Jordan is an amazing country, I never expected to see so much diverse beauty in this Middle-Eastern country.
It has it all – a beautiful desert (that was filmed in the movie “Martian”), a new wonder of the world Petra (also captured in one of the “Indiana Jones” movies), the lowest sea in the world, one of the most well preserved Roman ruins I have ever seen, some of the most hospitable people and, last but not least, delicious middle-eastern cuisine!
As soon as we arrived into Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport and picked up a hire car (it’s a really good idea to hire a GPS or download a map app as Amman is confusing to navigate – there are a lot of roundabouts!) and headed straight to Wadi Rum.
Day 1: Wadi Rum
We rode through the desert and some major highways and arrived in the wadi rum. After a short ride, we said goodbye far too soon to our car, but our 4×4 tour was just getting started. We loaded back into the truck and sped off again into the vast desert.
The driver took us to some of the best lookouts and we even climbed a dune to view the full scenic panorama of the magnificent desert. With every step, we took, we would sink and slide back down the dune further than where we had started! Dune climbing should be an Olympic sport. We struggled our way to the top of the dune, but the view was completely worth it!
Shortly after it was Bedouin tea time, after that we hit the desert road for the final stretch of the journey towards our camp, where we would be sleeping under the desert stars in a tent. We descended from the peak of our final dune as our camp appeared in the distance. Upon arrival, we were greeted by more friendly Bedouins and was showed to our tent.
We hardly had time to set our bags down before we were rushing back out to catch the sunset! we jumped into the back of a truck, yet again, and we charged through the desert at the speed of the sunset. We arrived at the base of the mountain and practically ran up its steep face to reach a ledge that overlooked the entire Wadi Rum desert.
My view opened up to one of the most stunning and beautiful things I had ever seen. The sunset shed its colors onto the massive mountains that seemed to go on forever in all directions. I stood awestruck at the mesmerizing beauty that stretched out before me. After we watched the sun hide behind the mountains, my grumbling tummy decided it was time to head back to camp.
Dinner was being prepared for the entire campsite once we returned. Zarb, a Bedouin-style BBQ, is meat, potatoes and all kinds of vegetables cooked underground for extra deliciousness. We were led to the back of the camp where two men were uncovering some sort of desert manhole.
They lifted the covering and steam and the essence of slow-cooked BBQ rose in the air. The Zarb was served with hummus, fresh bread and an array of delicious camp-style Bedouin specialties. After a sumptuous dinner, We joined fellow campers from around the world (France, Australia, British, etc.) by the campfire. The desert stars sparkled so brightly that they lit the entire desert night’s sky.
Day 2: Wadi Rum / Petra
The next day after some delicious breakfast & tea - we got back into our car and headed straight to Petra (The drive is about 1 hour and 45 mins)
Few Facts About Petra
Opening Hours: From 6 am to 7 pm in summer and 5 pm in winter.
Entrance Fee: The longer you stay in Petra, the better value you’ll get for your money. A one-day ticket costs JD50 ($70) per person, but a two-day ticket is JD55, and a three-day is JD 60. You can buy your ticket at the visitor’s center when you arrive. Be sure to withdraw enough cash before you arrive. There are also maps and guidebooks you can buy and tour guides are available for JD 50-100.
How Long to Stay: With so much to see in Petra, I recommend staying at least two days to see everything. It will give you enough time to explore the Lost City at your own pace, and you won’t have to worry about rushing between sites.
Best Time to Visit: The best time to visit Petra is during Jordan’s cooler spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) months. The temperatures are cool, and you won’t have to worry about the unpredictable winter rains. But if you can handle the summer heat or the freezing winter, you’ll have the incredible Lost City all to yourself.
Once you arrive, try to plan your visit around the early mornings or late afternoons. You’ll avoid the heat, and there won’t be crowds of people in front of top sites like The Treasury and the Royal Tombs.
Day 3: Petra
There’s not a lot of shade around the ruins at Petra so it’s a good idea to get there early in the morning, then stop for lunch (and maybe a siesta) in the hottest part of the day before going back in the late afternoon – that should miss some of the worst crowds too. The entrance to the site is along the Siq, a mile-long gorge which is carved from curving pink and orange rocks. At the end is the Treasury, the most famous of Petra’s temples. That first glimpse of it through the gap is a real jaw-dropping sight you’ll never forget. It’s only a fraction of Petra’s 60 square kilometer area though, so choose the bits you want to focus on.
The walk along the main pathway towards the center of Petra takes you past the Street of Facades, with over 40 merchants’ tombs stacked on top of each other in the rock face. Then there’s an ancient amphitheater and the grand Royal Tombs, the biggest and most impressive tombs in Petra. A paved Roman road runs through the Colonnaded Street and the center of old Petra. Here you’ll find the Qasr al-Bint temple and the old Nabatean baths. There’s also a museum and a restaurant if you want to stop and cool off.
One of the best walks in Petra is the hike up to the Monastery – an even bigger version of the Treasury, that’s a lot less busy as it’s harder to reach. The path leaves from near the museum and takes you up 800 steps to the top (there are donkeys at the bottom but there are reports of them being badly treated so I’d avoid them if possible). Also recommended are the hikes up to the High Place of Sacrifice and the Al Khubtha trail which starts near the Royal Tombs and gives you that famous view of the Treasury from above.
