A 3 Day Itinerary For The Jordan Trail

A 3 Day Itinerary For The Jordan Trail

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.

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Taking in the gorgeous views on the Jordan Trail

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.

Jordan Trail

The Jordan Trail is only for expert hikers and real adventure lovers

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.

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Dana village is one of the wonderful sightings along the Jordan Trail

The sights

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!

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Perks of the Jordan Trail: fabulous sunsets like the one I saw in Dana

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.

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The only people I met on my hike from Dana to Feynan, along the Jordan Trail

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 sights

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.

The sunset from Feynan, along the Jordan Trail, was stunning

The sunset from Feynan, along the Jordan Trail, was stunning

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.

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Worth the trip: Feynan Ecolodge is one of the places to visit in Jordan and a real jem along the Jordan Trail

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. 

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The Jordan Trail became truly hard on my second day of hiking – there was no trail at all

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.”

Jordan Trail

Shobak represented the end of my Jordan Trail

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 sights

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. 

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Dana Nature Reserve is a gorgeous place to visit along the Jordan Trail

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.

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Dressing comfortably is key on the Jordan Trail

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.”

Read my guide on what to pack for long distance hikes. 

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.

 

 

All The Places To Visit In Jordan For The Ultimate Adventure

All The Places To Visit In Jordan For The Ultimate Adventure

There are many incredible places to visit in Jordan.

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Jordan is Petra. Yet, this country is packed with many interesting places to visit. Though most people focus just the famous archeological site and visit Jordan for no more than 5 days, this is a country that deserves way more time. I spent almost two weeks there and I wish I could have stayed more!

From visiting the most famous archeological sites to getting lost in tiny villages off the beaten path; from battling the traffic of Amman to enjoying the silence of Wadi Rum desert; from going on incredible hikes to diving in the Red Sea – Jordan really has it all. 

What you will see as soon as you arrive in Jordan is a country that is incredibly beautiful; where the people are truly kind, friendly and generous; where the food is delicious; where the sunsets are out of this world; and which is incredibly safe even as for solo female travelers.

In this post, I highlight the best places to visit in Jordan and share a few tips that will help you plan your trip and make the most of it.

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Exploring Wadi Rum desert is one of the best things to do in Jordan

11 Amazing Places To Visit In Jordan

Aside from the world famous Petra, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Wadi Rum, there are many other places worth visiting. My advice if you intend to visit Jordan is to spend more than the typical 3 days flash-packing between Petra and Wadi Rum, and to give it enough time to travel slowly and enjoy all the fabulous things to do in Jordan. Having said so, the following are the ones that you really should not miss.

Amman 

Two days are usually enough to visit Amman. There are plenty of things to do in Amman to keep you entertained.

To get properly acquainted with the city, you may want to go on a guided tour. Here are some great tour options for Amman

Among the unmissable things to do in Amman there is getting deep into its Roman heritage. When in Amman, a visit to the Roman theater is a must. This was likely built in the 2nd century AD. As a lot of Roman theaters, it is cut into the side of a hill (which was once a necropolis) and it used to have a seating capacity of 6000 people (which gives a good idea of how big the city was at the time the theater was built).

The best view of the Roman theater is actually from the Citadel, which you really should not skip. This is located on the highest hill in Amman, Jebel al-Qala’a, at around 850 meters above sea level. It is a beautiful archeological site, where the most impressive building is the Umayyad Palace, built around AD 720 by the Umayyad Arabs and subsequently destroyed by an earthquake in AD 749.

things to do in Amman

The Roman theatre of Amman is a must see

You will also enjoy the view of the Roman Temple of Hercules with its remaining pillars (they can actually be seen from around town). Not far from it, there is a fantastic lookout with views of the modern city. Make sure to also admire the sunset the views of the city from the Citadel right during the call to prayer, at sunset. It is simply breathtaking.

The Jordanian capital has a truly artsy heart and one of the coolest things to do in Amman is enjoying is thriving art scene. You can see this in the many beautiful murals spread around town, but especially at Darat al-Funun. This is located on the hillside to the north of downtown Amman, and it is a beautiful complex (which includes an art gallery) showcasing the best pieces of Jordan’s contemporary art. The view from there is splendid.

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I enjoyed walking around town to discover street art: one of the coolest things to do in Amman

Make sure to also simply walk around, taking in the crazy, busy city life. That’s how you will get to discover some lovely hidden corners; beautiful street art; local markets galore; and incredibly interesting social spaces such as Jadal for Knowledge and Culture, which is a great combination of a café, art gallery, and a place for education. It is located in a traditional house dating back to 1933 and recently renovated, on al Kalha Stairs that connect Downtown with Jabal L’Wiebdeh, an area that bursts with ambitious start-ups and creative initiatives.

