My Favorite Jordan Experience: Petra by Night and by Day

Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve dreamed of seeing Petra, the Rose City that was lost to the western world until 1812. The ancient city almost seemed mythical, about as real to me as the Lost City of Atlantis.

I honestly never thought I’d get to visit Petra- after all, when would I ever be in Jordan?

Well I was lucky enough to see Petra not once, but twice. Both visits, the first by night, the second by day, were hands-down my favorite experiences in Jordan.

Petra by Night

After a sumptuous dinner of veal in tahini sauce, our guides dropped us off at the front gates.”Be careful. And don’t talk to any gypsies,” they advised.

Uh, thanks? From there we began the mile or so walk to Petra, through the narrow gorges called the Siq.

I’ll admit- the beginning of the walk to Petra wasn’t exactly magical. Hundreds of tourists competed for space as feral cats howled (and I mean HOWLED), creating the least appealing travel soundtrack of all time.

But luckily Amanda and Jessica wanted to stop and take photos, so we let the crowds pass as they set up their tripods. This turned out to be the best thing we did all evening, as soon we were nearly alone.

Once we resumed walking through the Siq, I couldn’t stop staring at the stars above- they were white and dazzling. On the ground, paper lanterns lined the walls of the Siq, illuminating our pathway to Petra.

Lanterns Lighting the Way to Petra

Lanterns Lighting the Way to Petra

As we appreciated all of this beauty, still chattering, one of us said, “Let’s not talk.” So we immediately stopped talking and walked the gorge in silence, staring up at the red rocks and the star-dotted sky.

When we arrived at the Treasury the bedouins were singing by candlelight. And the Treasury’s façade, awash in candlelight, was every bit as beautiful as I’d imagined.

The Treasury by Candlelight. Petra, Jordan

 

I have to admit I was kicking myself for not bringing my tripod, as I wasn’t able to take high-quality night shots without one. (See Jessica’s post for flawless night photography.)

But photos aside, approaching the Treasury with haunting Bedouin music playing was something I’ll never forget.

The Treasury by Candlelight. Petra, Jordan

 

Visiting Petra by Day

The next morning we were stoked- we were going to Petra again! As we walked through the entrance for the second time, Jessica (very smartly) picked up an Indiana Jones hat.

Also on an Indiana Jones kick, I decided I wanted to ride part of the Siq on a horse. In retrospect, I regretted this decision as who knows how the horses were treated. And honestly I felt nothing like Indy while riding a horse on a lead-line.

Petra on Horseback

Petra, Jordan

This time as we walked through the siq, we observed details we hadn’t seen before.

Petra_Jordan

Petra, Jordan

Petra_Jordan_Elephant_Rock
Is it just me or does this rock look just like an elephant?

We also stopped many times to take portraits of one another- the advantage of having friends who are just as obsessed with photography as you are.

Petra_Jordan_Indiana_Jones_Hat

Petra, Jordan

I loved catching a sliver of the Treasury before walking in. Even though I was surrounded by fellow tourists, I somehow felt I was discovering the ancient city all on my own.

Petra_Jordan_Treasury

The Treasury at Petra, Jordan

Laying Eyes on the Treasury at Petra, Jordan

Petra, Jordan

Once we got to the treasury, the ambiance was less serene than the night before. One particularly memorable tout said, “We pay 50 camels for you and 20 for rest,” pointing to Jessica. And what are the rest of us, chopped liver? Ha.

Something about standing in front of the Treasury, dusty and surrounded by horses and camels really made me feel like Indiana Jones. Sigh.. if only historical knowledge came in handy like it does for Indy.

Petra_Jordan_Camels

Not my best work- see this post for way better camel photography. I did like their colorful saddles though!

The ruins past the Treasury were also stunning, and I wished we had enough time to climb the Monastery Route to catch beautiful views of Petra from above.

Next time. And I truly do hope there is a next time.

Petra, Jordan

Petra, Jordan

Essential Info: 

A one-day pass to Petra costs 50 JD ($70 USD) and a two-day pass is 55 JD ($77 USD). See the website for more ticketing info.

Petra by night tours cost 17 JD ($24 USD) and children under 12 enter free. See more info here.

Bring sunscreen, good walking shoes and possibly a hat- it’s hot!

If you’re a shutterbug, go early- midday is so bright that it’s hard to take good photos. And if you visit at night, bring a tripod.

Have you dreamed of visiting Petra someday?

I was a guest of the Jordan Tourism Board, but as always, all opinions are my own.

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

31 thoughts on “My Favorite Jordan Experience: Petra by Night and by Day”

  1. I have to admit, I am so happy these posts aren’t done yet! Ha! Even without the tripod, you’ve captured some really fantastic shots here. So great that the crowds were able to work their way forward and give you ladies the opportunity for some quiet. But I have to say, I actually really LOVE your photos from during the day! Aching to visit here, for sure.

  2. Which tour group did u used? Was it complicated to plan such a trip? What is the recommended length of the trip? Btw, I enjoy following your adventures. Thanks for the advice.

  3. Petra is definitely at the very top of my list too! I blame Indiana Jones. I would have died without a tripod but you still managed to take some good shots!

  4. LOVE these pictures especially the portrait and the one of you looking up from behind. How lucky to travel with other photographer gals! I am moving to Israel in January for a year and will definitely be making a Jordan trip a some point while I’m there. :)

  5. Love reading about your trip to Petra.. such an amazing place. Fun fact…I wrote an archaeology research paper on Petra when I studied abroad in Rome in 2010..so it has an extra special place in my heart :) PS – You got amazing photos!!

  6. Oooh it all looks so magical and night and sounds like it’s a must-do to see it at night and day, to get the full experience.

  7. I had never really thought much about Jordan, but when I read Jessica’s post I basically rearranged my entire sabbatical in February to fit it in. I’m drooling over your photos too. I think I need to take a photography class before I go because I don’t want to blow it!

  8. The night pics here aren’t bad at all Ashley.
    Honestly, this is the first I’ve read about Petra by night.
    Looks amazing!! Jordan is one of my dream destinations. More inclined to head there after reading this.

  9. Petra has been at the very top of my bucket list for years now, but I never even considered you could visit at night. It looks even more amazing in candlelight, will definitely be adding this to my itinerary whenever I go. Thanks so much for this post!

  10. I’ve wanted to visit Jordan ever since I met some kids from there (they were my students and were MONSTERS) who spoke really highly of their home land. I love that photo of you looking up at the building!

  11. Have you heard of semester at sea? Colorado state university (I get the two mixed up its one or the other ) is going to be taking over the program in Jan 2016 check out the program a life changer :-)

  12. This is such a great post and your photos also give a great idea how Petra looks by day and at night, Ashley. I think, I have mentioned already in one of my comments to your previous Jordan posts how much I would like to visit this country. However, Petra is the place in Jordan I want to visit the most and of course I would like to visit the ancient city both by day and at night. Especially at night it must be truly magical. Btw, thanks for the hint, I will definitely make to sure to bring a tripod.

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