For those of you that don’t know, I won a contest through Bestway Tours in conjunction with Royal Jordanian Airlines and Visit Jordan a few months ago that is sending me to Jordan on a culinary adventure next week (March 3-10, 2016). To prepare for my trip, I thought I’d ask some other travelers and bloggers about their experiences and tips for Jordan. Here’s what they had to say…
Jordan is one of the safest countries in the Middle East and that is one of the reasons loads of tourists visit there. The other reason is the unique beauty of some of its spots. The most famous place to visit is surely Petra, one of the new seven wonders of the world. When you visit it, you’ll understand why. This city carved in the rocks was preserved very well for centuries and you will feel like being in the ancient times while trekking through its trails. Amman and its Citadel are also something worth a visit.
But there is one place that must be on your to-do-list in Jordan, that being Wadi Rum, a place often used by filmmakers for movies. This valley cut into the sandstone situated in the south of Jordan is one of the best sights of the whole country. You can reach this small village at the edge of the desert by bus or taxi and from there you’ll have to take a jeep in order to visit the most beautiful attractions where the famous Lawrence of Arabia passed. Camels wandering in the red sand, ancient inscriptions, narrow canyons created in centuries by small streams and natural arches are just a few of the things that you can see in Wadi Rum. It is highly recommended for trekkers for its many trails and rock-climbers as there are many high sandstone hills to ascend.
My last tip to enjoy Wadi Rum at its best is to stay overnight in the Bedouin tents in the middle of the desert and enjoy the quiet that only the desert at night can give, while of course, eating some amazing Bedouin food.
– Odoardo Girardi of Queidue
As you approach Raqmu, known today as Petra, before you reach the famous entrance to the Rose City, you travel through a canyon, between walls the color of a maiden’s blush reaching higher than three tall men standing on each other’s shoulders. At times you can walk 15 abreast, while other sections squeeze down to fit no more than three across. In addition to statuary half-emerging from the walls, grooves have been carved into the rock on either side of the path, between five and six feet up the wall. These grooves travel the length of the road and once held burning oil, lighting the main thoroughfare leading to the capital city. Standing in the middle of the path, if you close your eyes and breathe deeply, you can almost hear calls of the vendors selling food, spices, clothing, and other goods; smell the animals brought to-or-from, used as transport, or sold for parts; and hear conversations of the people: travelers from near and far, and the Nabateans themselves, that crowded this avenue day and night.
Though Petra remains teaming with a combination of locals and tourists, it is possible to find solitude by venturing to the iconic cut rock façade and beyond. Guided tours are available, providing a camel ride, history lessons, and a cup of tea, or you can choose to explore on your own. Stay overnight in nearby Wadi Musa at the budget-friendly Cleopetra Hotel. The staff are happy to drop you off for a day of hiking, twisting and turning your way between canyon walls, climbing up ancient stairs to sit in a cave tomb and eat your midday meal. A stop at a grocery store before heading out will provide you with plenty of water, pita bread, cucumber, tangy pickles and olives, a can of tuna in olive oil, and fruit for dessert. Stray cats may join you to rest in the shade of a centuries-old structure as you stare across the desert, enjoying the simplicity of your meal, wondering who lived and died where you sit now, and replaying scenes from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in your head.
– BrocheAroe of WildlyLived
Most travelers want to visit Petra while visiting Jordan, and here is my tip: allow more than one day to visit the ancient city of the Nabateans. The site is surprisingly large. For instance, to get from the entrance to the Treasury (the most famous building) through the Siq, the canyon of Indiana Jones fame, you’ll have to walk for nearly an hour, and that is just the beginning! Some of the most spectacular places require long walks to get there, like the Monastery and the High Place of Sacrifice, and you can’t miss Petra by Night! On top of that, the entry price to Petra is steep, but staying two or (even better) three days will allow you to get more bang for your buck. Take it easy and plan some extra time in Petra – you’ll thank me later!
Check out Margherita’s article, Petra by Night on her blog.
– Margherita Ragg of The Crowded Planet
My wife and I recently traveled on a trip to Jordan with our two young boys. Between the castles, the desert and the ocean, we had the adventure of a lifetime! The people were incredibly warm hearted and loved doting on the kids and the country itself is beautiful beyond imagination.
Not a day went by without us being neck deep in excitement, adventure and discovery and not a moment of boredom was had. We explored the ruins of Jerash, performed a play on the stage in the oldest Roman ruin outside of Rome itself, and searched the ruins along the Desert Highway and King’s Highway for treasure and secret passageways. We walked in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia and sipped tea with the locals at every chance we could. At Petra we had an entire ancient city practically to ourselves. Our guide brought us on horseback to the cave that he called home only 20 years before inviting us to his new home in the nearby village for tea and conversation.
