Jordan Travel Guide

Royal Urn Tomb view over Petra landscape, Jordan

Royal Urn Tomb view over Petra landscape, Jordan

Visiting Jordan

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.

Downsides

– Much of the desert is flat, hard and featureless except for Wadi Rum.
– 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 limited.

Jordan Weather

Best: 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.

Length of Stay:
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.

Ramadan

During Ramadan most, if not all Muslims will neither eat nor drink during the daytime and consequently many cafes, restaurants and even shops may open only after sunset; public eating, drinking and smoking by tourists may upset the locals. In one Muslim country the only alcohol served to us during our visit was in a teapot, into tea cups in a first class hotel.

Furthermore service personnel may be missing, careless or irritable during the daytime.
The last day of Ramadan, known as Idd al Fitr, can be a wild time with much celebrating, depending on location.

Dates depend on the full moon rising in your location so they may differ by one day depending on where you plan to be.

In 2017 Ramadan will start on the 27 May and will continue for 30 days until the 25 of June.
In 2018 Ramadan will start on the 16 May and will continue for 30 days until the 14 of June.
In 2019 Ramadan will start on the 6 May and will continue for 30 days until the 4 of June.

Main attractions

***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.

***Wadi 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. See Wadi Rum Pictures and more information.

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. 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.

**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. Although only 10% is currently uncovered, there is plenty to see. Only a handful of hotels currently stand nearby though. Photo.

**Quseir Amra. A desert castle built 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 detour.

**The 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.

*Um 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 courses.

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.

Festivals:
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.

Visas

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.