It is the kind of place where there are regular art and language classes, making it a favorite of the expat community that enjoys hanging out there to learn Arabic or other languages. It is also possible to listen to and play music and practice yoga. And to top what already sounds interesting, it regularly works along NGOs for the integration of refugees.

Finally, make sure to pop in at Duke’s Diwan. This is a historic townhouse which was built in 1924 and that has served as a post office, the seat of the Ministry of Finance, and a hotel. The house is owned by a local businessman who’s also the Duke of Mukhaybeh, who restored it to its original splendor, with period furnishing, and opened it to the public.

Duke’s Diwan will easily become the highlight of your trip to Jordan.

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Duke’s Diwan was a real find in Amman

Where to stay, eat and drink in Amman

Staying in the downtown area is the best choice, as it means easy access to attractions and restaurants. Beware that pretty much all hotels in Amman put the “boutique” label next to their name, whether they are really boutique hotels or not. In fact, none of them really is a boutique hotel.

I enjoyed my stay at The Boutique Hotel (which isn’t really a boutique hotel, by the way). The rooms there are modest but comfortable, the showers are powerful and truly hot, the breakfast is good and the owner is a truly loving, welcoming guy who I truly enjoyed talking to. Check here to book now and here to read reviews

Another good place to stay is the Century Park Hotel.

Remember to properly research about the hotels, checking online reviews such as those on Trip Advisor, before making a booking. And if possible, actually visit the property before committing to a reservation because a lot of them don’t keep their promises.

Check here for more hotel listings in Amman

things to do in Amman

Eating hummus is one of the top things to do in Jordan

Hashem restaurant

I want to list Hashem Restaurant as one of the places to visit in Jordan as this is considered a local legend. This small restaurant in the downtown area is open 24/7. There’s no menu there: all food is vegetarian and vegan, and each item costs 1 Jordanian Dinar (JD).

Make sure to get stuffed on the best falafel you will ever have, hummus, baba ganouj, olives and pita.You will spend a whopping 4 JD, which is around $ 5.6 USD, including the bottled water and the mint tea that the waiter insisted will insist you try.

Al Quds

Al-Quds (know as Jerusalem Restaurant) is another decent place to eat in Amman that you should absolutely visit. The food is good and the service efficient, though the menu has some interesting items (the translation to English from Arabic is “interesting”).

If you want to have a proper taste of Jordanian food, you may want to go on a food tour. Here are some great food tour options in Amman:

Jerash

Jerash is the perfect place for a day trip. This city is at about 1 hour drive north of Amman and has some of the best preserved Roman ruins in the Middle East. At its peak, Jerash had a population of around 20000 people.

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The Dead Sea is a lovely place to visit

The Dead Sea

The Dead Sea is considered one of the highlights of Jordan. Most people actually spend a few days in one of the all inclusive resorts, but it is actually possible to visit the Dead Sea on a day-trip from Amman, going to what is known locally as Amman Beach – a public beach run by the municipality of Amman and meant to give affordable access to the Dead Sea.

Swimming (or rather, floating) in the Dead Sea is a lot of fun. You can go to Amman Beach for the day via public transport from Mihajireen Bus Station. Or else, opt for a taxi or rent a car. Keep in mind that locals swim pretty much fully clothed, and while foreigners are free to wear swimsuits, it’s better to be modest.

Here are some more day trip options from Amman:

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Those who visit Jordan shouldn’t skip Dana

Dana and Dana Nature Reserve

I visited Dana and Dana Nature Reserve as part of a multi-day hike (this is where a trail that leads all the way to Petra starts), and I was truly impressed. It’s at about 3 hours drive from Amman. Spring is the best time to visit: winters are bitterly cold, and summers unbearably hot.

The village of Dana dates back to the 15th century and is entirely built in stone. The views of the valley below from Dana are simply spectacular, especially at sunset.

The village is the perfect starting point for a number of hikes. There are several trails. The Rummana Campground Trail goes along the canyon through some beautiful nature, with the chance to admire local wildlife. The Wadi Dana Trail starts in Dana and after a very steep descent it follows an easy path all the way to Feynan village. The walk lasts about 4 hours but you should not walk back on the same day.

Dana village is nowadays mostly abandoned. Only 3 families live there – the rest of the people have moved to the nearby Tafila. There aren’t that many foreign visitors in Dana.