Things to see in Petra
THE SIQ - The Siq is a dramatic passageway that is the entrance into Petra. Carved by nature and the Nabataeans, it’s an awe-inspiring natural wonder that sets the tone for the rest of the site.
THE MONASTERY - The Monastery is one of Petra’s top attractions, but it’s not an easy place to reach. You’ll need to climb 800 flights of stairs, which can take 45-minutes to an hour before you make it to the top.
THE ROYAL TOMBS - Along the Street of Facades, you’ll find the ancient Royal Tombs. The most famous is the Urn Tomb, which was used as a place of worship during the Byzantine Empire.
THE TREASURY - The Treasury is the most famous site in Petra. The monument was built as a tomb for the Nabataean King Aretas III and is believed to have held hidden treasures.
BYZANTINE CHURCH - Built in the 5th or 6th century, the church was abandoned after a fire and earthquake hit the city. During excavations in 1993, over 150 papyrus scrolls were discovered, making it the largest find of it’s kind in Jordan.
AL-KHUBTHA TRAIL - If you want that iconic photo of the Treasury from above, hike up the Al-Khubtha trail. It starts by the Royal Tombs and will take you up a long rock staircase to the plateau. Follow the path, and you’ll eventually get to the edge of the cliff face with an incredible view of the Treasury below.
THE HIGH PLACE OF SACRIFICE - For the best views of Petra, climb up to the High Place of Sacrifice. It’s a 45-minute hike, but the alter boasts 360-degree views of the Rose City.
PETRA AT NIGHT - For a unique experience, go on a tour of Petra after dark. The ancient walls of the Siq are lit up by 1,500 candles every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 8:30 pm to 10:30 pm. Along with the dramatic views, you’ll have the chance to listen to traditional Bedouin music while listening to the folklore of the local people. It’s really popular, so I’d recommend hanging back so you can walk down slowly and experience the Siq away from the crowds. Tickets cost 17 JD ($24) per person.
Day 4: Dead Sea
The next day we jumped in the car once again and headed to the Dead Sea: Our Hotel was - Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea (Highly recommended)
A few facts about the Dead Sea:
- Many people associate this destination with Israel, when in fact, it lies directly on the border of Israel and Jordan. Jordan to the East and Israel to the West.
- The Dead Sea is the lowest point of land on Earth at over 400 meters below sea level.
- At over 30% salinity (salt to water ratio aka about 10 times more salt than sea water), the water is incredibly dense. So much so that you are able to effortlessly float on the surface of the water.
We arrived at the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea in the early afternoon. The Dead Sea in Jordan is home to some of the most luxurious resorts in the entire country.
The resort has the Dead Sea equivalent to what I would describe as “pool boys” employed by the resort. A few of these “Dead Sea boys” are down by the beach area of the seaside ready to offer you a chair, towel, and water.
Simply head to the private beach from the hotel and get yourself covered in mud by the Dead Sea boys. Simply let the Dead Sea boys know you want “new mud” and the scrub. (It’s free for hotel guests!) They’ll then go scoop out some of the dark virgin sea mud and cover you in it. Sometimes beauty is just plain ugly!
After waiting 20 minutes for the mud to dry and then washing off in the Dead Sea, return to the Dead Sea boys for a full body scrub made of fragrant oil and salt crystals. After a third dip in the Dead Sea, your skin will feel softer than a baby’s bum!
Day 5: Amman
Visit the Roman theatre and climb up to the citadel just before sunset for a stunning view over the city rooftops. Then head to Rainbow Street for dinner – this area’s a hub for cafés, boutique shop and restaurants with some great people-watching.
Visit the Citadel
The Citadel often tops lists of places to visit in Amman, thanks to the city’s previous position as one of the most important settlements back in Roman times. Yet, it’s not just Roman: it’s actually one of the oldest continually inhabited settlements through the Roman, Byzantine and Umayyad periods. Artifacts found through excavations of the Citadel have even dated as far back as the Middle Bronze Age (1650BC)!
Tickets to the Citadel cost 3JD, and you can pick up your tickets from the entrance. There’s no need to book in advance.
Jordan Archaeological Museum
The Jordan Archaeological Museum is also based in the Citadel, and entrance is included in your ticket. It’s a great place to go if you’re a fan of history, as the museum is full of artifacts dating from prehistoric times right up to the 15th century. From broken pots and decorative statues to historic documents and even human remains, there’s plenty to look at. Plus, with very little shade available at the Citadel, the Jordan Archaeological Museum is one of the best places in Amman to get out of the blazing sun!
Stroll along Rainbow Street
Rainbow Street is one of the best streets in Amman for shopping for souvenirs and eating at the many cafes and restaurants. It’s a favorite amongst locals and tourists alike. We visited Amman during Ramadan, so the street wasn’t very lively during the fast, but strolling along the street is usually one of the most fun things to do in Amman! There are ice cream shops aplenty, so once you’ve had your fill of delicious food from one of the local restaurants, you can finish it all off with some of the best ice creams in the country!