Before going to Petra By Night, we'd read a few blogs and reviews and weren't sure what to expect. They were so negative, but we decided to take a lot of them with a pinch of salt (some were whinging that the lighting wasn't good enough for photo taking!!) but were a little bit unsure of whether this would be the magical experience we were hoping for.
However, the experience blew us away. We'd been in Petra for four days and kept Petra By Night as our last experience, and can honestly say it was one of the best.
To really make the most of it you need to plan. But don't worry we've done it for you. We've gone through all the complaints we read and how to make sure it's not the case for you. Here's our guide to Petra By Night and making it that once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Petra By Night: how to make it a magical experience
Is Petra By Night worth it?
Unequivocally yes. We've read many reviews where people were not happy, feeling that it was over crowded and that they couldn't get the photos they wanted. Whilst we understand that during peak season it may not be perfect, I imagine this would apply to the whole visit to Petra. The Treasury area is not large, especially when you add in the peak season numbers.
This is where planning will make such a big difference, not just to your Petra By Night Experience, but your whole trip to Jordan.
Plan your holiday to be in off-season
No country we have ever visited has as dramatic swings in tourist numbers as Jordan does. During the peak/school holiday periods, tourists numbers increase by a multiple of 10! Within a month, tourist numbers in Petra had gone down from 4,000 a day to 400. That makes a huuuuuge difference and will have a major impact on your experience.
The weather will also be the the same or just slightly hotter than in peak season. If you read anything about visiting Jordan online it will tell you not to come to Jordan after May (starting up again in October). We were nervous about visiting in June but the weather was only marginally hotter than in May. Yet we had just 10% of the tourist numbers experienced in May.
So if you can, plan your trip outside of peak season. The costs of things such as accommodation are lower and your overall experience will be better. When we went to Petra By Night, there were only about 100 people there, making it blissfully quiet.
Make Petra by Night the last thing you do in Petra
There is nothing quite like walking through the Siq from the visitor's centre and peeping round every corner wondering whether this will be the moment you first see the Treasury. It's magical. Seeing Petra in the dark isn't how you want your first view of the Treasury to be. We also loved entering Petra by the back door, but again we wouldn't recommend this for your first time.
We'd suggest making your first trip into Petra at sunrise. It will be a lot quieter than any other time and it is a wonderful light in which to see the ancient city.
We also recommend that Petra By Night should be the event to finish off your trip to Petra. Having explored the whole area, we found that the leisurely walk to the Treasury for music and stories by candlelight was the perfect way to finish an amazing trip.
Don't queue up early
One of the key gripes with Petra By Night is that you walk down the beautiful Siq in a hoarde of tourists who are noisy and ruin the atmosphere. Now that you've cut down the amount of people who are there by 10 tenfold, why not hold back a little to have the perfect experience. We turned up at 8.40 (10 minutes after it officially starts) and strolled down the Siq all by ourselves.
Walking to Petra alone, in complete silence was blissful. The candles lit up the landscape and made this incredible place even more atmospheric. We appeared at the Treasury just as the music began and people had sat down. It was well worth turning up late to get that 20 minute walk all to ourselves.
Getting that perfect shot
Another major gripe is not being able to take photos. Sadly your iPhone isn't going to cut it for Petra By Night. Also a flash will not make a difference (you will be so far away from the Treasury that the flash will light up 5 metres in front of you, not a whole massive buidling).
Personally, I don't think they should start dazzling the building in light to satisfy this complaint, it will ruin the whole atmosphere for people who want to soak up the beautiful music and aura of this stunning place.
So the solution is....
Bring a tripod
The easiest way to get the perfect photo is get a tripod for your camera. This will mean your photos aren't blurry and you can get that shot that you've been hoping for. You also won't annoy everyone around you by using flash photography which won't make the slightest difference to the quality of your photos.
You'll have to play around with the settings to make sure you get the right exposure, but it will work. Whilst a lot of people were really happy when they lit up the Treasury at the end, I found that my photos were a lot better and more atmospheric when they didn't light up the Treasury a horrible bright pink. It just requires a bit more patience.
Settings to get the perfect shot
The difficulty with shooting Petra By Night is that there are some bright lights as well as that pitch black, making it quite hard to get the perfect exposure. Start with auto and see how it comes out. Quite often it will be too grainy, too dark or too light. Check the aperture, shutter speed and iso and start working accordingly.
I made sure that I kept the ISO as low as I could (between 200 - 800) to stop the grain creeping in. I kept the shutter speed at about 20 seconds and then switched between f5.6 - f11.
The key is to keep an eye on your light meter. I took some where the light meter said it was perfect, but also took a few that were one stop too light. I often find with night photography that the camera always wants to make the photo dark, so I try to let a bit more light in.
Walk to the back
Another problem people have is that there are too many people in any of the photos they take and the photos on google aren't possible. You can get those google photos, but you won't be able to get the shot of the Treasury with only candles until the very end. It is mainly because the audience is there for the show.
However, this doesn't ruin the shot. You can walk to the back and still get some beautiful photos of people sat in front, watching the show with the Treasury perfectly lit. But don't do this at the front, you'll not only get a poor shot, but ruin the show for some poor soul behind you.
Essential info about Petra By Night
When is Petra By Night?
Petra By Night is only on three times a week, so coincide your trip to Petra to be on a Monday, Wednesday or Thursday. We highly recommend organising your Petra trip so that Petra By Night is the final thing you do. It is a brilliant way to finish your journey to this magical place.
How much does Petra By Night cost?
Like most things in Jordan, Petra By Night isn't cheap. A ticket costs 17 JD per person (about $23 USD), though it does include a cup of tea :) This is an additional cost to the entry fee you have probably already paid! However, this is a wonder of the world, so we felt it was worthwhile.
Sadly, this isn't included in the Jordan Pass.
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