Roadtrippin’ the Beautiful kingdom of Jordan
Jordan, an Oasis in the desert landscapes of the middle east, even though nine tenths of the kingdom might be desert, there is plenty to see and do around the country, from lush green fertile lands in Azraq to Eco-lodges built deep into the flourishing nature reserves and the funny feeling you get floating in the ever salty waters of the Dead Sea, its just waiting to be explored and enjoyed.
We drove around Jordan over 2 weeks in the last week of April 2018, having the convenience of a car is unbeatable for exploring the lesser visited parts of the country and also allows for a lot of flexibility, being a desert the weather is mild and the tourist crowds are not their peak yet, so was a perfect time to venture, we could have easily spent a week more exploring few more places in the north and south of the country, but made the choice to visit a few sites over others, but if you have time then a 3 week plan would be ideal to take in the sights this beautiful country has to offer at a slow pace.
You can follow all our travels live on Polarsteps.
What better way to show the list of places to visit other than on a beautiful interactive map.
A quick time and money saving tip before we start exploring, buy a JORDAN PASS online and save on Visa fees and also on the costly Petra tickets and free entry to most of the historic sites, when we did the math it worked out to a good 40% savings if we had not had the pass. You have to buy it before you arrive.
Amman and Around
We landed late in the night and settled in our suite hotel with a 10am start for the next day, well rested we head towards the Roman ruins city of Jerash, the towering columns with impressive sculptures and the main paths lead to the various sites, plan to spend a good 3 to 4 hours walking around all the ruins.
Driving in Amman was a bit chaotic and parking was too difficult, so we hired a driver for the day.
Amman Citadel and Amman City
Located on top of the highest hill are the roman ruins from the bronze age and before. There’s plenty to see, but the Citadel’s most striking sights are the Temple of Hercules and the Ummayad Palace, of particular interest is the archeological museum, it presents artifacts from archaeological sites in Jordan, dating from prehistoric times to the 15th century and many even date 10,000 years ago to the Palaeolithic age.
Roman odeon city and the market streets make for an interesting visit too.
Azraq and Shaumari Reserves
Day 2 morning, Waving goodbye to Amman, we drove toward Azraq wetlands reserve, After a 2 hour drive along dusty roads and hot hot sun, we arrived in the Azraq reserve. Its an Oasis in the desert village. The reserve employs local people and the produce is all local. The whole site runs on solar power during the day which was a common scene in all of Jordan.
Ecolodges like this and many more in Jordan are made possible by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature(RSCN), founded in 1966 to rescue some of the country’s endangered beauty spots. Since then it has established six protected wilderness reserves in Jordan, all very different, with emphasis on eco-tourism, community projects and conservation.
The Eco system is very fragile, as the information in the visitor centre explains, the wetlands have been drained due to over abstraction of water in a water scarce country making it over a twentieth of its original size in just a few decades and are now in the process of being restored by pumping water into the marsh. As you walk the marsh billboards indicate areas that would be filled with water to the deep, few tens of years ago and are now barren.
The Arabian Oryx was hunted to extinction in Jordan around the 1920’s for its meat horn and fur, thanks to the conservation efforts of the Oryx project with just 3 animals from Oman, london Zoo and in the US, the Oryx was brought back to life from a complete wipe out and now RSCN backs the Oryx project at the Shaumari reserve, the number are steadily on the rise and here the Oryx are breed and trained to be re-introduced into the wild, the wetlands also provide Oryx safaris to spot them in their natural desert habitat.
2 Days: Petra by Night and by Day
Rose-red city of Petra, also the capital of the Nabataeans, built more than two thousand years ago in the heart of the Shara Mountains. Along the trading route connecting ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt was very prosperous and was a vital part of the economy, intricate facades sculpted into the sandstone cliffs of the area can still be seen along with other remarkably preserved structures and monuments of this fascinating civilisation.
Petra by Night
We did the Petra by Night on the first evening. A lovely and romantic atmosphere. The path to the treasury is lit by candles in paper bags leading you to the main treasury, the foyer is lit by an array of candle lights and the whole monument glows golden. Local bedouins play music inviting you with warm and sweet bedouin tea served, its a different kind of experience, you need a separate Petra by night ticket along with the day ticket or a Jordan Pass.
Petra by Day
Exploring the rose red city by day is equally beautiful, the rose red rock monuments glow by the early morning and late evening glow of the sun. We started early to beat the crowds to see the treasury by the day, climbed up to a vantage point for some photography and hiked to the monastery. Was a tiring climb in the midday sun, but was worth it. The evening was spent at leisure with some cocktails at the cave bar.
