Jordan is an ancient land filled with mysteries and discoveries. It’s where Moses first saw the Holy Land, and John baptized Jesus. Greco-Roman cities still rise from the mountains, and nomads live in caves in remote desert canyons.
Jordan adventures are experiences of biblical proportions, not just because they’re good clean fun, but you’ll glimpse an essential story thread that sews together over 3,000 years of history. Only you’ll be more like Indiana Jones from the Last Crusade instead of studying dry academia at Marshall College, where Professor Jones taught.
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Jordan Trekking Tours
Jordan trekking tours generally operate along portions of the Jordan Trail, a long-distance hiking trail in Jordan connecting the length of Jordan from Umm Qais in the north to Aqaba in the south. True to the customs of the land, traveling the entire 420 miles of the trail takes 40 days and 40 nights of wandering through the desert. You’ll pass through 75 villages and towns as you traverse Jordan’s diverse landscapes.
Trekking in Jordan is a journey through fascinating history, diverse cultures, and unforgettable views. You start in the north with rolling wooded hills and travel to the rugged wadis (canyons) and cliffs overlooking the Jordan Rift Valley. There you’ll see the rose rock of Petra, the shifting sands of Wadi Rum, and the crystal waters of the Red Sea.
Some of our favorite Jordan trekking tours are:
Jordan Bike Trail
The Jordan Bike Trail is a brilliant way to explore the country if you don’t have the time or the inclination to spend 40 days and 40 nights wandering in the desert. Perhaps that’s why Experience Jordan has won gold in the category ‘Best in Adventure Tourism’ at the International Travel & Tourism Awards 2018 with the Jordan Bike Trail project. The trans-Jordan bike route follows the same stops and general routing as the Jordan Trail.
In total, it’s a 450-mile, mixed-surface route that’s roughly 60% paved. Also, note that the trail is designed to be ridden north to south to take advantage of the terrain and one-way checkpoint between Wadi Rum and Aqaba. The trip can be divided into 12 single-day stages averaging almost 40 miles a day and climbing nearly a mile daily.
Minimalists can ride self-supported with plenty of beta available on the Bike Jordan site. Be aware that there are few bike shops outside of Amman. However, we love that there’s enough road access to allow for fully supported rides with SAG support.
Tour providers for the Jordan Bike Trail are:
Urban Adventures in Jordan
When we say urban adventures, we’re talking about north Jordan. It’s the greenest part of the county, where you’ll find many ruins of ancient civilizations. It’s a kaleidoscope of landscape with the fertile Jordan Valley, expansive grasslands on the hills, and oak forests on the mountain tops. Against this backdrop, you’ll find mysterious prehistoric structures, Roman cities, and community-based tourism.
We loved visiting Jerash, one of the largest and most beautiful Greco-Roman cities outside of Italy. Baraka Destinations let us experience life as locals in Umm Qais, learning the ancient art of stone cutting and beekeeping, followed by a traditional meal prepared in our host’s home. In Amman, we toured the Citadel and museums before exploring the underground art and hip-hop scene with a city tour from Through Local Eyes.
There are hundreds of urban adventures in Jordan, but some of our other favorites are:
Desert Adventures in Jordan
Most of Jordan is desert, despite the majority of the population living in the northern highlands. As you leave the cities and towns behind, you enter a world where time stands still. For centuries, semi-nomadic Bedouin tribes lived in the North Arabian Desert, one of the driest places on Earth. Their villages and camps sprung up around the desert’s most precious commodity – water.
Modern desert adventures in Jordan let you experience this unusual ancient world. You can take day trips exploring the canyons (wadis) and Bedouin experiences. However, if you can, you should try to spend the night in the desert. The sun sets in the most vivid oranges imaginable, revealing an ocean of stars suspended in the pitch-black night sky.
Petra is an ancient city carved from the walls of a sandstone canyon. It was the capital of the Nabataeans, who amassed great wealth and power from caravans crossing the deserts from Persia. Today, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but the B’doul descendants from the Nabataean still live in caves throughout the wadi.
Petra is Jordan’s most visited attraction for a reason – the beautiful and elaborately carved facades, especially on the Treasury. However, visiting Petra isn’t a tedious exercise in academia; it’s an adventure unto itself.
