For those who want to experience an exciting vacation with an incredible variety of cultural treasures and diverse nature, Jordan should definitely be on the travel list. Jordan, with its approximately 89.300 km² a small country and so one can accommodate all important destinations within a week. In this post, my colleague Salome and I will tell you about our one-week trip exploring Jordan and introduce you to the different corners of the country.
Planning and preparation
It took a little while, but in the end we, a colleague and I, decided against Egypt and for Jordan. A good choice, as it would later turn out. For us it was very clear which places we wanted to visit, because we had already seen many pictures and heard stories from other travellers. So the following places absolutely had to be on the list:
We also wanted to experience snorkeling in the Red Sea and we were a bit sorry that Aqaba was not included in the itinerary of our round trip. But as always, much can be adjusted on the spot… Full of anticipation, we feverishly awaited the 15th day of our stay in Jordan. May towards the day our trip started from Munich airport.
Our destinations in Jordan:
1. Start of the trip in Amman
Start of the trip was in the capital of Jordan, in Amman. We traveled there one day earlier to be able to explore the city on our own. Our hotel was quite central, about 15 minutes away from the Roman Theater. Thus, all important sights were within walking distance for us. A huge advantage, because the city is huge. White houses stretch over the surrounding small hill ranges as far as the eye can see.
Citadel hill of Amman
After a hearty breakfast, we started our sightseeing tour with a short walk to the nearby citadel, which is perched on Jabal Al Qal'a, one of the highest hills in the city. Citadel Hill was settled in the early Bronze Age, but most of the remains date back to the Roman, Byzantine and Umayyid eras. The Temple of Hercules and the Umayyad Palace of Al Qasr are particularly striking. The first National Archaeological Museum with its collection of valuable artifacts found in Amman and other parts of the country is also located here.
Beware of theft: Watch out for your valuables. There are a lot of tourists and two policemen patrolling the area, but it can still happen that you get robbed. We were walking behind some pillars at the end of the area, and were followed by a boy of about 13 years, who suddenly came closer at this point and wanted to snatch Salome's backpack off her back. He failed, but we suspected him before and kept an eye on him and our stuff.
Roman theater of Amman
About 150 photos and an extensive hill walk later, we followed the road down towards the Roman Theater, which is located at the bottom of the hill and is already visible from above. There we took a break in one of the many cafes, before we entered the area of the theater. The amphitheater was built at the same time as the Temple of Hercules on the Citadel Hill. You can climb the numerous steps, explore everything freely and enjoy the view. On the large square there is also a kiosk where you can buy some snacks and large trees under which you can rest and watch the people. Always a great activity 😊.
Just a few steps away is Rainbow Street. There are numerous cafes, restaurants, roof top bars, galleries and stores. We chose a roof top restaurant where we could see the shopping street and taste traditional food.
It is hardly easier to get to know other people than on a group trip. But traveling with strangers is supposed to be a challenge for many people – we had our doubts, too. On our arrival day in Amman we got to know the people who would explore the country with us. We were a small and colorful group, from all corners of the world, but all with the same goal: Jordan. Through this common ground, the joy of traveling, strangers quickly became new friends. And so we could share and enjoy the many adventures of the next days together.
2. Wadi Rum
The next day already a very special highlight followed, resp. according to our guide THE highlight of the trip: the desert Wadi Rum. Early the next morning we were all ready to leave in the hotel lobby. Our guide appeared about 5 minutes before departure sleepy and with disheveled hair and off we went. There followed a 5 hour drive in the minibus. First we drove through the seemingly endless sea of houses in Amman, accompanied by pee breaks and interesting lectures from our guide about architecture, the cultures in Jordan and what awaits us in Wadi Rum.
Finally we arrived in a small village at the edge of the desert, where we changed into a jeep and bought a few things for the upcoming picnic. Past we rumbled beside camels and jeeps of other groups ever further into the desert. We walked over the reddish and yellowish appearing sand dunes past granite and sandstone formations. Again and again we saw desert camps on the side.
Finally we stopped at a Bedouin camp, where we got delicious tea and ate together. Those who wanted could also climb up to a rock next to the tent. Of course we did not miss that. From the top you have a great view over the landscape. Further on we went to different spectacular rock formations, some of which could be climbed. Afterwards we drove to our camp.
It was located comparatively in the back of the desert, so we were undisturbed and no other (inhabited) camps were nearby. Our camp consisted of a large main tent where we ate and chatted together. It is also the only place where you can charge your electronic devices. There is also WiFi, which works at least most of the time. In the smaller tent houses, in which we always slept in pairs or alone, there was light, but no sockets. A few meters further on the edge of the camp there was a bigger house with showers (incl. shower). hot water) and toilets.
Who actually needs oven and stove? The Bedouins at least were not. For generations, a very special way of preparing food has been practiced here: Cooking under the desert sand. First a fire was made in a hole in the ground. When the embers were hot enough, the food was lowered on metal plates, covered and then buried in the sand. At sunset everything was prepared and came together with bread, hummus and salads on the dining table.
During this feast one or the other desert hedgehog came to visit us and ran curiously through the tent – a joy for all involved.
After resting a bit, we walked through the soft sand and climbed a small hill about 15 minutes away from the camp. Our guide said that one could experience the sunset there particularly well. And he was right! Together we made ourselves comfortable on the hill and watched how the sky turned into different shades of orange until the sun finally disappeared behind one of the rocks.
