The Sharah Mountains & Little Petra

Filed Under: Advice, Travel

This will be a shorter post (“Thank goodness!” I can hear you saying, “We just read 3,000 words about a freezing cave masquerading as a hotel.”), but I wanted to highlight another of the drives we took in Jordan, and the site of “Little Petra,” which is less-visited than the larger complex just a few miles away.

As we were packing up to leave Feynan Ecolodge, one of the hosts asked where we were headed. We explained we were going to Wadi Rum, but hadn’t decided which road to take. His eyes lit up as he insisted “You must go via Wadi Namla! It is the most beautiful road in Jordan.”

That seemed like a great endorsement, so with a few more instructions “Google Maps knows the way” and “ignore the ‘road closed’ sign” we jumped in the car.


Given how beautiful Dana Reserve is, it’s not surprising that the surrounding countryside was stunning as well.


We even saw several groups of camels grazing on tree leaves!


As we got closer to the mountains, we came to the promised “Road Closed” sign.


See that stretch of road behind the sign? I swear to everything — that was the best roadway in all of Jordan. Smooth, fresh pavement, no potholes, and nary a speed bump to be seen.

Granted, there weren’t any guard rails either, and the grades continued to be comically steep. But it was a great road for several miles.


Nearing the top of the first hill, the road became a little less great.



And then they just gave up entirely.


We thought it was great fun, though were glad we’d filled up the car with fuel a few days earlier in Kerak!

Eventually the pavement resumed, and the landscape changed completely.

This side of the mountains felt almost like Zion’s or other parts of the American Southwest, which was a fun surprise.


The road continued on to Little Petra, which was marked as “Triclinium” on several of the signs (the Roman dining-hall is one of the most notable sites in the complex).

Exploring Little Petra

If you decide to go to Little Petra, there are two things you need to know:

  • Admission is free
  • You aren’t required to have a guide

There will almost certainly be someone standing near the entrance or row of shops telling you otherwise, but there is no reason you can’t just walk in and explore. If you want to hike the back canyon from Little Petra to Petra proper, you do technically need to have purchased your Petra tickets ahead of time.

But there’s no fee to enter Little Petra itself, and you can do so independently. Be insistent — the spokesperson for the gaggle of men standing by the entrance backed down quickly when we protested their “ticket and guide” price.

Siq al-Barid (the actual name of the site) is called “Little Petra” because in many ways it feels like a pocket-sized version of Petra. The site was likely a “suburb” of Petra back in the day, so it’s not entirely inappropriate.

You still enter the complex through a narrow siq:


Facades are carved directly into the canyon walls:



And chiseled stairs climb the cliff sides:


As the site is sparsely-attended, however, you have a bit more freedom to explore.


So you can climb up and see some of the ancient wall and ceiling paintings.

The site is easy to explore, and we spent about 45 minutes climbing around. I’m sure you could spend longer if you wanted to.


Bottom line

Even if you’re not hiking in Dana, this is a great way to get to or from Petra. I might recommend taking the King’s Highway in one direction, and this in the other, though it’s certainly going to be easier to go up that highway rather than down until they finish the road.

Little Petra is well worth a stop as well, and is a nice way to experience Nabataean architecture without all the crowds and touts at Petra. And it’s free!

  1. @Tiffany
    Thank you for trip update, looking at the pictures dont you feel the vibe from indiana jones movie

  2. I can’t believe you went down that road. I might not have, but since one of the hosts was all about it, maybe I would have as well. Pretty bold. But isn’t that always how you get the best tips? Being pleasant guests to the staff always seems to pay off in fun trips like this. Little Petra looked amazing as well. Thanks for the pics.

  3. Great trip report, Tiffany.

    There’s also another little Petra in Saudi Arabia, called Mada’in Saleh. It too has a narrow gorge (the Nabateans must really have had a thing for natural passageways).

  4. We took the “Road Closed”down from Little Petra to Dead Sea. It was fun. At one stage we were overtaken by a beaten up car which later stopped by the roadside and 3 Bedouin got their prayer rugs out and started praying. Not sure if it was the prayer time or they were just thankful for making it!

  5. Great report! Enjoyed reading and seeing the unique pictures. Keep them coming (Petra etc.)!

  6. Well, I, for one, enjoyed reading all 3000 words about you freezing in the ecolodge 😉

  7. OMG! I am so inspired! I’m not even a desert person, but climbing around those rocks, stairs and ancient cave dwellings looks amazing!
    Did you say your husband took the photos? If so, please thank him for me; or thanks to whomever for all the amazing photos!!!

    Love reading your stories and your taste in trips!!

  8. What’s not to LOVE? Feel great sorrow for people that have nothing to do but count words. Each one of yours are golden. In your copious free time, you should write an adventure book. You have made an old, very handicapped man very happy- I used to be a field biologist chasing carnivores. Hint: find out if the area you are exploring has a law that states the vehicle going UP the road has the right-away over the one going DOWN. I live in Colorado and some wonder “roads” have a granitic wall on one side and a drop off to a river on the other. Clearance is (I have it by the best authority) 7.5 cm on both sides. It is a mecca for side view mirror collectors..

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *