There are some trips that give travelers a different lens with which to view the world. My journey to Jordan was one of those. I returned with a broader perspective, newfound knowledge and the sense that it is vital for travelers to experience this part of the globe. This is particularly true for families, as travel has a wonderful way of enabling adults and children to become citizens of the world.
Here are ten of my favorite reasons to choose Jordan for your next trip:
1. Exploring Petra. Petra is even more astounding than one can imagine. Anyone who has seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade has visualized what it would be like to stand in front of the rose-red rock facade of the Treasury. What most people don’t fully comprehend, however, is Petra's vast size. Built by the Nabataeans around 300 B.C., the ancient city of Petra currently consists of over 800 individual temples, tombs and monuments. This famed site is one of the Seven New Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors reach the Treasury by walking or riding down The Siq, a narrow slot canyon spanning approximately two-thirds of a mile. Don’t miss seeing the Monastery, arguably even more beautiful than the Treasury. Reaching the Monastery involves climbing over 900 steps or perhaps taking a donkey ride. No matter which way you choose to go, the trip is well worth it.
2. Connecting with the People. As a country, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has many magnificent sites to visit including the Red Sea, Dead Sea, Petra, and the vast desert expanses of Wadi Rum - just to name a few. But in the end, it may be the people that you'll remember most. Jordan’s citizens effortlessly enter your heart with their warm smiles and welcoming ways and remain there long after you have returned home. While the sights and sounds of Jordan are truly spectacular, the people are surely one of the Kingdom's greatest treasures.
3. Snorkeling in the Red Sea. Relaxing by the sea is a wonderful way for families and vacationers to unwind during their Jordan trip. Visitors can access the Red Sea at Aqaba, Jordan’s major port city. The Aqaba area is home to a number of family-friendly hotels including the Moevenpick Resort & Spa, DoubleTree, InterContinental and the Radisson Blu. While here, watersports lovers should take a half-day snorkeling or diving excursion. The Red Sea region is known for its wide diversity of hard and soft corals and abundant marine life.
4. Floating in the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea has been a major attraction for thousands of years and it’s a “must see” spot for families visiting Jordan. Lying at the world’s lowest elevation on land, the Dead Sea is one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water with 33.7% salinity. Floating here is an unbelievably relaxing experience, particularly at sunset when the sea turns an astounding array of colors. The Dead Sea’s minerals and mud are said to have therapeutic properties, so you’ll see scores of vacationers covering themselves in Dead Sea mud and letting it dry before entering the water. Families can choose from a number of top properties with expansive pools and facilities, including the amenity-rich Moevenpick Resort & Spa, Marriott, Kempinski and Holiday Inn hotels. Evason Ma’In Hot Springs & Six Senses Spa, a scenic resort with natural hot spring waterfalls, is also located in the Dead Sea area.
5. Finding Peace in Wadi Rum. Vast desert landscapes and monolithic peaks come together in Wadi Rum, also known as the Valley of the Moon. T.E. Lawrence aptly described Wadi Rum as “vast, echoing and God-like...” and it served as the site for much of the filming of Lawrence of Arabia. It’s here that visitors can escape the confines of today’s modern world and find complete tranquility. There are plenty of day trips available, including memorable camel rides and exhilarating 4x4 jeep safaris to the Seven Pillars of Wisdom and the towering Burdah Rock Bridge. I’m not someone who naturally loves deserts, but this turned out to be one of my favorite places on my Jordan journey. There’s just something about this magical place that frees the soul.
6. Camping Out Under the Stars. To get the true feel of Wadi Rum, sleep out in the desert in an authentic Bedouin goat hair tent at one of Captain’s Desert Camp’s more remote camps within the reserve. Spend the night eating Zarb, a special Bedouin meal, dancing, and watching shooting stars race across the sky. The next morning, take a camel ride across the desert or float above Wadi Rum in a hot air balloon. Truly, it doesn’t get much better than this. Another classic camping experience can be found in the Dana Biosphere Reserve, Jordan’s largest nature preserve sprawling over four distinct bio-geographical zones and almost 200 miles.
7. Hiking through Spectacular Vistas. Jordan is filled with many superb trekking spots, some winding through colorful sandstone gorges and red-walled chasms. Hikes can be found for every ability level and age group. A good guide or concierge can suggest which ones might be best for your family. Located within the Dana Biosphere Reserve, Feynan Ecolodge is an excellent destination for vacationers who enjoy hiking and experiential travel. National Geographic Adventure Magazine named solar powered Feynan Ecolodge as one of the Top 50 Ecolodges in the World. Hiking is one of the most popular activities here. Canyoning and trekking through Wadi Mujib, a river-filled gorge located over 400 meters below sea level, is another exciting experience for adventurous travelers ages 18 and older.
8. Experiencing the Culture. When planning a visit to Jordan, make sure to include plenty of opportunities to soak up its culture. This is often easier to do when traveling with a guide or staying at properties like Feynan Ecolodge and Captain’s Desert Camps that integrate cultural interaction into their activities. Learn about the Bedouin lifestyle and participate in a Bedouin coffee ceremony or enjoy a simple meal with a Jordanian family. Sample delicious native foods or even try your hand at making Jordanian dishes at Petra Kitchen. Wander through Amman’s souq and learn about herbs and spices. Above all, take the opportunity to interact with local people. My conversations with groups of young university women were lively and insightful. Then there were all the people who wanted me to share their coffee, their food, or gave me little gifts to remember Jordan by – all accompanied by warm smiles. The welcoming and gracious nature of Jordan’s people is a key part of its culture.
9. Learning about Ancient History. Many of Jordan’s cities are treasure troves of Roman, Greek and Byzantine ruins. In Jerash, visitors can stroll through one of the best preserved Roman cities in the Mediterranean. The area includes the massive Hadrian’s Arch, the Hippodrome, theatres, temples, and beautifully colonnaded streets. Amman also has an impressive collection of ancient sites, including Citadel Hill with its remains of the Temple of Hercules, Umayyad Palace, Byzantine Basilica and other structures. Make sure to spend some time in the Jordan Archeological Museum here. The 6,000-seat Roman Theatre in Amman is worth seeing as well. Then, of course, there are all the medieval Crusader castles for families to explore, including Karak, Ajloun and Shobak.
10. Taking a Biblical Journey. Jordan is home to a number of major biblical sites. Two of the best known are Mount Nebo, where Moses first viewed the Promised Land, and Bethany Beyond the Jordan where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. There are many more places with religious significance in Jordan, though - easily enough to make up a week-long pilgrimage. Umm Qays is the place where Jesus performed his miracle of the Gadarene Swine. Lot’s cave is located near the modern Jordanian town of Safi. Jerash, Madaba, Aqaba and the Dead Sea also contain significant religious spots. So does Petra. Moses and the Israelites passed through the Petra region on their journey. Aaron, Moses’ brother, died in Jordan and is buried atop Mount Hor in Petra.
A trip to Jordan is a visually rich and memorable journey, full of experiences that will last a lifetime. To see more of Jordan through pictures, check out "My Jordan Journey" on Pinterest.