For our honeymoon, my husband and I decided to take 4 months to do a short world tour. He picked places, I picked places, and when I had Jordan as one of my top 3 spots, my hubby was skeptical. But I had heard from a few friends who had recently visited Jordan that it was a must-see.
The verdict? I now recommend Jordan to everyone I know. Let me tell you what all the fuss is about.
Jordan on the map
Unless you are already in the Middle East, you will likely have a layover somewhere to get to Jordan. The country is almost landlocked, barely touching the Red Sea from its southernmost city, Aqaba, while also bordering the Dead Sea.
But what Jordan lacks in coastline it makes up for in gorgeous, sprawling deserts and riveting valleys and gorges. Every day, my husband and I were enchanted by beauty that we thought couldn’t possibly exist in just one small country. The size of Jordan’s jaw-dropping landscapes will compel you to hire a driver or drive yourself to as many natural wonders as you can, and it is possible to visit a few of the best sights of Jordan (and the world, in my opinion) in less than a week.
“Did you feel safe?”
Even when I tell people that Jordan is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited, the first question I get is whether or not I felt safe. I understand; we are discussing a country that shares a border with war-torn Syria. But never at any time did I feel uneasy, and in every city or town we stopped at, we were met with friendliness and grace.
We hired a driver, Hani, through my friend’s recommendation. Hani turned out to be an amazing tour guide; he would make sure we were receiving the best deals, and that we were never without coffee in the mornings. We even celebrated my husband’s birthday during the trip with Jordan’s most popular dessert -kanafeh- at Hani’s insistence.
The route more or less travelled
With just under a week to see what we could, my husband and I consulted Hani. He planned a loop that would include many important Jordanian sites. I recommend that anyone coming to Jordan invest in the Jordan Pass, a tourist pass that can be purchased online and helps with your entry into the country, while also covering some of your visiting site fees.
Day One: After landing in Amman the night before, we spent our first morning driving up to Mount Nebo, where it is said Moses was given a view of the promised land from high on the mountain. The vista from here is stunning, and on a clear day you can see as far as Jerusalem.
From Mount Nebo, we kept driving to Madaba to visit the Madaba Map, a mosaic map crafted on the floor of a Byzantine church dating back to the 6th century AD. The Madaba Map could easily rival any mosaic in the world and yet, when we went, we were the only visitors there that morning.
From Madaba, we made our way to the Dead Sea for a dip and a mud mask. I asked Hani if wearing a bikini goes against Jordanian dress code, and he assured me that women can wear whatever they like here (“Jordan is very progressive in that area.”).
Because of the Dead Sea’s extreme salt content, a person floating in it won’t sink. I remember giggling as we waded in, because the feeling of floating without anything underneath you is just bizarre. After our mud mask was rinsed off, we drove through the mountains to spend the night in Wadi Musa, near the ancient city of Petra.
Day Two: We woke up before dawn to visit Petra without swarms of tourists (my advice: book a hotel as close to Petra’s entrance as possible.) When we reached Al-Khazneh (The Treasury), the view was overwhelming. A 45-metre-high temple structure towers over you, and my husband and I exchanged looks of disbelief at this most awesome ruin. Nearby was Wadi Siyagh, an hourlong steep path leading up to the top of a mountain. Having already walked for a few hours, we mounted some widely available donkeys to help us make it to the top more quickly.
The climb led us to Ad Deir (The Monastery), another gorgeous temple carved into the mountainside. From atop this area, the view of Jordan’s valleys and gorges is exquisite. After walking ourselves back down the path (and thanking the passing donkeys), we left the site of Petra just as night was falling. It’s no secret why Petra has been named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World; in a word, it’s magic.
Day Three: Leaving early in the morning, we drove South to Wadi Rum, also known as the Valley of the Moon. It seems as if the desert here goes on forever. The sand is a bright orange-red (no wonder movies like The Martian were filmed here). Our guide took us through the desert in an open jeep, our vehicle rolling over sand and dunes, and occasionally encountering caravans of camels. We visited petroglyphs on giant sandstone formations, hiked a massive dune to slide down, and my husband climbed one of Wadi Rum’s famous sandstone arches.
At night, we nestled into our small camp with just a few other travelers, while our Bedouin camp guide prepared dinner in a buried firepit. It was extremely cold at night but sleeping in the desert was just perfect. It was as if every star in the universe was within our reach. I’m certain we both slept in all our clothes we had brought with us (I was still finding red sand in my clothes for months afterwards), but our 24 hours in Wadi Rum left a big impression on our traveling hearts.
Day Four: We headed south to the last destination of our Jordan tour, the small but busy town of Aqaba. My husband and I are advanced scuba divers, and we had heard the Red Sea has diverse marine life. Near Aqaba, it is the macro life that divers see most: colourful fish, nudibranchs, seahorses and shrimp are easily visible, even for snorkelers.
We dove from a shore site close to the Tank, an army tank sunk on purpose for dive viewing purposes, and then spent much of our time coasting along the light current while watching macro life blossom. We had no problem booking the scuba trip only days in advance, and our dive equipment was up to code. Although this dive wasn’t the best we’ve ever done (apparently, the best diving for the Red Sea is from the Egypt side), we were thrilled to check the Red Sea off our list.
One final note
Our short visit to Jordan gave us just a taste of what this beautiful country has to offer. I heard amazing things about another spot, Wadi Mujib (a canyon that runs to the Dead Sea that is available to hike during the summer months), which I would also recommend, even though I personally have not been there. Magic is what happens here, because no other place I’ve been to in the world has made me spellbound like Jordan did.
To read another of Jessica’s stories, check out “Where to Go Next: Sayulita, Mexico.” Know somewhere in Jordan that should be on everyone’s list? Let us know in the comments below!