Although Jordan had been on our bucket list for a while, going there was totally spontaneous decision. We didn’t have much time to plan it and didn’t know what to expect but it turned out to be an absolutely unforgettable vacation. In 4 days, we saw an ancient city, drove through a rocky desert with Bedouins, saw corals and wrecks in the Red Sea, and swam in the saltiest sea in the world 400m below the sea level. Oh, and we ate tons of great hummus and drank liters of tea in between!
We were just camping in the Fujeirah mountains when Emirates announced that they canceled our flights to South Africa. Spontaneously we decided to go to Jordan instead (fancy wine estates vs. ancient city and desert – those two trips can’t be more different). We had zero expectations and only very little information. We could easily make one more trip to Jordan to see other places but for now, we tried our best to discover as much as we could.
4 days in Jordan – our itinery
We arrived in Amman in the evening, picked up a car from Arena Rent a car, and went straight down to Petra. It was already dark night so we didn’t see much on the way – except a few small villages alongside the highway. Each village was marked by speedbumps to make sure you don’t miss it. We stopped in one of them for quick shawarma – it was horrible but we were hungry and it cost like 1 AED each 🙂
Driving around Jordan was easy except it gets dark early and there are no lights outside cities. You can miss some spectacular views if you only drive during the night such as above Petra or when arriving at the Dead Sea.
Day 1: Petra
We spent the first 2 nights in Petra Heart Hotel, a cute family-run hotel in the middle of Wadi Musa. Since we arrived during the night, we kind of knew there are hills around but had no idea about how beautiful the area of Wadi Musa is. We woke up very early in the morning (I never thought Anna would agree to set her alarm at 6 AM!) to reach Petra as soon as we can – and it was absolutely worth it!
Long story short – Petra is magical. It is one of the most beautiful historical places we have visited. It would have been even more magical without ever-present hawkers but seems to be part of the experience. We spent 1 full day (8.5 hrs) there and walked 21 km. It’s impossible to say how magical Petra was in a few sentences – take a look at the full Petra post.
Intermezzo: Jordan Pass is an easy way to save money on entrance fees
If you’re planning to spend a minimum of 3 nights in Jordan and planning to visit Petra, it’s worth getting yourself the Jordan Pass. For 70 JD (99 USD) you get free visa (we paid 40 JD per person) + 1 day entrance to Petra (we paid 50 JD per person) + free access to another 40 attractions (including Wadi Rum, Jerrash and others).
Day 2: Wadi Rum
Wadi Rum is a huge desert valley in South Jordan. It is famous for its beautiful sand, rock formations, and (pre)historic places. Its scenery is truly spectacular and you’ll feel like on another planet. It is then no surprise it was used as a filming location for many movies such as Dune, Star Wars (planet Pasaana in The Rise of Skywalker), or The Martian. The best way to discover the area is to book one of the local Bedouin-led tours. You will find many camps offering overnight stay combined with jeep and/or camel tours. You can also find hiking or climbing options.
We didn’t have time for an overnight stay and – frankly speaking – when camping in a desert, we like to be alone with our tent and bbq rather than in tents with groups of other people. However, I can imagine it can be a nice experience. We book a full-day tour with Yousef, one of the local Bedouins through Whatsapp (they were very responsive and very friendly). For a full-day trip, we paid 80 JD for 2 people including lunch and water. We arrived in the morning through Wadi Rum Visitor Center where you need to pay a 5 JD entrance fee (unless you have Jordan Pass) and we found Yousef waiting for us in the parking loft.
Our guide for the day was Mohammed, another bedouin guy driving a very old Toyota, who later on turn out to be an excellent chef. As we later found out, our Toyota was missing breaks and door handle (among other things), but that is once again part of the experience.
Wadi Rum surprised us in all aspects and we were in awe of that place. It truly was a spectacular place to be with its beautiful nature and calmness. On the other hand, it was very touristic and some places very crowded.
Intermezzo: Spend the night in Wadi Rum. If you decide to spend a night, there are lots of camps inside with big tents which form small villages. Most of the camps can be found on booking.com. There are also “Moon-like bubbles” instead of tents where you can stargaze straight from your bed. If it’s not cloudy, you can see lots of stars in the sky.
During the day we made several stops for short hikes or just to see some touristy places. Here are some of them worth mentioning.
