So many Jordan highlights to share but I’m guessing you’re here for two of the biggest, Petra and Wadi Rum. They were the most anticipated for me too, but Jordan continued to surprise me throughout the trip. If you’ve been following my journey for any length of time you’ll know that I love a bit of solo travel. That being said, Jordan is one of those places I didn’t want go completely alone though. Not because I would feel unsafe (and while I was there, that was never an issue), but despite my Arab background, I don’t speak a word of the language. Also, the places I wanted to see are pretty spread out and stuff like a 4×4 ride in the desert and staying overnight in a Bedouin camp is more fun in a group which is why I decided to go on this G Adventures tour.
With all that in mind, I signed up for a G Adventure’s trip, one that would cover all the Jordan highlights, like Petra and Wadi Rum, plus loads more. I’ve been leaning towards trips with an activity element recently, (you can read my Sri Lanka sailing post) so I knew the Jordan Multisport itinerary would be the one for me. Although, to be fair, I can’t cycle and unfortunately the Wadi Mujib canyon trail (where we were due to go canyoning) was closed due to dangerous flash floods, so it was more of a hiking trip – which suited me perfectly.
Jordan Highlights Itinerary
The trip begins and ends in Jordan’s capital, Amman. It’s a cool city to walk around, visit the citadel, gorge on falafel and spend some time drinking Turkish coffee or mint tea in the cafés of Rainbow St.
I was here to see more than just the city though, so after joining the rest of the G Adventures group at the welcome meeting in the starting hotel, where we met our guide, it was off to the first stop – Ajloun. Our CEO (chief experience officer), Hakam was by our side from start to finish, able to answer any questions (like can we buy beer here?) and always having a laugh. He reminded me of my father, complete with dad jokes and interesting translations. The first full day saw us trek through a nature reserve, where I found out this is how fresh almonds look…
…ate a vegetarian lunch in a local family home, with everything harvested from the surrounding olive groves and farms and then stayed overnight in a wooden cabin. Very cosy! It can get chilly at night in Jordan, (I went in springtime) so pack a few layers.
Since canyoning wasn’t an option, we decided to spend the extra time visiting Jerash, a city with the best preserved Roman ruins outside of Italy. The beauty of these itineraries is there’s wiggle room for flexibility and the guides always gauge the interests of the group.
We continued on towards the Dead Sea, past the strip of hotels to a standalone property with its own little spot along the shore. No crowds = bliss! You’re warned to walk into the sea backwards and told you need to wear water shoes, but neither were necessary. It’s such an odd feeling, not having to support your own body weight and floating even vertically. Trying to swim will give you a good laugh, if you do need to get around then the backstroke will be your go-to. This trip helped me tick off another bucket list experience!
Ready for a hike the next morning, we made our way to the Dana Biosphere Reserve, complete with packed lunches and our local guide for the day, Ali. G Adventures always use expert locals in addition to the overall guide from that country, so you get even more localised knowledge and insight, while supporting the community you’re travelling through. In awe of Ali’s relaxed approach to outdoor gear (why is it I need proper hiking boots yet this guy can do it in leather loafers?), we set off through the unusual red rock formations, stopping for tea at the top.
That night we continued on to Petra city, for a group dinner and our first glimpse at one of the 7 Wonders of the World. Petra by Night was an optional extra, but if you’re there on a day when the show is on, I’d say it’s worth going even just for the candlelit walk to the Treasury which was nothing short of magical. The show and lights are kind of cheesy, but there’s something about sitting in silence on the ground surrounded by these magnificent structures and absorbing all the energy. I forgot to take my camera tripod, don’t make the same mistake if you want any decent night photography.
The main event, potentially the highlight of the whole Jordan itinerary, was the full day in the ‘city of mysteries’, at Petra. We started early visiting Little Petra as the sun was just coming up over the stone with no one else in sight. Ignore the ‘best view in the world’ signs, that’s all to come later.
The starting point for our trek was unexpected, it was pretty hard to imagine that this place would lead us into the famous site and with hindsight, it was the perfect way to build anticipation and enjoy the surrounding area before the midday heat. The included tickets allowed re-entry the following morning, which some of the group took advantage of – to be the first visitors to Petra that day, for one last look.
We made our way over the rocks, through the UNESCO World Heritage Site’s canyons and gorges before finally catching site of the Rose City by daylight. Hidden among the hills, the impressive Monastery came into view, carved into the pink rock. It’s the perfect place to relax for a few minutes, use the WiFi to upload your first Petra pic and drink a fresh pomegranate and orange juice.
