Entry by al Madras
Those with a second day to spare at Petra should seize the opportunity to get off the beaten track and hike the al Madras route, if only for the chance to observe the Treasury from above. It's a chance to appreciate the lunar-like landscape that surrounds Petra, largely all to yourself as few other visitors opting for this journey. The trail is unmarked you'll need to hire a local guide.
From the Main Gate to the High Place of Sacrifice
This route starts from the main gate near the Visitor's Centre but veers left of the Siq to climb over the rocky terrain along its southern cliff. Those who suffer from vertigo may find the steep escarpments challenging with several scrambles required but it's worth the hour effort when you arrive at the vantage point that gives you an undisturbed view of the Treasury from up high. The 'viewing platform' is big enough to lie out across for the ultimate Petra selfie.
Continuing along the rugged mountainside, the trail retraces its steps for a bit before heading in a northwest direction to the High Place of Sacrifice, Petra's best-preserved sacrificial site. The entrance is marked by two 6m-tall obelisks made all the more impressive by the fact that were carved from the rock rather than placed on top. The main altar area is marked by a levelled platform, three steps and a large stone block that would have once housed religious statues during rituals and processions.
Walking down from the High Place of Sacrifice via Wadi Farasa
The route down into Petra's centre follows the western cliff of the Attuf ridge via Wadi Farasa (Butterfly Valley) where you can see a number of monuments and tombs. It's also a particularly scenic area with amazing rock formations decorated with rich mineral colours and wild flowers. The descent is steep in places and takes you pass the Lion Monument - a fountain carved into the shape of a lion, the Roman Soldier's Tomb, which features three carved statues, and the Garden Triclinium - a simple cave used for annual feasts and overlooked by a large tree. The trail continues pass the Az-Zantur residential mansion (currently undergoing excavations) and nearby Nabataean and Roman houses to the Pharaoh's Column, which serves as a useful landmark for onward trails.
From the Pharaoh's Column to the Royal Tombs
It's not far from Petra's City Centre with a path leading from the column to the back of the market area. It's then a stone's throw to the Great Temple, the largest freestanding building uncovered in Petra. Excavations began in 1993 and continue to this day, revealing a small theatre that may have served as an assembly hall, as well as hexagonal floor stones and dozens of columns. Archaeologists even uncovered a carving of an elephant - a first in Petra.
Once again, if this is your last day in Petra then it's sensible to continue further on to the Monastery but if you've got a spare day to follow, head back east to the Royal Tombs where you'll find Petra's most impressive burial sites. It'll be the perfect time to visit them too, with the late afternoon sun bathing the sandstone in a warm, soft light. Modern steps lead up to where the tombs sit high above the Wadi Musa. Star tombs among the offering include the Urn Tomb - notable for its massive urn, the attractive Silk Tomb with veins of delicate colours in the rock facade, and the three-storey Palace Tomb.
Hiking Trail Quick Facts:
Sites seen - Obelisks, High Place of Sacrifice, Wadi Farasa, Great Temple and Royal Tombs
Distance covered - 10km
Time estimate - between 7-8hrs
Note: Although you don't have to be a world-class hiker or rock-climber to do this trail, a moderate level of fitness is required.