With Petra world-renowned for its astounding archaeological civilisation, Wadi Rum home to Lawrence of Arabia and the Dead Sea boasting the saltiest waters in the world, Jordan is a lot of things. After years of attracting historic tourism, Jordan holidays are embracing their potential for adventure. Emma Brisdion shares her pick of the best ways for thrill-seeking travellers to explore Jordan’s staggering natural landscapes.
Stretching 600km from Um Qais in the north to the Red Sea coast caressing the southern border, the epic new Jordan Trail follows the Great Rift Valley right the way through the length of the country. The hiking trail, mapped by keen climbers and mountaineers, can take up to 40 days to complete so is handily divided into 8 sections. Take the opportunity to discover some of Jordan’s most spectacular and iconic landscapes with our new Hike the Jordan Trail tailor-made tour; this trip follows the trail from the craggy, Bedouin camp-dotted valleys of Dana Nature Reserve to Petra, entering the carved city from the high monastery, and on to the shifting red sands of Wadi Rum. There’s even a chance to stop and soak weary muscles in the Dead Sea.
Towering ochre sandstone massifs rise out from the desert at Wadi Rum, where vast red sand dunes shift day-by-day and camels are a common sight. There’s only one way to explore the lunar environment, scaling the sand dunes in an open-top, 4X4 jeep. Race across the flat plains, warm winds whipping through your hair before clambering up to the best viewpoints, only to rush down the sloping faces on foot. But no true Wadi Rum experience is complete without a night with the Bedouin people. Stay in a traditional Bedouin tented camp, tuck into a traditional bbq cooked in an underground fire and step away from modern life entirely. Once the sun sets, the vast skies offer some of the most amazing stargazing opportunities in the world.
Over billions of years freshwater rivers have carved great canyons in the striped rock as they wriggle their way to the Dead Sea. At Wadi Mujib, cool off by clambering, wading and scrambling through the shaded canyon. Following the river upstream, reach natural pools and waterfalls, aided by a series of ropes help trickier climbs, before the river’s natural current carries you back down. The Wadi Mujib canyon adventure is conveniently located just a few minutes from our preferred Dead Sea Hotels and is easily combined with any holiday that visits the Dead Sea.
There are two essential ways to see Petra. In the early morning, follow the winding siq through the canyons to catch that awe-inspiring first glimpse of the iconic treasury gleaming golden in the early sunshine. Just try not to hum the Indiana Jones theme tune as you leave. Guided only by tiny candles, visit again night to see The Treasury spectacularly illuminated by candlelight. Hundreds of candles flicker in small paper bags at the foot of the treasury façade, behind which mats are laid out for guests to sit in peaceful silence, sip hot tea and admire the treasury as traditional Bedouin music hangs in the warm air.
Beginning in the Middle East, the Great Rift Valley travels through Jordan on its way to eastern Africa. The Dana Nature Reserve protects a large area where craggy peaks overlook valleys traversed by mountain goat and where migratory birds soar. Trekking opportunities here know no bounds. Opt for an hour, a morning or even a multiple-day hike to follow winding paths with naturalist guides, spotting wildlife and fossils hiding in the layered rock. For a room with a view, Dana Romana Camp offers private tents, perched on the edge of a plateau overlooking the rift and the Dana Guesthouse offers hotel-style accommodation with epic views, as it clings to the valley cliffs.