Jordan was never on my bucket list, but returning to Jordan is now on that list. Heck, before my trip there, I would not have been able to find Jordan on a globe. But after 10 days exploring this simply amazing country, I cannot only tell you where Jordan is, but also where its major cities and best tourist attractions are.
There’s really never been a better time to visit the country. Jordan tourism has decreased due to the conflicts in the region, which means there are fewer tourists so you can really enjoy and explore the sites. But tourism is rebounding as the government has worked hard to send a message that the country is safe and stable, and definitely open for business.
Here are Jordan’s Do-Not-Miss Experiences
It goes without saying that this UNESCO World Heritage site, dating back to 300 BC, is one of the world’s most iconic sites and one of the highlights of Jordan tourism. What’s most amazing is that Petra was hidden in Jordan for thousands of years until it was (re)discovered in 1812.
You’ll want to spend a full day exploring as your journey starts with a walk down the Siq, a narrow gorge, that leads to Petra. You’ll walk between towering pink sandstone cliffs, dotted with facades of ancient temples, tombs and residences. But you’ll lose your breath as you round the corner and come face to face with The Treasury, a massive 43-meter tall Greek-style temple carved into the sandstone. (Be sure to watch ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ before your trip to fully appreciate this iconic site.)
But this is only the beginning of Petra. There are many many more marvels of this ancient city to explore. I highly recommend hiring a guide as there’s so much history and many hidden features you’ll miss if you visit on your own. If you’re not too weary from a day of exploring, go back to Petra at night – it will be one of your most memorable night time excursions as you walk the pitch black Siq to experience a special ceremony at The Treasury, lit up by luminaries.
Where to stay: The Petra Marriott Hotel is the perfect base for your visit. After a long day of walking, treat yourself to a Hammam in the hotel’s spa before you relax in your well-appointed room.
2. Bedouin Experience at Feynan Ecolodge
As we exited our tour bus and boarded a few older model and well-traveled Toyota pickup trucks, I wasn’t sure what we were in for. We bumped and tumbled across the desert passing a few Bedouin camps as our keffiyeh-scarfed driver navigated the rough and dusty path.
We arrived at Feynan Ecolodge, built in 2005 and the first of its kind for Jordan tourism. Clearly, there are no power lines so the lodge is completely solar-powered with open-air rooms that provide natural ventilation with fresh spring water pumped in.
At night, the entire complex is lit by candlelight. The expansive terrace doubles as the dining room where vegetarian meals are served looking out over the rugged desert terrain. The 26 guest rooms are minimalist, designed to represent those of a caravanserai, a roadside inn where travelers, in this case Bedouins, would stop for the night along their journey. As if experiencing the tranquility of the desert far away from daily life was not enough, guests can spend their days hiking the nearby desert trails followed by a sunset stroll into the mountains to enjoy a pot of tea with sage, brewed over an open flame.
The lodge’s guide will also invite you to experience the Bedouin life with a visit to a nearby family where you can join them in a cup of Jordanian coffee with cardamom and learn to make kohl (Bedouin eyeliner). The darkness of night brings on the most magical stargazing experience of your life as you lie on the rooftop of Feynan Ecolodge and enjoy a curated talk about the constellations.
3. Dead Sea
We drove by the Dead Sea on one of our first cross country drives and my first impression was the serenity and peacefulness of the long, narrow waterway. But I was also surprised to find a number of luxury resorts dotting the coastline.
No trip to this region would be complete without experiencing the magical feeling of complete buoyancy in the Dead Sea. Just don your swimsuit, walk into the thick salty water, lift your legs, and you’ll instantly float. It’s a strange feeling but definitely worth the experience. After floating, it’s time for a little au naturale spa treatment. Find one of the urns filled with Dead Sea mud and slather it all over your body. It will harden in the bright sun, rinse it off in the outdoor shower and you’ll be surprised how soft your skin is.
Where to stay: The Dead Sea Marriott Resort & Spa is a luxury resort with breathtaking views. From the resort’s multi-leveled pool deck to the spacious, well-appointed guest rooms to multiple dining options, this is where you’ll want to experience the Dead Sea.
In my opinion, one of the country’s, if not the world’s, most underrated sites is Jerash. An ancient city that was another modern day discovery just 70 years ago, Jerash was a walled Greek-Roman city from the Bronze Age. The site is now generally acknowledged to be one of the best-preserved Roman provincial towns in the world. From the city center’s grand columns to hilltop temples to outdoor theatres, it’s worth a full day of exploration.
5. Wadi Rum Desert
When I heard we were riding 4x4s in the desert, I thought to myself, “I’m more of a luxury resort spa girl. Do I have to?” Well, I’m here to tell you it was one of the most awesome experiences. We climbed into the bed of pickup trucks and set out across the desert landscape that felt a bit otherworldly. We raced other 4x4s, stopped often for photos and just marveled at this vast and magical destination.
Our afternoon of dusty trevails ended with a beautiful sunset, surrounded by luminaries, against the backdrop of desert landscape. We headed back to our Bedouin campsite but the next day held promise for an even more exhilarating desert experience.
In the darkness of the (very) early morning, we boarded, not 4x4s, but camels to head out over the eerily still Wadi Rum desert to catch the morning sunrise led by our Bedouin guides. Sunrise and sunset in the desert is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
Where to stay: There are over 100 camp sites in the desert. We stayed at Rahayeb Desert Camp, a remote yet authentic Bedouin-style retreat.