Hiking the Jordan Trail is an incredible experience.
If you love hiking, enjoy the physical fatigue, the puffing, sweating, and even the cursing until you reach the final point of the hike, you will enjoy the Jordan Trail.
If you appreciate being close to nature; admiring the views along the way; stopping to catch your breath; having a packed lunch in the middle of nowhere and taking out a stove and making coffee; appreciate the power naps in the shade under a tree, before you start walking again, and think that the hot shower at the end of the day is pure bliss, hiking is definitely your thing.
To me, all hikes are good – whether I get mountain views, sea views, or I walk through the forest or in the desert. But put an archeological site at the end of a strenuous hike, and my sense of achievement will be completely fulfilled. That’s why I hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, in Peru and why I plan to hike to the Ciudad Perdida in Colombia. And that’s what drove me to hike the Jordan Trail.
To read more about the Inca Trail, check my post “Inca Trail dos and donts.”
In this post, I highlight a 3 day itinerary that is part of the Jordan Trail and share some practical tips that will help you plan your hike.
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 a hike that requires over 5 weeks of walking. It 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 walk from Dana to Petra, which takes 5 full days.
You can walk parts of this 5 days trail 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 and requiring change of itineraries.
The only company that does guided hikes in this part of the country is the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) in Jordan, an NGO whose work strives to protect the local environment and to help the local communities. If you are planning a trip to Jordan, and walk to walk the Jordan Trail from Dana to Petra, make sure to get in touch with them.
Hiking the Jordan Trail is an overall great experience. Unfortunately for me, an accident along the way cut my adventure short and I had to change my plans. Hoping that other people who wish to hike the Jordan Trail from Dana to Petra don’t go through my same ordeal, I have decided to share some tips to plan your hike and a detailed itinerary.
A 3 Day Itinerary For Hiking The Jordan Trail From Dana To Petra
Day 0 – from Amman to Dana
The starting point of this portion of the Jordan Trail is Dana, a small village at about 3 hours drive from Amman. Dana was founded in the 15th century and it is nowadays virtually abandoned. Only 3 families still live there, while the rest of its inhabitants have moved to the nearby Tafila.
There are very few foreign visitors there – most tourists are local students on a school trip, families who gather in the picnic area at weekends. You can safely assume that during the week there are even less people.
Dana is a lovely village, despite the fact that most of the buildings there 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.
It won’t take you long to explore the village. After climbing some collapsed fences, you can get to 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 in 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. It seems to be the only way to the valley: that’s where you will be hiking the following day.
TIP: Make sure to go to Dana Guesthouse in time for sunset. The views are stunning!
Where to sleep and eat in Dana
There are three hotels in Dana. I stayed at Dana Guesthouse, which is run by the RSCN. It is a gorgeous structure, and all rooms have a balcony and views over the valley. It’s reviews are spot on. There are standard rooms, which are simple but cozy, with shared bathrooms; and superior rooms, which are incredibly large and comfortable, and have a private bathroom with a shower with a view.
You can eat your meals at Dana Guesthouse. Dinner and breakfast are served buffet style and there is an incredibly wide selection of meat and vegetable dishes – so perfect even for vegetarians and vegans. Dana Guesthouse also provides packed lunches for guests who are hiking.
Day 1 – from Dana to Feynan
You will start walking this portion of the Jordan Trail in Dana, from where you will head towards Feynan, along Dana Nature Reserve, considered to be one of Jordan’s hidden jem. This is the largest reserve in the country. The altitude here varies from the 1500 meters above sea level of Dana, where it actually gets quite chilly at night, to the 50 meters below sea level in Wadi Araba.
Dana Nature 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 scattered around the school. It has a lovely, peaceful atmosphere and the surroundings are gorgeous.
The views along the walk from Dana to Feynan are stunning. Picture mountains all around, scattered with vegetation that is thicker in some areas, and sparser in others, when walking more into the desert. There are virtually no trees on the first part of the hike, but then more start appearing.
The silence is occasionally broken by the growling of a camel, by a donkey and by the bells of goats left free to herd. Towards the end of the hike, there are a few Bedouin camps. Children run after the visitors, to welcome them: they are always keen to pose for pictures.
A short hike from Feynan village takes to a viewpoint from where to enjoy one of the most amazing sunsets one could imagine. The setting is gorgeous too: imagine a local bedouin guide preparing a fragrant mint tea, and sipping this while the sun sets.
And at night, if the sky is clear, since it is so dark it is possible to go star gazing.
What to expect
The walk from Dana to Feynan is around 14 km, that can be covered in roughly 4 to 5 hours. The time you take really depends on how often you stop for photos and breaks.
The walk would qualify as easy, though to be fair it is not nearly as easy as it looks and by the end of the day most people wish they had worn thicker socks. For the first hour or so, it is a steep downhill following a dirt road, and it then becomes a bit more gentle. There is virtually no shade along the way – so wearing a hat, sunblock and drinking lots of water is vital. The weather is very dry and the sun unforgiving.