You enter Petra through the Siq, a mile-long narrow canyon. When I first saw the Treasury, I almost cried because it was so beautiful. When I first climbed to the Monastery, I almost cried as well…but for other reasons. It takes over an hour to climb up steps carved over a thousand years ago. If I had my druthers, I would have hired a guide who knew the way back at night so that I could have watched the sunset from the Monastery and descended into the valley for the Petra By Night light show. If you’re even more adventurous, you can arrange a homestay in a B’doul cave.
The best adventures in Petra are:
- Hiking the Siq – The obligatory but beautiful entry hike to Petra
- Climbing to the Monastery – A long rewarding climb up hundreds of stairs (850 to be exact) to a beautiful high point and carved monument
- Petra at Night – illuminated by 1,500 candles with the ambient sounds of flutes and strings, you can see Petra in a new light
- Bedouin Homestays – experience what it’s like to live as a Bedouin for a night
- Little Petra – When you can’t get enough Petra
Wadi Rum Adventures
Most people think of Wadi Rum adventures when they hear about the Jordanian desert. It’s called the Valley of the Moon because of its otherworldly landscape. Thousands of years of rain and wind carved red rock canyons out of sandstone hills, creating an adventure lover’s paradise.
Wadi Rum adventures are all about moving during the day and engulfing yourself in the stillness of the night. You can take a hike, cruise in a 4×4, ride a sandboard, or take a camel through the wadi for an unforgettable experience. Our guide recommended riding camels early in the morning because it’s hard work to carry tourists during the heat of the day. I chose to ride a jeep for myself and give the camels a rest altogether. At night, I stayed in a luxury bubble tent enveloped in a blanket of stars stretching out across the horizon.
The best adventures in Wadi Rum are:
Wadi Feynan is a significant wadi in southern Jordan and part of the Dana Biosphere Reserve. The biosphere is Jordan’s largest nature reserve and the only one that crosses four bio-geographical zones: Mediterranean, Irano-Turanian, Saharo-Arabian, and Sudanian penetration. As much as that excites science nerds, adventurers will love the Feynan Eco Lodge.
The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) opened the Feynan Ecolodge in 2005 as an ecotourism project. RSCN’s mission of protecting and managing the natural resources of Jordan, for it is responsible for protecting wildlife and wild places and is one of the few voluntary organizations in the Middle East with such a public service mandate. The organization’s achievements include captive breeding and reintroduction into the wilderness of the Arabian Oryx, gazelle, and ibex. Their charter includes the socio-economic development of rural communities and promoting the sustainable use of natural resources, which are focal points of the Feynan Ecolodge.
Feynan Ecolodge’s adventures and activities include hiking, canyoneering, mountain biking, Bedouin cultural experiences, cooking classes, and even stargazing, all creative and sustainable uses of the surrounding natural resources and the local community. However, it was their Bedouin experiences that blew me away.
Experiences include making kohl (a Bedouin eye makeup believed to strengthen eyesight), preparing a traditional Arabic coffee service, and weaving a goat-hair tent. We learned how to make traditional ‘Arbood’ bread, including baking the bread directly in hot ashes. We would never have expected this baking method to be palatable, let alone delicious, but that was just one of many surprises Feynan Ecolodge held for us.
Wadi Mujib Adventure Center
The Mujib Biosphere Reserve is the lowest nature reserve in the world, located near the east coast of the Dead Sea. The Wadi Mujib gorge enters the Dead Sea 1300′ below sea level (the lowest spot on Earth!) while the surrounding mountains climb nearly 3000′ above sea level. The 4300′ elevation change creates year-round water flow and incredible biodiversity.
The Wadi Mujib Adventure Center (operated by Wild Jordan) is another RSCN project dedicated to ecotourism. The Adventure Center is the starting point for your Wadi Mujib adventures, which include several guided and unguided canyoneering routes and ziplining. However, the most popular trip is an unguided trip up Siq Trail.
Even though the Siq Trail is ‘unguided,’ it still has controlled access with personnel situated at key points along the way where people might need a little extra help. All hikers are required to wear a lifejacket, which also limits how many people can be in the canyon at any time (pro tip: show up early before the canyon opens to avoid waiting). You start in ankle-deep water, but as the canyon narrows, there are required swims and rope-aided climbs to reach a beautiful waterfall at the top.
