Last week, I shared a short video from our recent trip to Jordan. 120 seconds of rough iPhone footage didn't quite do this beautiful country justice, so I wanted to share a few more thoughts (and photos!) from our short vacation. With only 3 full days to essentially explore the entire country, I really had no idea how I was going to plan the itinerary.
We decided to work with a travel agency, Jordan Select, to finalize our itinerary and book all in-country transportation and accommodations. It's completely unlike me to go through an agency as planning is one of my favorites parts of traveling. I'm sure we could have saved some money by booking everything ourselves, but working with Jordan Select was without a doubt the right decision. From our first communication to the last goodbye at the airport, everyone was friendly, responsive and extremely helpful. I knew we were in good hands when they sent me a detailed Google Map laying out our entire journey.
Read on to hear about each stop on our whirlwind trip around Jordan!
Initially, we didn't plan to spend any time in Jordan's capital, Amman. Our flight landed at 10:00 PM on Wednesday evening, and we were scheduled to be back on the road to Wadi Rum first thing in the morning. At the last minute, we decided to spend some time in Amman on Thursday morning. It would have been a shame to completely skip this bustling city of seven hills. Our driver zipped us around Amman, pointing out various landmarks along the way. We then took an hour to explore the Citadel, which sits on the city's highest hill and reflects the various cultures and empires that have left their mark on Jordan. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to do much more in Amman. We were on a tight schedule to make it to our next destination: Wadi Rum.
Near the southernmost tip of Jordan, Wadi Rum is a 4 hour drive from Amman. Once you arrive, you feel like you've landed on a completely different planet. It's no wonder that Wadi Rum has served as the backdrop for numerous films like Transformers, Prometheus, Lawrence of Arabia and, most recently, The Martian. If it weren't for the tiny shrubs and occasional wild camel, you would really think you were on Mars.
Upon arrival, we took a short break and grabbed some lunch at one of Wadi Rum's many Bedouin camps. Our tour guide then picked us up in a Toyota 4x4 as we prepared to navigate this desolate sandstone and granite valley. Driving through Wadi Rum is an awe inspiring experience. We stopped at multiple locations to take panoramic photographs and the occasional jumping shot. I couldn't resist. Our drive ended with a beautiful view of the sun setting behind rugged sandstone mountains. If we had more time, we would have loved to stay overnight in one of the Bedouin camps. Perhaps next time.
After a long afternoon in Wadi Rum, we headed to Petra - our home from the next 2 nights. We arrived around 7 PM that evening, just in time for the Petra By Night tour. I had come across some less than stellar reviews online but decided to join the tour anyways. I'd rather regret going than not going...if that makes sense. The middling reviews were deserved. The experience was too expensive and felt very fabricated. However, I'd argue it was still worth it just to see the Treasury surrounded by hundreds of candles. If anything, Petra By Night got us even more excited about the day ahead.
We woke up very early the next morning to enter the archeological sight before the swell of tourists. Luckily, our hotel, Petra Guest House, was situated right in front of the main entrance. As we walked through the narrow siiq, our tour guide explained the history of the ancient city. Most people (at least those who have seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) will immediately recognize Petra's most famous landmark, the Treasury. However, what we didn't realize was how expansive the site really is. There's so much more to discover, including the Street of Facades, the Great Temple and the Monastery. We spent the entire day exploring Petra and taking on some arduous hikes. One small tip for anyone planning a visit. There's a challenging climb that culminates in an awesome view of the Treasury from above. Make sure to go early in the day when the sun hits the building's facade.
As for that "swell of tourists" we were expecting? It never happened. On one hand, it was awesome experiencing Petra without thousands of other visitors to fend off. However, it was also sad seeing how hard the country's tourism industry has been hit in recent years. Much of the area's population depends on tourism to make a living. Jordan's tourism board has been actively promoting the country's history, diversity and safety. Hopefully, more will be swayed to visit this beautiful country.
The next morning, we made our way from Petra to the Dead Sea. After an awesome but tiring 2 days, it was time to slow things down a bit and unwind. The scenic drive along the Dead Sea Highway took us through the mountainous Dana Biosphere Reserve down to the Earth's lowest elevation on land. We arrived at the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar around noon and immediately changed into our swim trunks. Effortlessly floating in the Dead Sea is an indescribable experience. Just don't expect to stay in the water too long. The high salt concentration stings, especially if you have any scars or scratches.