Little Petra to Petra
Key information: Little Petra to Petra
- Siq al Barrid (the cool siq), or Little Petra, is an intriguing place: a trading and supply suburb of Petra itself, tucked into its own sandy little canyon some 8km from Petra itself, entered through a ludicrously narrow bottleneck one camel wide, it has charm rather than grandeur.
- Head off, the other side of the tat-sellers from Little Petra, rounding a cliff to an area of dry fields surrounded by outlandish cliffs, domes and stacks.
- Through a gorge and over a plain of sun-baked fields woven with sandy little starter-wadis, is the ridge-top at the head of the so-called Three Valleys, a trio of gorges that drop, drily and dramatically, down to the Petra basin.
- Wadi Muaysra as Sharkiyya, the central and easiest of the gorges, soon narrows into a dramatic orange sandstone canyon, tombs start appearing later on.
- Siqs (slot canyons) are vulnerable to flash-flooding. Be absolutely certain of the weather (both recent and approaching) before entering.
- Walkopedia rating93
- Natural interest16
- Human interest15
- Negative points1
- Total rating93
- Note: Negs: Crowds at Little Petra
- Length: 3hrs
- Maximum Altitude: N/A
- Level of Difficulty: Moderate
Siq al Barrid (the cool siq), or Little Petra, is an intriguing place: tucked into its own sandy little canyon some 8km from Petra itself, entered through a ludicrously narrow bottleneck one camel wide, it has charm rather than grandeur. It is quiet, almost intimate, compared to Petra ville centre, once the morning tour buses have headed on, although it would be a famous site in its own right were it not for its show-off neighbour.
Little Petra is thought to have been a trading and supply suburb of Petra itself. Explore its tombs and, dining rooms, including the Painted House, which boasts faded ceiling paintings of birds and foliage.
Then, it is Packs-On Time. A good track heads off, the other side of the tat-sellers from Little Petra, between a cliff and a riverbed across which there are the black goat-hair tents and browsing livestock of a Bedouin settlement. Across some humps of low rock is a group of dry fields surrounded by outlandish cliffs, domes and stacks.
Through the Wadi Gurab gorge, you climb a bank to a little plain of sun-baked fields between more outcrops, woven with sandy little starter-wadis. Skirting this, you reach the ridge-top at the head of the so-called Three Valleys, a trio of gorges that drop, drily and dramatically, down to the Petra basin.
Choosing your gorge isn't that easy, but if you aim at the middle you will hit something which will get you to Petra (check the Cicerone carefully before choosing which gorge is for you). We descended Wadi Muaysra as Sharkiyya, the central and easiest of the gorges, which starts in parched little fields under a grand cliff, but soon narrows into a dramatic orange sandstone gorge brightened by vivid oleanders on the riverbed. After a long, enjoyable, scrambly trudge, tombs start appearing. Further on, we rested in the kindly shade at the back of a large chamber, mesmerised by the bright, wavy stripes of its sandstone walls.
You eventually have to climb out of the gorge to miss an unreasonably placed drop. Crossing a low hilltop, the earthquake-smashed detritus of the Petra basin appears below, its severity softened by the vivid reds and greens of a thick strip of oleanders beside the nearly riverbed.
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Books and Maps
Books on this walk
Jordan: Walks, Treks, Caves, Climbs and Canyons– Cicerone, by Di Taylor and Tony Howard. You must have this book.
Petra: A Traveller’s Guide– by Rosalyn Magsood
The Rough Guide to Jordan– by Matthew Teller
Jordan Insight Guide – by APA Publications
Travels in Syria and the Holy Land– J.L. Burckhardt: detailed account of the travels of the 19th century “rediscoverer” of Petra.
Married to a Bedouin – by Marguerite Geldermalsen
Jordan Jubilee – Ruth Caswell http://www.jordanjubilee.com/book/bookorder.htm or in various shops in-country
A good large-scale map can be brought locally.
Stanfords: www.stanfords.co.uk. An excellent (and user-friendly) online specialist source of worldwide maps (it is also good for guidebooks).
Best times to walk/weather
Best times to walk
Spring (late January to mid May) and Autumn (October and November) are best: generally clear, sunny days and moderate temperatures make them the best times to visit. To avoid tour-bus crowds, early morning and late afternoon are best.
During November to April there can be rain and even snow. Summers see very hot temperatures and should be avoided. Beware rain: though not a problem in itself (unless torrential, when Petra can be closed), even a small fall can render gorges vulnerable to flash floods.
