Seeing Petra’s Treasury without tourists

The Treasury tomb (Khazne al-Firaun) is probably the most iconic building in Petra, famous for its intricate design, and for its major role in Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade.

It is the first building you lay your eyes on after passing through the 1.2km long Siq canyon. For multi-day visitors like me, the excitement grows once you step from the old paved road onto the gravel as you know: just a few more bends and there it is, filling the view of the narrow opening of the Siq.

And as you stand right in front of it, you discover more and more details: the gods, the pillars, the intricate details of the facade,…

The name Treasury is mythological and not related to the actual use of the building. Like all the intricately carved caves in Petra, it is actually a tomb for Nabatean nobility. Its exact building date or who it was made for are unknown. Legend has it that the urn on top in the middle contains a treasure (hence the name). If you look closely, you’ll see bullet holes left behind by past adventurers trying to expose the riches. But it’s all just massive rock.

We get up just after five, have a light breakfast, wave down a cab — going down from the hotels in upper Wadi Musa the fare is only JOD1 –, and arrive at ten to six, anxious to get in.

The gates open at 6 and we are not sure how long the hike we have planned will take.

Having our Jordan Passes at hand means we can go through and don’t have to wait another few minutes for the ticket clerk, who is late this morning. I guess, with the rainy weather in the past few days he didn’t expect too many early visitors.

Only four other people are waiting with us at the gate: The female runner quickly disappears into the first light of the day. The German couple has to wait for the ticket clerk. We are walking fast and soon leave the Chinese man behind us.

We know that our path leaves the main road behind the Royal Tombs. We haven’t walked into Petra this way before, so we are a bit surprised by how long it takes to get to that point.

It’s a couple hundred meters to the Siq, the narrow canyon leading to the Treasury. The Siq itself in 1.2km long. And then it’s a few more minutes into the Petra valley where we turn right, up the mountain towards the Royal Tombs.

The dozens of souvenir stalls are sitting there unmanned with the goods still on display. Blind understanding: Nobody will steal around here.

For too long we climb stairs hewn into the colorful rock. Up. Up. Up.

Dog looking down from Treasury view point 1 in Petra, Jordan (2016-12-25)

Somewhere after the Treasury, we have picked up four dogs that follow us faithfully.

While there is no official sign posting for the Treasury view after the stairs end, for the most part, the route is easy to make out: Sometimes we follow the well-trodden path. Sometimes we see rock piles we interpret as markers. Most of the time there is only one way to go with vertical rock to our left and right.

Finally, after about an hour, we find a Bedouin tent, perched on a cliff.

We step into the open door. The other side opens to the valley.

And there it is: Khazne al-Firaun, the Treasury Tomb of the Lost City Petra.

The dogs lie down and we get to work, taking pictures, even recording a short video.

There is still nobody down there.

So Gabby finds an even better spot to the right of the tent, which looks to me impossible to get out of.

After five minutes of debating (with Gabby and myself), I decide to give it a go. What’s the worst thing that could happen? — I get stuck and a guide has to rescue me

Dog looking into Bedouin tent at Treasury view point 1 in Petra, Jordan (2016-12-25)

We go back to the tent to have our breakfast. Under the watchful eyes of the dogs, I feast on hummus and pita bread, yogurt and bananas. One or two bits of bread might have dropped to the ground just where the dogs were…

It’s around eight when the square below us comes to life. The first tourists arrive and we watch with amusement how a gang of cats heads straight for anyone stopping to take pics.

And the sun?

We actually never saw the sun rise over the Treasury. It’s behind us, on the other side of the mountain we are standing on.

A ray of sunlight slowly begins to wander down the rock wall after eight. But at this time of year, the sun will never hit the Treasury.

Seeing Petra's Treasury without touristsLinks & Info

  • You can find the latest information on entry fees and opening hours of Petra on the official website: visitpetra.jo
  • There are a few snack options/restaurants in and just outside Petra. However, they are generally rather pricey (think West-European prices) and not very good.
  • There are plenty of guides (with and without four-legged transport) available in Petra. If you prefer to have a guide to take you to the Treasury view at sunrise, you’d best set everything up the day before (or via your hotel) and meet at the entrance. Guides are usually very reliable in such arrangements.
  • If you want to make your own way to Petra (Wadi Musa) you can catch buses:
    • From Amman South Bus Station buses run all morning long. They leave when full and the ticket costs around JOD5. Click here to find out how to get from Israel to Amman.
    • Buses also run frequently from/to Aqaba as well.
    • If you want more security, you can get a ticket for a JETT bus (Jordan Express Tourist Transportation). They run less frequent and are more expensive. But departure is at the given time. jett.com.jo
  • Make sure to check out my other posts on traveling in Jordan as well as on Petra in particular: notesontraveling.com/category/middle-east/jordan/

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Comments

  • Wendy Maes 2017-01-30 at 8:04 am

    It must be great to be there (almost) on your own because I am often disappointed by seeing famous places because of the hundreds of other tourists. Special feeling is gone in an instant.

    Reply
  • Laura 2017-01-30 at 8:45 am

    What a great way to see somewhere so iconic! I think I’d quite like the 4 legged tour guides as well haha!

    Reply
  • Hendrik 2017-01-30 at 11:24 am

    Petra is truly fascinating and hopefully I will one day see it with my own eyes.
    I can imagine that nowadays it is already a very touristical place but your tips here are brilliant to try to avoid these masses! Cool video too, really a helpful post!

    Reply
  • Travelgal Nicole 2017-01-30 at 9:29 pm

    That’s so great that you were able to see it without anyone around. This is high on my list for next year so thank you for the tips.

    Reply
  • The Travel Ninjas 2017-01-31 at 4:18 am

    What an amazing view. This is one of the world’s most iconic spots and you had the best view all to yourself. Well done. Thanks for sharing these cool tips.

    Reply
  • fouronaworldtrip 2017-01-31 at 10:14 pm

    Thank you for sharing your experiences.. so far most of the articles I read about Petra are more along the lines that it is indeed very impressive but as well that it’s super touristic and sellers are following you around for hours just so you rent their donkey/horse/camel .. You experience on the other hand seems just perfect!

    Reply
  • saraessop 2017-02-02 at 7:00 pm

    It must be wonderful to have Petra almost all to yourselves. When I went there, it was full of tourist. It was much later in the day though. But it really is one of the most fasscinating places I’ve ever been to.

    Reply
  • Sarah @ Daydreams of Summertime 2017-02-04 at 10:46 pm

    Isn’t t the best when you get to experience a place without all the other tourists ruining it! Petra looks so interesting I hope I get to visit one day.

    Reply
  • Agnes 2017-02-05 at 11:22 am

    How fun! Barely any tourists and friendly dogs guiding you. I love the tent you found. Though, you got stuck and it must not have been fun at that moment, at least now you have a good story to tell 🙂

    Reply
    • Carola Bieniek 2017-02-05 at 2:21 pm

      That’s what I keep telling myself whenever something yuck happens: At least, I’ll have another story to tell

      Reply
  • onlybyland 2017-02-05 at 7:22 pm

    That is a good angle for a photo, even better with no people. It was definitely worth the early start and staying close to the site. I remember I took the treasury with my fisheye, I got the whole cliffside in the picture.

    Reply
    • Carola Bieniek 2017-02-05 at 7:24 pm

      Yes, it’s always good to have your photography tools handy for such rare opportunities

      Reply