Jordan day 2: Shobak Castle, Little Petra-to-Petra hike, Monastery, Petra-by-night

Welcome to the stories of a magical week in Jordan where we navigated the coolest parts of the King’s Highway for an unforgettable week of adventure!

Day 2: Shobak Castle, Little Petra-to-Petra hike, Monastery, Petra-by-night

We stayed in Dana Towers, which was a decent accommodation, if not a bit odd.  The fresh bread for breakfast however was one of the highlights of Jordan! I’m not a huge bread eater but this was amazing.  In the morning, we got to see a bit of town – some ruins and cool canyon – it’s a 500 yr old village on the edge of Wadi Dana.  Dana also hosts the Dana Nature Preserve and has some eco lodges – there are guided trips from here to Petra that could be cool if you had more time.  

Next we were off to Shobak castle, a crusader castle built in 1115.  It’s perched on a round hilltop in a relatively fertile area, and strategically located on the route from Egypt to Syria allowing the castle holder to tax traders and those on pilgrimage routes to both Mecca and Medina.  The castle was used to attack rich caravans, in addition to being used to build ships which the crusaders intended to transport over to the Red Sea and attach Mecca itself. This was intolerable to the Sultan Saladin, who invaded in 1187 and ultimately took the castle in 1189.

Headed to the castle . . . you can see why this held off attackers!

Suffice it to say, we had a little fun with it!

No shortage of ways to play dress-up!

A classic example of history literally stacked on each other – Arabic text in the upper levels of stone after Saladdin was successful in driving out the Christians

Pretty impressive fortification!

Comments: For 10 JD, we hired the greeter for a tour, which was overwhelmingly worth it!  He’s been at the castle since 1991 supporting its excavation/restoration and his family has lived in the area for hundreds of years.  And he’s funny! There are dressed guards and other items of ‘show’ that really bring the place to life. Coupled with it’s location remote from any city, it’s a lovely place to visit and I highly recommend!  

Our trusty guide 🙂


Little Petra and the hike to the Monastery and Petra . . . what a funny day/afternoon this turned out to be!  We rolled into Little Petra not really sure what to make of the place. We were greeted by Bedoiuin guides and the full tourist program.  I went for it and hired ‘Mohammed Little Petra.’ In retrospect, it really was worth it, as he had insight into what the caves/rooms were used for, what the buildings were, the history behind the painted ceiling, and it was just plain nice to start with some context.  We ended the tour at the ‘best view in the world’ at his tea shop, where he drew us a map for the hike to Petra/the Monastary. Yeah, it wasn’t an accurate map, and we wondered if he was trying to get us lost so we’d come back and hire him as guide.

Guide Mohammed explaining the way the spaces were used

Main street, Little Petra

Robb with the ‘best view in the world’ and our ultimate hiking route (not the direct way . . . see below!)

Our guide Mohammed doing what Bedouins do best!

What we did was hike to the end of the wadi, and when we topped out on the plateau it was definitely NOT obvious where we were supposed to go next.  God save 3G and the ability to download a satellite image, coupled with a general idea of where Petra should be, we chose a wadi and walked down it. From above, it looked like it could cliff out, but the goat tracks we eventually encountered were confidence inspiriting. We ultimately popped out to a full Bedouin camp (complete with barking dogs) where the woman and her mother in law invited us in for tea (the benefit of being a lady traveler?!?!?).  With my broken Arabic and her broken English, she set us off in the right direction to find the tourist police hut and the main route to the Monastary. It was comical when we found the trail, which was extremely well marked! In retrospect, the “right” thing to do was to immediately exit the wadi we were in, to the left, and descend to the wide-open wash where the trail was. I say “right” because our route was way cooler, and in retrospect, I would do it again.  It took us 3 hours to get to the Monastary (including tea stop) but felt longer because we were so full of doubt the whole time! We connected with the main trail just as it exited the wide-open wash area, and entered the traverse around a wadi/mountain and to the Monastary. This section of the trail was legitimately cool, and worth the hike for the alpine character alone. It’s just double cool that it ends at a beautiful Monastary carved into the rock wall! We were both really glad that this was our intro to Petra – was nice to see Little Petra first as it may have been overly anticlimactic after the ‘real’ deal, and it was nice to enter the menagerie without all the crowds.  Little Petra was super chill and the carvings really cool. The hike was amazing and fun to be ‘in the mountians,’ and we agreed later that the Monastery might actually be the coolest thing in Petra, albeit less famous than the Treasury. After awhile ogling at the Monastery, we hiked into main Petra and arrived at sunset at the temple area, probably about 45 min walk. It was fun to do it as everyone (souvenir shops) were shutting down as it took the tourist pressure off that’s reasonably prevalent around Jordan.  

Headed up the wadi . . . ‘sure’ that’s where the trail would go


Really cool walking, even if it was the ‘wrong’ way! We agreed later it was totally worth going our way 🙂


The true bedouin camp we came out of the canyon near . . .


Blessed, blessed sign! We were so glad to know where we were, and confident we’d find the monastary!


Robb in the really cool part of the trail

Look for the tiny human . . . and our new friend, the dog 🙂

and so began the super rad rock formations that characterize the whole Petra area


Really cool walking – Robb hidden in there somewhere


And then we found it! So cool to come up on this view after walking through such cool natural terrain. We agreed we were so glad to arrive at Petra in this manner!  Celebratory handstand a must!


totally worth the hike up to see the monastary from above


and then the walk to the main Petra at last light . . . was cool to do it without the crowds and merchants.

As we got toward the SIq, there was a truck that offered a ride back to our car at Little Petra for about the cost it would be from town (15 JD after negotiating), so we took it.  We grabbed the car, stopped at a ‘Bedouin Camp’ that had a lot of cool lights up in the rocks for tea (considered staying, but opted for Petra), and then made it into Petra/Wadi Musa to get a hotel room at Petra Palace Hotel.  We chose this spot because it was reasonably priced (<$100) and located super close to the Petra entrance. Because we wanted to enjoy Petra-by-night as well as a super early start to the Treasury the next day, we chose to optimize for location even if not a great hotel.  We did eat at the hotel which was fine, although probably would have preferred a shawarma at a street side cafe. If one was going to do anything more than sleep in the hotel, it would be worth staying at the Petra Guest House Hotel – it’s right at the entrance, has a cool cave bar (that had Karaoke night when we passed which was a total non starter for us!), and is a very nice hotel.  For my style, it probably has the best balance of convenience, experience, and luxury although twice the price of what we paid so only worth it to actually hang out there.


Petra-by-Night seemed too random/interesting to miss . . . even though it was 17 JD (not covered by Jordan Pass or day ticket), it’s only offered Monday/Wednesday/Thursday and we happened to be there.  So, when in Jordan . . . It was cool and I’m glad we did it. I had moderate expectations based on reviews I’d read, so wasn’t expecting some serene and private experience. And it certainly wasn’t. Maybe the highlight was slight mayhem created by a broken water line draining into the Siq near the entrance and causing flooding for all the people walking in – only ankle deep at the worst so manageable.  A few beers back at the Irish Pub in the Palace Hotel and we called it a day!

Petra by Night

Celebratory beers to end a great day!

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