Royal Jordanian, the national airline, flies to Amman from numerous destinations worldwide. British Airways, BMI, Air France, KLM and Lufthansa also operate routes to the capital.
A visa is needed to enter Jordan: you can obtain single entry visas – valid for one month from any port of entry (except the King Hussein Bridge at the Jordan/Israel border), costing about ten Jordanian Dinars (around £7, €9 or $14).
Those on organised expeditions are likely to be transported from arranged departure points, usually Amman airport.
Many visitors hire a car and driver, which is still (as of 2010) a surprisingly cheap option. You can get to Petra by bus.
Permits to enter Petra need to be purchased before entering, from the Visitors’ Centre. Permits (prices in 2008) cover 1 (21JD) 2 (26JD) and 3+ (any number, but the ticket needs to state how many) (31JD) days; under-15s free.
See Walk Summary above.
Possible problems, health, other warnings
- Heat and strong sun. Carry enough water and protect yourself.
- Heights: some of these walks are not for those who have difficulties with heights.
- Canyon dangers: canyons can be lethal, particularly as a result of flash floods. Assess and prepare for all risks on those walks involving canyons or potentially wet siqs. In particular, check the weather carefully and don’t go after rain or if it is possible.
- Dangerous animals, including snakes and scorpions. Take all appropriate precautions.
- This is remote country: help may be hard to get if things go wrong.
- Health risks: you may not get prompt medical help of a standard available elsewhere should you become ill. Potential problems include insect born diseases – and water-born, a problem because of a lack of safe drinking water. Come prepared, including getting all appropriate inoculations/medications.
- Stability: as of 2010, Jordon has been safe and stable for years. But the region is inherently unstable, so check the current position.
See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and problems of any sort can arise on any walk. Many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks and possible problems. This website cannot, and does not purport to, identify all actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk or to a country in general. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
Make sure you have appropriate insurance.
Guided or independent?
The first question is: how do you plan to get about, generally? Public buses cover many places, but don’t go to Wadi Rum or out-of-the-way sites. Many people hire taxis or cars, or cars with drivers, still a relatively good value option and one which can add huge benefits in local know-how.
And: do you make your own arrangements (perfectly doable especially if you have a helpful driver), or use a travel company? The latter will add cost but will simplify the process.
We used Petra Tours to arrange our 8-day expedition. They are a large and reputable local firm and, while not walking specialists, made generally very satisfactory arrangements to fit the detailed plans we gave them. We were lucky to get the delightful and kind Ahmed Tahoon (mob. (+926) 799249146) as a driver (you can ask for him specifically): knowledgeable and happy to expand on any subject.
There is a multitude of other Jordon tour organizers, including the following:
- Explore! - www.explore.co.uk - reputable and experienced organisers.
You can do most of these walks independently, but come prepared.
There is a surfeit of hotels available, though even these may become full quickly during peak times.
Hostelbookers usually has a good selection of cheaper-end accommodation.
Other information and tips
Tipping: a delicate subject. Guides, drivers etc do not necessarily earn high wages as they are expected to get good tips. So, if you get decent service, you should err on the side of generosity. Regard it as a cost to plan for.
Useful websites and information
Other things to do in the area
A multitude of Petra walks.
Wadi Rum; Lawrence of Arabia’s refuge and a desert of wondrous multi-hued rock formations and barren, rugged terrain.
100km guided walks to Rum, or 150km to Aqaba, afford spectacular vistas across desert and terrain so bizarre and barren that it is easy to understand how Petra managed to get entirely lost to the outside world for the best part of 400 years.
Jordon has a huge variety of great walks: there is likely to be a good walk within range, where ever you may be. The Cicerone book has a multitude of ideas. Have a look at Dana, Wadi Mujib and Ajloun areas.
Various street festivals are organised throughout Jordan in the summer months. The festival celebrating the end of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, is a particularly special occasion.
Jordan is crammed with historical and archaeological marvels: particularly recommended, the Roman ruins at Jerash, in the north, and Crusader castle at Al-Karak.
Aqaba has plentiful hotels and famous Red Sea diving and snorkeling.
The Dead Sea: via several hotels and spas can often be organized on day-trips and shuttles from Amman. As well as its historical significance, the Dead Sea is renowned for its healing effects.
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.
Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
share your experiences
Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).
Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.
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