10th January 2020
Jordan is a perplexing and beautiful place. Situated in the Middle East on the Eastern bank of the Jordan river, the country is defined by nature reserves, ancient monuments and amazing seaside resorts. It’s home to some of the world’s most renowned sites of historical interest, and with so much to offer it’s no wonder this country is a “bucket list” destination for so many people.
It’s a country of historical and cultural interest for many. The iconic film Lawrence of Arabia was shot in Jordan, and in biblical lore, Moses saw the promised land at Mount Nebo. Whatever your interests, there’s certainly plenty to see and do here, some of which we’ll look at forthwith:
Jordan is home to many old Roman sites, including the 2000-year-old ancient ruins of Jerash. When visiting Jordan, many travellers’ initial destinations include the ancient city of Petra and the Dead Sea, which means Roman sites like Jerash sometimes get overlooked. However, they are a must-see for any visitor to the country and a document of the golden age of Roman rule circa 63BC.
Jerash features the spectacular Hadrian’s Arch – a large stone gateway to the area which features a central section designed for chariots to pass through with ease. The sense of wonder in these ancient cities has to be seen to be believed, and you’ll undoubtedly gaze in amazement at the iconic columns which surround the Oval Forum within the walls of the city.
The Dead Sea is arguably one of the most popular and tourist-friendly places in Jordan and with good reason. After all, who doesn’t want to experience the unique feeling of floating upon the water at the lowest point on earth?
This body of water is one of the saltiest in the world. It acts as a terminus for rain and surface water which flows into it without floating back out. The high temperatures in the area mean that significant proportions of the water are evaporated, leaving behind a concentration of minerals (including lots of salt) which create a buoyant effect for all those who enter it.
One of the most popular areas to swim in the Dead Sea is Kalia Beach. It features all the amenities you might expect from a first-class resort, including changing areas, bathrooms, lifeguards, showers and even a bar. Kalia is also a great place to apply mud from the Dead Sea, which has been proven to work wonders for the skin.
The breath-taking landscape of Wadi Rum offers up awe-inspiring sunsets which peek through the mountainous terrain at all angles. It’s perfect for photo opportunities and can leave you feeling like you’ve landed on another planet.
At night-time, clear skies allow you to observe the universe in all its glory. It’s tranquil, relaxing and creates a serious sense of perspective when you gaze out at stars many millions of light-years away.
On the Kings' Highway, which is one of the oldest roads in the world, is the mosaic-filled city of Madaba. It is here where you will find the Mosaic map in the Byzantine Church. The Mosaic Map, also known as the Madaba Map, is a floor mosaic situated in the Byzantine church of Saint George. It’s the oldest surviving depiction of the holy land and is thought to date back to the 6th century AD.
The Madaba Mosaic was partially destroyed by an earthquake in the eighth century and subsequently abandoned. It was rediscovered in 1884 during the construction of a new church on the old Byzantine church site and has since become a must-see tourist attraction.
Jordan is home to some incredible nature reserves – there are so many, in fact, that you might need to book an extended stay to enjoy them all! From the Wadi Mujib reserve to the Dana Biosphere, you can experience the best that nature has to offer and encounter all manner of unique flora and fauna in amongst sprawling desert landscapes.
If hiking isn’t your thing, you might want to consider seeing some of the country’s nature reserve by bicycle – although some areas (Wadi Mujib in particular) are quite mountainous and can prove to be something of a workout whether you’re walking or cycling – however, after all that hard work you can always douse yourself down in the relaxing hot springs.
Petra is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Jordan. It’s a beautiful city carved from rose-coloured rock and has a long and interesting history (the city is said to have been founded in 300BC). As you enter the city through the Siq, you’ll get a dramatic introduction to this ancient site of historical wonder. Shortly after entering, you’ll likely recognise The Treasury – a temple cut from rock that was used in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
When visiting Petra during the summer months, remember to bring plenty of drinking water to keep hydrated. Temperatures are known to soar to a stifling 36°C, although in the winter months things are much more pleasant at approximately 25°C.
As mentioned above, Petra is a hugely popular tourist destination that well deserves to be on every bucket-list when travelling in Jordan. And it is. But of course this means it can get crowded with people. The best way to get around this is to discover Petra via a secret trail by way of 'Little Petra', linked to the main Petra site by a trail once used for trade. Traverse up the side of a cliff to arrive at the Monastery from the top and it'll feel slightly less touristy.
The Petra Kitchen is a relaxed, informal atmosphere where you’ll prepare an evening meal, alongside local women under the supervision of the master chef. The evening meal includes typical Jordanian dishes of soup, cold and hot mezza and salads, and a main course. Great care has been taken to make the Petra Kitchen an authentic experience — right down to the furnishings, all crafted in Jordan, the tableware, all produced by the Iraq al-Amir Women’s Co-operative, and the aprons and table linens, all hand-embroidered by the Jordan River Foundation.
Revisit Petra when it is at its most enchanting and when the crowds are gone. Over 1,800 candles have been set up to light your way through the Siq and to emphasise some of the most remarkable features of this narrow passageway. Your journey culminates at the Treasury, where the facade glows with the soft light of hundreds of the candles. Sitting on the cool sand, enjoying a glass of mint tea, watch the local Bedouins play in this magical atmosphere. There is usually a lone flautist occasionally accompanied by two guitars. The tour usually begins at 8.00 pm or 8.30 pm and lasts for about two hours.
The Red Sea is home to an array of marine life, which makes it great for diving and snorkelling. It’s home to 44 species of sharks and 1,200 species of fish – 20% of which are native and unique to the area. Divers can expect to swim with brightly coloured butterflyfish, clownfish and angelfish.
Jordanians are renowned for their hospitality and there's really nothing more special than getting to know Jordan through its friendly people. A village homestay is the perfect way to get an authentic glimpse into life in Jordan and alongside learning about a new culture, you'll make new friends, experience real home-cooked food (which is an unforgettable experience in itself!) and best of all, it all directly benefits the family you'll be staying with.
The Ma'In Hot Springs in the Majib Nature Reserve is a relaxing place to wind down after desert adventures. A series of waterfalls and 63 hot mineral springs of varying temperatures, the water gets heated naturally (be warned, it can get pretty hot!) at the top of the basaltic mountains and trickles down within the waterfalls. Rich in minerals, it's become a popular site due to the hot springs therapeutic and medicinal benefits.
Established in 2001 to generate income by the women of a community near Amman, the Iraq Al Amir Women Society Centre produces handicrafts such as weaving, pottery and paper making and also runs a bed & breakfast and a communal kitchen. Your visit will show you the work they have been doing and include a meal from their kitchen.