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Every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday night, visitors of Petra get the chance to experience something truly fantastical. The path through the Siq is lit up by up to 2000 candles and travellers gather by the visitor center, to walk through the lit up canyon to the Treasury together. The whole thing is led and set up by Bedouins, who will provide some music, some stories and also some tea.

As truly magical as the Petra by Night experience is, unlike most of the others, I wasn’t there for the ethereal sound of pipes and Bedouin voices or to hang out with the other 100 people who had joined the tour. Basically, I was there as an excuse so I could get into the otherwise fairly popular and sometimes crowded site at night and to take my photos undisturbed. By the time I headed towards the Siq in almost complete darkness, I had already spent the whole day in Petra and knew what the landscape looked like and where to get the best photos. I definitely recommend scouting out the place by daylight first, not only to get an idea of what to expect and a sense of the immense scale, but also to be on the lookout for cool shapes and good angles.

Some people call the experience too crowded or too touristy, and that might be true if you decide to hang out in the middle of the big group. If you’re in it for the photography, or just want a more quiet experience, it is incredibly easy to simply wait 5 minutes and let everyone else get ahead. After a while, I was alone in the Siq and had all the time I wanted or needed to set up the tripod, frame the photos and fiddle with settings –  and all that without anyone else or their flashes disturbing me.  Which actually is another reason to give the rest of the group a head start. Because everyone decides to fire their flashes like mad men, it can sometimes make for a cool effect on the canyon walls, but more often than not, that light pollution will just ruin your shots.

Petra by night

Petra by night

Even though I stayed behind the crowd and spent quite some time in the Siq by myself, I still only missed a small part of the performance down by the Treasury. A Bedouin sang some songs and entertained the people by telling them to all fire their flashes at once. That part was a bit weird and in my opinion an unnecessary disturbance of the serene setting. But I didn’t really pay attention to what was going on in the first place and spent my time there being busy with setting up the tripod at different angles. The Bedouins didn’t seem to care who did or didn’t participate in the whole show and I was left undisturbed in my wanderings around the site. All in all, I had a great time on the Petra by Night tour, although technically speaking, I didn’t take part in the tour at all.

The crowd sticks together and as long as you avoid them on the walk through the Siq, you will have a wonderful time.

Petra by night

Petra by night

Petra by night

Shooting the other way, there is some light pollution from Wadi Musa. This can definitely look cool too, but if you want to bring out the stars, I’d recommend pointing your camera in the direction of the Treasury and the unlit desert.

About The Author

Tiffany is a Swiss travel writer, digital nomad, and photographer, who, after a fateful journey through Africa, has decided to get her passport renewed, sell all her junk, and live out of a suitcase in various corners of the world, as well as share the experiences with other travel enthusiasts. This blog is intended to inspire you to pack your bags, leave everything behind for a while, and make you go discover the world. Check her out on .

17 Responses

    • Tiffany

      Wow thanks for pointing that out Tom, really fascinating. A good reason to brush up on my astronomical knowledge again 🙂

      Reply
  1. Charlie

    Incredible! I really want to go, it looks so fantastical, magical and even a little romantic. The world is full of so many amazing things to see…

    Reply
    • Tiffany

      Very true, Petra really deserves the title of a world wonder. What makes it even better is that you don’t expect it to be so huge, it’s truly jaw dropping when you realize the scale of it all.

      Reply
  2. Lizzie

    Wow, amazing photos! Petra is somewhere I really want to visit and I haven’t seen a sky that clear in… well, ages!

    Reply
  3. Roy

    Awesome presence of ambiance lights on those wide angle shots. Great photography 🙂

    Reply
  4. Jordan Tours & Travel

    wow it is very nice photos and Petra By Night it is one of the amazing programs and Petra Kitchen also……

    Reply
  5. Calli

    Wow, great shots! Hanging back definitely worked out, your pictures turned out beautifully! One of my biggest pet peeves is camera flashes – everyone just walks around oblivious and snapping photos, never bothering to look at them and realize the flash is actually a hindrance. Well, there’s my rant for the day – safe travels!

    Reply
    • Tiffany

      Ugh flashes… I just want to yell at them that the teeny tiny flash is not going to light up that gigantic monument 100 meters away. I usually just go my own way to stay well away from them 🙂

      Reply
  6. Simone

    Gorgeous photography, simply stunning!
    We are headed up to Petra this weekend and doing the night tour as well. May I ask what your camera settings were and the lens you used?

    Reply
    • Tiffany

      Thanks Simone 🙂 I mainly used the Sigma 10-20 super wide lens. The canyon is pretty narrow and the walls are high – I found it worked best to capture as much of it as possible plus some sky to show the stars. Concerning the settings, make sure to use the lowest f-stop possible (for me it was 4.0 zoomed out all the way at 10mm) to let in as much light as possible. Set the exposure time to 25 or 30 seconds (no longer, or the stars will start creating trails) and keep the ISO around 1600. There is some light pollution from all the candles and the nearby town, and depending if there is a moon in the sky or not, you’ll probably have to play around with the ISO setting a bit to figure out what works best for you. If it’s a really dark night, you’ll probably be fine with ISO 800. Have a great trip!

      Reply

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