Petra by Night: Why You Should Go and How

If only there was time to see every destination at varying times of day and night. How might our perspectives change? Petra by day and Petra by night are very different experiences.

After spending an exhausting day hiking and mule-riding around the enormous footprint that is excavated Petra, I was tired to say the least. Scheduled to check out Petra by night, a part of me began praying for rain. I couldn’t imagine walking in and out of the Siq for the second time that day, especially in the February chill. That’s two more miles, and I was just done with walking.

As always, I’m glad I made the extra effort, despite my barking dogs. The rain stayed away and I got to experience a very different side of Petra. It was a side any intrepid traveler could appreciate.

Petra by Night: What to Expect

Just so you know I did Petra by night by myself. If you’re uncomfortable doing this, you may want to look into this walking tour instead.

Getting dropped off

I expected my guides to join me for the evening’s festivities. However, they just dropped me at the entrance. I was on my own to brave the Siq in the dark. Yikes.

At that moment, I felt like the experience could go one of two ways. Either it could be scary and terrifying and morbid if I pondered all the Nabatean remains buried millenia ago in the ancient tombs towering on all sides, or perhaps it would be intriguing and reflective AND most importantly, closer to an Indiana Jones adventure than any I’d had so far. I chose B. And I did not choose poorly.

Siq Entrance

I wandered the 1/4 mile to the Siq entrance with several dozen strangers. At dusk, I couldn’t discern much, but it seemed as though I was the only solo traveler on the path. There were couples snuggled up and a few families with kids. As the group entered into the mouth of the Siq and its dark red walls closed us in, the group dissipated until there were just a few people nearby at any given time.

The night was silent except for the occasional burst of laughter or hushed whispers of a reverent group passing me by. The sky grew darker until finally, all I could see was luminaries lighting the sand path. The moon was full and though I couldn’t see it from within the Siq at that moment, it cast a glow illuminating the top of the stones rising above me.

I walked blindly really, with no one to guide me and nothing to distract me from the solitary journey except my own thoughts.

The Treasury

Just like I had during my daylight visit earlier that morning, after a mile the Siq spit me right out in front of the Treasury. The same walk just 15 hours later was a totally different experience.

For this special occasion, there were no touts offering camel rides or souvenirs, just hundreds of candles illuminating the facade of Petra’s most famous landmark. Traditional music wafted in from a dark corner of the canyon and Bedouins offered cushions to sit on and traditional hot tea to stave off the cold. The crowd of 100 or so spoke in whispers, bathing in the glow of the candle-lit Treasury.

The Main Event

The main event of Bedouin music served as a fitting soundtrack to this distinctive experience you just can’t get anywhere else. I recorded the tune on my iPhone, so every once in a while I’ll listen to it when I need space & quiet, and it transforms me to that moment sitting cross-legged in the sand.

When the music stopped, I lingered in the hopes of prolonging the moment. Popping my headphones in for the walk back, I listened to a couple of my favorite instrumental tracks from Indiana Jones, The Chronicles of Narnia, & The Lord of the Rings. I never felt like more of an adventurer than I did at that moment.

That half hour of darkness and silence and peace and mystery in the Siq was one of my favorite moments in Jordan

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Things to Know for Visiting Petra by Night

It is not overrated.

I worried about going there, thinking I’d already read so many posts on it that I’d already know all there was to know and it wouldn’t be worth the visit.

If anything, Petra is underrated.

It’s bigger than I imagined.

More impactful than expected. And certainly I’d consider returning to give it an even more in-depth look. I told my guide that if the Jordanian government would give me a shovel and a place to live, I’d be happy to live out my days excavating and searching for the next Treasury or Monastery.

Even solo, Petra by night was well worth the extra trek.

I felt okay going to Petra alone. However, if you’re still hesitant after this post, there is a group tour that goes and might be more your speed. Check here for rates & availability

Only go to Petra at night AFTER you’ve seen it in the day.

Only attempt Petra by Night AFTER you’ve experienced the Siq in all its glory by day. There’s nothing like wandering the Siq and then seeing the Treasury in the daylight. You totally miss that wonder and awe if you do Petra by Night first. Trust me on this one!

Have you been to Petra by night yet? What did you think?

For more Jordan travel check these posts next:

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Thanks to Visit Jordan for setting up my visit to Petra by Night.

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  • August 15, 2014

    This sounds like a great experience and I love all the candlelights.

    I’ve only experienced Petra by day time and love it. It is such a vast and fascinating site but also very peaceful. I’ve also heard of people being able to camp overnight in the caves. Now that is something I’d be interested in.

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