holiday in Jordan?
offers friendly, hospitable people, history up to its checker-board headress (Lawrence of Arabia's ghost still haunts the pink dunes of Wadi Rum), it's relatively
small and easy to get around and good value if you can escape
the usual mega-tourist hotels.
There are some incredible, world class sights such as Nabatean Petra, the red and melting rock desert of Wadi Rum, a few medieval castles, Greco-Roman Jerash, below sea level the mineral-packed Dead Sea is a weird and floating, mud-pack must and the Red Sea is home to famously colourful marine life and plenty of sunshine in season.
Jordan holidays are a natural addition to a trip to Israel as border crossings
are easy (with luck), roads are good, locals are in no way anti-western and the best Jordanien destinations are not far from
the Eilat/Aqaba crossing point.
- Much of the desert is flat, hard and featureless except for Wadi
- Amman and Aqaba are not attractive, though Aqaba has a couple of up-market resorts with beaches on the Red Sea.
- Tourist infrastructure is still undeveloped - in other words cold beer and
sandwiches are not always available and the hotel selection is
April, May, June, September, October
Worst: July-August due to excessive heat, Sirocco winds and possible sandstorms. Average summer temperatures range from 20C-35C but over 40C is not unusual. November-March is the cool, wet and windy season with temperatures averaging 5C-10C, warmish during the day but very chilly in the evenings.
Be wary of Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month when services are depleted and erratic; dates depend on full moon so may differ by one day depending on location. 9 July-7 August 2013. There's always a lively feast day, Idd al-Fitr, at the end of Ramadan.
Minimum worthwhile stay, not incl. flights/border crossings: 2 days
(Wadi Rum - Petra via Aqaba).
Recommended: 10 days for a circuit through Wadi Rum, Petra, Jerash, Dead Sea and Aqaba.
***Petra. One of the word's best ancient wonders, this 'lost' pink city is
a huge geological and artistic marvel, and really requires two full
days of constant walking.
There are hotels nearby at Wadi Musa (aka Wadi Mousa) so stay over if
possible. Petra is about 150km from Amman, 80km from Aqaba. Don't miss the 'Petra by Night' event that's on two or three nights a week, involving 2,000 candles and live Bedouin music but book at a hotel as soon as you arrive in Wadi Musa. See Petra Pictures and more information.
Rum. One of the world's best desert landscapes, with soft sand and pinnacles
of melting red and yellow rock providing a wonderful contrast. This place the
inspiration for Lawrence's 'Seven Pillars of Wisdom'.
Travel on foot, horseback, camel or 4WD around the Wadi. It's worth
staying at least a couple of days.
On walls of Anfashieh Mountain are Thamudic and Nabataen inscriptions, in addition to crude images of animals and humans. The gorge Siq Um Tawaqi is decorated with a carving of the head of T. E. Lawrence.
Accommodation in Rum is still only tents (Bedouin tents if you choose) but there is a variety of over 20 campsites and comfort levels available. e.g. Bait Ali Camp. The bugcrew are not natural born campers but loved the experience in the Rum.
Wadi Rum is an easy drive from Eilat, Aqaba or Petra - about 40km from
each and there are plenty of hotels, hostels and guest houses there if camping doesn't suit.
At night the action continues with moonlight desert tours, mock Bedouin weddings, or Zarbeques - a traditional Bedouin method of cooking meat underground. Wadi Rum Pictures and more information.
**Jerash. 50km north of Amman and known oddly as the Pompeii of East (Jerash was never buried by volcanic ash!), Jerash (aka Gerasa) is a large and
superbly preserved Greco-Roman city. The area was inhabited as early as the Bronze Age around 3200 BC but Rome took control in 63 BC, Emperor Trajan had roads built in AD 106 and Hadrian visited in AD 129.
only 10% is currently uncovered, there is plenty to see. Only a
handful of hotels currently stand nearby though. Photo.
**Quseir Amra. A
by the Umayyad caliph Walid I in 8th century, 100
km east of Amman. It has well-preserved frescos
in the reception hall and the hammam, but it's way less
impressive than the must-see Petra, tho' relatively easy to do as a quick
Dead Sea. Float in/on the therapeutic waters of the Dead Sea 55km south of Amman, and slap on a thick coat of skin-enhancing black mud while you're at it.
There are some pleasant hotels with swimming pools and beaches. Photos.
er-Rasas (Kastrom Mefa'a). A new
UNESCO World Heritage archeological site with ruins from mixed
civilizations - Roman, Byzantine and Islam, but apart from two unique
square towers and a magnificent Roman mosaic in the Church of
Saint Stephen, it is still little more than rubble.
Things to Do:
Trekking: around Wadi Rum (hard sand, wandering Bedouin and lots melting rock formations) and Petra (though even regular visits involve plenty of leg work).
Cycling: Mountain bike tours with some walks thrown in include all Jordan's major attractions.
Riding: tourists love to follow in Lawrence of Arabia's tracks - either camels and horses
- around the majestic desert/rock landscapes of Wadi Rum.
Climbing: rock pinnacles of Wadi Rum.
Basic gear available for rent locally.
Diving: Aqaba and further south into the Red Sea contain
some superb dive spots with 100 species of soft coral, 120 species of hard coral and over 1,000 species of fish.
Aqaba also has dive centres offering PADI
Health Spas: the Dead Sea is about 400m below sea level and due to high evaporation has an intense concentration of salts and minerals - particularly magnesium, sodium, potassium, calcium, bromine - that have curative effects on many skin conditions, as well as allowing visitors the odd experience of lying almost on the surface of the sea.
Mud packs are a popular option. Hotels in the area offer a huge variety of spa treatments and costs. The Dead Sea is about an hour from Amman airport.
Beach Life: Aqaba (50kms from Wadi Rum) is a pleasant though primarily commercial town offering some small, sandy public beaches that are on the grubby side, but private hotel beaches can be used for a small fee and are well manicured. The water is warm (generally about 23C) and multicoloured marine life is rampant; coral reefs are not far off. Photos.
Dates vary, nationwide, Eid al Fitr, end of Ramadan, a couple of
days of feasting.
February. Eid al-Adah, pre-Mecca feasting.
May, Independence day.
Summer time, 2 weeks. Jerash Festival of Culture and Arts.
Arrivals at Aqaba, either through the port, the airport or at a crossing from Israel or Saudi Arabia, are granted a free visa to Jordan. There is no obligation associated with this visa, provided that they leave the country within 1 month of arrival, and that they do not need to renew their visa.
Otherwise the cost of one entry visa for all nationalities is 20 JD (around $30) obtained upon arrival at the airport; for multiple entries for all nationalities it is 60 JD (around $85) and can be obtained at the nearest embassy/consulate.
Groups of five persons or more arriving via a designated Jordanian tour operator are exempt from all visa charges.
Petra Pictures | Wadi Rum Pictures | Jordan Tours