Climbing 800 Steps to Petra’s Monastery

Petra is one of the greatest must-see’s of the Middle East and, in fact, the world. What fascinates me the most about this ancient Nabatean city carved into the mountains of central Jordan is not the fact that it was built in the first place, but that it was forgotten about for hundreds of years before being rediscovered by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812. I cannot begin to imagine what this man must have thought and felt after traveling the long distance through narrow rocky cliffs and seeing the awesome sight of an enormous building carved into the mountain facing him.

The Treasury at Petra as seen through the Siq

The Treasury

As awesome as the Treasury is, it wasn’t my favorite sight in Petra. Just as beautiful, although not nearly as well known, is Petra’s Monastery. Why is this structure less popular than the Treasury? Largely because it stands at the top of a mountain made of 800 naturally formed rock steps.

Yes, 800 naturally formed rock steps. Majdi, my guide in Jordan, told me about the steps and asked if I wanted to climb them. Of course, I chirped. After all, this past summer I had climbed Mt. Sinai in the middle of the night, a journey which took over two nearly non-stop hours. I could handle 800 steps easily, I thought.

I found out the hard way that climbing 800 rock steps is a just little more challenging than walking up the entire face of a mountain. The approximately 45-minute climb up to the Monastery was very difficult, and I even had to stop a couple of times to rest. When I heard a woman climbing atop a Bedouin-led donkey partway up the mountain exclaiming I had no idea it was this hard, I knew I wasn’t alone.

Donkeys awaiting riders on the way to the Monastery

Still want to see Petra’s Monastery? Here are some tips for ascending the 800 steps.

1. Realize that your only three options for getting to the top are climbing, riding a Bedouin-led donkey or a combination of the two

2. Get a good night’s sleep beforehand. This is a serious climb and requires adequate rest.

3. Bring at least one bottle of water, whatever the temperature outside.

4. Bring a snack. It takes about 45 minutes to get to the top and 30 or 45 minutes to get back down, and then you’ll probably want to spend a minimum of 30 minutes looking around the Monastery and surrounding area. You might need something to replenish your energy.

5. Wear comfortable shoes with good tread. The rocks can be slippery, especially coming down.

6. Wear a hat. There is very little shade along the way and you will need to see as well as possible while you’re climbing.

The exertion is well worth it, as once you reach the top you will be richly rewarded.

Petra's Monastery as you see it upon reaching the top of the mountain

The Monastery at first sight

Petra's amazing Monastery

Is this not just as awesome as the Treasury?

View of the entire Monastery in Jordan

The Monastery in All its Glory

My trip to Jordan was sponsored by the Jordan Tourism Board, but all opinions are honestly my own.

13 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Great tips for exploring a beautiful place!

  2. Sabina says:

    Hi Brock – Thank you!

  3. Steve says:

    Wow, 800 steps really is a serious climb. But bythe photo you have it looks like it was worth the effort.

  4. Sabina says:

    Steve, it really was a challenge but, yes, very well worth it!

  5. sheril says:

    OMG 800 steps to climb ?? That’s big for me ..This destination is on my wish list and i need to know what’s inside petra ??

  6. Sabina says:

    Sheril, you MUST go to Petra! 800 steps is a lot, but I think once you’re there you’ll be so into it they’ll seem like almost nothing to you. Since it’s on your wish list I think you’ll want two or three day to explore it all.

  7. Cherszy says:

    Now I know why everyone’s talking about Petra. One of the wonders of the world for sure! Can’t wait to climb the 800 steps myself next week! And thank you, Sabina, for your tips! I’m thankful for bloggers like you – always giving useful advice to fellow travelers. :)

  8. Sabina says:

    Hi Cheryl, I’m so happy to hear that you found my advice useful. I hope you enjoy every inch of the 800-step climb as well as the rest of your journey :)

  9. Cherszy says:

    We only got to climb until the Treasury ‘coz we didn’t have enough time. Next time, I’m climbing until the Monastery since it looks absolutely spectacular. I also want to see the amphitheater in my next trip since it looks really nice in the brochure that I got. Did you get to visit the amphitheater Sabina?

  10. Sabina says:

    Hi, Cheryl – too bad you didn’t get to see the Monastery this time! I didn’t get to see the amphitheatre myself. It looks like we both need to return to Petra :)

  11. Li says:

    I will take a donkey.
    Li recently posted..Woman in YangonMy Profile

  12. Sabina says:

    Li, that might be a good idea. :)

  13. Launa says:

    I recently visited Petra with 3 female friends and we decided to see The Monastery. It was breathtaking in many ways and absolutely worth the walk up! One friend chose to ride a donkey and ended up covered in massive bruises when the donkey slipped and fell! These animals are badly abused and should be avoided! Other suggestions based on our experience: Go in the afternoon, when the path is partially shaded; wear a hat; take at least 2 liters of water and a snack and plan on taking rest stops along the way (one member of our group is very athletic and jogged up, but the rest of us huffed & puffed and needed breaks!); take some money to enjoy a turkish coffee or cup of tea at the top while you recover on the sofa’s and gaze at the Monastery! And finally – Don’t miss it!!! :-)

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