Photography Tip: Photographing Petra

Petra’s Treasury peaking through the Siq at dawn. Photo copyright Genevieve Hathaway Photography.
Purple, pink, orange and red banded rock twist and curve along the rock faces, through rounded caves, and intricately wind carved rock formations along the slopes of Jordan’s Mount Hor.   The Nabataeans were just as captivated with this area as we are today – building their capital city here in the 6th century BC.  These ancient ruins and beautiful natural geologic formations make Petra an easy place to spend days capturing  the vast networks of gorges, high plateaus, and rock tombs with your camera lens.
Ancient Petra, a modern-day voted Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, is the most photographed site in Jordan. It’s a big area providing photographers both the standard Treasury shot, but also plenty of opportunity to get creative and make your own Petra memories.

When planning a trip to this famous area, it pays to do your homework to maximize your time and energy.

Here are a few easy tips and tricks for creating memorable photos of Petra:

  • Situated in a desert, the sun can cast an unforgiving light if you’re at Petra photographing during the wrong hours of the day.  The sun rises early here, the light is harsh in the morning hours. In addition, most of Petra is cast in a shadow (except the Treasury) during the AM part of the day. The best light for photographing is in the afternoon through sunset.  You can stay in the national park until after the sun sets.  So sleep in, enjoy breakfast and visit Petra later in the day.
  • Currently, the entry fee is 50 JD for one day, 55 JD for two days and 60 JD for 3 days.  If your time allows, spend two or three afternoons in Petra instead of one long day.
  • The main Siq is not on the only entrance to Petra.  Hire a local guide and take one of the “back doors” into this natural and ancient wonder.  Remember to buy your ticket for the day from the main ticket booth before you decide to hike one of these alternative entrances.
  • Attend Petra By Night. Petra By Night is an evening show run Monday, Wednesday, Thursday evenings 8:30pm – 10pm.  It costs 12 JD.  Staff light the entrance through the main Siq and the gorge floor in front of the Treasure with dozens and dozens of candles. Be patient. Stick around after the show. Once the crowds leave you’ll have a great shot of the Treasury lit up by flickering candlelight.  Don’t forget that tripod!
  • Don’t climb on the tombs.  Do hike the marked trails to one of the main high up looks out or vantage points.  This is a great way to get a different view of the Nabataean tombs and Roman buildings.
  • Visit the Monastery at sunset.  Your body and camera will thank you. Late in the day the long hike up is in the shade.  Also, during these hours the tourists have worn themselves out and headed back to their hotels, so you’ll have the area to yourself.  During sunset, the Monastery is light up in red and pink colors.
  • Visit Little Petra.  It’s just plain cool and will give you many opportunities to photography ruins that aren’t on the rutted Petra path.

What about you?  Tips or tricks you learned while photographing Petra?

Visit Petra by day and night, the monastery and little Petra on ArchaeoAdventures’ 7 Wonders Of Jordan & Petra and get a chance to snap some beautiful photos.

2 thoughts on “Photography Tip: Photographing Petra”

  1. Hi, could you please share what time of the day the photo of treasure was taken? I’v read due to the fact it is hidden between rocks there’s no light during sunset while the photo looks so sunsetish 😉 Thanks in advance

  2. Genevieve Hathaway


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