3. Snorkeling in the Red Sea
For the next day there was a change of plan. In the program, the day was actually completely reserved for exploring Wadi Rum. Our guide offered us that we could go to Aqaba at the Red Sea with an extra charge and go snorkeling there, if everyone agreed. Since everyone was in favor of it, we took a walk through the desert the next morning and then drove about an hour and a half to Aqaba.
There we had a boat just for us and went out to the sea with loud music and good humor. On our right was Israel and further back Egypt, on our left Jordan and further back Saudi Arabia. Due to the tensions between Israel and Jordan there was a photo ban in the meantime, which our boatmen took very seriously. Only further out in the sea it was allowed to take pictures again.
After we all slipped into our wetsuits and put on fins, snorkels and diving goggles we went out into the cool water, all following the diving guide. This led us to a wreck around which many colorful fish swam. We also got to see a puffer fish and a moray eel. After a delicious meal and a few more laps in the water we went back to Aqaba and to our tent camp in Wadi Rum.
4. The famous rock city of Petra
Today another highlight was waiting for us: The rock city Petra. After arriving at the hotel we went straight on and walked between the huge rock walls of the Siq (the gorge) that leads to the rock city. This alone is an impressive experience. At the end of the 1.2 km long Siq, the gorge opens and you can see Al-Khazneh, the treasure house of Petra.
After our guide gave us some more information, we had some free time and could explore the rock city as we liked. We passed donkeys, camels and many other tourists and went up to the Al-Deir Monument, the so called monastery. The way up is a bit exhausting, especially because the temperature was about 28 degrees and there was hardly any shade. But the way is worthwhile. Another small climb up a hill is also recommended, from where you can see Al-Deir in full splendor in front of you.
Under the scorching sun there is a very tempting offer: Instead of climbing the many steps of Petra yourself, you can ride on a donkey to the ancient monuments and temples. However, this offer is better to refuse – every day the exhausted animals are forced to carry tourists for kilometers through the area. Unfortunately they get only little water and food. Unfortunately, this abuse could not be put to an end until today.
Also on the second day we had free time to explore Petra. We made another hike up to a viewpoint from where you can see the treasure house below you.
Tip: In front of the treasure house, at the end of the Siq, you will be asked again and again if you want to climb up to the lookout point. What is meant here, however, is another vantage point, which can be reached in a few minutes. The way there is quite dangerous according to our guide and he strongly advised us not to go there. The right vantage point can be reached with a hike of about an hour from the treasure house. At the top there is a small tent where you can get tea and juice and enjoy the view.
Petra by night
On certain days of the week the famous night show "Petra By Night" takes place, where you can admire the treasure house in candlelight. The tour always starts at the entrance, so even though we had day tickets, we had to leave Petra at sunset. For Petra By Night you need an extra ticket, which is valid in combination with the day ticket.
From the entrance, we walk together with many other people through the Siq. There are candles everywhere, their flickering lights fill the surroundings with a very special atmosphere. Also in front of Al Khazneh everything is full of candles. A guide tells something about Petra, music is played and the treasure house is illuminated in different colors. After about two hours you are back at the entrance. Even if the day was very exhausting and we had covered many kilometers in very warm temperatures we were glad that we had decided for the tour.
4. Floating in the Dead Sea
The next day we had some stops. The first was in a hotel directly at the Dead Sea. The temperatures there make you realize that you are 420 meters below sea level. While it was pleasantly warm in Amman and in Petra also still well bearable, a gush of hot air hit us there when getting out of the car. In the hotel we changed clothes and could then take the obligatory mud bath before we washed it off again in the quite warm water of the Dead Sea. It was a very special experience, you could jump up and down in the water without sinking.
Tip: It is best not to shave your legs or other areas from two days before bathing in the Dead Sea, otherwise it will burn like hell.
5. Mt. Nebo
The next stop led us to Mt. Nebo, the place where the prophet Moses is said to have seen the "promised land" and where he is supposedly buried. There is a large church from the 4th century. Century, whose mosaics one can admire. Also the view from the hill is said to be beautiful. When we were there, however, it was very hazy, so we couldn't see much.
6. Kerak Castle
Another stop took us to the well preserved crusader castle of Kerak. We walked through the underground passages, looked into the many small dark rooms and admired the view. The castle itself we found not so particularly interesting, if one is however in the proximity it is worthwhile to look at it once.
7. Madaba & Jerash
The last two nights we spent in Madaba. There was not really much to look at. What you can do is visit the baptismal site of al-Maghtas on the Jordan River. But we did not do that, because we did not have time for it.
A must on the list of destinations in Jordan is a visit to the city of Jerash, also called Gerasa. We drove the 40 km by minibus there again. It is a well preserved ancient trading city that had its heyday under the Romans. Still today large parts of the nearly 2.000 year old temples, streets and churches to see. It belongs to the so-called Decapolis and is therefore one of the 10 cities founded under Alexander the Great after his conquests in the Middle East or remodeled after the Greek model.
If you don't want a typical beach vacation, but rather culture, adventure and rather unusual experiences, Jordan is definitely a great destination! For us, Egypt was still available, but we later learned from other group members who had been to Egypt right before their Jordan trip that it was extremely hot there, which made sightseeing very difficult. In Jordan it was instead pleasant especially in the north and towards evening even quite cool. We had great experiences with wonderful people from different parts of the world and can definitely recommend this trip!