Jordan is an ideal destination for families, couples or adventurers. Laying between desert, seas and archaeological sites, this small country is full of attractions.
This small country is situated between two seas, with three quarters of its land covered by desert. Despite its size, it can be explored in just five or ten days and offers a unique experience of traveling from the sandy deserts to the salty waters of the Dead Sea in just a few hours along the Jordan Rift. Jordan, which emerged as a nation after World War I, is a land of contrasts, with stable conditions that are almost surprising considering its neighbors are Israel, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. Despite the challenges posed by the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East, Jordan has managed to forge a peaceful and humanitarian path, even welcoming refugees.
While the tourism industry has been hit hard by the Covid crisis, Jordan is determined to bounce back and regain its status as a sought-after destination for those seeking culture, nature, and adventure.
Here are 5 unforgettable experiences for discovering this amazing country.
1. Explore the unmissable Petra
Pink with the morning light, blazing in the setting sun… this is the jewel of the country, nearly 300 kilometers south of the capital, Amman. Built by the Nabataeans – a tribe of Arab nomads – more than 2000 years ago in the heart of the Šar Mountains, the city of Petra competes in fame with the most important archaeological sites of the East and West. This wonder – the eighth – was revealed to the whole world by “Indiana Jones”. It is however a Swiss, the Lausanne explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt who rediscovered it in 1812. You reach it by sneaking through a narrow canyon where the sand blows, with vertiginous walls dotted with a few vestiges, traces of what was the original site. But the magic springs after 1.2 km, discovering the Kazneh, the impressive door (43 meters high) of the tomb sculpted in the rock. This is the postcard of Petra. Unforgettable!
Advice: If you decide to devote a full day or even more to the site, you will discover dozens of other monumental structures on the mountainside, along beautiful hikes that will reveal royal tombs, monasteries, temples…
2. Savoring a “knafah” on the go, in Amman
Good addresses across the country:
While the Jordanian capital city is not particularly noteworthy, it is almost a necessary stop to enter the country. Spending a day in Amman will allow you to visit the old citadel, which offers stunning views of the twenty hills now covered with urban development, and the educational National Museum, which presents over 10,000 years of history. Additionally, downtown and its shopping streets, situated near an impressive ancient theater, are worth exploring. As for food, Amman is a treasure trove of culinary delights.
With mezze of all varieties, tartares, falafels, samboussek (puff pastries filled with meat, cheese, or vegetables), shawarma (bread stuffed with mutton), gallayeh (made with meat, tomatoes, onions), and flatbreads with za’atar, the influence of the Near East is evident in the diverse range of dishes. Exploring the local cuisine is an essential part of discovering the country, and gourmets will be delighted with the wide array of options. A must-try is knafah, a hot dessert made with melted cheese and sugar, which can be found near the souk at the renowned and tiny Habiba pastry shop. People have been flocking there since the 1950s to taste this delectable treat, which is both soft and invigorating. Don’t miss the opportunity to join the long line of locals waiting to savor this delicacy.
In Amman, in addition to passing through the Habiba pastry shop, reserve a table for dinner at the Fakhr-el-Din restaurant , located in the former residence of the Prime Minister. The house has been carefully renovated. The cuisine is excellent. You can drink wine there. 40 km from the capital, in the charming town of Madaba – which can be visited for its relaxed lifestyle and its pleasant temperatures at an altitude of 850 m or for the discovery of the mosaics from which this important Christian town draws its reputation –, the one of the best addresses is called Haret Jdoudna. On the menu, excellent mezzes. In terms of decoration, the restaurant is located in a group of old renovated houses. Between the small shaded terrace, the alcoves and the tangle of rooms, one has the impression of traveling back in time as much as of being welcomed by the locals.
3. Spend a night in Wadi Rum
The Wadi Rum desert is almost as famous as Petra. Partly, again, thanks to the cinema: it was there that “Lawrence of Arabia”, “Red Planet”, “Prometheus”, “Transformers” and, more recently, “Alone on Mars” were filmed as well as “Star Wars: Rogue one” or “Dune”. With its red sand and twisting rock formations, with its white, black, yellow djebels… this desert – which stretches over 70 km, four hours by car from Amman – evokes the great American West as much as a distant planet. . Surveying it on the back of a dromedary at sunrise or going there in a jeep to join one of the many camps and spend a magical night under the starry sky is, after Petra, the other must see from the country. This is truly Bedouin country. Whether you plan to spend time camping there or prefer the comfort of one of the many Bubble hotels , Wadi Rum guarantees an encounter with these desert nomads. Many now derive their income from tourism. Proud of their culture, they like to share their cuisine, their typical coffee, sing and dance around the fire…
Advice: When planning your stay and booking a night, you can book great Wadi Rum Adventure camp and experience jeep tour wit them. Another tested address is Hasan Zawaideh Camp, a camp that offers ten tents with private bathrooms, located at the foot of a cliff and, above all, far from other camps. At night, the isolation is total. Possibility of organizing jeep excursions or camel rides.
4. Immerse yourself with the pilgrims in the Jordan
With more than 90% of the 10.5 million inhabitants who are of the Muslim faith, Islam is the state religion in Jordan. An Islam practiced in a gentle way, which contributes to the change of scenery experienced by the Western tourist and does not impose too many dress restrictions on travelers, beyond shorts and sleeveless t-shirts to be avoided, especially when visiting a mosque. Jordan is a crossroads of cultures and has played a significant role in the development of Christianity. El-Maghtas, on the banks of the Jordan River, is where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. Today, visitors can see ruins and scattered churches at the archaeological site. The river borders a portion of Palestine controlled by Israel, and pilgrims from all over the world flock to immerse themselves in the sacred waters. Jordanian and Israeli soldiers guard the site, and national flags stare at each other, highlighting the complex mix of 2000 years of religious history and a century of Middle Eastern crisis.
5. Dive in the azure waves, float in the salty waters
You can explore most of Jordan in a week. Take a break and float in the ultra-saline waters of the Dead Sea, which is the lowest point on earth at -434m. You can also visit Madaba, the Baptist site, or the incredible panoramas of Wadi Mujib, the deepest canyon in Jordan.
For a real seaside experience, head to the Red Sea in the south. In Aqaba, near Wadi Rum, you can enjoy the turquoise waters and all the maritime activities. It is less crowded compared to Eilat on the Israeli side. You can reach the nature reserve by boat in less than an hour, offering beautiful diving sites or choose to relax in one of the hotels near the Marina.
Tip: It is convenient to fly into Amman and leave the country from Aqaba, depending on the itinerary. The Royal Yacht Club Bar offers a variety of affordable food and wine. The Hyatt Regency Aqaba Ayla Resort is a luxurious complex with multiple swimming pools, terraces, private beach, lagoon, bars, and restaurants. It is perfect for relaxation and costs from around 200 dollars for a double room.