The best adventures in Wadi Mujib are:
- Siq Trail – a 1-mile guided or unguided canyon trek through water
- Canyon Trail – A 3-mile guided trek that enters the Majib river above the Siq Trail and descends back to the Adventure Center
- Malaqi Trail -An extended variation of the Canyon Trail that includes a 1/2 mile scramble up Wadi Hidan
- Ibex Trail – The 3-mile winter (November – March) hiking option in Wadi Muji across the canyon tops
- Rock Climbing – three single-pitch, top rope routes available
- Zip Lines – Race your friends down a 350′ zipline
Ma’in Hot Spring Resort & Spa
Wadi Zarqa Ma’in is another canyon that empties into the Dead Sea, but it’s famous for hot springs instead of cool streams. The best way to experience the canyon is at the Ma’in Hot Spring Resort & Spa. There are some free hot springs in the area, but you have to navigate a maze of social morays to navigate. Besides, the best hot springs are reserved for resort guests only, especially during prime hours.
Make it easy for yourself and book a room at the Ma’in Hot Springs Resort and Spa. Ask the concierge for directions and instructions for the hot springs and soak away your worries. It’s not a high adventure, but it’s a unique experience and a sweet reward for all of your other hard work.
Swimming in the Dead Sea
Even though the streams and canyons that surround the Dead Sea are fresh water, the sea itself is one of the most salinated bodies of water in the world. It’s eight times saltier than most oceans, which lets you float effortlessly in the water. I could hold my arms and legs in the air while floating on my back. In fact, the most challenging thing was getting my feet back below me when I finished showing off.
I also tried the obligatory Dead Sea mud bath, where you cover yourself in highly salinated mud that you let bake in the desert sun for 10 minutes before scrubbing it off. The swim and the mud left me feeling exfoliated and very happy that my Dead Sea experience was at a luxury resort like the Hilton Dead Sea Resort and Spa. Not only because I could wash everything off afterward but because I could check into the spa to round out my self-care day.
Is a self-care day on the Dead Sea the most adventurous thing you could do in Jordan? Maybe not, but it’s a sweet reward after hiking or biking for 400 miles, canyoneering with the Bedouin, and perhaps even sleeping in a cave.
Most Luxurious Resorts on the Dead Sea are:
Diving in the Red Sea
Our final unforgettable Jordan adventure is diving in the Red Sea. Jordan’s borders are carefully drawn to include access to the Red Sea. Coming into the coastal city of Aqaba from the open desert reminded me of driving in the Baja. There was nothing, nothing, and more nothing until you suddenly could see the sparkling blue water and a modern and luxurious resort city.
I was dazzled by the vast and colorful corals and variety of sea life, even though we were anchored just offshore. I can only imagine what diving the Cedar Pride wreck must be like or the unique ‘tank’ dive at the Military Museum Dive Site. Diving in the Red Sea was an explosion of color and life set against the dry beige backdrop of the rugged desert.
The best Red Sea dive sites are::
- Cedar Pride Wreck – A purposefully sunken ship at 70′ with 35 years of multi-colored coral growth from bow to stern
- Underwater Military Museum – An underwater journey through 60 years of Jordanian Armed Forces history
- Paradise – A true wall dive, a true diver’s paradise
- King Abdullah Reef – a magnificent coral atoll surrounded by shallow hard corals
- Black Rock Reef – a colorful shallow reef accented by black basalt
- Seven Sisters – seven coral pinnacles rising from a multi-color reef
Wrapping up Unforgettable Adventures in Jordan
Jordan has been known as a historic destination with their religious sites, the best Roman ruins outside of Italy, and the magical city of Petra. Its biodiversity is off the charts, with expansive deserts connected to magical water playgrounds by a series of mysterious canyons
Adventurers and eco-travelers can see it all with these unforgettable adventures in Jordan while getting their thrill on. However, it’s more than an adrenaline rush and photo op; it’s a journey through time that can only happen in Jordan.
Disclosure: A big thank you to the Jordan Tourism Board for hosting us, setting up a fantastic itinerary, and usage of some of the images throughout (image credit in hover text 😉).
As always, the views and opinions expressed are entirely our own, and we only recommend brands and destinations that we 100% stand behind.
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