In times gone by, a visit to Petra wasn’t complete without spending a night in the ruins, wandering the rocky paths by moonlight and sleeping in a tomb cave. This is now banned – which led an informal group of Wadi Musa tour operators to come up with a new approach to Petra that aims to recapture some of that romantic spirit of adventure (and largely succeeds). “Petra By Night” is an after-dark guided excursion into the ancient city that adds an entirely new dimension to your experience of the place; the candlelit walk, leaving the lights of Wadi Musa behind to enter the pitch-dark valley in silence (talking and mobile phones are banned), is magical. Nothing can match the atmosphere of walking through the Siq at night, with only the light of candles placed every few metres to guide the way. The climax comes as you reach the Treasury plaza, where candles throw flickering shadows onto the great facade as a bedouin musician plays on a pipe. The magic lingers while tea is served and you listen to a story told by a local guide.
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“Petra By Night” runs every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, departing at 8.30pm from the Visitor Centre (arrive 15min early to register), and delivers you back to the Visitor Centre around 10.30pm. Tickets cost JD12 in addition to your Petra admission ticket. You must book in advance – even just a couple of hours ahead is fine – either through your hotel or directly with a local tour company, such as Petra Moon.
The walk has become so popular that it’s not uncommon to have 150 or 200 people setting out together. The best advice in these circumstances is to linger at the very back of the crowd: that way, you avoid most of the chatter on the way down and will be walking through the Siq more or less alone in the moonlight. The bedouin piper keeps playing until everyone has arrived at the Treasury, so you won’t miss anything. Then there’s nothing to stop you heading back early, before the crowd, for another lonesome walk in silence through the Siq, beneath moon and stars.