I’ve always been intrigued by the Middle East – the beautiful, calligraphic look of Arabic writing, exotic foods, the sweet-smelling cardamom coffee, not to mention the jaw-dropping places like Petra that leave us breathless. A recent trip to Jordan exceeded all my wild imaginings – the vistas changed at every turn, from mountains to canyons to seas and olive groves.
Jordanians are friendly by nature. It’s part of their culture to treat every visitor as a guest and they are quick to give you a smile, help with directions or enjoy friendly banter as you barter for spices or scarves.
Exploring Jordan is easy to navigate as a small group trip, like I did with G Adventures. They hire local guides who know the country inside and out, and can share some of its best secret spots. Their itineraries let you see the best that Jordan has to offer, either via a highlights tour or adrenalin-pumping multisport tour.
Are you ready for a Jordan adventure? Here are my top five highlights:
Named one of the seven modern wonders of the world, Petra is also known as the “rose-red” city thanks to the red sandstone mountains that served as a canvas to exquisitely carved temples, tombs and caves. Petra was home to the Nabatean Arabs two thousand years ago, and their feats of engineering and architecture continue to amaze today.
Follow the dramatic “Siq” canyon to the site of the Treasury, made famous in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. From there, make sure you have your hiking shoes (and sunscreen!) and spend hours exploring the area. Our group logged close to 24 km that day and still didn’t see all of Petra.
An impressive trail (complete with 850 stairs) leads up to the Monastery, which also offers sweeping views of the Wadi (valley) that surrounds Petra.
On select nights, you can experience Petra by Night – following the Siq (lit by candles and natural moonlight) for a meditative experience in the Treasury area.
2. The Dead Sea
Located 1,388 feet below sea level, making it the lowest point on Earth, the Dead Sea has been attracting visitors thanks to its well-perceived health benefits for decades. The Dead Sea’s water has approximately 10 times more salt than a typical ocean, making it uninhabitable for fish and other marine animals (hence “dead”).
Many believe that bathing in the Dead Sea and applying its mud to your skin has excellent health benefits. Some people with respiratory problems find it easier to breathe the oxygen-rich low altitude air.
3. Mujib Canyoning
Located near the Dead Sea, the Mujib Nature Reserve is the lowest in the world, and is a natural playground. Wade through the refreshing water on a canyoning journey, climb waterfalls, propel yourself through currents on a rope and gazing up as the red-walled canyon rises hundreds of feet above you.
4. Wadi Rum
If Mars had a place on Earth, it would be in Wadi Rum (meaning “Sand Valley” in Arabic). Used as a backdrop for movies like Lawrence of Arabia and The Martian, its reddish stone and unique mountain formations jut out of the sand, creating a perfect backdrop for a sunset camel ride before bedding down in a traditional Bedouin camp.
North of the capital of Amman, you’ll find an oasis area called Ajloun, with rolling hills, olive groves and plenty of hiking through green forested areas. A stark contrast to the drier areas of Wadi Rum and the Dead Sea, a stay at the hilltop cabins located at the Nature Reserve in Ajloun provides a new perspective of Jordan – See if you can identify the evergreen oak, pine, carob, wild pistachio and wild strawberry trees. If you’re lucky, you’ll hear the area’s wolves howling as you tuck in at night.
Another surprise in Jordan? The vast number of Roman ruins throughout the country. Check out the Citadel and Amphitheatre in Amman, or walk the immense cobblestone streets of Jerash.
Is Jordan safe? Absolutely – Travelling as a small group with our guide, we felt perfectly safe and were welcomed at every destination.
Jordan is one of those countries that quickly nestles itself in your heart, leaving you a longing to return and further explore its natural sights and secrets.