Nestled between Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Israel, Jordan is an ancient gem that’s managed to retain its shine in a region long characterized by civil unrest.
Historic sites draped in a biblical past sit alongside lost cities and desert landscapes that are just aching to be explored. And when you take a look at its sandy beaches and clear blue waters, Jordan just might be the ultimate destination for a beach holiday with a healthy dose of adventure – or an adventure holiday with a touch of beach lazing, if you’re that way inclined.
Jordan has so much to offer | Image by Diana Varbanescu
Fly into the capital Amman, and you’ll be greeted by a modern, diverse city that seems a million miles away from the Bedouin camps of the desert and the lost cities steeped in the past. With a flight time of just under 5 hours from the UK, it seems rude not to go and explore this beautiful, often contrasting, country.
In terms of size, Jordan is somewhere between Scotland and England. It’s relatively small land expanse means that if even if you’re pushed for time, you’ll be able to get your adventure and history fix in a few days. If you’re able to spare a bit longer – lucky you. This is a country that’s full of variety and surprises, and it just keeps on giving.
In case you needed any more convincing of Jordan’s charms, I’ll leave you with this thought from STA Travel staffer, Liz, who’s a big fan of Jordan: “People are really friendly, the Bedouin tea is addictive, falafel is so cheap and it’s easy to get around.” Really, what more could you want?
I’m giving Jordan a big High Five, and counting down five things that you just have do there.
Five reasons to pay Jordan a visit
1. Be blown away by Petra
It’s up there with Machu Picchu and Angkor Wat when it comes to lost cities, so no trip to Jordan would be complete without making your way to the dramatic and beautiful site of Petra. Your travel companion not a history buff? Tell ‘em that one of Petra’s most famous sites, The Treasury, stood in for the temple housing the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
You can reach The Treasury via a long walk through the canyon, but leave time to take in the beautiful city carved into the mountains and enormous amphitheatre. Try to get there early to avoid the hordes of tourists that will inevitably flock here.
Petra is one of those places that genuinely surprises you, and if time is on your side then take a few days to explore. For something different, take our Liz’s advice and “Try winding down the rocky passages on a nightwalk by candlelight”. Check out our Explore Petra and Wadi Rum tour, and immerse yourself in the red rock city.
Let the lost city of Petra take your breath away | Image by Diana Varbanescu
2. Play dead
At around 400 metres below sea level, bordering Jordan and Israel, you’ll find the Dead Sea. Not only one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water, it’s also the lowest spot on earth. So salty that it’s impossible for you to sink, going for a float in the lake is a truly unique, relaxing experience. Even better, the black mud deposits are full of minerals – spread it all over your skin and you’ll feel as though you’ve spent the day at a health spa.
3. And so to Bed(ouin)
A trip deep into the desert to Jordan’s largest valley, Wadi Rum, is not to be missed. The scenery is absolutely stunning, whether you explore it by camel or horseback, or have a go at climbing the huge rock formations. Famously, British explorer T.E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, based himself here, and the film of the same name was shot here, too.
The valley is home to the Zalabia Bedouin, who have opened up their homeland to provide inimitable experiences for travellers. You can visit a Bedouin camp, learn about local traditions, and round it off by camping overnight under the stars at a Bedouin camp. Seriously, this may be one of the best travel experiences you ever have. You can visit Wadi Rum as part of our 8-day Highlights of Jordan tour.
Enjoy tea at a Bedouin Camp at Wadi Rum | Image by Diana Varbanescu
4. Holy Moses!
Experience a slice of biblical history at one of Jordan’s most important holy sites, Mount Nebo, allegedly the site where God showed Moses the Promised Land. Whether you’re religious or not, it’s hard not to be impressed by Mount Nebo. Climb to the top and, as our Search Manager Diana, who travelled to Jordan on our Highlights of Jordan tour last year, says, “the views across the undulating hills to the Dead Sea, Jericho, Jordan river and Jerusalem are fantastic!”.
5. Venture into the Red Sea
One of the great things about Jordan is that it gives you the chance to combine an action filled, historic, cultural kind of holiday with some much needed time at the beach. And after a jaunt in the desert, lying on a beach and soaking up the rays could be just what you need. Head to Aqaba, where you can sunbathe ‘til your heart’s content. If you’re the type who can’t sit still for more than 5 minutes, fear not; the Red Sea is one of the best in the world for scuba diving and snorkelling, teeming with marine life and colourful coral.