Dana village and Dana Reserve have been taken over by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) in 1993 in order to protect the wildlife of the reserve, promote ecotourism and help the local community. Supporting ecotourism is certainly something that those who visit Jordan should do. Currently, the only project to bring the village back to its old splendor is by USAID.

Here are some tours that also go to Dana Natural Reserve:

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Admiring the sunset in Dana: one of the best things to do in Jordan

Where to stay and eat in Dana

Although small, Dana has some really good accommodation options. I stayed at Dana Guesthouse and loved it. All rooms have a balcony with a spectacular view of the valley. There’s the option of staying either in the plain (but pretty) basic rooms with shared bathroom, or in the superior ones where the bathroom has a gorgeous shower with a view. Check here to book now and here to read reviews

Check here for more places to stay in Dana

You can eat all your meals there – from the packed lunch, to the breakfast and dinner buffet. Keep in mind that no alcohol is served at the property.

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Hiking is one of the top things to do in Jordan, but hiring a local guide is a must

Feynan

Feynan definitely has to be mentioned among the unmissable places to visit in Jordan. The village is actually tiny: no more than a few bedouin families living in camps (they are the most welcoming people you can imagine), a couple of houses and a school. The setting is gorgeous. It is located in the Dana Nature Reserve, and although it can be reached on a 4×4, the best way to get there is on foot, on a hike that starts in Dana village.

Once in Feynan, make sure to go on the short and easy hike to a wonderful viewpoint for sunset; to the Copper Mine Tour; to the strenuous and completely (and literally!) off the beaten path Wadi Al Nakheel Trail, this really is hiking paradise and hiking maniacs who visit Jordan should not miss on it.

Make sure to hire a local guide when hiking. Trails are often not marked at all. 

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Worth the trip: Feynan Ecolodge 

Where to stay and eat in Feynan

The only accommodation and eating option in Feynan is Feynan Ecolodge. Feynan Ecolodge is truly worth the trip, if you visit Jordan you may as well make the effort to go there.

Feynan Ecolodge is one of the few hotels I have been that lives up to its sustainable tourism reputation. Run by the RSCN, it only employs people (guides, cooks, receptionists etc) from the local communities. The atmosphere there is amazing – friendly, cozy, amicable. Check here to read reviews

The building is in adobe. Water is heated by solar panels, and there’s no electricity in the rooms (there’s a light only in the bathroom), as in the rest of the building. This (and wifi) is only available at the reception (which is where everyone charges their phones and cameras). When it gets dark, everything is illuminated by candles. As there’s no artificial lights around and there is a fabulous telescope, Feynan is perfect to admire the starry sky.

Feynan Ecolodge communal buffet style dinner is a great why to try a lot of local specialties. Everything is vegetarian – the idea is that meat needs to be kept refrigerated and refrigerators consume too much electricity. Either way, the food is delicious!

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Shobak Castle is a great find

Shobak Castle

Shobak Castle will be a lovely surprise, and you are bound to enjoy it. Formerly called Mont Real, or Montreal (the Royal Mountain), the castle was build by the Crusader King Baldwin I in 1115 AD. After several attacks from Saladin, and an 18 months siege, the castle succumbed in 1189. In the 14th century it was occupied by the Mamaluks. It is currently undergoing restorations, and a team of Italian researchers is also further excavating the castle.

The views from the castle are incredible. You can see a multitude of houses (currently abandoned) either built in local sandstone or actually carved in the rock.

Make sure to hire a local guide for a few Jordanian Dinars to be taken to the secret passageway that leads to a subterranean spring – sure enough, it is not for the claustrophobics as it is very dark, and tight inside.

Here are some tours that include Shobak Castle:

Where to stay and eat in Shobak

Visiting castles is one of the nicest things to do in Jordan, but Shobak has shortages in terms of good accommodation. I stayed at Montreal Hotel, which was fairly comfortable (if not for the strange layout of the sheets on the bed!), which is also where I enjoyed my (super abundant) meals. Check here to read reviews

Petra, Jordan

Petra is one of the places to visit in Jordan, though guides there are an expensive necessity

Petra (and Little Petra)

Petra definitely is one of the best places to visit in Jordan. It is the main tourist spot in the country, and for a good reason. The site is simply stunning. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is incredibly spread, so I recommend you to spend 3 full nights to fully explore it and invest in a 2 days pass, paying 55 Jordanian Dinars (JD) which is around $ 78 USD. A one day pass is JD 50 ($ 70 USD).

Guides are available on the site. Free guided tours that follow the main trail depart every hour or so from the visitors centre, but the groups may be too large to fully enjoy the tour. Otherwise, you can hire guides through the information office right by the ticket office.

