Jordan has a tradition of welcoming visitors: camel caravans plied the legendary King’s Highway transporting frankincense in exchange for spices while Nabataean tradesmen, Roman legionnaires, Muslim armies and zealous Crusaders all passed through the land, leaving behind impressive monuments. These monuments, including Roman amphitheaters, Crusader castles and Christian mosaics, have fascinated subsequent travellers in search of antiquity and the origins of faith. The tradition of hospitality to visitors remains to this day.
Petra: A World Wonder
Petra, the ancient Nabataean city locked in the heart of Jordan’s sandstone escarpments, is the jewel in the crown of the country’s many antiquities. Ever since explorer Jean Louis Burckhardt brought news of the pink-hued necropolis back to Europe in the 19th century, the walk through the Siq to the Treasury (Petra’s defining monument) has impressed even the most travel-weary of visitors. With sites flung over a vast rocky landscape and a mood that changes with the shifting light of dawn and dusk, this is a highlight that rewards a longer visit.
Take a ride through Wadi Rum at sunset, and it's easy to see why TE Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) was so drawn to this land of weathered sandstone and reddened dunes. But Jordan's desert landscapes are not confined to the southeast: they encompass a salt sea at the lowest point on earth, canyons flowing with seasonal water, oases of palm trees and explosions of springtime flowers scattered across arid hills. Minimal planning and only a modest budget is required for an adventure.
It takes tolerance to host endless waves of incomers, and Jordan has displayed that virtue amply, absorbing thousands of refugees from the Palestinian Territories, Iraq and most recently Syria. Despite contending with this and with large numbers of tourists who are often insensitive to conservative Jordanian values, rural life, in particular, has managed to keep continuity with the traditions of the past. While Jordan faces the challenges of modernization and growing urbanization, it remains one of the safest countries in which to gain an impression of the quintessential Middle East.
Based on the traditional Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influences, the food in Jordan is delicious and thankfully plentiful. Meals usually start out with a variety of mezze or small plates including traditional hummus, baba ghanoush and small meat plates. Main courses vary and can include roasted meats or even mansaf, the national dish of Jordan. Made from lamb, fermented yogurt, spices and rice, it's a delicious and hearty social event that every tourist should try at least once. No matter what you decided to nosh on, it's hard to go wrong at mealtimes in Jordan.
Don't fret, my fellow adventure travelers, if adrenaline-pumping experiences are what you look for when you travel, then Jordan is for you. Since most of the best activities are outdoors, adventure travel is a natural way to see this remarkable country. Near the Dead Sea, you can skydive and get a view of the sea and desert that will knock your socks off.
At the other extreme, the Red Sea near Aqaba boasts some of the best snorkeling and diving opportunities in the world. The crystal clear waters provide interactions with wildlife that you can't experience anywhere else. Finally, to really get up close and personal with nature, embark on the intense 16-kilometer hike through the Dana Biosphere Reserve. A gorgeous example of desert landscape, the hike is strenuous but beautiful as you weave through valleys and small, hidden oases, following the path Bedouins have used for centuries.
It's not all go-go-go in Jordan though. If rest and relaxation, with a touch of luxury, is what you're looking for, Jordan can oblige that as well. Some of the best hotels in the world can be found within the country's borders including the Kempinski Ishtar on the banks of the Dead Sea, the Evason Six Sense Ma'In next to naturally occurring warm spring waterfalls and of course the more rugged luxury found in Wadi Rum.