I have to put my hands up and admit I had no idea of the sheer scale of Petra (we clocked up 20km in total). In fact, only one person in our group of 12 knew just how big the city is, with the rest of us kind of only clued in on the well-known Treasury area. Our trek brought us past temples, tombs and theatres carved into the hills via stone-cut steps, a lot of ground was covered and comfortable walking shoes are an absolute must. Obviously start your hike with food and water, but there are plenty of places in Petra to stock up with more drinks and snacks. If you want to venture off course, only consider it with a guide – you can very easily get lost in the vast expanse surrounding the main sites.
We finished the day with a climb to the best vantage point overlooking the Treasury. Again, best to pay a guide to show you the fastest way up and help with the steep bits. To be honest, the skinny guy in jeans and sliders who looked no older than his late teens who took us to the top pretty much pulled me up the rocks most of the way in a sheer display of strength after my tired body was ready to give up. Oh and he doubled as my personal photographer, it makes sense to get the person who does this day in day out to take the best shot. Was it worth it? ….what do you think?…
If you take one piece of advice away from this, (bar booking onto this trip with immediate effect), it would be get yourself to the nearest Turkish Bath after a dusty day walking in Petra. They line the main street, so finding one shouldn’t be a problem and hammam prices start from about €25.
A night in the desert was the perfect ending to an incredible trip and something I’d been looking forward to all week. I’d ‘liked’ hundreds of photos of Wadi Rum on Instagram over the years and I’d finally get to witness it first hand and sleep in a Bedouin camp, albeit one specifically made for tourists, but I’m not that intrepid.
After transferring to 4x4s we set off onto the sand, past the local villages and into the desert which started to resemble images of Mars. The vast expanses of open areas are dotted with weird and wonderful rock formations, dunes and even a “space camp where you can live the Martian life” which actually looks like Fyre Festival from a distance.
Steep sand walls are harder to climb than you would imagine by the way, but the sight from the top was worth it, as always. We stopped for sunset to enjoy the unobstructed views and chat with the local Bedouin guys who spent the day proudly showing off their back yard, before speeding on to our desert camp for the night. Hakam, our guide smiling as always…
The temperature drops pretty fast once the sun disappears, but without cloud cover, the conditions would be perfect for star gazing later in the night. The fire was already lit when we arrived and dinner had been slow cooking in the ground for hours. Zarb, a traditional Bedouin barbecue cooks in a sealed metal container in a sand pit. Lamb and chicken, rice and potatoes, with all of the usual Jordanian goodies i.e. endless fresh bread and buckets of hummus, which trust me you never tire of.
For more about the food from my trip, read this article I wrote for Food & Wine’s website. We toasted marshmallows by the fire and drank the Jordanian wine we’d brought with us until it was dark enough to head past the camp lights into the desert to take some photos of the night sky.
A quiet camel ride at dawn before a simple Bedouin breakfast rounded things off nicely, it was time to get back to the city and say goodbye to Hakam and all my new friends. It’s what I love about joining G Adventures groups, everyone is on the same wavelength, between solo travellers, families (there were two mother-daughter duos in our group), couples and friends, you always end up coming together with your shared love for travel and meeting new people.
If you want the perfect mix of activities, relaxing and sightseeing in Jordan with all the logistics and local knowledge taken care of, then the G Adventures Jordan MultiSport Trip is the one for you. The whole tour takes 8 days, starting and finishing in Amman. Accommodation is pretty standard (not too basic, nor luxury) and the hikes are accessible to anyone with a reasonable level of fitness.
Jordan trip: what to pack
While you can do most of the walks in trainers, some of the terrain is very uneven and can by slippy so I’d recommend proper hiking boots. I wear the classic Timberland walking boots which are perfect for wet conditions just as much as they are in the sand. You’ll definitely want to pack layers for the rise and fall in temperatures you’ll experience. Shorts are fine to wear in Jordan, but long trousers are probably better if you’re worried about respecting customs, as are covered shoulders. Bring a scarf for dusty days and chilly nights, a hat to protect from the sun and long skirts/dresses that don’t crease. You can cover yourself in mineral-rich mud at the Dead Sea, so pack a swimsuit you don’t mind getting dirty.
Jordan travel advice
Once you avoid travel to the borders with Iraq and Syria, you shouldn’t have a problem with safety in Jordan. Of course, always check the Dept of Foreign Affairs website for up to date information.
Visas for Irish citizens can be obtained on arrival in the airport and cost 40JD (about €55) which you can pay with Jordanian Dinar or card. I used my Revolut card to pay at point of sales in Jordan and to withdraw cash, with no issues.
Jordan is a majority Muslim country, so conservative dress is recommended and holy festivals such as Ramadan take place, so be aware of local customs in order not to cause offence.
There are no direct flights from Ireland to Jordan, but you can fly to Amman fairly easily with just one stop. Expect to pay €4-500 for return flights via London with BA, Paris with Air France or Turkish Airways via Istanbul.
This post is sponsored by G Adventures, as part of the Wanderers programme. All view are, as always, my own.