In November of 2019 I was lucky enough to go on my very first trip to Jordan. There were so many highlights (thanks to a very tasty cooking class I’m now trying to source an authentic 7 Spice here in Melbourne!), but the most spectacular would have to be Petra, the spectacular UNESCO-listed rose city, which is famed the world over. When visiting Petra, there’s a tough decision to make. Do you explore Petra by night, when the famous Treasury is illuminated by thousands of candles, or Petra by day? It felt like trying to choose a favourite between your two children….
The reason it is so difficult to decide which is the best experience is that although they take place in the same location, they are completely different. The feeling and experience you get from both is worlds apart.
Petra by Night
My first visit to Petra was in the evening. It was already dark and admittedly I was running a bit late. Thankfully I’d listened to friends who had visited previously and worn my runners as it’s quite a long walk on an uneven surface and I had to do it fast. Walking down The Siq (the pathway to the Treasury) really adds to the anticipation. Although it’s lit with about 1,500 candles on both sides, you can’t really see much of what’s around you. Just shadows and silhouettes of other people, adding to the mystery of it all. It feels like you’re walking forever into the complete unknown.
After what is probably about half an hour, you reach the destination you came to see – the Treasury, magically lit up in shades of blue, green, purple and more. A man is playing the flute and a local Bedouin tells the story of Petra. It’s an eerie, mystical experience. On the majority of On The Go Tours Jordan trips, you can experience Petra By Night – book and pay locally.
Petra by Day
Fast forward about 10 hours and I was back at Petra once again. This time the sun was beating down and whilst walking through the Siq, I could marvel at its beauty and the colours of the rock formations. There was a much busier atmosphere walking through the Siq during the day – at night most people were quiet but during the day there was more hustle and bustle – people talking, taking photos and the occasional donkey drawn cart running through. Once again, when reaching the Treasury, I had to stop to draw breath. The site was equally as incredible as it had been the night before. The colour, the atmosphere and everything else is different during daylight. Camels, donkeys and small markets all add to the buzz, and the desert background makes it easy to understand why the Treasury found fame in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. We had a great English-speaking local guide who took us to all of the prime photo locations, making some photos seem like we were the only people there. What an experience.
So, in answer to my original question, there is no winner. Petra By Night offers a mysterious, enchanting experience when the shadows dance and the Treasury is lit up by the flickering of thousands of candles. By day, you can fully appreciate the beauty of the site, and the atmosphere adds to the entire visit.
This time around I didn’t have time to visit the Monastery, which is a much further walk and from what I hear, no less amazing. But don’t worry – I’ll be back.