Mountains, canyons, reefs, deserts, people, food and everything in between; Jordan is far more than The Treasury
Landlocked for all but a 26km stretch of the Red Sea, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan brings out the best in Middle Eastern culture and showcases dynamic, jaw-dropping scenery from tip to toe.
Having to stop myself from writing many more, here are just ten reasons why Jordan needs to be on your bucket list, now!
1 – You are welcomed with open arms
Walking down a back street in Amman, a young shop keeper cheerfully calls out “Welcome to Jordan! Enjoy your time here!” I turn around expecting to be fronted by a clever sales pitch, however, the young man is kindly waving from a distance and is using the opportunity to practice his rusty English. Not being a rude person, I wave hello back and try and say thank you in Arabic and receive massive laughs all round from the locals. Clearly, my Arabic needs a lot of work, yet every local Jordanian went above and beyond being super patient and friendly, and made certain that we were happy and on our way in the right direction.
2 – The food; OMG GUYZ THE FOOD!
I entered the country hungry and departed drooling for more. Food brings family and strangers together in Jordan and is done so deliciously. I’ve returned home not being able to look at Hummus or Baba Ganoush the same way. While you’re there try a local Shawarma (the closest thing I can compare this to is a Yiros) or pick up some sweet treats at one of the many little bakeries set up along any major street. Going hungry in Jordan is nearly an impossibility with cheap, massive portions of hearty goodness in every direction.
3 – I’m seeing double…four countries?!
Set sail on the Red Sea for a fantastic day of snorkelling and sunbathing. While out on the water you will be able to view four countries with the swivel of your head. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan & Israel are all within touching distance of each other and give a real sense of where you are in the world, yet the unreal sense in that borders are literally just imaginary lines decided over thousands of years of humans agreeing to disagree.
4 – Get under the sea
I never associated Jordan with snorkelling and coral reefs, but here we are. Dive in the beautiful warm waters and discover the weird and wonderful aqua life below. This rivals the snorkelling I’ve experienced in Indonesia and even ranks as an honourable mention alongside the Great Barrier Reef. Once back on dry land in Aqaba make sure you try some delicious local seafood that’s on offer in nearly every restaurant.
5 – Camp under the stars
Camping in Wadi Rum is like no other experience and gave “glamping” a run for its money. Rich red dirt surrounded by massive rock formations and sand dunes; watching a picture-perfect sunset with a colourful display of vibrant red, pink and blue hues; followed by a Bedouin made dinner of spiced chicken cooked underground with a selection of vegetables, bread and delicious dips. Topping off the night, a campfire under the galaxy of stars, drinking local herbal tea (cheekily referred to as Bedouin Whiskey despite being zero alcohol). Answering to natures call during the night, I stop and look up to the stars; gazing upon what our ancestors had witnessed and pondered big questions to over the generations.
6 – Feel the desert breeze
Wadi Rum offers more than just camping under the stars. You can spend days here joyriding in Jeeps in the dunes or slowly trekking across by camel. In the Jeeps, the scenery takes a dramatic plot twist seemingly every minute. This place is what Mars must be, or close to it. I challenge you to take a bad photo here, you will be hard pressed to do so.
7 – Feel alive again in the Dead Sea
I haven’t used that heading purely for a clever play on words. I genuinely came back to shore feeling fresh and engergised after a dip. The Dead Sea is unique in two ways in that you don’t swim, rather you float due to the super salinity of the water thanks to huge salt deposits. It’s also the lowest point of elevation on land at -430m below sea level. I’ve never been able to float in a normal swimming pool and felt as though I would be the exception to the rule here. As you reach the point where your feet can’t quite touch the ground, suddenly…Nah, I’m going to make you feel this strange experience for yourself! Whatever happens, do not put your head underwater; you’ve been warned. While you’re there, try slapping Dead Sea mud on your face and body, or shop around for some natural salt scrub. My skin felt a lot smoother and radiant for days after!
8 – Road side stops are natural attractions in themselves
You may know a few of the major landmarks in Jordan, but the “ordinary” countryside offers views which in my opinion rival some of the best road trip scenery anywhere. A highlight is driving between Wadi Rum and Petra, taking you into the highlands with jagged hills and refreshing mountain air. It doesn’t matter which side of the car or bus you sit on as the twisting roads give everyone 360-degree panoramic views of this gorgeous part of the world.
9 – Rediscover the reward of hiking at The Monastery
Many people come from all corners of the Earth to view The Treasury at Petra, but don’t go any further. They miss out on potentially days of experiences and discovery of lesser-known landmarks which have an equally fascinating story. One of these is The Monastery, about a two-hour return hike from The Treasury, up roughly 850 stairs and passing countless little shops selling souvenirs and drinks. As you slowly ascend up the steps your view down over the surrounding valleys are literally becoming breathtaking. The peak appears suddenly, without warning the massive facade of The Monastery jumps out at you somewhat like a Jack in the Box. Even in the cooler months of November-March, aim to climb early in the morning to escape the crowds. Enjoy the serenity in the courtyard before further exploring a little further upwards to witness the infinite views of valleys and mountains behind.
10 – The crown jewel
Saving the best to last. I’ve stressed the importance of not centring your Jordan journey around The Treasury, but it truly stands out as a wonder of the world in its own right. Your Petra and Treasury journey will start with a long walk down a gentle hill entering The Siq, a long narrow gorge naturally cut into the Earth. Just as you begin to accept that the walk may just take forever, a beam of light, like at the end of a tunnel strikes you. With each step closer, the heart rate goes up a notch. Those who don’t believe in love at first sight will be converted within seconds of studying the immense figure of The Treasury. For an iconic view from the top, take the walk down to the Royal Tombs before heading near vertically up a steep set of stairs and across the mountain top. The 90-minute return trip is worth every second.
One opinionated tip about Petra…
I love animals, so much so that I won’t hurt a fly. There are numerous vendors at Petra who offer donkey rides around the park, especially on the ascent to The Monastery. I do not recommend taking a donkey as these animals are subjected to unreasonable workloads and are not treated with respect by many owners. Donkeys are commonly used as working animals around the world, however, in my opinion, the majority of owners at Petra were treating their animals with borderline cruelty. Ultimately it’s up to you, but I will not support anyone who cannot treat a living being with minimum respect. On the other hand, I witnessed camels in Wadi Rum being treated with extreme respect and care and I highly recommended taking a ride for a fantastic desert experience if you feel so inclined.
How to get to Jordan
You will most likely arrive by plane into Jordan’s capital, Amman. Many major airlines service Jordan including the large Middle Eastern carriers such as Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad; offering multiple daily services. The national airline of Jordan is Royal Jordanian, who fly non-stop to Amman from the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe and North America.
Unless visiting neighbouring Israel or nearby Egypt, it’s unlikely you’ll arrive overland or by ship. Syria and Iraq are northern neighbours, and I will assume that you will stay away from those borders (there are no tourist attractions in the border regions). Eastern neighbour Saudi Arabia does not currently offer tourist visas.
Some countries in this region will refuse you entry if you show evidence of travel to Israel. Consult your local Jordanian embassy to check visa requirements well before you book your holiday.
The final word
If you have even a remote interest in the Middle East, Jordan is a must visit and there are many fantastic tour operators who can guide you seamlessly and on a friendly budget. This country surprised me with how remarkably friendly and safe everyone made me feel and I’m already figuring out ways on visiting again in the future. Now, how do they make such good hummus??
Comment below have you experienced the magic of Jordan yet? Or are you perhaps a bit stuck and need some more information before deciding to jet off?
Feature photo taken @ The Monastery trail, Petra, Jordan
© tylergoesplaces 2019