- Andy Nurse
See Petra Off the Beaten Track.
The rock-hewn, rose-coloured city of Petra is the jewel in Jordan’s crown. To many, it’s the magical images of Al Khazneh and the Siq that inspire a trip to Jordan in the first place.
Yet, spreading over some 260 square kilometres, the Petra Archaeological Area boasts so much more to be amazed by – that often goes overlooked.
Whilst the narrow canyon of the Siq will be, for most visitors, the first peek of Petra they enjoy, for the adventurous, there’s another way into this ancient Nabataean city. This is a route away from the tourists of Al Khazneh – a route as spectacular as it is secret.
It’s a route that takes this two-thousand-year-old settlement out of the guidebook and into its real historical and geographical context. Through the back route into Petra – along a fourteen-kilometre Nabataean trail – you’ll experience this isolated city in the desert not just as an iconic sight, but as a real, human city.
Don’t worry though; you won’t miss a thing. The glories and crowds of the Siq and the Treasury will be so much more special – once you’ve reached Petra off the beaten track.
The Beauty of the Back Route into Petra.
The back route into Petra is for the curious traveller, for the traveller who wants to explore a less-seen side of this famous site – whilst avoiding the crowds.
You’ll start from Siq al-Barid or ‘Little Petra’ and take the trail towards its bigger brother, entering the city via the majestic Monastery. From there, you’ll have plenty of time to explore.
We’d always recommend the back route into Petra. Let us tell you why.
Part of the magic of the city lies in its location. And you don’t appreciate this fully from the tour bus.
Whilst once a strategic point for trade, on this back route you’ll understand why the city went undiscovered by the west for hundreds of years. Because, in this dry world, Petra was a tricky place to live – even for the Nabataeans. With little reliable water to drink, it’s quite a wonder that they managed.
The unbeaten path also takes you through some of the breath-taking landscapes for which Jordan is known – through Wadi Ghurab and over the plateau above Wadi Siyyagh.
The Real Petra.
The Nabataeans clearly had an eye for the ceremonial – and for the wow-factor. Hence the popularity of the Siq.
But the trail from Little Petra shows a different side of the city. This is a route forged by the Nabataeans themselves – and used by the B’doul and the Layathnah Bedouins to move their livestock ever since.
Passing by Bedouin encampments, you’ll remember you’re in a really special place.
See What Others Miss.
The city itself is absolutely vast – having housed twenty thousand people at its peak. And whilst it receives so many visitors, not many stray too far. On the back route, it’s unlikely that you’ll see a soul.
For the curious, the back route into Petra shows the entirety of this ancient city, with all its houses, tombs, temples, and facades.
And at the end, you’ll see the famous Siq and its gorgeous Treasury – knowing that you’ve earned it.
Some Things You Might Need On the Back Route into Petra.
You’ll be walking through the desert, around cliff faces, and in the dust of the valleys. Consequently, this won’t be a sit-in-the-back-of-a-bus sort of trip; you are going to have to come with a reasonable level of fitness – and some decent kit.
That means hiking shoes or sturdy trainers, clothes that you are happy to get a bit sweaty in, and protection from the sun. We also recommend plenty of water.
Of course, you are going to want a camera too. Because, both within and outside of Petra, there is plenty of stuff that you’ll want to remember forever.