This was our first stop and was just about 500m behind the bedouins village. We climbed a small mountain to see where the water is coming from. There was also a very nice view of the desert.
Jebel Khazali Cave
The stop we were the most excited about was a cave with hieroglyphics more than 2 thousand years old and are the first signs written by Nababieans (they built Petra later) found in this area. However, the place itself was a bit of a disappointment, it is just a narrow long cave with a bad smell and without a guide, it’s easy to miss the carvings. Our Mohamed rather spent time smoking his cigarettes by the car so we were lucky another group’s guide helped to see them.
Lunch in the sand
After several other stops and two walks through sandy valleys, we stopped for a lunch. We had a very long break here when we were waiting for our bedouin to cook lunch. He surprised us with a delicious 2-course meal cooked on a small fire next to a mountain. We’ll never understand how he could make such nice food under these circumstances. But he did it and we ate it all. Thank you, Mohammed.
Burdah Rock Bridge
This natural rock bridge was one of the spots we had been most excited about. By the time we reached there, we knew there might be some tourists around but we didn’t really expect the long line of people on top of the rock waiting to take a funny picture. It needed a serious effort to find the right angle for this picture.
We wrapped up our tour by watching a sunset on a mountain.
Along the road we stopped to drink tea several times, here it becomes obvious that drinking tea is something like Jordanian national sport. But the tea was good, nice herbal tea, good for your stomach.
After the last tea, our car took us through another dark night to port city Aqaba. While its beach resorts are popular among locals as well as international tourists, it is near borders with Israel and just across the Red Sea to Egypt so you need to go through a police checkpoint on the way there. Other than that, it’s nice – less than 1 hr long – drive from Wadi Rum.
Day 3: Diving in the Red Sea
In Aqaba, we booked one night in Laverda Hotel. The hotel is just on the coast so you can easily walk your way out to see the harbor and the promenade. We went for an amazing Jordanian dinner in Alshinawi restaurant (you need to try their Fukhara!) near the city center.
The reason we went to Aqaba was simple: to dive in the Red Sea known for its amazing visibility and lively corals. So the next day we checked out after breakfast and headed to Coral Garden Dive Center. After a bit confusing and lengthy check-in, they drove us to the harbor to board their luxurious boat. The boat was amazing, huge, and steady.
We did 2 dives: the first one in the Channel with electricity cable on the bottom of the sea. This was an amazing dive with lots of corals and colorful fish. The second dive was at Cedar Pride wreck – a Lebanese shipping boat that was sunk in 1985 after a fire accident took a place while it was anchoring in the port of Aqaba. Since the Jordanian king is an active diver, he ordered its ecological cleaning and created a stunning dive site from it. This was an amazing experience since there is an air pocket where you can swim your head out in. The boat is again covered by corals. Although we were freezing (our 3mm wetsuits were not enough), both were beautiful dives and Aqaba is definitely recommended even if only for snorkeling!
Day 4: Dead Sea
We stayed in Dead Sea Spa Hotel there. We don’t link to the hotel purposefully since it is probably the only thing from Jordan we can’t recommend. However, all resorts looked very similar to each other and are located just next to each other. It’s recommended to stay at a hotel or at least buy a day pass since they have the needed facilities to enjoy the salty water.
There is not much to do around, except for the obvious stuff such as levitating in the water or putting black smelly mud on your body, which is supposed to have beneficial effects on your joints and skin. I can’t tell if it’s true or not as I only underwent this treatment once. The mud is ready to use in baskets at the resort’s beach or you can dig your own on the public beach. The whole experience was fun and must try once in a life.
We met a lot of people swimming at public “beaches”, where you can also take nice pictures (we went to Point de vue). There, people usually took at least 6 bottles of water with them to shower the salt from their body afterward. So the public beach is also doable but you’ll definitely need some sweet water to wash.
To visit the Dead sea was my lifetime travel dream because it is truly a natural phenomenon. But hurry up! The sea level is decreasing every year due to heavy mining in the south part. It is also shared with Israel which is very close and you can see the other country from the coast.
Final verdict: Jordan was really great! There are many beautiful places to see, great food and tea, kind people. As I said at the beginning, we didn’t really have any expectations and hardly made some research before coming here but it was absolutely worth it!