Nothing had prepared me for how spectacular Jordan is, and perhaps part of the intense experience of visiting now is the unique feeling you have as you roam through its ancient sites almost seemingly devoid of other people. Tourism has fallen dramatically since 2011, but unlike some of its surrounding countries, Jordan is safe to visit.
Day one: Amman
After taking a cab from the airport to your hotel, drop your luggage off and let the exploring begin!
Amman is best explored by foot. It might be a capital city but it’s small enough to cover a lot of ground and see the main attractions in just a few days.
Here are some of Amman’s highlights:
- Explore Al-Balad and immerse yourself in the heart of Amman. Located just below the Citadel, Al-Balad is the old Downtown where you’ll find lots shops selling traditional Jordanian delights like rugs, cloth, kunafeh (pudding with melted cheese and pistachios on top) and Hashem (hummus and falafel) and Zaatar which is a blend of dried thyme, sesame seeds and sumac – perfect for sprinkling over hummus or just toast with a knob of butter. If you want a perfect memento a reminder of your trip, go to one of the many perfumery stores. Tell the staff what perfume you like and they’ll be able to create a like-for-like imitation for a fraction of the price.
- Perhaps Amman’s most spectacular attraction is the Citadel which sits on top of a large hill in the city centre. This area was occupied by different people and cultures over the years dating all the way back from 1650-1550 BC from the Stone Ages to the Romans and this is reflected in the ruins and various sites including the Roman Amphitheater. Due to its high location you’ll discover its stunning vantage point across the whole of Amman.
- King Abdullah Mosque is a truly a beautiful place of worship with amazing Middle Eastern architecture. As you enter through the gift shop you’ll be given an abaya (a black full length dress) to wear as you look around.
Dinner: We loved Sufra Restaurant located on Rainbow Street. The outdoor seating decorated with flowers and the warm glow of candles provided the perfect setting to enjoy the evening and delicious Jordanian food.
Accommodation: 2 nights at Zaman Ya Zaman Boutique Hotel, it’s simple but has lots of charm, including a gorgeous little terrace with views of the Roman Theatre. It’s great value and the location really couldn’t be any better.
Day two: The Ruins of Jerash
In the morning soak up more of the atmosphere in Amman, and see any other attractions you might have missed on your day of arrival yesterday.
In the late morning or early afternoon head 30-miles north of Amman to Jerash for a day trip. Back in the day, Jerash, then known as Gerasa, was a strategic trading point, with Damascus to the north, Amman to the south, and Jerusalem to the west. It’s a huge Graeco-Roman settlement, with theatres, colonnades, a hippodrome, triumphal arches, squares and mosaics depicting scenes of daily life. Astonishing these are still well-preserved after an earthquake in 749 buried the ruins in sand for centuries.
Day three: Travel to Petra
It’s now time to head out of Amman and start moving towards Petra. Since there were four of us we decided to get a taxi since we could split the cost between ourselves to make it affordable. Alternatively you can catch a bus which you should enquire about at your hotel. Petra is about a 3.5 hours drive from Amman, passing lots and lots of beautiful desert scenery.
When we arrived in Petra we dumped our bags off and headed straight to the archeological site of Petra, entering through its main gateway, the Siq. As we stepped inside the Siq, a mile-long meandering gorge of towering red sandstone rocks, we carried on walking until the rose coloured rock carving known to the world as the Treasury slowly begin to unveil itself.
The experience was so peaceful, there were no crowds, no people waving cameras around, only the occasional sound of a chariot bolting past. It felt like we were on a movie set, especially as we recognised some of the landmarks from Indiana Jones.
Since we knew we’d be coming back the following day we didn’t feel the pressure to cram everything in. We had time to meander around caves, take photos and simply revel in this one time forgotten land. After an earthquake in 363 AD that destroyed the majority of the city, changes were made in trade routes, so the once thriving city of Petra became abandoned, and ‘lost’ to all except local Bedouin from the area. It remained unknown to Europeans until it was rediscovered in 1812 by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt.