Martian Landscapes of Wadi Rum
With vivid memories of Petra still fresh, we drive towards the southern end of Jordan, home to the enchanting Wadi Rum desert, we were met by Fawaz of Wadi Rum Nomads, the next 3 nights will be spent in the desert camps made of goat fur.
We parked our car next to the Wadi Rum Nomads office in the village and from there Fawaz drove us in a Toyota Land Cruiser to the camp 20 mins away and into the desert, it was then the view began to unfold, the colourful sand had shades ranging from reddish brown to dark reds, the rock faces jutting abruptly in the middle of nowhere, we were literally transported to Mars, no wonder most of the Mars related movies are filmed here, especially The Martian.
We spent 3 nights and 2 days in Wadi Rum and did a range of activities from Desert safari to hiking, sand dunes, big and small rock arches to rock canyons, the day ends with a sunset hike to view the beautiful sunset from atop amazing rock formations, evenings are spent back at camp in the tented dining camp where a tasty lunch prepared in bedouin style awaits, we had good vegetarian options too to keep us happy.
The nights and early mornings are spent star gazing, shooting the milky way and enjoying the sunrise.
Hejaz Railway Train of Wadi Rum, a refurbished locomotive from a bygone era in the middle of the Jordanian desert.
A Jewel In The Desert : Feynan Eco Lodge
Winding roads and beautiful view points, we drive from Wadi Rum to Dana Biosphere to the pioneer of community-based tourism in heart of the biosphere. The 26 room hotel is surrounded by four Bedouin tribes. All of them who work here are from the tribes and majority of the produce is sourced locally.
There are plenty of activities included with the stay and you can choose whatever you wish and is sure to keep you busy and entertained, on one of the evenings we went for a sunset hike to a nearby hill accompanied by the young in-house guide Suleiman Al-Hasaseen, he keeps us all entertained with his stories, along the way Suleiman shows us where he was born next to a rock few yards from the lodge.
He tells us his job at Feynan is the reason he’s happy to remain in the desert. “I never thought people from around the world would be interested in how my family lives,” he says. “I feel a sense of pride sharing our traditions.”
After sunset with a bedouin style tea, we head back to the lodge for a sumptuous and delicious all vegetarian meal, it was one of the best meals we had in all of Jordan and the varieties and innovative dishes were just amazing, followed by an evening of star gazing and a lesson on the various galaxies. The sound of the sheep, cry of the wolves and the call of the owls soothe you to a relaxing sleep.
Floating In The Dead Sea
Wdi Mujib hiking trail, Lowest point museum, Maan hot springs, Mount Nebo
Have you ever had the feeling of floating effortlessly on water, you might say its magic until you have felt the waters of the dead sea, you just walk in and lie down like on a comfy bed and you just float, that funny feeling of buoyancy is just amazing.
We chose to stay at Mujib Chalets another one of RSCN’s fantastic lodges, just with 16 chalets, these are much quieter and less crowded than the nearby dead sea resorts, and with private access to the dead sea, it was the best choice. Wadi Mujib siq trail is just opposite the road with early access to beat the rush.
Dead sea black mud has therapeutic benefits on the skin, get them for 5JOD from the reception or you can find them by digging a bit of sand from the shore, have a dip in the salty water for 15 minutes, then smear the mud all over the body, let it dry for 20 mins and then float again for another 30 mins for the benefits.
Top Tip: wear water proof or swimming pool shoes, the stone and shore lines have sharp rocks and a cut on your leg and the highly salty water, and you know what happens next :).
Driving in Jordan
Its safe and easy to drive in Jordan, hiring a car gave us the freedom to visit far away places, the joy of getting lost and finding something exciting and the freedom of flexibility in our plans. Except in the chaotic city of Amman everywhere else it was enjoyable driving, the wide open desert roads were a thrill, we stopped at a few farms breathing in the fresh air and enjoying the scenery. So if you are a bit confused, we would fully recommend renting a car for your trip. Be very careful with the speeds as there are quite a few police speed checks on most of the highway roads.
Every beautiful trip comes to an end, but hope this inspires you to travel
We left Jordan with great memories with us to last forever, we felt Jordan to be completely safe, even though issues with the neighbouring countries have seen visitor numbers dwindling in the last few years.Would nevertheless encourage you all to come and visit Jordan. You will be amazed by the warm hospitality of Jordanians, the food, the beauty of Petra, the experience of the dead sea and the colourful shades of sand at Wadi Rum and many other places you will get to experience yourself.
Car hire from MonteCar
Wadi Rum Tours by Wadi Rum Nomads
Canon 5D Mark III + MeFoto Roadtrip + Canon 16-35 F4 + Canon 24-104 F4 + f-stop Loka + Canon SX720
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