As if hiking my butt the 600 steps to above the Treasury wasn’t a workout enough, I decided to challenge myself even further and hike to the Monastery!
The Monastery is one of the most brilliant facades in all of Petra, and it is also one of the most physically exhausting ones to reach. Some 900ish stone steps separate you from this breathtaking structure, and it is hard going – even for the fit!
I am not the most physically fit person in the world, and I knew that if I didn’t do this hike on the first day, I would be way too sore to even think about doing it on the second day. So, after descending back down at the Royal Tombs, I got back onto the main trail and set off in the direction of the Monastery.
A little bit of prior research had bestowed some much appreciated wisdom on me.
The absolute BEST time to do this incredibly taxing hike is in the early to mid afternoon. In the afternoon the sun will have shifted so that most of the route is covered in shade, but that the facade itself will be completely and utterly drenched in sunlight – without any shade at all – making it the time to see it at its most magnificent.
So, given that it was the late morning and knowing that I had a bit of time to kill, I pressed on slowly, enjoying all the sights along the way, including…
There was actually a whole lot more along the way, but I gotta be honest, my mind was just filled up with thoughts about adorable baby camels!
One thing Petra does lack is options when it comes to dining. You can either buy cheap crisps or sit down in a surprisingly pricey restaurant and there isn’t any options in between! Many people bring food into Petra with them, and in hindsight, that is the only thing I would have done differently.
I knew that the hike to the Monastery would be a massive physical undertaking and as much as I will argue that crisps are an amazing source of nutrition (potatoes are vegetables people!) – I doubted that they would get me all the way to the top.
So, I was left with the option of The Basin restaurant, which is admittedly very conveniently located just adjacent to the starting point of the Monastery hike.
This buffet style restaurant is completely overpriced (around 20 JD per person) but I was left with no other option, so that was where I went. The food was actually half decent, and in order to get my moneys worth I made it my mission to eat as much as I physically could – I would need the energy after all!
At around 1.30pm I said goodbye to the oh so wonderful air conditioning, filled up my water bottle and made a move.
Much like my hike to the Treasury viewpoint, I knew that in order to finish this tough climb I would just need to keep my head in the game.
I had read multiple hiking reports in preparation and the information varied hugely. Some said that there were over 1000 stone steps leading to the Monastery, while others listed there being as few as 850. Some reports said the hike was only moderately difficult, others reported it as being brutally tough to complete.
So, I told myself that I simply needed to climb 1000 stairs (better to estimate more than less) and that I would give myself a break every 100 steps.
After I had done over 350 steps I told myself that I had already smashed out a third of the climb and that I could do it – and that little self affirmation totally worked!
The only downside to this climb was the young boys that kept passing me on their donkeys and offering rides. All I could hear was “want a ride in my air-conditioned taxi miss?” or “why walk when you can jump on my Ferrari?”
When I started the climb I wanted to complete it just so I could feel proud of myself, but after an experience at the top I now feel very strongly that people should not be able to ride the donkeys at all… but that is something I will get to a little bit later.
After the 600th or so step a few Bedouins told me that I was only five minutes away from the top and with that, I had a renewed sense of energy.
I could do this!
In just a few more steps, I had reached one of the most stunningly beautiful facades, and every aching muscle became undoubtedly worth it.
Plus, I smashed out the climb in only 40 minutes, which is certainly not half bad for someone who considers a Netflix binge session to be cardio!
There is something undeniably special about the Monastery.
I had been most excited to see the Treasury, but ultimately, it was this façade that I found the most inspiring.
This could possibly be due a heightened sense of accomplishment and relief due to the strenuous climb, or it could just be because it was an experience that I honestly wasn’t expecting.
There is a little café located directly opposite the façade which serves delicious fresh juices and cold drinks – which are very much appreciated after such physical exertion!
After you have caught your breath and had a little rest, there are several more hiking trails leading out further away from the Monastery. More hiking may sound like death (or is this just me?) but the views you get make it so fricking worthwhile.
As the day started to wear on, I knew I not only had to climb all the way back down the million stairs, but I also had a 4km walk back to the visitors centre. The sun had really started to descend and I did not want to get caught trying to navigate a tonne of stairs in the dark!
As I made my way back past the façade, I noticed a very sad looking donkey tied up to an information post, so I thought I would go over and give him a few pats in the hope that this would cheer him up – however, there was no such happy ending.
Please note that the next few pictures contain graphic evidence of animal cruelty.
Upon getting closer to this poor little donkey, I noticed that his face appeared to be bloodied, and upon closer inspection, I saw that this blood was coming from where the chains around has face had cut him, and left an awful open wound.
I was horrified.
He was so fearful that he would not let me get close to him, and despite obviously being in pain, he continued to pull at his chains – in what appeared to be an attempt to get free.
He was in pain. He was distressed. Nobody seemed to care.
In fact, a ‘bedouin’ man noticed me looking at him and had to audacity to ask me if I wanted to ride him down the stairs! I could not believe it! How could anybody bring themselves to further torture this animal?
I will openly admit that I have never been a fan of ‘riding’ animals. Elephants, camels and even horses – it just never felt right to me; and this experience only intensified that belief.
I remember thinking to myself ‘I am so glad I chose to walk, why should some poor donkey have to carry my fat arse up an enormous hill?’ – and that sentiment is one I still preach to anyone I know who is planning a trip to Jordan.
This next opinion may be an unpopular one, but I am going to voice it anyway.
While the view of this amazing façade may be an unbelievable experience, if you are not physically able to do the climb, then this is one experience that you should not have.
You seeing this façade is not worth any level of animal cruelty – none at all.
With a heavy heart I began my descent, and from this time, every single donkey and camel that I saw just made me feel sad. These animals do not deserve such treatment, and it really did taint my views of the Lost City.
Petra is still an amazing place to visit, but until all tourists boycott these ‘animal rides’, it will never be quite as special as it really could be.
Moral of the story – visit Petra, and visit the Monastery for sure, but only do so in a manner that has no impact on any other living creatures.
As always, stay tuned for more and happy solo travelling. xx
Getting to Petra: Flights arrive to Amman from many airport hubs, from Amman you can drive or bus to Petra
Petra Gate Hostel: A basic but comfortable hostel – dorm beds start at $16/night
The Lost City of Petra: More information about ticket prices can be found here
Threads: My white top is by Tigerlily Swimwear
Camera: Images captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 in conjunction with M.Zuiko 12-40mm f2/8 lens
Remember: Don’t be an asshole and don’t ride animals!