We bathed in mud before floating on the Dead Sea and sunk under the waves to watch the fish dart through the corals of the Red Sea. We rode camels across the desert floor in Wadi Rum and stopped to run up and down the massive red sand dunes before watching the sun illuminate the desert landscape in a stunning red hue. At night we laid under a blanket of stars, trying to count them all until sleep finally washed over us.
In Amman, we explored the incredible Citadel, one of the world’s oldest cities, dating back over 7,000 years. We ate figs from the trees and marveled at the remains of the massive statue of Hercules that lay strewn across the grounds.
Jordan is a paradise for explorers and history buffs. The sites will draw you in and the people will win your heart. We can’t wait to return.
– Kevin Wagar of Wandering Wagers
We went to Jordan for spring break a few years ago. Not a typical spring break destination for westerners, but it was an AMAZING, fascinating, beautiful trip of a lifetime. A lot has changed in the world since then, especially in the Middle East, but I would still argue it is a wonderful, enriching destination.
Our home base was the lovely and historic town of Madaba outside of Amman. Madaba is renowned for its ancient “Madaba Map” (an early accurate mosaic rendering of the geography of the Middle East). From there we visited Amman, Jerash, Mt. Nebo, Umm Qais, and surrounding areas – focusing on old Roman ruins and crusader castles.
We saved the best, Petra, for last! I recommend getting up early in the morning and heading to the gates early to start your day. It’s about a one-mile walk through the siq, a dim, narrow gorge with 300-600 foot walls, to get to the Treasury, Petra’s most elaborate ruin carved in the dark orange sandstone cliff.
Petra is huge and vast massive city filled with tombs, temples and theaters. You can spend a day or several exploring the ancient sandstone carved city. Highlights in Petra included riding a camel – which is very bumpy – and returning after dark to see Petra lit up by thousands of candles. I highly recommend Petra By Night.
One of the highlights of our trip was the amazing Middle Eastern food we enjoyed for every meal. On our last night in Petra, we went to the Petra Kitchen cooking school, which I highly recommend. Together our family of nine joined other groups to create a bountiful dinner working alongside local women under the supervision of their chef. Each group made a course, and we left with the recipes so we could recreate the delicious dinner at home. Even our four-year-olds were included – they made the bread.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the lovely Jordanian people. They were so warm, welcoming and hospitable. One Arabic word you should know is “shukran” which means “thank you.”
It was an epic trip – one that changed me forever. It opened my heart and my mind to this part of the world.
Read Amy’s article on her trip to Jordan on her blog here.
– Amy Anderson of What Feeds My Soul
My friend Justin and I only had a few days in Jordan, so we chose two bases: Wadi Musa, the town nearest Petra, and Madaba, outside of Amman. Madaba is approximately 18 kilometres from Queen Alia International Airport, so convenient for travelers arriving late at night (as many flights from Europe do). This town offers a collection of accommodation options and a visitors’ centre, which provides a map highlighting some nearby historic sites. We stayed directly across from St. George’s Church, which contains a mosaic depicting the world known to 5th century Byzantines. The art of mosaic-making is still practiced in the area, as is wine-making; I’d suggest buying a bottle or two if you’re heading to Petra and want to toast your visit to this New 7 Wonder, as we didn’t find alcohol obviously for sale in Wadi Musa’s shops.
At Petra we purchased a two-day pass, which allowed us time to explore most of its highlights. On our second day, we made sure to arrive at dawn so we could complete the strenuous climb to the Monastery by 9 am, before the sun became unbearable. There’s a cave café nearby, where we celebrated our achievement with delicious Arabic coffee. We also ate lunch at one of the on-site restaurants, which offered a buffet that proved to be vegetarian-friendly, though you could easily bring a picnic with you and take advantage of a shady corner. When our energy flagged, we snacked on flaky honey-infused sweets we’d bought in Madaba.
Because public transport in Jordan only takes you so far, we rented a car, which gave us the freedom to meander through small towns to Kerak, where there’s a well-preserved crusader castle, and through desert countryside to the day resort of O Beach, where we floated in the Dead Sea. If you do self-drive, make sure to fill up when you see a gas station; it took us a lot of asking around to find one on our return to Madaba!
– Claire Morris of @ClaireEmmaM
Do you have any tips or must-do suggestions for my trip to Jordan? Share them below in the comments.