Accommodation: Stay 2 nights at Petra Guest House Hotel, located on the doorstep of the Petra’s entrance. The really good thing about this hotel is the Cave Bar, set in a restored 1st century Nabatean house, a gorgeous al fresco setting to relax with a cocktail after days of exploration.
Day four: Begin in Little Petra
Today see Petra from a different perspective. Hire a guide and begin your exploration in Little Petra which is also the back entrance of Petra. This trail is much less popular so expect even fewer crowds. The hike takes approximately 3.5 hours so wear good footwear – we didn’t and it made the hike feel very precarious at times!
Taking the back route through Petra is without doubt more adventurous than heading into Petra via the main entrance. The lesser known entrance takes you first into Little Petra, a place where the local Bedouins claim “If you haven’t been to Little Petra, then you haven’t been to Petra at all”. It’s like a tiny microcosm of Petra filled with monuments, tombs, Nabatean wall murals, water cisterns and caves carved into grand canyons.
Following Little Petra, your guide will take you on a hike to Ad-Deir, popularly known as the Monastery. From there it’s easy to navigate your way out of Petra back to the Treasury, exiting through the Siq.
Around the Monastery you’ll find a few little cafes where you can cool down, purchase a drink, and rest your legs.
Day five: Wadi Rum
After a leisurely breakfast, it’s time to head to your next eagerly anticipated destination, the inspiring desert of Wadi Rum. It’s about a 1 hour 45 minute drive from Petra, travelling through a mars-like red and dry scenery. Wadi Rum has been inhabited by a variety of different cultures since prehistoric times, and is where British officer, T.E. Lawrence passed through during the Arab Revolt in 1917-1918 and which was detailed in his book the Seven Pillars of Wisdom.
Today, Wadi Rum is home to Bedouin people who have opened their beautiful land up to tourism, offering a variety of different touristic adventures, such as camping, climbing, trekking, camel safaris and ATV tours.
As soon as we arrived we dived straight into the adventure and opted for a Jeep safari.
We stopped to roll down sand dunes and we explored the space between Khazali canyon, climbing into spaces and ridges to reach Petroglyphs etched into the rose coloured walls over 4000 years ago.
We continued on, driving past the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and bumped up and down to the natural waves of the desert until we approached the side of a mountain. Slowly emerging from underneath the cliff face were black rectangular objects, and as we came nearer and nearer, we soon realised that they were our cabins for the night.
The true highlight of being in Wadi Rum was watching the sunset followed by a traditional Bedouin dinner cooked in a zarb and making new friends around a camp fire. We stayed up late into the night looking up at the sky filled endlessly with stars.
Accommodation: 1 night sleeping in a tent at Bedouin Lifestyle Camp. Located by a huge canyon in the middle of the Wadi Rum desert, it’s unlike nowhere else to spend the night.
Day Six: Mount Nebo & Dead Sea
After a few days of hiking and non-stop adventure, what better time is there to relax your muscles in the Dead Sea?!
The drive takes a fews hours and beforehand ask your driver to stop off at Mount Nebo for a quick tour. Mount Nebo is mentioned in the Hebrew bible as the place where Moses was granted a view of the Promised Land. The view from the top provides incredible panoramic views where you can even see Jerusalem from on a clear day. This is also the spot that is said to be where Moses died and was buried.
The final stop of your trip is the Dead Sea. Sixty-seven kilometres long, eighteen kilometres at its widest point and boarding Jordan and Israel, the Dead Sea is vast and can be easily reached within both countries. Over eight times saltier than the Ocean, the salinity of the sea is too high for any fish or plants to live in and makes the water dense enough to make you to float like an inflatable rubber dingy!
The Dead Sea has a rich history – from Biblical writings, to how the Egyptians used the mud in their mummification process – but little has changed since the days of Cleopatra, who lusted after its healing properties and built the world’s first ever spa along its shores. It is difficult not to get caught up in its claim for beautification when you’re covered completely in mud.
Accommodation: Either spend another night in Amman, or you might want to splash out at one of the resorts near the Dead Sea for your final night in this incredible country.
Day Seven: Return Home
Depending on your return flight home, you might have time to head back into Amman and buy some final souvenirs and spices to take home with you.
Source: The Culture Map