To be honest, guides are terribly expensive in Petra. I paid a whopping JD 80, which is around $ 120 USD, for a guide to take me to the view point of the Treasury on my second day. If you are traveling in a group, you can share the cost of the guide. And if walking the most popular trails, all it takes it to wait around a bit until more people willing to share a guide show up.

In any case, taking a guided tour of Petra is recommended. Lots of people opt to only visit on day tours. It is a good solution if you have limited time, but if time is not an issue, it is better to spend a couple of days and to explore it more in depth.

Here are some cities you can get day trips to Petra from:

Petra is included in the list of attractions of the Jordan Pass, which is a rather convenient package that can be bought online and that gives access to a variety of sites (and through which it is possible to get a waiver for the visa fees, if staying more than 3 consecutive nights in the country).

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Not only Petra! Little Petra is one of the places to visit in Jordan

Not far from Petra, Siq Al-Barid, know colloquially as Little Petra, is a place you should not miss. It is thought to have been an agricultural centre and a re-supply centre for camels and caravans. There is no admission free, and there are so few tourists that it is really pleasant to explore.

I highly recommend walking the hiking trail that connects Little Petra to the Monastery of Petra. Do keep in mind that it is better to hire a local guide, as the trail isn’t easy to find, and that a valid ticket to Petra is also needed.

Where to stay and eat in Petra

Wadi Musa is the main port of access to Petra, and it is where to find the best accommodation and eating options.There are many places to stay in Wadi Musa for all budgets and tastes. I opted to stay at Sharah Mountains Hotel and truly enjoyed my stay. I had a clean, comfortable and quiet room (although the bathroom was a bit small), and the staff was incredibly kind and friendly. Check here to read reviews

Check here for more places to stay in Wadi Musa

The Red Cave is perhaps the most popular restaurant in town. There even are a couple of restaurants inside the archaeological site. I ate most of my meals at the hotel, and the food was incredibly fresh, tasty and always made to order.

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Without any doubt, Wadi Rum is one of the top places to visit in Jordan

Wadi Rum

If you are fascinated by deserts, you will find Wadi Rum is one of the coolest places to visit in Jordan. Made famous by TE Lawrence book Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Wadi Rum is quite simply a must.

Wadi Rum gets extremely cold in the winter, and unbearably hot in the summer. It was around 29 degrees Celsius when I visited, at the end of March. A strong wind started blowing in the early afternoon, and it gave it an incredibly mysterious aura.

The most beautiful sights of Wadi Rum are the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, named in honor of Lawrence’s book. This is a large rock formation that can be admired from the view point of the visitors centre.You can even hike the Seven Pillars. Other interesting sights include the rock inscriptions that date back to the Nabatean and Thamudic civilizations, Lawrence’s Spring, and the various siqs.

You can also take 4×4 tours, horse rides, go rock climbing, go on a hot air balloon and, needless to say, sunrise and sunset watching. My recommendation is to do at least a 2 day guided tour to fully enjoy what Wadi Rum has to offer.

Here are some great activities to do in Wadi Rum:

To be fair though, what you will enjoy the most in Wadi Rum is the silence, the peaceful atmosphere, the sight of the camels and their occasional grunts breaking the silence, and the sweet tea that the bedouins offer to visitors. 

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Wadi Rum, Jordan – one of the nicest things to do in Jordan is enjoying the silence of the desert

Where to stay and eat in Wadi Rum

There are no real hotels in Wadi Rum, but as it is one of the most popular places to visit in Jordan, there is a wide range of bedouin camps that you can enjoy. In terms of restaurants, the best one is that of the visitors centre. It is generally possible to eat at the bedouin camps.

Aqaba

Aqaba is a good starting point to visit Wadi Rum and it provides access to the Red Sea, with some good beaches to relax and some incredible diving opportunities.

Here are some tour options for Aqaba:

Where to stay and eat in Aqaba

Aqaba has plenty of hotels for all budgets. I stayed at The Costa Marina Hotel and it was a good pick, although it was a bit far from the city centre. My room was large and comfortable, and the personnel was very kind. A good option to eat is Blue Bay, which mostly serves seafood. Check here to read reviews

Check here for more places to stay in Aqaba

places to visit in Jordan

Spring is the best time to visit Jordan

Practical Tips To Organize Your Trip To Jordan

When to visit Jordan

I could say it’s always a good time to visit Jordan, but the truth is that it gets cold in the winter, and it is unbearably hot in the summer. The best time to visit is in the spring time, between March and May. I went between the end of March and the beginning of April and the weather was always pleasant, never too hot, and the days were nice and sunny.