If you are lucky you may be able to see lots of lizards, some of them turning blue during mating season.
You won’t really meet many people on this portion of the hike. I met two shepherds right outside of Dana, and nobody else until I was getting close to Feynan and crossed a few Bedouin camps.
Where to sleep and eat in Feynan
The only accommodation option in Feynan is Feynan Ecolodge. This is run by the RSCN, and it lives up to its name: only solar power is used to warm the water used for the showers, and no electricity is available in the beautiful, stylish rooms – just in the showers and in the reception area. When it gets dark, candles are lit to illuminate the passageways, the rooms and the beautiful dining room.
Dinner is served buffet style, and it is only vegetarian – meat needs to be refrigerated and this would take too much electricity, which is against the sustainability mission of the ecolodge. No alcohol is served on the property, so don’t hope for a beer at the end of a day of hiking. But there is plenty of good cold water and delicious lemonade and ginger.
Feynan also provides packed lunches for those hiking.
Day 2 – from Feynan to Al Bustan
If you read a little bit about the Jordan Trail you will see that the second day of hiking will be a tough one. 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. The fact that I injured myself certainly did not help.
The alternative trail isn’t much of a trail at all. You will walk along the side of the river, cross it to find places where it is easier to walk, climb over boulders, and all of this for a steady 8 hours.
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 absolutely have to go with someone, possibly a guide.
The finishing point for this trail is Al Bustan camp, which is close to Shobak – a lovely small town with a beautiful castle. The camp is very basic. All you get is a mattress and blankets to sleep on. No toilet, no sink and no way of even washing your hands.
Unfortunately, due to my injury this is where I had to stop my hike – I spent the night Shobak, which by the way is one of the nicest places to visit in Jordan, and got some much needed rest at Montreal Hotel. I then sought medical help in Jerusalem a few days later.
To read more about what to visit in Jordan, check my post “All the places to visit in Jordan.”
After visiting Shobak and resting for a couple of days, I made my way to Petra, where I hiked the entire site.
To read more about Petra, check my post “11 things to know before visiting Petra.”
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.
What to expect
I can only speak for the alternative trail, and not for the Wadi Al Nakheel Trail I was meant to follow. I don’t hike every single day of my life, but hiking is quite a thing in Sardinia, where I am from, and I have done several hikes, a few multi-day ones, and some very technical ones, where the issue wasn’t the altitude or the actual drop (which I can actually endure), but the terrain. I am quite fit (I swim 4 times per week and I take every opportunity to exercise) and I don’t mind physical fatigue.
Having said so, I found this to be one of the most challenging hikes I have ever done. The lack of an actual trail, the constant change of terrain – from rocky, to sandy, to actually having to cross the river and walk inside a creek; the steep uphill and downhill: I won’t deny that it was hard.
Where to sleep and eat
There literally is nowhere in terms of accommodation and food along this portion of the Jordan Trail. I carried a packed lunch and lots of water (I recommend a minimum of two liters) with me from Feynan and I had planned to sleep in Al Bustan, a Bedouin style camp that was put up for the occasion.
The setting is quite simple: a large tent, with blankets and carpets being used as walls and thus creating 3 smaller “rooms;” each of them had a mattress on the floor and blankets for the night. The camp has no facilities – no toilet and no sink.
A fire is been lit to boil water and cook the meals.
General Tips For Hiking The Jordan Trail
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 portions of it that I did – 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 around 1500 meters above sea level, and in Shobak.
Guided treks from Dana to Petra
There aren’t many reliable companies that run the entire Jordan Trail. If you are interested in walking the portion from Dana to Petra – which is the one I have described here and the most interesting one in my opinion – you may join the tour led by Monkeys and Mountains. You can find more information and book it here.
What to pack and what to wear for the Jordan Trail
Once again, I can only speak for those parts of the Jordan Trail I actually hiked, but the tips I am about to provide will generally be applicable to any multi-day hike.
The first recommendation I have if you are hiking the Dana to Petra portion of the Jordan Trail 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 for this portion of the Jordan Trail 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. I also recommend taking a couple of t-shirts.
Kuhl cotton shirts are light, colorful and comfortable. I would take a thermal 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. Finally, 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 is fundamental unless planning to get sunburnt.
Also make sure to take prescription medicines as needed and, more importantly so, an emergency kit – I wish I had one after my accident. 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.
To find out more about what’s in my backpack, read my post “My ultimate packing list.”
Final tips for hiking the Jordan Trail
Hiking the Jordan Trail isn’t a walk in the park. If you plan to walk it, make sure to research as much as possible about it, and plan it carefully. It requires a good sense of adventure and an even better willingness to adapt to the sometimes harsh conditions and to the physical fatigue.
My recommendation is to also not do it alone. I don’t just mean to hire the services of a guide: that goes without saying, because some of the trails are virtually impossible to find, and there is no phone network and no way to talk to anybody if lost.
What I do mean, is to 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. In any case, I hardly recommend hiking alone anywhere (you can read more about it in this post).
Have you hiked the Jordan Trail? What was your experience?
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.