What Happens in Petra When It Rains?


Petra-at-Night experience that only happens when it rains.

The special Petra-at-Night experience that only happens when it rains.

Sometimes, the best travel experiences have the worse photos. My Petra at night experience was one of these occasions.

On my third day in Jordan, I was looking forward to seeing Petra by candlelight and enjoying a traditional Bedouin music performance. After admiring the Petra night photos from a number of fellow travelers like Ayngelina Brogan and Abigail King, I was looking forward to taking a few of my own.

Up to this point I hadn’t read anything about rain during anyone’s visit to Petra. Rain at the desert is rare, and I later found out that historically Petra only sees 9.3 days of rain per year and only 0.7 days of rain in the month of November.

Well, it turned out the Petra by Night experience is completely different in the unlikely event that it rains… I got to go inside the Treasury.

Thanks to my lack of practice with night photos and using flash, I’ll have to describe one of my most interesting travel experiences with some of my worse travel photos (for some “regular” Jordan photos, see my highlights of Jordan post.)

First, a romantic walk through to Petra through the canyon

My Petra-at-night experience started normally, with a quiet walk along the winding 1.5 km path through the canyon. Thousands of candles guided the way.

Candle-lit path to the Treasury at Petra

The candle-lit path to the Treasury at Petra.

It started drizzling a little

There was light rain by the time we arrived at the Treasury but it was minimal and I took out my DSLR to attempt a photo of this World Wonder.

Candle-lit path to the Treasury at Petra

The bottom half of the Treasury, lit by candles.

Then it started pouring

Before I had the chance to set up another photo, the rain got heavy. My DSLR already broke once when I was travelling in India so I didn’t want to risk getting my camera wet. Here’s the last photo I took outside before the rain started seriously coming down.

Candle-lit path to the Treasury at Petra

The start of heavy rain during the Petra-at-night experience.

Being ushered inside the Treasury (yes, inside!)

In my last post about what to see in Jordan, you can vaguely see from my day photo of the Treasury that entrance is closed off by rope as visitors are forbidden to enter. But the Petra-at-night tour guide was sympathetic and instead of making us stand/sit in the rain for the Bedouin performance, he ushered all 70+ of us up the Treasury stairs.

Because of the rain, we found ourselves inside the World Wonder.

Over the next hour, we huddled at the stairs in front of the three tomb entrances and listened to the Bedouin songs and instruments while sipping small plastic cups of tea. The music was beautiful against the sound of rain, but sitting inside the Treasury was even more special.

Candle-lit path to the Treasury at Petra

Visitors sitting and standing in the foyer of the Treasury.

Candle-lit path to the Treasury at Petra

Part of the Bedouin performance during the Petra-by-Night experience.

Looking inside the Treasury

When the performance was over an hour later, it was still raining. We were supposed to start walking back, but before leaving the shelter of the Treasury, everyone’s curiosity got the better of them. We all wandered inside the tombs, pointing flashlights at the walls and ceilings to get a better look inside this normally-off-limits World Wonder.

Candle-lit path to the Treasury at Petra

The entranceway to one of the tomb rooms at the Treasury at Petra.

The 1.5km, wet & dark walk back through the canyon

In my first step back into the canyon, I was shocked to find my feet in 3 inches of cold, flowing water. The candles had been extinguished by the rain and the path ahead of me was almost pitch black.

As I continued to walk, my imagination and paranoia creeped up and all I could remember was my guiding telling me earlier in the afternoon that there’s risks of flash floods in the canyon every time it rains.

I walked as fast as I could, following the footsteps of other visitors and using my iPhone as a flashlight. About 20 minutes later, when I was close to the opening of the canyon I stopped to take a video (see below). It’s not a great video, but imagine yourself walking through darkness for 20 minutes in the rain.

The sound of water you hear running are the streams flowing through the the canyon plus the 1-2 foot wide mini waterfalls coming down the walls of the canyon which were completely dry earlier in the afternoon.

Getting back safely

Considering the darkness and the amount of water we had to walk through, the atmosphere was surprisingly calm. The guides walked with the travellers and frequently asked if people were okay. A truck was brought in and stayed at the back to make sure the slower or less physically-abled visitors were taken care of.

At the end of this wet and chilly evening, it was a relief to return to the comfort of my beautiful room at the Movenpick at Petra hotel just outside the Petra visitor entrance.

I didn’t get great photos of Petra at night like other travellers, but I did have the extremely rare, and normally prohibited, privilege to sit inside.

Practical tips for Petra at Night:

  1. I can’t guarantee you’ll also get to go inside the Treasury if it rains :) If the rain is light, you might just have to stand/sit outside or if the rain is heavy, visitors may be evacuated for safety.
  2. Cost/price/admission fee for the Petra-at-night experience is 12 JD ($18).
  3. Tours run on Monday, Wednesday and Thursdays and tickets can be purchased from the visitor centre.

I was a guest of the Jordan Tourism Board during my visit to Petra, but as usual all opinions and photos are my own.

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External resources on Petra

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  •  Who knew it was good to travel when it rains? It shows different effects and I’m sure this was a very memorable experience for you. The third picture from the top is my favorite.

