There really are not enough superlatives to do Jordan any level of justice when describing it! The people were incredibly warm and friendly and we enjoyed soaking up the landmarks that until then, we’d only dreamed of being able to visit.
We had the absolute time of our lives on our recent trip to Jordan, and though more detail will follow in upcoming blog posts, I wanted to pop together this basic rundown of our itinerary.
Tourism in Jordan is down on years gone past, largely due to safety concerns in neighbouring countries… contrary to what some imagine, Jordan is unaffected by the unrest in the area and remains absolutely safe to visit. This of, of course, bad news for locals but means that you’ll potentially have their awe-inspiring sights pretty much to yourself. Now is definitely the time to head to Jordan; they need your tourist dollars and there is no doubt, you need Jordan in your life!
We made the decision to join a tour as we had limited time, having to work within a short school break and wanted to maximise what time we did have there. Though there’s no doubt we probably could have done it cheaper ourselves, the cost saving would have been very minimal and to be stress-free, it was absolutely worth booking the tour. It ended up being just the three of us along with our guide and worked out to 190JOD each, including all accommodation, breakfasts and dinners, transport and our tour at Wadi Rum. In additional to the tour cost, we picked up a Jordan pass which included our visa and the entries to key sites (such as Petra and Wadi Rum) for JOD70 each (+ fees) and elected to pay for a guide in Petra to bring our experience to life.
Though you could carry out the following itinerary yourself, you’d want to be well equipped with road maps and a sat-nav as though the locals were friendly, Jordan was certainly appeared more difficult to navigate as a traveller than most places we’ve been. To be honest, though I wouldn’t normally jump straight on a tour, I would recommend doing so in Jordan, especially if you have a limited timeframe.
So, without keeping you waiting any longer…
Day 1 (day of arrival)
We arrived into Jordan at 9.30pm at night and made our way to Madaba. We made the most of an early night but did enjoy a shawarma (AKA kebab) before popping off to bed; at only 1.90JOD for three of us, it looked like we were onto a good thing in Jordan!
Day 2 (our first full day)
We swung past St. George’s Church to visit the oldest map of the Holy Land, created in gorgeous mosaic detail back in the 6th century AD. Jordan doesn’t get much further removed from New Zealand but upon noticing the gentleman manning the church was wearing an All Blacks beanie, we couldn’t help but ask… Imagine our surprise when he pulled out his camera and proudly showed us his two sons who had immigrated to Aotearoa with his families! It was the sweetest interaction and reminded us that when travelling, the simple things really can have the biggest impact.
On we travelled, via Mt Nebo where Moses first saw the Promised Land (and where we enjoyed fantastic views of the area), to the Dead Sea.
We went through the Amman Beach Resort which provided basic but adequate access to the Dead Sea and some associated facilities. The showers were freezing, the beach chairs cheap and the bathrooms very simple, but we were there to swim in the Dead Sea and it didn’t disappoint! We each paid 20JOD to enter through this resort and had been told that hotels were at least double that rate… I don’t doubt that if you’re planning on spending the entire day at the Dead Sea (and have an endless budget), that a fancy hotel would be the better option, but this ‘resort’ was more than enough for us. We opted to pay the 3JOD each to lather ourselves in Dead Sea Mud but that was our only additional cost (just be sure to take your own towel if you’d rather not rent one and don’t forget your soap to wash the salt off).
We spent a good hour floating about, having a great laugh! Though I was excited to visit the Dead Sea, I was a bit nervous about the water temperate at this time of year; as it turned out, I had nothing to worry about – it was warmer in the water than it was out. Our visit to the Dead Sea ended up being a massive highlight of our time in Jordan – be sure to include it on your itinerary!
Following our time at the Dead Sea, we quickly stopped to take in Lot’s Statue (another biblical connection). The history in this area is immense and regardless of one’s religious beliefs, it’s interesting to soak it all in.
After a few additional hours of driving though farmland and mountainside, we arrived at the Shobek Castle which we enjoyed exploring as the day turned to dusk. Health and safety doesn’t seem to be much of a consideration in Jordan, which just makes doing these things all the more fun!
There was no charge to enter (either the small museum or the castle itself) and it was a great way to spend thirty minutes or so. On our way out we stopped to chat to a Bedouin selling his wares and each walked away with a headscarf (for 5JOD each) having had another awesome interaction with a friendly Jordanian – Afish (which I’m probably spelling wrong!) tied our head scarves for us and chatted away about his life, before taking some quick photos as we headed off to check out the Moses Spring in Wadi Musa.
Just as it felt like we couldn’t fit much more into one day, off we went on our way to Petra! Three days a week, the track into the Treasury is lit by candles and guests are welcomed into the area to marvel at the sights whilst sipping sweet Arabic tea and listening to traditional Beouin music. Though I wouldn’t recommend seeing Petra only at night, it ended up being a fantastic addition to our visit to the area and was a truely magical experience. To get in, you’ll need to arrive at the Visitor Centre by 8.15pm, ready for an 8.30pm departure on Mon, Wed and Thurs of each week.
Unfortunately my GoPro ran out of battery and my iPhone didn’t pick up the lack of light very well, but the following image gives you an idea of what we were greeted by! Keep in mind, however, that the camera has picked up more light than the eye does, so expect it to be a lot darker for your visit.
Day 3 (our second full day)
I’m going to keep this part of the post relatively short as more detail will follow in a coming post. Be sure to check back as we picked up lots of tips and learnt a fair few lessons from our time at Petra which will help ensure your visit maximises both your time there and your budget. Everyone will tell you that you need a minimum for 2-4 days there but we were happy with our one full day (+ night time visit), so don’t let that put you off.
Until I manage to get that post sorted, let me just say that you have to add Petra to your bucket list right away! I don’t think I’ve ever been as awestruck as I rounded the corner after our hike and saw the Monetary peeking out from it’s rock backing – get there and get there soon.
For now, I’ll let the pictures do the talking…
Day 4 (our third full and final day)
Into the car we piled for our last final day in Jordan. The sleep in was much appreciated and after a 1.5 hour drive, we arrived at the little village just past the visitor centre. We were welcomed into the home of our host, where we enjoyed more sweet tea (a real tradition in Jordan) before transferring to an open-backed ute for our tour of the Wadi Rum Desert.
Our tour saw us take in rock carvings that were over 3,000 years old, depicting the role that camels and snakes played, whilst ancient pools that were used for childbirth still sat, holding fresh water from the occasional rains. The vast history of Jordan makes it so much more than just a pretty place to visit.
Arriving at camp, we climbed the little mountain out back to marvel at the sunset before retiring inside to chow down on the traditionally cooked zarb, which consists of meat and vege cooked under ground, much like a Maori hangi or traditional Pacific Island meal.
The stillness of the desert was fantastic to experience and provided a great background for reflection on our last night in Jordan.
Day 5 (day of departure)
Our 1pm flight required us to be at the Amman airport not long after 10am, resulting in a 6.30am departure from our campsite. After a rough few nights sleep, I’m a little ashamed to say we all dozed on and off through the drive, but we did thankfully enjoy lots of gorgeous scenery on our previous road trips.
As we bid farewell to Jordan, we knew without doubt how lucky we’d been to experience all that we had. I think I may just have left a little of my heart behind – better plan the next trip back sooner than later!
Stay tuned for upcoming posts, detailing our tips and tricks + more detailed information regarding our key stops at the Dead Sea, Petra and Wadi Rum. In the meantime, please leave any questions you have in the comments below and I’ll prioritise answering them as best I can.