Petra off the Beaten Path - Hidden gems in Petra, Jordan

Exploring Petra Off the Beaten Path – Uncovering its Hidden Gems

This once-lost Nabataean city is now very much on the tourist radar but Petra is more than its iconic sights

If there is one place that travellers to Jordan should include in their holiday itinerary, it is the ancient city of Petra. Built by the Nabataean Arabs, who made Petra their capital city more than 2,000 years ago, its spectacular rock-cut architecture and intricate carvings have made Petra one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world.

One of the New Seven Wonders of the World, it is easy to see why the ancient city of Petra, is at the top of the list of Jordan’s must-see destinations. From winding your way through the Siq to the moment you catch your first glimpse of the Treasury, to the time you stand in front of the soaring Monastery, this UNESCO World Heritage Site never fails to impress.

This once-lost Nabataean city is now very much on the tourist radar but Petra is more than its iconic sights. Away from the Treasury (El Khazneh), the Monastery (Ed Deir) and the Royal Tombs, those who venture off the beaten path are well-rewarded.

Join us as we explore some lesser-visited places in and around Petra

Off-the-beaten-path hikes in Petra

One of the best ways to see Petra off the beaten path is by hiking its ancient Bedouin trails. If you are prepared to walk a bit more and can dedicate a second (or even a third) day to visiting Petra, the rewards will be enormous. Petra’s hiking trails offer an escape from the crowds and a chance to immerse yourself in the region’s natural beauty. At the same time, you will discover rock temples and tombs often overlooked by tourists.

Hike to the High Place of Sacrifice (extended version)

Corinthian Travel’s favourite off-the-beaten-track walk in Petra is the hike to the High Place of Sacrifice, followed by a descent through the valley of Wadi Farasa. The High Place of Sacrifice is a complex of altars and temples, believed to have been used for religious ceremonies and animal sacrifices. The steep ascent to the High Place from Petra’s stone-cut theatre involves a vigorous thirty-minute workout. It is worth it because the views from the summit over Petra are some of the best. From there, a path then leads down to the Lion Fountain. A stone altar opposite the fountain suggests that it originally had a religious function. The first complex beyond this is the Garden Tomb, which archaeologists believe was more likely to have been a temple. Below is the Tomb of the Roman Soldier (one of the finest and most overlooked tombs in Petra) and the Triclinium (boasting the only decorated interior in Petra). The track flattens out before passing the Renaissance Tomb and leading to the Pharaon Column.

Tomb of the Roman Soldier, Petra
Tomb of the Roman Soldier, Petra

Combine these two trails – the High Place of Sacrifice trail and the Wadi Farasa trail – with a section of the main trail to create a fantastic circular walk in Petra.

Hike to Umm al Biyara

Another suggestion is to visit the elaborately carved tomb of Sextius Florentius, a one-time Roman governor of Petra, located a little to the north of the Royal Tombs. To the west, the mountain of Umm al Biyara towers over Petra and is the location of several virtually visitor-free Nabataean tombs. The highest point in the area has sweeping views of Little Petra and the Monastery, the Royal Tombs, and the Street of Facades. A hike from here up and along the ancient caravan path of Wadi Thugra will bring you to the curious Snake Monument which, in its eroded state, more closely resembles the top of an ice cream cone! Capped with a serpentine form, the stone pillar appears to keep guard over the periphery of the Ancient City of Petra.

Inside the Triclinium, Petra, Jordan
Inside the Triclinium, Petra, Jordan

Hike to Jebel Haroun and the Tomb of the Prophet Aaron

At Snake Monument, the main trail from Qasr Al Bint splits Monument, with one branch leading towards Jebel Haroun and the other towards Sabra. Serious walkers can combine the Umm al Biyara and Jebel Haroun hikes. Most will decide to tackle them on different days or plan an adapted version of the official trail.

A path at the foot of the mountain leads to the summit and onto a rock ledge known as Aaron’s Terrace. Here the rewards are impressive views over the surrounding area. The peak of Jebel Haroun is home to the Tomb of the Prophet Aaron, to which Petra’s re-discoverer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt professed to be making a pilgrimage in 1812 when he had his tantalising glimpse of the stunning ruins. Muslims, Christians and Jews believe it to be the site of the burial place of Aaron, brother of Moses.

Sabra Trail

The Sabra Trail follows a 3½ km path through the hills and valleys surrounding Petra. The trail begins near the Monastery and winds through the mountainous terrain. Although well-marked, we recommend taking a local guide who knows the area. The highlight of the Sabra hike is the breathtaking view from the trail highpoint. From here, you can see for miles, taking in panoramas of Petra and the surrounding mountains.

