Is Petra By Night in Jordan Worth It?

By Abi King | Jordan

Nov 08

Unusual things to do in Jordan > 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. - via @insidetravellab

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.

View of the Treasury Petra by Night

My View of the Treasury Petra by Night

Petra By Night: What I Wrote The Next Day

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

Petra by night paths with 1500 candles - most of the time the view will be like this

Petra by night paths with 1500 candles – most of the time the view will be like this

What is Petra by night?

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.

Related: Visiting Petra: The How, the Where, the Why; And the Beauty in Jordan

When is Petra by night?

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.

Related: The Feynan Ecolodge: Stargazing and Coffee with the Bedouin in the Desert in Jordan

What happens during Petra at Night?

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.

Related: 10 Interesting Facts About the Dead Sea Jordan

Why do so many people not like it then?

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!

Related: Madaba in Jordan; Ancient Maps and A Call for Peace

What about photos of Petra at Night?

Ah, yes, the modern obsession. Here are my top tips for getting great photos of Petra at Night:

  1. Let everyone else get it out of their system first. You’re all there for a long enough time. Let others go first and then you will have time.
  2. Stand towards the back.
  3. You need a really long exposure for the photos to work as it will be so dark there. Many cameras can’t cope with it, so don’t despair! Try the next few tips and if that doesn’t work, move on to the last one.
  4. If you can, take a tripod.
  5. If you can’t, head toward the back and lean against the stone to steady yourself and the camera.
  6. Use the longest exposure you can manage and be as still as you can. That’s about it.
  7. Forget the flash. It won’t travel far enough.
  8. Don’t worry about it too much. This really isn’t the time and place for photography. Treat yourself to a break for once and sit, listen to the music, look at the stars and enjoy.
  9. Really!

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. 

Unusual things to do in Jordan > 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. - via @insidetravellab
Petra by night - is it worth it? In this post I share the pros and cons of visiting Petra in Jordan at night. #Petra #Jordan #Travel
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About the Author

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.

  • Very cool post! I went to Petra last year and liked it, but…it was midday and hot as hell. The sun was blinding at times.I drank two large bottles of water in just a few hours.

    I like the way your nighttime experience looks. Like an entirely different world–and one I would have enjoyed (and possibly even preferred). Thanks for this quick glimpse into it…

    • Abi says:

      I went during the day as well but forgot the water and ended up with a splitting headache! Such a basic mistake…The night visit was surreal – calm, beautiful, ethereal…Wonderful.

  • Erica says:

    That is just so romantic looking. /sigh

    • Abi says:

      I was there the night before my anniversary – just not with my husband! Half a romance I suppose…;)

  • Very different perspective on Petra. Love the photos!

  • Beautiful. I would LOVE to experience this. I hope you are having a wonderful time.

    • Abi says:

      I have a feeling you would enjoy it enormously…

  • Margo says:

    Sleep is ridiculously important. Hope you’ve caught up a bit. Beautiful pics!

  • Abi says:

    Thank you – glad it helped.

  • Abi says:

    I had…but another early morning airport trip threatens to undo the good work! One day ;)

  • Fal says:

    I stumbled upon your site as I was reading up on Jordan. I’m keen to fly to Jordan this December. However, may I know if it is safe to travel to Jordan right not especially in the light of the Middle East riot?

    • Abi says:

      Hey Fal. I can tell you that I experienced absolutely no problems whatsoever – and that Jordan has not witnessed the widespread riots and regime changes that some of its neighbours have. The people of Jordan (as in many other countries, such as the US and UK) have been asking for changes from their government. So far, that seems to be progressing peacefully.

      However, everything changes in every country, so I’ll add in a caveat here… I always check the advice here: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country/middle-east-north-africa/jordan

      And just so that I can judge the tone of that advice, I always check it against countries I “know” to be safe, like the US ;)

      I hope you have a wondeful time, Abi

  • Jason Alexander says:

    Had a chance to go to Petra some time ago and keep meaning to go back!, your pictures make it look even more substantial, thanks for sharing.

    • Abi says:

      It’s certainly worth seeing Petra by day – and night. Completely different experiences…Good luck on your journey back!

  • Awesome historical place… and its look like Graveyard :D

  • Abi says:

    Well, there are burial chambers nearby….(Shiver…) Yet for all the excavations so far, the exact function of “The Treasury” remains a mystery…

  • Those photos are stunning. I also like the bit about ‘mystery’ found in a town that is thousands of years old. It makes it all the more interesting and exciting when you don’t know all the answers.

    • Abi says:

      I agree – there is something about the mystery that enhances the suspense!

  • Visiting a place by night is as beautiful as visiting a place during the day

    • Abi says:

      If the lighting’s done well, it can be even more spectacular, I think. It strips away some of the grittiness of reality, just leaving the beauty there to see…

  • Kirsten Alana says:

    This is so beautiful Abi. I don’t know how I missed it when you first posted it but I am very glad to discover it tonight when I needed a dose of inspiration.

    Overwhelmed, in a good way? Or bad. Perplexed, yet intrigued, by your words.

    • Abi says:

      Well, I suppose when you’re overwhelmed you have more than you can handle. At this point, I had more sensory input, ideas, thoughts and other vague and slightly tangled notions running through my head than I could make sense of.
      Simply stopping to take the time to look at the stars always gets me thinking…about space and time and the significance (or lack of it) of my tiny life in such a vast universe. Then Petra itself reminded me that the work of individuals can live on for thousands of years. By day, that’s clear in the stone columns that bring inspiration and amazement to millions of visitors. But by night, with the music playing to a silent crowd, it got me thinking about how culture lives on when it isn’t, literally, set in stone…And all of that after very little sleep and a lot of scrambling around in the heat to try to get the right shots left me, well, overwhelmed!
      I’ve an article in the pipeline about Petra that I hope explains things a little better…I’ve just been holding off right now because of the backlash in certain parts of the web.
      Hope that clarifies a few things!

  • T.J. & Charlotte says:

    The last photo reminds me of Indiana Jones or something. Nice photos, nice writing. :)

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