There is no doubt that the structure now called the 'monastery' is absolutely massive (about 48m/158 feet high) and massively impressive simply by virtue of its size. To give a better impression of its size: the urn on top is itself 10m (30 feet) tall!
The structure dates from the early 2nd century (100s) and was almost certainly never a monastery. It seems likely that the name came from some crosses which were scratched into the walls inside and the structure's later re-use as a Christian chapel.
The facade is very similar to that of the 'treasury', although with less detail and the carved 'treasury' sculptures replaced by niches to hold statues.. The interior is just one large room, with stone benches carved from two of its side-walls and an 'altar' reached by staircases.
The structure was almost certainly created as a temple, possibly a tomb-temple.
The area in front of the structure was deliberately flattened in Petra's heyday ( a huge task in itself) and originally had a wall and colonnade. Now, unfortunately, it provides the ideal spot for multiple 'selfies'. The noise generated by so many people doing just that, plus all the others sitting at the large cafe/restaurant, is increased by the echoing effect of the surrounding rock faces....and, for me, it was simply too much. Any atmosphere the site may have was totally destroyed. So I spent no time exploring further (there are many other structures and caves in the surrounding rock faces). After a short rest far from the crowd (soon ruined by the arrival of a group of noisy picnickers) I made my way back down to the main site.
Such a pity. Maybe I was just unlucky. But consider this: if the 'monastery' is so busy on a very-early-January afternoon, at a time when Jordanian visitor numbers are anyway low, what must it be like at busier times of year?
It's your choice whether to take a donkey or mule up the 800+ steep steps which lead to the 'monastery' (which was never a monastery, of course).
When I visited it cost 10JD to do so, plus a tip for the lad who will accompany you.
Please do not even consider doing this if you weigh more than 12 stone (76kg). If you weigh more that that (or more than 10 stone, imo) either walk up or do without a visit. Don't be selfish and don't be cruel.
I weigh very considerably less than 10 stone. I took a donkey. It was a pretty scary experience, even though I know donkeys are very sure-footed, and not one I'd recommend if you aren't already used to riding horses). The path is extremely narrow in parts, with a constant stream of visitors and donkeys (by themselves) walking down. There are sheer drops and places where the steps have eroded away so that the beast scrambles up bare rock.
But even donkeys and mules do not go all the way to the top. You must walk the last 5 minutes or so. It's quite steep and quite rough underfoot, so if you're not good at walking it's probably not worth going up at all.
There a B'dul/Bedouin stalls all the way up, offering drinks, a sit-down, trinkets and souvenirs. Many families seem to set themselves up for the day, bringing the whole family. I was much amused to see a B'dul pre-teen having a blazing row with her mother, complete with stamping her foot and then doing a classic 'flounce' down the steps! Children are children everywhere.
There are some fantastic views as you climb the steps up to (or down from) the 'monastery', and some beautiful exposed rock colours too. And when you finally get to your destination there's a much larger cafe, with plenty of seating, hot & cold food, drinks etc etc (that was a bit of an atmosphere-destroying sight, to be honest).
Was it worth the effort? Maybe, but by the time I arrived the place was pretty full and that took away any 'specialness'. Too many people taking selfies, too many people shouting and laughing, too many people altogether......
If you only have one day I'd suggest you might miss it out and spend the time exploring some of the less-visited parts of Petra itself. Go up to the High Place of Sacrifice if you want a view of the city from high above.
Continuing from the Royal Tombs through the Collanaded Street to Qasr al-Bint al-Faroun (Castle of the Pharoah's Daughter, the only free standing structure in Petra) and then a further one half hour climb is the Monastery. Built in 3rd Century BC, it is similar to the Khazneh. However, it is 50m wide and 45m high.
On your route to/from the Monastery, take time to look at some of the caves. In 1997, it would appear that some of them are still inhabited.
This place is supurb. It is well worth the trouble to get here
I semi cheated and took a donkey up and walked down, well worth the extra expence.
Beware that there are hundreds of steps to climb, and it takes aprox 1 hour or more to do so.
At the top as well as the monastry there is a cafe where you can get food and drink.
Souvenir stalls also line some of the steps up.
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.
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.
While the Treasury may be the face of Petra, the Monastery may very well be its heart and soul. Sitting high up in the mountains and with its towering facade that is even more impressive than that of the Treasury the Monastery is a perfect must see complement. Part of the reason the Treasury gets as much love as it does is that its easy to visit while seeing the Monastery requires a 40 minute hike up a mountain trail. But anything worth seeing requires a little effort and the Monastery is worth the effort. With it scenic setting high above Petra its easy to understand why the Nabetaeans chose that location for the Monastery...it is very peaceful and serene. From the Treasury it will take the average tourist about an hour and fifteen minutes to get to the Monastery so be sure to factor that it if your only in Petra for a day. The locals offer donkey rides to the top so if your looking for an easier way up that would be it. However the trail itself is very hiker friendly and I saw many senior citizens that made the hike. So in other words there isn't any excuse not to visit the Monastery during your visit to Petra!
Once you've made it up to the Monastry, don't give up. Walk the last bit to the 3 or 4 different view points looking out over the mountains and south part of the Dead Sea in the distance. It is so worth the walk for the absolutely stunning views.
Each view point has a little tented shop and you can get a tea from a couple of them.
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.
Similar in design to the Treasury & just as impressive, far bigger though 50m wide & 45m high. The Monastery with its towering columns & large urn flanked by two half pediments is definately worth the walk or ride up to it.
The Monastery is another beautiful site, only it is not as accessible as the Treasury... You will need to climb a few hundreds steps to get here. You can hire a donkey if you don't want to do it on foot. Once you up there, after seeing the monastery, continue a little further up for a spectacular view, westwards towards Wadi Araba.
The monastrey, or as we call it (el Dair) ...
You`ll need at least 1h0-1h30 hour to get to the top. Or 1h00 if you`re on a donkey.
Though I`ve never took the donkey people seems to enjoy it a lot.
On the way up, you`ll meet some people selling stones, jewllery & other souvenirs (some are from India!!) ... if you notice a tea pot, I recommend you stop & ask for a drink. They won`t charge you for it, but you may want to buy something from them after that.
Most bedouins speak other languages, they pick it up from tourists. so over a cup of tea, you may get an in-depth talk with one of the locals.
The scene at the top is breath taking .....