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In just 11 days in Jordan we travelled from dusty plains to pistachio forests, from dramatic rocky mountains to vast desert, and on to relaxing beach resorts. We floated in the most buoyant body of water on the planet; visited Bedouin camps and learnt about their customs; wandered through Roman ruins; scuba dived with a turtle in the Red Sea; ate our weight in mezze and learnt to make them ourselves; galloped through the Wadi Rum desert on horseback; and hiked through the remains of a 2000 year old rose coloured city carved into the mountains.
Jordan is a small country made even more easily explored as 90% of the country is desert and most sights are within the populated 70km strip of land that runs down the western edge of the country. With our own car and driver we were able to cover a lot in a short amount of time. We got a taste of Jordan—enough to know that we’ll definitely be back.
There are so many to choose from but here are our highlights from our time in Jordan.
Jordan’s most popular tourist attraction is an obvious choice, but it truly did exceed every expectation we had. We weren’t prepared for the scale of Petra—the vast rocky mountains stretching on for miles; the awe induced by the fact that 2000 years ago people with limited tools carved a city out of the mountain rock face; the pinks, reds, oranges and purples of the rocks, changing colour as the sun moved.
We spent eight hours hiking around Petra, up to viewpoints at the High Place and to the Monastery, and were surprised by how much of the time we had the place to ourselves. Our highlight wasn’t the well known Treasury that featured in Indiana Jones, but the tranquil hike down from the High Place through Wadi Farasa with no one else around except for the occasional Bedouin playing the flute or selling cold drinks.
Feynan Eco Lodge
The word eco gets thrown around so much these days that it’s practically meaningless, but Feynan is an eco-lodge in the truest sense of the word. Cradled in a remote valley of the Dana Biosphere Reserve surrounded by craggy granite mountains, it works in partnership with the local Bedouin community who live in tents spread out through the area. All the staff are local Bedouin and the lodge runs projects like candle and leather making workshops to provide income for the women in the community. Most waste is recycled, the water is filtered rather than bottled, the food is a delicious vegetarian spread, and power is solar which means nights are candle lit—perfect for stargazing on mattresses on the roof.
We didn’t have enough time at Feynan to take advantage of all the hikes and activities available in the nature reserve but we will always remember our short sunset hike. Our guide took us to visit his family’s camp and told us about Bedouin life and showed us how the paper-thin shrak bread is made—eaten fresh off the open fire it’s sublime.
The sunset was magical, with the haunting call to prayer from the small mosque echoing through the valley. Afterwards we drank sweet Bedouin tea, freshly brewed on an open fire with sage and lots of sugar.
Feynan is a truly special place, a comfortable lodge in a beautiful setting that is making a real difference to the lives of the community.
Horse Riding in Wadi Rum
Galloping an Arabian horse through the desert was a dream that came true in Wadi Rum. The beautiful horses were responsive and exhilaratingingly fast, with the rock formations the perfect backdrop.
We followed our ride with a jeep trip further into the desert, the rippled sand dunes and craggy mountains glowing orange as the sun set, before spending the night in a Bedouin style camp and enjoying traditional music by the campfire.
Seeing a Turtle and Whale Shark in the Red Sea
Never before have we woken up in a tent in the desert and a few hours later been sailing out into the ocean. The Red Sea is the perfect place to wash off the desert dust, relax after your adventures or discover the underwater world. On our scuba dive we saw a green sea turtle and later, swimming alongside our boat was a huge (although apparently small) whale shark—its spotted grey-blue body was an extraordinary sight.
Floating in the Dead Sea
At 400m below sea level the Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth and like no where else we’ve been. It was wonderfully relaxing to float effortlessly in the buoyant waters, and lots of fun to smother ourselves in mineral rich mud.
Food can make or break a travel experience for us so we were happy to discover that Jordanian cuisine is vegetarian-friendly and delicious. Although vegetarianism isn’t really understood here, the Jordanians naturally eat lots of fresh vegetables, beans and pulses, especially in the diverse range of mezze appetisers that are served before the main course. They was always more that enough to make a meal in themselves (and are good for breakfast too).
Our mezze highlights included old favourites like hummus (chickpea dip), baba ghanoush (roasted aubergine dip), falafel (fried chickpea balls), tabbouleh (parsley and bulgar wheat salad), fattoush (toasted pitta bread and vegetable salad); and new discoveries such as labaneh (strained yogurt that makes a creamy cheese), mutabbal (aubergine and tahini dip), za’atar w zeit (thyme, sesame, sumac and olive oil dip), and Turkish salad (a spicy tomato and chilli dip). Olives and olive oil featured heavily, and flavours like lemon, garlic, parsley, and tangy sumac were common. Everything is eaten by scooping it up with the flat breads that are essential to every meal. Read our guide to vegetarian Jordan for more details on the tasty food on offer.
