Set in the hills above Petra, the Monastery (Al Deir) is this ancient city’s most recognizable monument after the Treasury. Carved out of sandstone during the 3rd century BC, the Monastery was built as a Nabatean tomb, but takes its name from the crosses etched into its walls during Byzantine times. It’s 148 feet (45 meters) high.
As with other attractions in the Nabatean city of Petra, you’ll need a ticket to access the Monastery: 2-day and 3-day Petra entrance tickets are excellent value compared to the 1-day version. You’ll also need to climb more than 800 steps, one reason why most Petra group day tours from Amman and Aqaba do not include the Monastery. A private guide, a private tour, or an independent visit from the nearby town of Wadi Musa are all good options.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Monastery is accessed by more than 800 steps; they’re not steep, but they’re uneven, making them challenging to navigate in the daytime heat.
- If you have mobility issues or are traveling with young children, consider hiring a donkey to transport you up and/or down the steps.
- The Monastery is a must for travelers looking to deepen their knowledge and understanding of Jordanian history.
How to Get There
You can reach Wadi Musa, the jumpoff town for Petra, by minibus from both Aqaba and Amman. Many Petra day tours stick to the lower levels of the site: the Treasury, Royal Tombs, and Theater. The 800-odd steps to the Monastery start from the Basin Restaurant and are reasonably easy to find.
When to Get There
Plan your visit for mid-afternoon, when you’ll find shade along the path that leads up from The Basin restaurant and around the Monastery. The light will be at its best for photographs of the impressive facade; the cave tea shop opposite is a great spot to soak up the views.
Beyond the Monastery to Little Petra
If you’re taking the time to explore Petra in depth—and if you have a guide—consider the exciting hike that runs through the stark hills behind the Monastery to Little Petra, passing the ruins of an Edomite village along the way. The hike covers around 4 miles (6 kilometers) and takes around 2.5 hours.