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.
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.
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.
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.