Hiking the Jordan Trail is an incredible experience, even more so if you walk the Dana to Petra trek.
If you love hiking, enjoy physical fatigue, puffing, sweating, and even cursing until you reach the final point of a hike, you will enjoy hiking the Jordan Trail. The Dana to Petra trek is no walk in the park, and should you decide to do it, you have to go in fully prepared knowing what to expect – and just as well, be ready to face unexpected circumstances. I certainly wish I had a better understanding of what was coming the day I started!
If you are considering hiking the Jordan Trail, and more specifically the Dana to Petra trek, this post will come in useful. Continue reading!
Some Background Information About The Jordan Trail
If you are traveling to Jordan as part of a longer trip to the Middle East, you may find out about the Jordan Trail. This is roughly a 5 weeks hike that starts in the North of the country, in Um Qais, and goes all the way South, to the Red Sea, crossing places such as the tiny village of Dana and Dana Nature Reserve, and the more famous Petra and Wadi Rum.
If you have no time to hike the entire trail, you will be happy to know that you can walk the most exciting section: the 76 km Dana to Petra trek, which takes 5 full days.
You can walk parts of the Dana to Petra trek by yourself, and sleep in guest houses and lodges along the way. But for other bits a guide is required, as there is no real trail to follow and the weather conditions may change suddenly causing flooding that may force you to change your itinerary in a whim.
The only company that used to do guided hikes in this part of the country was the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) in Jordan, an NGO that works to protect the local environment and to help local communities. At the moment, there are several other tour operators offering guided treks.
Hiking The Jordan Trail – Dana To Petra Trek
Arriving in Dana
Dana is a small village about 3 hours drive from Amman. It was founded in the 15th century and it is nowadays virtually abandoned. Only 3 families still live there, while the rest have moved to the nearby Tafila. There are very few foreign visitors – most tourists are local students on a school trip, families who gather in the picnic area at weekends.
The village is lovely, despite the fact that most of the buildings have collapsed as a result of time and complete lack of maintenance. The only ongoing project to restore it to its original splendor is run by USAID. Make sure to reach the viewpoint from where you can admire the valley. That’s Dana Nature Reserve. No more than 50 Bedouin families still live there: they can only herd their livestock at certain times of year, so that the vegetation in the area can recover.
You will also spot a very steep dirt road that goes along the edge of the mountain – that’s the trail to follow to Feynan.
The best place to sleep in Dana is Dana Guesthouse, which has stunning sunset views of the valley and serves delicious meals and packed lunches for guests.
From Dana to Feynan
Walking along Dana Nature Reserve you can reach Feynan. This is a 14 km (8.7 miles), very steep downhill walk with little to no shade that takes around 4 to 5 hours.
Dana Nature Reserve is the largest reserve in the country. The altitude here varies from the 1500 meters (4921 feet) above sea level of Dana, where it actually gets quite chilly at night, to the 50 meters (164 feet) below sea level in Wadi Araba. The reserve is home to some 600 species of plants, 180 species of birds and over 45 species of mammals. It is scattered with archaeological sites, such as the Copper Mines.
Feynan is a Bedouin village, with camps that get moved along the valley depending on the season, and no more than a handful of houses.
Throughout the hike, you won’t really meet anyone – perhaps a shepherd as you leave Dana, a few children and occasionally you may hear the growling of a camel, a donkey or the bells of goats left free to herd. A short hike from Feynan village you’ll find a perfect sunset spot.
In Feynan, you can stay and eat at Feynan Ecolodge, run by the RSCN and completely ecologic.
From Feynan to Al Bustan
The second day of hiking the Jordan Trail, is the toughest. Expect to walk the 18 km (11 miles) in 8 to 10 hours.
At times, people have to take alternative trails to the Wadi Al Nakheel Trail one, that don’t go through the canyon – that’s done to avoid floods when it rains heavily. I had to do that – as per the guide instructions – and the trail we followed was hard. In fact, there was no trail at all and we had to scramble through bushes, walk along the river, cross the river and past massive boulders several times. To say it is challenging is to minimize.
The views along the (alternative) Wadi Al Nakheel Trail are beautiful. The first part of the walk is pretty much in the desert, and nobody is in sight except the odd Bedouin and a herd of sheep.
Eventually, the desert gives way to a creek that runs through a canyon, and the vegetation becomes a bit thicker: bushes, trees, palm trees and some very interesting rock formation. Towards the end of the hike, there are some hot springs. They are incredibly difficult to reach, so hardly anybody goes. There were maybe two persons when I was there.
Keep in mind that there is no phone reception at all in this part of the trail, so you need to go properly prepared, including with some first aid kit and skills (read this post by Bemused Backpacker for more). There is no way of calling for help if anything happens – which is why you should not hike alone.
You will arrive in Al Bustan camp, a short drive to Shobak. The camp is very basic: you get a mattress and blankets to sleep on. No toilet, no sink and no way of even washing your hands.
From Al Bustan to Shobak
The walk from Al Bustan to Shobak is thankfully not nearly as challenging at the one from Feynan to Al Bustan. You will take up to 7 hours to cover a total of 15 km (9.3 miles) and arrive in Shobak, a small town home of the beautiful Shobak Castle, walking through gorgeous countryside and by beautiful mountains and village, past olive groves, fig trees, orchards and more.
