When we asked people who live in Amman about the climb to the Monastery they had 3 words of advice - "Take the donkey."
So that's what we did - donkey up, walk down.
It was an experience, terrifying at first as the path was so narrow in places that our legs seemed to dangle in space over the ravine, but once we trusted the sure-footedness of the animal, it was quite fun - and our legs were grateful to have escaped the first 850 steps of the long climb up. There was no escaping the last part of the path, much shorter but steeper, but the spectacle of the huge facade of the Monastery was ahead of us, it was still very early in the morning and we knew there was no-one ahead of us so we would have the place absolutely to ourselves - magic.
Allow yourself plenty of time to get up to the Monastery, whether by donkey or under your own steam. It is a long way, but the path is good, a mix of steps and flat stretches. You'll encounter some very persuasive saleswomen on the way - if they can't get you going up (if you're on a donkey) be sure they'll get you coming down.
The Monastery is up, up, up … 500 steps? … I don’t remember … I only remember walking, climbing up over one hour under a terrible sun with hot water. A way where is very difficult to find a shadow to protect yourself and rest. When you reach to the top go direct to the cave in front where you will find a bar, and rest there a little, after you will able to admire the architecture :)
Bigger than the Treasury, but with less work … or at least less work remain, cause there the erosion have make for his work.
Why to come up here? Because it is beautiful and also because the place where it is also wonderful.
Before beging your climing you will be asked to hire a donkey to get up, the will remember you thousands of times that there are 500 steps and that you will take 1 hour to reach the top, and that with the donkey you will get there in a half. All for 4 J.D.
Well you have to decide, I supouse that climing over a donkey must be a great experience :)
But don't be distracted by all these possibilities, turn to the right, past the Resthouse complex and the new museum; go over the bridge and follow the path to Wadi el Deir.
Innumerable children will offer donkey rides to climb the steps - you will certainly be told there are 400 of them, or even 800. I did count them once and decided that there were in fact about 300 of them, counting fairly and not including the tiny ones! That's plenty, and the Monastery which you are making for is some 200 meters up from the Qasr el Bint - you might well appreciate the donkey service.
Be sure to climb these steps in the morning: they are in shade then, which makes a tremendous difference, and by all means take advantage of the offers of refreshment on the way!
When you see post cards of Petra or those little stone carvings, it is almost certainly going to be an image of the Monestary. Along with the Treasury at the opposite end of Petra, it is probably the best preserved building in the ancient city, and an obvious must see. You can't come to Petra and not make your way up hear to see it. Facing the Monestary is a cafe where you can rest your legs a bit before continuing further on to an excellent viewpoint (as I did), or turning back.
Almost instantaneously after arriving at the treasury through the Siq, you will be bombarded with offers of donkey rides to the monestary. I would suggest not taking a donkey for a couple of reasons. First reason you can read in my 'warnings or dangers' page. Secondly, as I was walking up and donkeys were going by feet slipping on the stairs teetering close to precipices, I couldn't help but think that the people ridding these donkeys had a death wish. It looks like a truly terrifying ordeal, I would much rather walk. It's a long walk, yes, but definetly worth it, and you can always take consolation in how easy the walk down will be in comparison. Take it from me, I was pretty much running the whole way down.
After the hard ascended on the over 800 steps, finally you arrive to the second wonder of Petra: Al-Deir , the Monastery. It's so-called because it appears to have been used as such during the Byzantine Christian period - resembles the Khazneh, but is larger, cruder and more eroded. It porbably was consacrated to King Obodas, but archeologist thought that it was build during the Kingdom of Rabel II (76-106 AD). The great doorway is around eight metres tall, and the facade as a whole is approximately fifty metres wide by forty-five tall. The whole structure, like the Khazneh, has been carved out of the rock face, and the flanking walls reveal clearly how deep the builders cut into the cliff to create it. It's impressing and i think that the best wiev of all the monument is from the hill sitaute just in front of the Monastery.
