Petra is undoubtably a highlight of any trip to Jordan.
Spending a day (or two or three) in Petra allows visitors to enjoy all the Rose Red City has to offer, but some say the best and most dramatic introduction to Petra is at night.
Ticket holders to the Petra by Night program gather at Petra’s entrance (near the Indiana Jones gift shop 🙂 ) to wait for a guide. After a brief introduction and a request for guests to approach the Siq and tomb in silence, the group follows a Bedouin guide through the dramatic, candlelit canyon. Constellations peek through the Siq roof and shadows play along the red canyon walls. Cats scamper in and out of the caves and outcroppings, keeping a wary eye on each passerby.
After the initial crowd surges ahead, the groups thin to couples, stragglers and those anxious to bask in the beauty of the Siq (almost) alone.
Someone invariably whistles the Indiana Jones theme amdist fits of giggles. Voices hush in anticipation of the big moment just around the last bend in the Siq walls…the first glimpse of the fabled Treasury, illuminated by hundreds of candlelit lanterns.
Most visitors stand slack-jawed at first, drinking in the moment, measuring it against what they imagined it would be. Once their eyes adjust, they shuffle to a spot on the blankets spread on the ground in front of the Treasury and enjoy tiny cups of hot, sweet tea served by traditionally-dressed Bedouin men. There is a wave of shush-ing as guests and hosts plead for respectful silence. A man, hidden away in the cliffs, begins to sing.
After a short music program, visitors wander among the lanterns, snapping pictures and conspiring to stay behind for a few moments of tranquility before being gently ushered back into the Siq. The entire experience, including the walk back home, is magical.
I can’t decide if it would be better to see Petra by day or by night first. Some feel it is best to see Petra in the daylight, when it is easier to orient yourself and truly appreciate the magnificence of Petra. Some say the first glimpse should be by candlelight as it might have been centuries ago. Regardless of the order you choose, Petra at night offers a beautiful and unique opportunity to enjoy one of the Wonders of the World.
Have you been to Petra? Do you think it’s best to see it at night or by day first?
Things to Know
Petra by night takes place on Monday, Wednesday and Thursdays. Tickets cost 12JD and are available from Petra’s ticket office/ Visitor Center. Check information locally when you arrive, as days and times may change.
If you can’t get to Petra, you can enjoy watching it via live cam. I spend entirely too much of my time watching it.
Where to stay
We stayed at the Movenpick Petra jut outside the entrance gates. The hotel was beautiful, the food excellent and the staff efficient and friendly. I would return in a heartbeat (the breakfast buffet is legendary). There are other hotels conveniently located in the small town and a few Bedouin camps that offer overnight stays nearby. I only write about or support hotels where I’ve stayed, so I can’t really recommend other hotels. There is a wide variety of accommodation, suitable for every taste and budget. Do your research.
If you have any questions about visiting Petra, feel free to ask!
Interested in more information about Petra and Jordan? Try these…
Petra by Day
A Day in the Wadi Rum
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