possible use as a church in Byzantine times.
But just like the “best views of the Treasury,” the Monastery wasn’t all there was to behold:
In the top left-hand corner you can see the Bedouin tent that offers excellent views of the Monastery, as well as the surrounding countryside. Nearby trails can also take you to other viewpoints over Wadi Araba, Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
Having seen all we had planned on seeing for the day, it was time to head back. But unlike our meandering hikes of the day, this would be 5 1/2 kilometers through territory we had already seen. In addition to the 8 1/2 kilometers we had already covered that morning. It was a little daunting.
Luckily, the colors of Petra are stunning even the second time around. And we were walking downhill, using different, but easier, muscles.
In no time at all we spotted the Colonnaded Street and the Royal Tombs beyond. Sites we felt like we’d seen days ago, instead of mere hours.
We were back to the traffic and animals that make up the Petra experience. And while most of the tour buses had already headed back to Amman, there was no doubt that afternoon Petra is much busier than morning Petra.
We took our time wandering through the Siq, not knowing if this would be our last chance to take in the impressive views of the canyon. We had purchased a three-day pass, knowing we might want to return after our overnight in Wadi Rum the next day, but not knowing if we’d have the stamina for more hikes.
Many do Petra as a day trip from Amman, and I think that is a huge mistake. Petra is enormous and while we were happy with what we got to do during our main day there, we’d been out hiking from 7:30 am to 4:30 pm, a total of nine hours. Few day trips can afford as much as five hours and those during peak traffic times.
Also, we got to end our day once again relaxing at the iconic Cave Bar – something day trippers would be sure to miss.