Jordan is a small country located in the Middle-East surrounded by Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Israel. A region that could be described as a little “tense” at the moment. Wars have been faught in this region sporadically for the past 60-70 years and here is small Jordan nestled right in the middle of it all. I have to admit that I did have a bit of apprehension beforehand thinking of “what if the violence spilled over into neighbouring Jordan while I was there?”
Jordan had been a country which had been on my list for quite a while and the opportunity had come to check it out. Amazing sights like Petra, (one of the wonders of the world and setting for the final scene in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”) Wadi Rum (desert wonderland and region used for the movie “The Martian”) and the Dead Sea (the lowest point on Earth) were a few of the things that drew me here. I went with the idea “sure it will be grand” and of course it was. It was brilliant.
I arrived into Amman, the capital city of Jordan and generally the first stop for any travellers coming into the country. Here you encounter the first cost, the visa on arrival which comes to 40JOD which is about €50. What I later learned on my travels is that you can pick up a thing called a Jordan Pass which saves you money from the visa but also entry into some of Jordan’s main attractions such as Petra and Wadi Rum. Definitely worth getting if you are spending a few days here and looking to do some sightseeing.
Amman’s airport like so many city airports around the world is a good distance outside the city but there is a bus that drops you just north of the city for 3JOD. I was sitting beside a sound lad from Addis Ababa that was telling me about his time in Jordan and where the bus was going. This sound Ethiopian man whose name I forget quashed any fears that I previously had about coming here and the dangers of being surrounded by all the war in the neighbouring countries. The bus went along its route with people hopping off at random stops along the way. It took about 45 minutes to get to its final location
I stayed in the Jordan Tower Hostel in the city so I decided to get a taxi from the bus stop. Taxi’s in the city start the meter off at 0.25 JOD so its fairly cheap to get around the place. The hostel itself was fairly basic. A quiet place with not a lot going on. It was a place to stop off and move on again soon after. Although the main guy working there was really helpful with organising transport and giving advice on different ways of getting around the country.
I went with a private driver do the Dead Sea and then on to Petra. Jordan is a small country with good roads so journeys don’t take too long. The trip cost 50JOD. The driver was a man named Jamille. A man in his 60’s that smoked like a train every chance he got. He was great man to chat to. He provided loads of information on all things about Jordan. Its relations with its noisy neighbours, quality of life, the religion and local customs. It made the trip much more interesting and the time passed very quickly. If not listening to Jamille, you could look at the amazing landscape out the window.
The first stop was the Dead Sea, the lowet point on Earth which is about 390m below sea level at its lowest point and only about an hour outisde of Amman. There are a few ways of going about seeing the Dead Sea. There is pretty much no budget accomodation in the area but you can stay in some nice hotels that have their own private access to the sea. The other way is to stop by one of the hotels and pay a fee of 15JOD to use their changing rooms and shower facilites and gain access to the sea that way. It gives you a few hours to chill out in the water and experience the feeling of weighlessness provided by the salty water. Being a useless swimmer (or really not being able to swim) I was a little nervous going in to deep parts but the feeling of floating with such ease felt so nice. With the relentless sun beating down, a few hours here was plenty in my opinion.
Back into the car with Jamille and next stop, the town of Petra. The journey to Petra from the Dead Sea took about 3-4 hours. We did have a little car trouble on the way with the engine heating up but luckily enough we were back on the road in no time.
We passed through some smaller towns on the way to Petra and Jamille was on hand to provide a little insight about them. We eventually arrived into Petra in the early afternoon on a Thursday which was great timing to catch Petra by Night. This is a little spectacle to showcase Petra that only runs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays each week from 20:30. The cost is 17JOD. It is a great way to see Petra and would advise it for anyone that can be there on the right days. You walk into the ancient city grounds under darkness and follow the candlelight through the narrow gorge called the Siq to the main Treasury building.