  • So cool that you got to go into the treasury and see all the tombs. Pretty pretty cool :) 
    I had a different experience in Petra, it was quite hot and super dry, and we stayed in the park overnight (illegally) and I was reported missing to the CIA
    http://www.richtrek.com/2011/05/indiana-jones-and-history-of-petra.html (Exploring Petra)http://www.richtrek.com/2011/05/cia-investigates-missing-american-in.html (The CIA Investigates the Missing American) 

    anyways Lilly, check it out if you want. Cheers, and happy exploring!

  • Very cool that you got to go inside the Treasury! Totally jealous. Wasn’t raining when I was there a few days ago, just cold.

    • Hi Adam,

      It was pretty chilly when I went too, I remember wearing two sweaters. I’m jealous you got to see Petra with all the candles properly lit! Hope you had a great time in Jordan!

      – Lily

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  • I think I’m going to have to update the entry on my bucket list from “Petra” to “Petra in the rain.” Love this post (and the pics)! ;) Thanks for sharing!

    • Hahaha, I’ll keep my fingers crossed on the Petra in the rain for you ;) Thanks for stopping by Alexandra!

      – Lily

  • Abi

    What an absolutely beautiful post! I’m tempted to do the same thing as @travelingted:disqus ;)

    • Maybe if enough of travel bloggers ask the Jordan Tourism Board… ;)

      – Lily

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  • So cool that you got to go inside, I’m very jealous.

    • And I’m jealous you got such great night photos in focus – I need to practice using my DSLR in dark situations, in case something like this ever happens again! :)

      – Lily

  • It must be quite disappointing to expect something so badly when then having something raining on your parade, literally. At least you got to see it from a different angle :-)

    • Hi Marie, good use of words ;) I was hoping for a good glowy, romantic photo of Petra, but I guess the rain forced more unusual photos on me. This rainy night makes me want to get better at taking night photos with flash… in case something like this happens again!

      – Lily

  • Wow! A fortunate accident. Super jelly you got to go inside but that walk home would have scared me shitless too! Glad you made it back safe and what an experience. =)

  • Jealous, what a great experience!!  That first photo is really a wonderful shot.

    • Thanks Peter! It’s a good memory of the rain that was starting to come down, plus the water that was getting on my lens because I have no lens hood. What a misadventure :)

      – Lily

  • Wow you are really lucky to make it inside. Nice work!

    • Thanks Cole! It was a nice coincidence… or was it? Muahaha ;)

      – Lily

  • Wow – what an experience. We missed Petra at night because it was only on designated days

  • What a special experience.  Love that first photo!

    • Thanks Stephanie, these photos turned out so blurry due to the rain and darkness, but I guess that “authentic-ness” adds to the story, ha!

      – Lily

  • Cool shots! The rain actually makes Petra look even more otherworldly.

  • Jealous! That’s all I can say. I count myself extremly lucky to have seen the Treasury and to have photographed it. But I would happliy trade my favourite shot from the trip for the experience you had!


  • What a fabulous story, Lily. Sounds like the rain made it quite a beautiful thing to experience in the end.

  • TechAddict

    Very nice… Thanks for sharing

  • TechAddict

    Very nice… Thanks for sharing

    • You’re welcome :) I’d be crazy not to share this extremely rare (and hard to replicate) travel experience!

      – Lily

  • Cam

    Sometimes its great when things don’t go according to plan. Fun adventure, and quite different from many of the other experiences I’ve read about.

    • Thanks Cam, I was debating this article because I didn’t have good photos to accompany the story, then realized how rare of an experience this was. But you’re right – it’s nice when things don’t go according to plan, because sometimes more imaginative things happen instead :)

      – Lily

  • WOW!! You are so lucky to have been able to go inside! Sooo cool!

    • Amazing luck right? I wonder what hidden doorways we couldn’t see because of the darkness… :)

      – Lily

  • Wonderful, I would love to see Petra, even only outside, it’s truly stunning :)

    • Hi Angela,

      Petra really was stunning, and it looks as great on the outside as it was portrayed on Indiana Jones. Petra at night, lit by the candles was really beautiful. Hope you get the chance to go soon :)

      Thanks for stopping by!
      – Lily

  • Anonymous

    i like how out of 365 days, you happened to be at one of the 10 days it rains in a year!  that’s like MY vacation! :)  I like that you don’t let the rain get you down but focus on the uniqueness of being there on one of those 10 days!! 

    • Hi Jen,

      It’s funny you mention the 10 days of rain per year, because I just realized that although it rains 10 days per year, the Petra at Night experience only runs 3 times per week, so actually more like a 3/365 chance of getting this crazy experience inside Petra :)

      – Lily

  • Anonymous

    I think I am going to pay someone to stand on top of the Treasury and pour buckets of water over us in an attempt to try and duplicate your experience.

    • Hi Ted,

      You crack me up! My best suggestion is to visit Petra during rainy season which is December to March ;) Keep in mind that if the buckets of water come down too, too much you might just get evacuated instead. Next time I’ll keep a waterproof camera with me so I can film this rare experience :)

      – Lily

      • Anonymous


        Good point. Buckets of water would arouse suspicion and would not immitate rain. I think those metal buckets used to water plants would work better. The little holes at the end would better duplicate rain drops.

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