The monestary is located right by the very back of petra and it´s a long and steep hike to get there, buit you are awarded with one of the most stunning buildings in Petra once you get there, so take your time to see this place if you have the stamina for it.
The wide space in front of it was carved out of the mountain side to make an impressive courtyard surrounded by a colonnade and with a round platform just outside, probably for making speeches. I have found a photo of a wonderful reconstruction of its probable appearance in the time of the Nabateans.
This followed in fact the invariable pattern of the great tombs in Petra: the Khazneh and the Roman Soldier's tomb both conformed to this general layout originally.
If you look carefully you will be able to find the remains of many of these columns on the right hand side when you are facing the Deir. They are clearly shown on the drawing made by David Roberts in 1839.
Posted by Lulu
The Monastery is huge, it is difficult to believe the scale from photos.
The temple is tucked into a corner of the cliffs with the great panorama of Wadi Araba below. You need to walk just a little bit further to see the view - but believe me it is well worth the extra steps!
Posted by Lulu
Although it takes some effort to get to The Monastery, you will be awarded for the trouble.
The hike up the mountainous terrain might be considered as difficult for some people, and you might see very obese tourists on the back of small donkeys. I will rather not comment on this.
Take enough water with you. There is ‘restaurant’ at the top of the mountain.
Other than the Monastery, there are also several look out points on high cliffs from where you will be rewarded with spectacular views!
The Monastery is huge, and reminds a lot of The Treasury, but it seems a much more simple design.
About 300 metres far from the Monastery there is a fantastic panorama where you can see the Wadi Araba (1500 metres under you) that go from Aqaba to the Dead Sea. A fantastic wiev to end a fantastic day in this wonderful place where the time stopped 2000 years ago!!!!
You can see more picture about the landscape from the following travelogue
Once you have reached the top, the first thing you will notice is a small café with a patio!! Walk over there and then have a look behind you, that’s how you will discover this impressing building of 45 meters high and 50 meters wide!
Built during the first century, this tomb had probably been used as a hideout for the early Christians. That’s where its name comes from.
Don't spend 5 minutes gawping at the Monastery and then turn tround and go back down. The location is stunningly beautiful and in the late afternoon sun (the best time to visit the Monastery as it is the time of day when the sun hits the facade full on, but is at the same time losing its powerful midday bleaching affect) the shadows are softening the dramatic landscape around you. Walk 10 minutes away from the facade and you can find isolated spots and stare out across the Jordan Valley or back across over Petra.
The Monastery, along with the Treasury, is one of Petra's most recognisable structures. It is also one of the city's best preserved buildings.
The hike from the centre of Petra to the Monastery is hard work, and can take up to several hours. However, if you don't fancy the walk, you can hire a donkey to carry you up! We made the journey on foot, in a little over one hour, and the climb was certainly worthwhile!
As with the Treasury, the Monastery has been built into the side of the mountain. Even with today's advanced building techniques, this would represent a very impressive structure. That it was built many centuries ago, without the aid of tools, makes this an unbelievable architectural achievement.
The urn that stands on top of the Monastery has been damaged by people throwing stones at it to try and knock it off. This is because some believe it contains treasure!
After a long way up among tombs, you finally arrive to the Monastery. This building was used as a church during the Byzantine period, that's the origin of the name.
Once on top of the mountain, the view of the mountains and valleys around also rewards for the climbing.
Quite possibly the most magnificent sight in all of Petra (it rivals the Treasury), it is also one of the largest. It was used as a biclinium for the meetings of religious groups and dates to the early 2nd century AD. During the Byzantine period it was used as a chapel which is where it gets the name monastery - "dayr" in Arabic.
If you have considered riding a donkey at any point, this might be a good time to do it (on the way up). It's not exactly an easy hike as there are a lot of stairs to take on the way up. 2/3 of the way up I was wishing I had taken the donkey.
Also as a matter of perspective. Take a look at the second picture. See right below the doorway? That is two kids on a donkey. That should help tell you how huge this place is.