The World’s 10 Best Hikes: Petra Kingdom

Potterfield's Picks: A week across the desert to a grand, ancient monument

Photo by Peter Potterfield

Trek: Through the Back Door—Dana Reserve to Petra
Destination: Kingdom of Jordan
Length: 50 miles, 7 days
Difficulty: Strenuous

Petra is on everyone’s bucket list, but arriving through Jordan’s desert wilderness instead of the sprawling parking lot enhances the experience in unforgettable ways. On day seven you’ll find yourself at the top of an ancient stairway carved into the red rock, where a narrow defile leads around a sharp bend, and suddenly you are stopped cold. There stands the exquisite carved façade of Al Deir, better known as the Monastery, perhaps Petra’s grandest monument. And you have it to yourself.

To enter the Nabatean city of Petra in a small party at the conclusion of almost a week in the rugged wilds of the Kingdom of Jordan is a far more satisfying arrival than the official parking lot with its idling tour busses 10 miles away. That’s what makes the weeklong trek unique. From the ancient city of Dana, the route leads down to the Feynan Eco-Lodge before crossing the vast arid expanse of Wadi Araba before climbing into the Sharah Mountains past iconic oasis and Bedouin camps toward Petra itself. The off trail travel through the deserts and mountains can be grueling, exacerbated by the heat, but the hike sets you up to enter Petra in a receptive frame of mind.

Do you research before you arrive. Time in the canyon system of Petra is precious, so it’s best to know what you want to see before you arrive. Besides the iconic sites of the Siq, the Treasury and the Monastery are mystical venues such as the Place of High Sacrifice and the Great Temple.

Logistics: Pilgrims arrive in Jordan at Queen Alia airport, and make the short drive to the starting point within the Dana Reserve. From the tent camps or ledge there, the hike descends to Feynan, and into the mountains and canyons for the epic journey. As for timing, October through April is best, when desert temperatures relent—a little.

Adventure journalist Peter Potterfield has hiked more than 10,000 miles in search of the greatest backcountry routes on the planet. As he researches his iconic hiking books, such as Classic Hikes of the World, Potterfield is always on the lookout for the best hikes on all seven continents. Here, just months before the release of his next book, Classic Hikes of North America, Potterfield offers up his current list of favorite hikes. 

Click here for the full list of The World's Ten Best Hikes.

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