Petra by night involves walking through this UNESCO World Heritage Site under cover of darkness, save for thousands upon thousands of candles. It’s an experience in Jordan that people seem to love or hate and I think a lot of that comes down to expectations, plus a few practical tips that can be tweaked. Here’s my experience of Petra by Night. Plus, all the pros and cons you should consider before you book.
Life’s been high on adventure lately, if low on sleep. Usually, I manage to find something beautiful, something that moves me wherever I go. But last night, in Petra, that didn’t happen.
Lit only by candles and a shower of stars overhead, Petra’s passageway to the Treasury hides its main attraction beneath a reverential darkness. The curves and ripples of raspberry-rust rock that mesmerize by day disappear at night, lost in the inky silence.
Footsteps move across the stone and cats cry beyond in the shadows.
We are, after all, approaching a tomb. Or a temple. The Treasury was built not to store money – but to commemorate the dead or to worship the gods. Petra, as you might expect from a city that’s thousands of years old, has plenty of mysteries.
As we grow nearer, a voice sings to the solemn crowd, an invisible man among an expanse of candles shrouded in brown paper bags.
Petra by night wasn’t beautiful and it didn’t move me. Amid the half-light in Jordan, it overwhelmed me.
Related: 7 of the Best Things to Do in Jordan
It’s an excursion that you pay for separate to your main admission ticket. Always check the latest price, but expect to pay around 20USD per person and you can usually book on the day.
Again, always double check, but Petra by Night is not held every day. It’s typically on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday and leaves the visitor centre at 20:30 and lasts about two hours.
You will join a (large!) group and walk for around 30 minutes over rough and uneven ground to reach the Treasury. The 1500 candles can seem eery, haunting and spectacular or just too plain dark depending on your mood.
On arrival, you’ll need to sit on a rug on the floor and stay still until it’s time to walk back. Local Bedouin will play music and candles light up the stone but (and this is important) Petra by Night is really all about simple music and simple candlelight.
Don’t expect speakers, floodlights, or any cables and paraphernalia of an after dark show.
Do expect to be able to tilt your head back and enjoy spectacular stargazing in the desert in one of the most special places on earth.
Well, for one, we are all different, of course. In a way, it can seem like a lot of money for not that much effort on the part of the organisers. On the other hand, it’s not much money for an outstanding experience in this world.
I think a lot depends on who you are with and what you are expecting.
If your group consists of loud, annoying people who show no respect for you enjoying the view or taking a photo then, yes, your experience is a bit doomed. In that case, you just have to hope for the best!
If, however, you’re expecting a night time “show” then know in advance that that’s not what Petra by Night is about.
One thing I’d highly recommend, though, is to visit Petra by day first. That way, you won’t feel as though you’re “missing out” on the view you’re longing to see and instead can sit back and appreciate the place for what it is. You’ll also (she cackled) likely be worn out and physically tired from the hike, making it far less likely you’ll be annoyed!
Ah, yes, the modern obsession. Here are my top tips for getting great photos of Petra at Night:
Related: The Best Places to Visit in Jordan
Disclosure: I visited Jordan as a guest of the Jordan Tourist Board, however, as ever, as always, all views remain my own.
Hi, I'm Abi, a doctor turned writer who's worked with Lonely Planet, the BBC, UNESCO and more. Let's travel more and think more. Find out more.
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