Bustling souks, mineral bathing and lost citadels


Bustling souks, mineral bathing and lost citadels

How much have you ever fancied yourself as a Lawrence of Arabia or Indiana Jones type? The desert sand stinging your tanned face while you sport a vibrant head scarf fluttering gently in the evening breeze.  Welcome to Jordan, a crossroads between east and west, a valuable trade route where iconic ancient sites and remarkable landscapes form a backdrop for adventures of all kinds. In a country no bigger than say Portugal or Austria, you’ll find a fascinating fusion of historic and modern, a rich culture, lush natural beauty and stunning desert sunsets.

Visitors have long been drawn to this hospitable land, seen as one of the most secure places to travel in the Middle East, multi-cultural, and extremely welcoming. An established tourist route allows thrill seekers to explore safely while still experiencing an authentic wildness, indulging in stays in some truly unique venues like a tented Bedouin camp or an eco-lodge in a nature reserve.

Even the most intrepid explorers do need to consider Jordan’s ranging climatic conditions. The fairly tight windows of spring and autumn are the peak travel times while summer temps can hit highs of 40°C and winter is much colder with rain possible. With a little forethought though, a low season trip in June to August or December to February can offer a magical experience without the crowds and at bargain prices. Keep in mind also that for a small destination, the weather is diverse. So in summer you might find the desert dry and hot, but it’s cooler in the north and around the capital Amman; and in winter, the Red Sea resorts of Aqaba remaining a balmy 25 degrees may be too cold for locals but for us Northern Europeans, it provides the perfect winter beach temperatures. Some restaurants and shops may close in low season for a well-earned break, but plenty of options remain, not least the Swiss Christmas Market at the Amman Rotana.

Lost cities

Arrive into busy capital Amman and explore the magnificent Roman Temple of Hercules and stunning 6000 seat amphitheatre, before driving north just 45 minutes to Jerash and its Roman city, said to be the most well preserved site of its kind, and host to July’s Festival of Culture and Arts. Travel the scenic King’s Highway dotted with UNESCO sites, arriving into Petra, the phenomenal 2000 year old pristinely carved red rose lost city. Many images focus on the stunning treasury, but you can actually spend days exploring. A highlight is the thrice weekly Petra by Night experience, when thousands of lights illuminate the path to Treasury, accompanied by Bedouin musicians. Summer travellers should plan early or late visits to avoid the heat of midday, while in winter there’s chance to see Petra with a dusting of snow, a truly magical experience.

Desert Dunes

An incredible 9/10th of Jordan is desert, with protected Wadi Rum in the nation’s south proving a fascinating area to immerse yourself. Explore by horseback, by 4×4, microlight, a century old steam train, or even in a hot air balloon. You’ve likely seen glimpses of the dramatic red and gold landscapes in Hollywood’s ‘Star Wars Rogue One’, ‘The Martian’ and ‘Prometheus’ but there is nothing like spending an overnight in a Bedouin camp and learning about this unique lifestyle. Wrap up in winter as you can occasionally experience minus temperatures, although the chance of rain is small. Summer is hot for sure, but touring takes place early and late with a siesta to accommodate. Ravers will love the Wadi Rum Distant Heat cultural and electronic music festival in July.

Beach Life

10 times more salty than regular ocean water and 431 metres below sea level, the Dead Sea is a haven of warmth even in Jordan’s winter. Float in the mineral rich waters and in summer, cool off among the rivers and waterfalls of Wadi Mujib. The Red Sea resort of Aqaba is a fantastic spot for low season winter sun with near empty beaches at a pleasant 25 °C. Go diving or snorkelling and see brightly coloured fish and reefs, or simply relax by the pool, the perfect spot for a well-deserved finale to your desert exertions.

Low Season Months

Mar Apr May Jun
Sep Oct Nov Dec

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Top Experiences

Hike from Little Petra

Winter is the perfect time to trek from Little Petra to Petra, a 12km trail entering the UNESCO site through the back door. This is one of National Geographic’s ‘Top Hikes of the World’. It’s steep at the start and not well signed, but guides are available.

Bathe in Thermal Springs

Warm up a winter’s day in a Dead Sea spa. Mineral rich waters from Jordan’s plains run into natural thermal waterfalls, and form bathing pools to cosy up in. Treat yourself with mud wraps, mud facials, good massages and hydrojet showers.

Overnight in a Bedouin Camp

Indulge in a magical night in a desert camp among the red sand dunes of Wadi Rum. Clear skies promise unforgettable star gazing. Traditional meals are served before you sleep peacefully in a Bedouin style tent or a luxury bubble pod.

Insider Tips

  • Get ready for a mountain of mouthwatering vegetarian mezzes, fragrant baba ghanoush, crispy falafels, creamy hummus, and herby tabbouleh, all scooped up with oven fresh pitta. Meat lovers should try 'mansaf', lamb cooked in yoghurt, a national dish.
  • You will likely be offered a cup of Bedouin tea and with true Jordanian hospitality you can expect infinite refills of this very sweet drink steeped in aromatic sage. Jordanian coffee is also commonly offered and refusal is seen as a mark of rudeness.
  • Dana Nature Reserve supports rare and fragile ecosystems in Jordan’s south. Made up of lush woodland, mountains and desertscapes, its 320 square kms are criss-crossed by trails of varying lengths and are a haven for plants, birds, and mammals.

Good To Know

  • Tipping is generally expected, so add 10% gratuity to your bill, unless already in the total, round up taxi fares, and tip your guide. Haggling in souks is expected though. Many Jordanians usually do not carry change, so try to keep some small denominations.
  • In winter bring layers and waterproof boots. Gloves, hats, base layers are a must if you are camping in the desert. In summer, bring very light layers. It might be hot but this is a Muslim country and it’s important to keep shoulders and knees well covered.
  • Jordan isn’t completely dry, and even produces its own wine. But alcohol can be hard to come by, apart from in international hotels and restaurants and it can be expensive. Stop by the Cave Bar in Petra for a cold local beer after a long day of touring.

Food & Drink

Sufra Restaurant, Amman

Upmarket venue located in a heritage home on Rainbow Street, giving a taste of beautifully refined yet authentic Jordanian food with impeccable service. Lovely outdoor courtyard setting or elegant inside tables.

Hashem, Amman

World-famous street food. Hashem has been frequented by royals and diplomats, all searching for Jordanian foodie heaven. It’s Amman’s oldest restaurant at over 100 years old. The food is simple but delicious.

Salaheddin Bakery, Amman

A small, clean bakery between Jabal Hussein and Downtown that’s been going since the 70s. There are no tables, you just choose some freshly baked sesame bread and make your own tasty sandwich or kaek .

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