Three of our favourite experiences in Jordan
We have travelled extensively around Jordan in order to explore every hidden gem and to work out how to visit the famous highlights in the best and most unique way, so that every trip we create combines luxury with adventure and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Here are just a handful of our favourite experiences in this captivating Middle Eastern country:
AN ADVENTURE NEAR THE DEAD SEA
The Dead Sea is famed for being the lowest point on earth and many flock here to float in the salt water and bake themselves in the Dead Sea mineral mud for therapeutic benefits. However, before we felt deserved of this, we had a day of adventure lined up.
We donned our lifejackets and joined our wonderful guide, Anas, to take us canyoning. Walking through one of the many gorges in Wadi Mujib, the lowest nature reserve on earth, with 50m-high walls on either side, you can’t help but feel overwhelmed, and soon the splashing through puddles became wading through a river, at some points reaching shoulder height. Suddenly, we heard a rushing of water and around the next corner, we were faced with a cascading waterfall. We climbed through a tunnel to get a better view before cooling off in the whirlpools below and then sliding down the falls and rapids to find ourselves back where we began.
In the afternoon, we hopped on mountain bikes at Madaba and cycled from 800m above sea level to 400m below sea level, over 40km, on country lanes with the only traffic jam being caused by a herd of goats crossing the road. After some hard peddling, we reached a magnificent viewpoint looking down to the Dead Sea. From here, the road snaked downhill through vineyards and olive groves, as we reached the shores of the Dead Sea. Despite the heat, which was intense at points, I would recommend exploring many parts of the country by bicycle to anyone who wishes to get a little off the beaten track and see the lesser-known Jordan.
An action-packed day was rewarded by a float in the Dead Sea to cool off, before we coated ourselves in mud for the traditional Dead Sea experience.
LEARNING ABOUT JORDANIAN CUISINE
It may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Jordan, but the incredible cuisine on offer should be a huge allure for any visiting foodie. From the aromatic coffee to the spices and smells of the markets and the enticing mezze, the country really is a Middle Eastern melting pot, a feast for the senses and a highlight of any visit.
Food is a hugely important aspect of Jordanian culture, and when visiting the local villages, meals are a community event with immediate and extended family all present. The cuisine is also commonly used to express hospitality and generosity, and everywhere we went we were served with great pride.
We were introduced to the culinary delights on an evening visit to the lively downtown area of Amman. Meandering through the bustling back streets at sunset, we joined the locals tucking into their Iftar feasts congregating at the legendary Hashem Restaurant for the freshest falafel and hummus in town. This restaurant was so popular with locals and visitors alike that there was stiff competition for tables, many of which were overflowing into the alleyway.
Petra Kitchen is the place to visit to master the flavours and techniques of Jordanian cooking, a fine local initiative encouraging visitors to get a hands-on experience of the Jordanian culture. For us, it was great fun to work alongside local chefs to prepare dishes using numerous spices and flavours, from turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, sumac, tahini and pomegranate molasses. Of course, the best bit was sampling our feast at the end.
One of the most incredible foodie experiences in Jordan is enjoying zarb, a delicacy of the desert area of Wadi Rum. This Bedouin barbecue consists of lightly marinated meats and vegetables submerged into an underground oven with hot coals beneath the desert sands. After being slow-roasted for four hours, the sand is swept away leaving the glorious smells of slow-roasted flavours to billow into the air. The Bedouins have cooked in this way for centuries, but little has changed in the way the foods are cooked and the tender meat falls off the bone – just as it did hundreds of years ago.
PETRA + WADI RUM
Founder + co-owner Henrietta Loyd says: “I am not usually an early riser, but on this day it was well worth it. We departed our hotel at 6.30am, armed with breakfast boxes and spent the next six hours exploring the mind-boggling lost city of Petra, the first three hours of which were without another tourist in sight and we had the staggering landscape and ruins to ourselves.
We then continued our journey to the towering untamed granite rock formations and glowing sand dunes of Wadi Rum where the scenery just kept becoming more stunning. We transferred to a 4WD to take us into the depths of the desert to our private luxury camp, all the way absorbing the views of the dusty orange moonscape, with just a lone camel on the horizon.
As we arrived at our camp, we were greeted with Arabian coffee and dates before being shown to our extravagant tent. As the doorway was peeled back, we were met with disbelief; this was true glamping with a proper bed, pressurised hot water shower, flushing loo and electricity in the middle of nowhere. And there, on the table, was a bottle of champagne. We popped it open in time to witness the sunset over the mountains and a waiter miraculously appeared armed with Jordanian snacks to accompany it. The evening continued with a delicious dinner fit for King Abdullah II himself, slow-cooked for hours underground in a zarb, a Bedouin-style barbecue.
We returned to our tent by moonlight and slept like babies until we were awakened for yet another fantastic meal of beautifully spiced omelettes and freshly squeezed juices against the stunning, desolate backdrop.”
FROM LITTLE PETRA TO PETRA
Another wonderful experience in Jordan is to walk into Petra via the 'backdoor': Little Petra. In order to avoid the inevitable crowds, we suggest you start at about 8am from Little Petra to hike on a less trodden path for about three hours through dramatic scenery without another soul in sight. Your private guide will navigate you around the western side of the mountain so you can walk comfortably in the shade as the sun rises.
There are a few narrow passes with sheer drops, which only add to the spectacular moonscape surroundings and panoramic views. You will then reach the Monastery before the masses, giving you a completely different perspective of Petra, before continuing against the flow of the crowds down the 800 steps to explore the elaborate red-rose city with rock-cut tombs, a Roman-style theatre, temples and colonnaded streets. At the end of the day, you will finally arrive at the Treasury, one of the most famous world wonders, before walking back through the Siq to your hotel.
Do you see
anything you like?
CURIOUS FOR MORE TRAVEL INSPIRATION
Keep up to date with our latest travel news and expertise.