THE TREASURY OVERLOOK AT PETRA
The Treasury is the most famous monument at Petra. It’s the first major monument visitors see when they finish the walk through the Siq and emerge into the valley of Petra. (For more on the Siq read our previous article : Walking The Siq.)
The plaza in front of The Treasury is a fairly open and broad space and gives visitors a great view of this impressive and ancient structure. Unfortunately for photographers, the Treasury is a large / tall structure and it’s difficult to get a full photo. It’s a place where a wide angle lens can be very helpful. The plaza is also almost constantly full of visitors looking up at The Treasury, snapping pictures and selfies looking up at The Treasury. And all the time visitors are coming and going from Petra – entering and exiting the Siq. So again, it’s rather difficult to get an open view and next to impossible to get an unobstructed photo. If only there were a Treasury Overlook at Petra. Well …… turns out there is.
Select Your Route With Caution
For the more determined visitor, it is possible to get other views of The Treasury, views which are more impressive and unique – looking downward on The Treasury rather than upward at it. But be aware – access to some views can be rather dangerous apparently, requiring a steep climb up ancient and failing stairways and along narrow cliff-side paths. These pathways also tend to be officially closed off to visitors. I consulted with a trusted local and knowledgable guide near The Treasury about such paths and his response was a clear, “not recommended.” Some other means of access involve connecting with a local Bedouin (who will very possibly offer his services to you – over and over again) who will take you to his “Secret Path” up the mountain trails – possibly by donkey-possibly not – to get an overview of The Treasury. Sounds a bit “iffy” – right? My guide friend again responded; “not recommended.” Okay, so he’s a man of few words. But he makes his point. In spite of risks, some visitors do take these options. And they lived to tell the tale and they apparently enjoyed the experience. These questionable options are up to you. My thought? “Not recommended – that’s for sure.” If you are determined to pursue these possibilities – do your research first. An on-line search should give you lots of hits on articles with the pros and cons.
Two Reasonable Routes To A Treasury Overlook View
Fortunately there are a couple of other, less marginal possibilities which allow more adventurous visitors to get a view of the Treasury from above. Short Route #1 -The first is a rather quick and easy climb which takes you about half way up the rock cliff wall opposite the Treasury. Long Route # 2 – The second is a much longer trail that eventually takes you to the top of the cliff overlooking the Treasury
The viewing level for Rte # 1 is halfway up the rock wall opposite The Treasury. The viewing area for Rte #2 is higher up, above the Rte #1viewing level, at the top of the rock wall.
The rough relative positions of the upper and lower viewing levels are shown in the image below. Unfortunately there is no way to go from the Lower Viewing Level directly up to the Upper Viewing Level. You must use two very different routes.
SHORT ROUTE # 1
My visit to Petra was limited to one day on site. Given time limitations I opted for Route # 1. This is a short climb which will get you to theTreasury Overlook point after about 10-15 minutes of climbing. Experienced and nimble climbers will find it to be quite easy. There are one or two areas which call for a bit of scrambling but overall most climbers and hikers of average ability seemed to have no problem.
To access Short Route # 1 start out facing the Treasury and look directly to your right. You will see the view shown in the image above. The route begins at the plaza floor at the left of the base of the area that looks a bit like ( and is) a rock slide area. As you walk toward the starting point you will actually walk past (it will be on your left) the wide walkway between cliffs which leads further into the main area of Petra.
The image above shows (roughly) the path taken on the Rte 1 climb. The path is indicated by the thin white line superimposed on the image. The path starts at the bottom left and zig-zags a bit in the center until it reaches the rock wall on the right. (You may have to step over a small wire fence – appears that no one really stops there.) Then the climb becomes a bit steeper and more narrow. At one point a bit of scrambling is needed to move upward through a narrow opening in several large rocks.The final viewing platform is circled at the upper right. It’s a relative flat rock surface that has room for a number of people. At that point you may find that a very enterprising Bedouin has set up shop. He has the flat viewing area covered with rugs. He sits casually under an umbrella and asks that you remove your shoes. Oh yes – he will also show you his sign which requests payment of 1 Jordanian Dinar for viewing from “his” location.
The climb is not bad and it does give viewers a different and interesting visual perspective on The Treasury. But the climb is actually a bit higher than it seems at first. The next few pairs of images were taken by a friend of me as I made my way upward. In each pair the first is a close-up crop and the second is the full frame original which gives a sense of scale. My thanks to Katy for the photos.
If you take it slow and easy the climb is manageable. And it is a worthwhile and rewarding climb. The 5 photos which follow were taken at various stages of the climb showing the route and views of the valley floor and Treasury on the way up as well as views from the top.
LONG ROUTE # 2
Due to time limitations I didn’t personally take the longer Route #2. I did see where it starts as well as where it ends and I saw a few of the sites along the way as I walked the lower, first section up to the Royal Tombs. Information on this route is well documented. The route actually is known as the Al-Khubtha Trail. The trail begins on the main path through Petra north of The Theatre. (See map below.) It first heads eastward as it climbs up to the western facing Royal Tombs. It then moves northward past the front of the tombs, continuing beyond the tombs. It climbs slightly and then does a “U-Turn” around the mountain which contains the Royal Tombs and returns southward past other tombs . It’s not a short hike but eventually the path ends at a high Treasury Overlook.
All visitors to Petra can get a free map at the Visitor Center. The map is very helpful, showing the location of the various monuments, locations, and features found in the Petra Valley. The map also shows a variety of Hiking Trails and it includes the Al-Khutha Trail (although it does not mention that it ends at the Treasury overlook.) The map indicates that this trail covers @ 2.2 miles, is classified as “hard” in terms of “Level of Intensity”, and takes about 2.5 hours to 3 hour round trip – to walk the full distance to the end of the path (overlook) and return. Given it’s length, it seems that the Al-Khutha Trail is not explored by many visitors who have only a one day stay in Petra. It would be possible to hike the Al-Khutha and also visit other main Petra sites in one day but it would be a long and demanding day. Most who hike this trail, or other similarly longer trails do so on their second or third day in Petra.
The Al-Khutha Trail runs northward, passing in front of the Royal Tombs shown above, and continues to the left before circling around behind the mountain.
The trail does have some signage to help keep explorers on the path.The sign in the image below marks the Al-Khubtha Trail and was located at the northern end of the western facing Royal Tombs. It points visitors further northward toward the “U-Turn” after which the trail swings back to the south on the “other side” of the mountain.
Petra is an amazing area, full of ancient sites and monuments that are beautiful and awe inspiring. If you have the opportunity, consider getting a bit off the well beaten visitor trail to view locations in a different light. Hiking to the Treasury Overlook – taking either the short hike or the long hike – will enhance your Petra experience. Next time I hope to stay longer and explore more of those interesting and longer trails.
Hike To The Treasury Overlook ……………
………………..And Enjoy The Adventure!
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