The town of Petra itself is relatively small. It reminded me a lot of Aguas Calientes (beside Machu Pichu) in Peru the way it had developed there because of its close proximity to one of the wonders of the world. It is about 10 minutes walking to the Tourist Centre and the entrance to the ancient city of Petra. I stayed in Sa’ba Hostel which was run by a lovely English lady and her Jodanian husband. She was really helpful giving lots of information about the town, petra itself and arranging the onward journey.
The following morning I went to explore the ancient city for myself. The gates open at 6am and close at 6pm. The cost of entry is 50 JOD for one day or 55JOD for 2 day entry. The area of ancient city of Petra is pretty big with up to 12-15 km of walking to see everything that it has to offer. It can be seen all in one day but can be nice to space it out over 2 days if you have the time.
I walked through the gates at 7am and pretty much had the place to myself walking around. The number of tourists have dropped dramatically from close to 6,000 visitors a day a few years ago to about 600-800 a day at the moment. It is a great time to go there.
There is so much to this place. The walk in which is called the Siq, the narrow gorge with towering walls all around, the walk to the Monastery which is the biggest building in the city, the hills behind the main Treasury bulding which gives a great view down below and the first peek out from the Siq at the Treasury itself all make this such a great place to visit.
Young lads try and sell you postcards and others offer camel rides but it never felt too pushy. One local young lad called Mohammed tried to sell me postcards and then was happy to just walk around for a while and learn some English. (bought some postcards off him in the end)
Petra had defintely lived up to expectations. I knew that it would be the highlight of the trip but it certainly didn’t just stop there.
The next stop was Wadi Rum. The Mars-like landscape is a region in the south of Jordan. The place is just unreal. The reason movies such as “The Martian”, “Red Planet” and “Prometheus” have been filmed here gives you an idea what the place is like. It is otherworldly.
I had arranged a tour there through the Sa’ba hostel with the Bedouin Camp, “Welcome to Wadi Rum”. I got a bus from Petra to Wadi Rum which cost 7JOD and only takes about 1-2 hours. The tour cost 50JOD and included a 5 hour 4×4 jeep tour, lunch, dinner, bed for the night and breakfast the following morning.
Wadi Rum a protected desert wilderness that features dramatic sandstone mountains, natural arches and huge sand dunes. I arrived at the camp early in the morning. The sun started to rise in the sky but wasn’t too hot. During this time you can explore the surroundings. Get a closer look at some of the mountains, do some hiking or rock climbing if you feel adventurous.
During the jeep tour you are taken around to the famous rock formations in the area, Jebel Um Ishrin, Burdah Rock Bridge and get to climb some of the massive sand dunes. The tour culminates in watching the sun go down over the mountains. Climb high to get a good spot and catch the last of the day’s rays.
After watching the sunset, you go back to camp, have dinner and set up for a relaxing evening by the fire under the stars. After a busy day hiking and climbing in the desert, chilling out by the fire is exactly what you want. Sitting out under the stars was truly spectactular. The sky is usually very clear here and without the light pollution it is one of the best places to stargaze. The milky way, shooting stars and even satellites moving acoss the sky.
A day and night well spent in the Desert.
The final stop on the trip was the seaside city of Aqaba. It lies on the Red Sea in the very south. The bus from Wadi Rum to Aqaba cost about 5JOD and takes just over an hour. Aqaba is a good stop for anyone looking to travel further into Egypt or Israel as they are right there just over the border.
I stayed in Darna Village Resort in the South Beach region of Aqaba. It is much more expensive here with pretty much no budget hostels and one night can cost up to 30JOD. It is an area where you can do snorkelling and scuba diving. I was happy just to relax for the night.
The area is quiet as it’s about 10km outside the main part of the city but there is a resort nearby called Tala Bay where there is some up market Hotels. It is about 20 mins walk up the road and offers a few bars, restaurants, a convenience store and a nice sandy beach which is much cleaner than the beach beside the Darna Village. Not the worst place to finish up the week.
So that was it. My week in Jordan. I can definitely recommend it to anyone. The people are extremely friendly, there is so much to see and do and its completely safe.
And not to forget Happy Hour every hour in Petra!!