Shobak was once called Mont Real, or Montreal (the Royal Mountain). The castle dates back to the beginning of the 12th century, and was built upon orders of Crusader King Baldwin I. After a siege that was led by Saladin and lasted 18 months, the castle succumbed at the end of the century, and it was eventually occupied by the Mamaluks in the 14th century.
In Shobak, you have the opportunity of sleeping in a hotel – most groups stop at Montreal Hotel. There you’ll hve the chance to enjoy a full meal and a shower, before you start walking again.
From Shobak to Little Petra
This is probably the longest day on the trail, but the walk is between moderate and easy. You will be walking 29 km (18.5 miles), for which you will need around 12 hours.
Siq Al-Barid, know as Little Petra, is thought to have been an agricultural centre and a re-supply centre for camels and caravans. A trail links it to Petra via the Monastery, but it is not easy to find, and you will need a guide.
Keep in mind that while access to Little Petra is free, you will need a ticket to visit Petra.
From Little Petra to Petra
The final day of the Dana to Petra trek is the most pleasant. You will walk fro 12.6 km (about 8 miles) in around 4 hours and enter Petra through its backdoor, directly from the Monastery – one of the main places of interest. The trail is in good conditions, though it is not well market so you will definitely need a guide. For the first half it is pretty much flat, after which it becomes a moderate uphill.
The trail goes though the desert and offers great views of Wadi Musa, the town near Petra. Even more spectacular are the views of the canyon and, once you get there, those of the Monastery. From there, you will have to follow the main trail to continue exploring Petra, and use the same trail to get to the visitors’ center, past the Treasury,
General Tips For Hiking The Jordan Trail – Dana to Petra Trek
When to hike the Jordan Trail
With cold winters and incredibly hot summers, there is no doubt that the best time to hike the Jordan Trail – or at least the Dana to Petra Trek – is in the spring time. I walked it at the beginning of April, and the days were dry, if only a bit overcast.
In terms of temperatures, at that time of year they are pleasant during the day – although obviously, walking and working out, the body does feel warmer than it would otherwise. The temperatures drop at night, especially in Dana which is at at an elevation, and in Shobak.
Guided Dana to Petra Treks
Various companies offer guided hikes of the Jordan Trail for the portion that goes from Dana to Petra, but not all of them follow the same trail – so some tours may be longer than others.
For guided hikes from Dana to Petra, click here.
What to pack and what to wear for the Jordan Trail
The first tip I have if you are hiking from Dana to Petra is to pack as light as possible. Don’t carry any backpack over 30 liters, and even then make sure that the backpack – which has to fit nicely to the body – doesn’t weight more than 4 or 5 kgs, including the water for the hike.
Essential items you need to wear and bring with you are:
- good hiking boots that hold the ankles properly.
- a good pair of hiking pants, and a pair of shorts, just in case the weather gets really hot. I find that Kuhl Hiking Pants and shorts are incredibly comfortable, performing and lightweight.
- a couple of t-shirts: Kuhl Sun protection shirts are light, colorful and comfortable. I would take a Intent Krossback t-shirt too, which helps keep the body temperature even when sweaty.
- Hiking socks are necessary: with all the walking, keeping the feet comfortable and having that extra padding is important.
- a wind and rain proof jacket and a light sweater (it does get chilly at night) and a hat against the sun and heat are a must.
- other than the basic toothbrush and toothpaste, make sure to carry some laundry soap which can be used to wash clothes (whenever water is available) and to shower.
- a good sunblock.
- prescription medicines as needed and, more importantly so, an emergency kit. This should have: disinfectant spray, sterile gauzes, medical tape, antibiotic and / or antiseptic ointment and last but by all means not least some steri-strip.
Final tips for hiking the Jordan Trail
Hiking the Jordan Trail can be challenging. Make sure to research as much as possible about it, and pick a reliable tour company for your trip. It requires a good sense of adventure and an even better willingness to adapt to the sometimes harsh conditions and physical fatigue.
You should not do it alone. You need a local guide that knows the trails like the palm of his hand, because there is no phone reception here. You will also need the logistics that only a tour company provides, not only in terms of accommodation (you may be able to carry a tent and sleeping bag easily), but especially in terms of food and water which are not found along certain portions of the trail.
Plan to hike the Jordan Trail in a small group of friends, for companionship, and to have someone to talk to and entertain each other, and to support one another during the hardest bits.
Have you hiked the Jordan Trail? What was your experience?
Make sure to read my other posts:
- The Best Travel Tips For Jordan
- A Complete Guide To The Inca Trail To Machu Picchu
- Why Hiking Alone Is A Bad Idea
- 13 Cool Things To Do In Amman
- Everything You Need To Know Before Visiting Petra
- The Best Places To Visit In Jordan
Legal Disclaimer: This article is written in partnership with The Jordan Tourism Board, of whom I was a guest. All the views and opinions expressed are my own and based on my personal experience. The views expressed are honest and factual without any bias.