Panoramic view of the Monastery (Ad Deir), Petra, Jordan
Panoramic view of the Monastery (Ad Deir), Petra

Al Madras Trail

The Al Madras Trail begins close to the entrance of the Siq, but instead of taking you through it, the track goes around it. Also known as Indiana Jones Way, this trail takes hikers west of Petra, past the Obelisk Tomb, and across an ancient bridge built by the Nabataeans. You’ll find an oil press, cistern, and several sacred relics along the route, including a high place and a meeting hall for a Nabataean religious association. Although the trail is short, it is one of the more challenging trails in Petra due to its many slopes.

As with many of Petra’s trails, it is possible to adapt them. For example, a detour on the Al Madras trail leads to views over the Treasury and an extended version of the walk heads to the High Place of Sacrifice.

Tips for hiking in Petra

Petra’s walking trails cover a wide area across different locations and altitudes. Many of the hikes around Petra are challenging, but there are many ways of combining them. We recommend talking to us about a tailor-made walking holiday. We can suggest an itinerary that considers your personal needs: difficulty level, the age range of the group members, how many hours of walking you want to do etc.

Sturdy walking shoes or hiking boots are essential together with appropriate clothing for the season: loose, cool clothing that protects from the sun and warmer layers in the winter. We recommend a hat and sunscreen at all times. Make sure you carry plenty of drinking water (your guide will help!) along with some snacks.

Explore Little Petra (Siq al-Barid)

A few kilometres from the main site of Petra lies the smaller archaeological site of Little Petra, or Siq al-Barid. Built by the Nabataeans as a trading post, Siq al-Barid was a hub for caravans passing through the area. Despite not being as grand as Petra, there are plenty of fascinating things to see. Highlights of Little Petra include the tombs of Roman soldiers, a Byzantine church, and several Nabataean residences.

Little Petra is also the starting point for hiking the back route into Petra. Walking along Bedouin trails that lead to the Monastery, with views over the Wadi Araba desert, is a rewarding way to arrive in Petra.

Nabatean Temple in Little Petra, Jordan
Nabatean Temple in Little Petra, Jordan

Sleep under the stars – choose a traditional Bedouin Camp or a Luxury Glamping experience

Less of an off-the-beaten-track experience and more of a getaway-from-the-crowds suggestion. The Bedouin camps around Petra and Little Petra offer travellers the opportunity to stay in a traditional Bedouin camp in the heart of the wilderness. Or, for something completely different, opt to stay in a futuristic-looking bubble at the Petra Bubble Luxotel. The resort features a series of individual domes connected by walkways that wind through rock formations and desert. 180-degree views of the desert and mountains make the most of the breathtaking views during the day and the starlit sky at night. These not-to-be-missed bubbles offer a unique sleeping experience in Jordan.

Whichever style you choose, the multi-coloured ridged sandstone rock formations and the clear night sky filled with countless stars provide a magnificent setting.

Bubble Luxotel Petra
Bubble Luxotel Petra

Petra by Candlelight

Although far from off-the-beaten-path, one of the more unique things to do in Petra is to see it lit up by candles. It takes place in two of Petra’s most popular areas, but seeing Petra in this new light is an alternative way to experience it. Starting with a walk through the Siq where candles illuminate the path, you will arrive at The Treasury to see it glowing in the light of the carpet of candles that lays before it. Petra by Candlelight is one of our top ten experiences in Jordan.

Petra by Candlelight, Jordan
Petra by Candlelight, Jordan

On a recent visit to Petra, my guide told me that even with two weeks, there would still be plenty to do and see. This might be stretching it for most visitors, but the point was taken – there is a lot more to ancient Petra than first meets the eye.

Corinthian Travel’s private chauffeur-driven Jordan Holidays can all be tailored so that you have more time to explore ancient Petra. Our suggested 8-day / 7-night Classic Jordan tour includes three nights in Petra staying at some of Jordan’s best hotels. 

Our Jordan Off the Beaten Track suggested itinerary is a 10-day / 9-night holiday that will take you to some of the Hashemite Kingdom’s remote nooks and crannies. And for active travellers, our Walking in Jordan holiday is the perfect starting point for Lawrence of Arabia wannabees. 

If you enjoy travelling off the beaten path, this is your chance to see Petra in a way like no other. Get in touch with our destination experts and start planning your off-the-beaten-path holiday to Petra.

If you enjoyed this guide to our favourite lesser-known Petra experiences and are inspired to visit Petra off the Beaten Path, please share it.

Uncovering Petra's Hidden Gems. Petra Off the Beaten Path
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One thought on “Exploring Petra Off the Beaten Path – Uncovering its Hidden Gems

  1. Great post! I’ve always wanted to go, and I love hearing about places that are less well-known. It gives a sense of adventure when you can drift off the tourist trail and discover something new. You’ve inspired me!

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