Guided tours of Jordan

If you want to visit Jordan but would rather leave the organization to the experts, you may want to opt for a guided tour. Here are some good options.

What to pack for a trip to Jordan

You need to dress conservatively in Jordan, and to make sure to wear layers as it does get hot in the sun, but as soon as the wind starts blowing or the sun goes down, temperatures drop.

I found my Kuhl hiking pants and cotton t-shirts were perfect for the kind of activities I was doing. I carried a light sweater and wore a wind-proof jacket at night. I mostly wore hiking boots, as I walked a lot and the terrain was often uneven.

For more information on what is in my backpack and inspiration on what to carry to visit Jordan, read my post “My ultimate packing list.”

Crossing the border and getting a visa to visit Jordan

If you get to Jordan by plane can get a visa on arrival upon landing: it costs JD 40.

If you are visiting Jordan as part of a larger trip across the Middle East, you may be crossing from Israel. In this case, there are two land borders where it is possible to get a visa on arrival: Wadi Araba, which is the border between Eilat and Aqaba, and Sheikh Hussein, which is located in the North of the Jordan. The King Hussein / Allenby Bridge (which is the closest to Amman and Jerusalem) requires a pre-arranged visa and it is factually only used by tourists who exit the country.

If you enter Jordan via a land border and spend a minimum of 3 consecutive nights there is no visa fee to poay – the Jordanian Pass is normally considered proof of spending sufficient amount of time in the country. There is a JD 10 exit fee.

Make sure to also get a good travel insurance. You can find a good one here.

Currency in Jordan

The Jordanian Dinar (JD) is the official currency of Jordan. Cash payments are the norm, though larger businesses also accept cards. You will easily find ATMs. At the time of writing, the exchange rate is 1.4 USD to a JD, and about 1.3 Euro to a JD.

Safety and scams in Jordan

Jordan is a safe country, and people are generally welcoming and helpful. Many speak English and if they don’t, they will in any case be kind and helpful. I had no issues whatsoever, even as a solo female traveler. Having said so, it is good to dress conservatively and to pay attention to some common scams.

Scams are common in all the most touristy places, but they can be easily identified. The most typical scam in Amman, for example, is from taxi drivers, who regularly offer passengers to go to a different hotel or restaurant from the one they asked for. A polite and firm “no, thank you” works well in this case. Women should beware of Bdouls targeting women in Petra. Never accept an invitation for tea, coffee, dinner or to visit a cave or go off the beaten path.

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I wish that those who visit Jordan don’t take part in the exploitation of animals

Animals in tourist attractions 

The Jordan Tourism Board is making an effort to prevent the exploitation of animals in Petra, but you will see lots of animals being pushed to their limits by their owners, and unaware (or simply uninterested) tourists gladly riding donkeys, mules and horse carriages despite the explicit request of the tourism board not to do so if able to walk.

To find out more about responsible tourism and animals, read my post The Complete Guide To Becoming A More Responsible Traveler.”

Eating and drinking in Jordan

One of the best things to do in Jordan is eating. From mansaf, one of the most traditional dishes consisting of lamb and rice, to hummus and falafel, there is a wide range of choice and the good news is that there are plenty of vegetarian options. On a typical meal in Jordan (or at a buffet restaurant) there’s a really large selection of fresh delicious salads.

You will definitely enjoy drinking local tea and coffee. Jordanian tea is typically an infusion of black tea with added herbs – it can be sage, mint or others – for a truly fragrant taste. The typical coffee is a strong infusion of boiling water, coffee and a pinch of cardamom. Jordanians drink their tea and coffee super sweet. Make sure to specify if you don’t want any sugar.

Alcohol is quite expensive in Jordan, as it is subject to heavy taxation, and the majority of locals don’t drink it anyways.

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So many places to visit in Jordan are dirty with garbage. Thankfully Dana Reserve isn’t one of them

Hygienic conditions and pollution in Jordan

The hygienic conditions in Jordan are good: hotels are generally very clean, for example. However, be ready to see lots garbage around.

Smoking is allowed pretty much anywhere in the country, and pretty much everyone smokes. Hotel rooms may be non-smoking, but with smokers happily enjoying their cigarettes in the lobby, even rooms will have somewhat of a stench. The same goes for restaurants, where people are legally allowed to smoke inside.

Further readings about Jordan and the Middle East

Are you planning a longer trip to the Middle East? Make sure to read my other posts:

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.

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Discover the best places to visit in Jordan - via @clautavani

Find out the coolest places to visit in Jordan - via @clautavani