The Roman Ruins of Jerash
Petra steals the show but history buffs shouldn’t miss the well preserved Roman ruins at Jerash. Theatres (complete with excellent acoustics), archways and temples are still standing, there are some lovely mosaic floors, and you can walk along the original stones of a Roman street.
Diverse & Dramatic Landscapes
For such a small country the diverse landscapes of Jordan are surprising. Within an hour or two we drove from the dusty Jordan Valley through unruly olive groves to the pistachio and oak forests of Ajloun nature reserve. You can hike in a canyon and 10 minutes later float in the Dead Sea or ride a camel through the desert and snorkel with turtles an hour later. Jordan has it all—even snow in winter.
Every night we watched the day end with a colourful sunset and the call to prayer as our soundtrack.
Camels are the strangest looking creatures and although we skipped a ride on one (our two day camel trip in India four years ago was enough for a lifetime), we loved seeing them around—by the side of the road just outside the capital Amman, in the city streets of Aqaba, and of course ridden by Bedouin in the desert.
They really are the weirdest looking animals, especially when viewed running towards you, their big lipped head bobbing around, skinny legs flaying from side to side, all knock-kneed and awkward.
We’ve moved on from Jordan now, to the other side of the Red Sea and the beach town of Dahab in Egypt. Look out for many more posts coming soon about our experiences in Jordan, such as our 36 random observations about Jordan.
A big thank you to Visit Jordan who hosted us during our stay in Jordan.
Unlike the others, we’re going to live in Amman for at least 2 years. Wasn’t so excited about it till I’ve found this blog! Can’t wait!
Jordan has always been on my to do list, especially Petra. I love the photo with the camels
I *really* want to go to Jordan, and I keep reading everyone’s blog posts about it, and every single one makes me want to go even more! I just looks like such an incredible place. Gorgeous pictures!
You should definitely go! It’s an amazing place and the country doesn’t get as many visitors as it deserves.
The list of places to visit is always longer than the time and money allotted to go there. Your trip looks like it was tons of fun.
I have a trip to Jordan planned early next year I can’t wait! Found your blog really interesting and informative and now I am more excited than ever! Thanks for sharing.
Fantastic! I’m sure you’ll have an amazing trip.
mMmm.. mezze platters! Jordan is really high on our list.. hoping to get there one day.. some day.. soon!
Great photos, they’re making me even more excited for my trip to Jordan in three weeks’ time. Good to know about the vegetarian options too and I love the idea of taking a cookery class.
That’s great you are heading there too. Vegetarians are definitely well catered for although there’s less variety for hot dishes. We’ll have a vegeterian guide to Jordan coming in a few weeks.
Beautiful photos guys, that country holds a special place in our hearts as well.
Thanks Pete. Your stories from Jordan encouraged us to make the trip.
Great photos! I so need to visit Jordan!
Yes, you do! :)
Your photo of Petra looks spectacular. It looks so surreal how it is build in th rock. Would love to go one day. I love these Indiana Jones type archeological sights.
It is a surreal sight and such a geological and human wonder. I hope you make it there one day- it sounds like you’d love it.
Glad you had such a great time in Jordan. Last night, after reading this post, I dreamt I was back in Petra, and bumped in to you guys!
Haha! Maybe we’ll both get back there one day.
we are super jealous of this trip. can’t wait to get here and make a video about it!
Oh, the video potential! Would love to see what you guys could do with that place.
I’m glad you enjoyed your stay in Jordan and hope your Arabic got better :)
The mezze (pronounced mazzeh) dishes are for most of middle eastern considered the main breakfast or dinner. Only when you have dishes that contain meat you will get the mazzeh as the starter -I’m talking homemade dinner and breakfast not restaurants.
Also these dishes you mentioned are shared between all middle eastern and if you go to Lebanon, Syria and Palestine you will find the same exact mazzeh :) in other middle east countries it will be little bit different but has the same name such as in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria.
Thanks for the information Bassel. It’s good to know we can enjoy this food in many places in the Middle East.
Pistachio forests and camel treks – you lucky, lucky things! Beautiful photos!
We really are! It was an amazing trip- so much diversity in such a short space of time.
I would love to visit Jordan some day…. I didn’t know that you could see whale sharks there either!
We didn’t either! Imagine our surprise when one swam alongside our boat!
Jordan looks spectacular! I especially love your photo of the camels- they really are pretty bizarre looking if you think about it.
Camels are strange looking but very photogenic because of it I think.
I was in Jordan about 12 years ago and it’s still one of my most favourite places on earth!
We definitely have to go back!
Hello Simon and Erin,
Just found out your fantastic blog. Lot of great tips. And I am reading it all the day. I am planning to do the same as you are doing next year with my girlfriend. SO you are a source of inspiration. Thanks.
Thanks Gianni and glad you found it useful. Good luck with your trip planning and feel free to ask any questions.