Jordan is a small but amazingly diverse country, where other-worldly landscapes combine with incredible ancient history, including the iconic rose-red city of Petra. Whilst it is possible to see the main ‘highlights’ of Jordan in about a week, those who have more time to spare can also explore rugged national parks and spend some downtime on the shores of the Red Sea or Dead Sea.
Petra is the jewel in Jordan’s crown, and one of the most recognisable UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world. It is believed that the area has been inhabited since around 7,000 BC, with the Nabateans settling here in around the 6th century BC. The Nabateans were the tribe who built Petra, and whilst it is not known for sure when the city was officially completed, it was a vital trading hub as of the 1st century BC. Whilst the site has a number of free-standing buildings (although these were severely damaged in an earthquake), much of the architecture is carved directly into the vividly-coloured rock face.
Close to Petra is the extraordinary desert landscape of Wadi Rum, brought to the attention of the Western world by T.E. Lawrence, who became known as Lawrence of Arabia. Originally an archaeologist, the British Lawrence played a key role in the Arab Revolt against the Turkish rulers, with Wadi Rum as the base for their guerrilla warfare. The geography in Wadi Rum is very distinctive, with dramatic rock formations rising out the red and gold sand.
The Dead Sea is another of Jordan’s more unusual sites. This is the lowest point on earth at 431 metres below sea level. This low elevation has had a fascinating impact on the environment. The waters of the Dead Sea are around ten times more salty than normal sea water, creating a buoyant effect where travellers are able to float practically on the surface. The water, mud and surrounding air all also have numerous health benefits.
Jordan’s capital city Amman is spread across 19 hills. Whilst on the surface, the city seems like a modern metropolis, artefacts have been found which date back as early as 8,500 BC, and a town has been on this site since the Bronze Age. The capital has a number of impressive historic sites, including the Citadel and Roman Amphitheatre, and to the north of the city there are the glorious Roman ruins of Jerash.
Whilst it may not be the first thing that that springs to mind when thinking of Jordan, the country has a variety of national parks. The easiest parks to incorporate into an itinerary are the Dana Biosphere, Mujib Nature Reserve and Ajloun Forest Reserve. These parks offer fantastic trekking and stunning scenery, and for the more adventurous, mountain biking and canyoning. Whilst the wildlife is rather shy, you may catch site of ibex, porcupines, Sinai lizards and birds of prey.
The Red Sea lies to the south of Jordan. Whilst visitors should not expect the long powdery beaches that can be found on the Red Sea in Egypt, there are still a number of coral reefs to be explored beneath the waves. The port town of Aqaba does not perhaps have huge amounts of character, but it does enjoy a pleasant seaside atmosphere and some excellent seafood restaurants.
This in-depth itinerary includes the best of Jordan’s highlights, such as Petra and Wadi Rum, as well as some off-the-beaten-track adventures into secluded nature reserves, giving you a real taste of the country’s diverse geography and history.