What a sensation, being drove in an old 4WD in that unique landscape.
That lasted for only a couple of hours, but it was enough to feel the desert, the adventure of vehicles sunken in the sand, the relief and hospitality of a Bedouin tent, and the comfortable expectation of a shower and cold drinks waiting us at the hotel.
What a surprise, the happiness and joy of my wife, facing the wind under the burning sun. But life is hard there, even with the income from the tourists, so common that it is hard to get out of the "beaten path".
In more peaceful times, a trip to southern Syria from Jordan was very easy and extremely rewarding, whether as day trip or overnight stay. From Amman, it only takes about one hour to reach the border, very close to the Hauran region (Roman Auranitis), which has a wealth of ancient cities and ruins. Chief among them is Bosra with its spectacular Roman Theatre and well-preserved Nabataean, Roman, paleo-Christian, and early Islamic monuments. Other smaller towns, such as Shahba (Roman Philippopolis), Qanawat (Canatha), and Suweida (Dionysias) contain equally astonishing monuments. Attached are a few photos. For more, take a look at the Syria page and pray for the Syrian crisis to end!
If you want to discover "Al Deir" in Petra, I recommend to "rent" a donkey :)
First the way up is super tiring: very long and too much stairs
Second it will be a very special experience that you will remember for ever
It is a little bit scary especially if the donkey insist on walking at the edge and I don’t guarantee that it is 100% safe but it was really fun. I was laughing and screaming all the time. We went down on foot; I guess it is too much creepy to go down the stairs on a donkey.
Don't forget to look around: amazing views.
If you want to get a typical souvenir from Petra, don't miss visiting the tent of Abdullah who sells all kind of colored, magical stones transformed into beautiful necklaces, rings and others… and if you are eager to know about each stone, he is the right person to ask.
Abdullah's tent is located just before reaching the stairs to “The Court”
Mount Nebo is an important place for christianity, as it is the place that Moses was shown the Holy Land. Mount Nebo is on a hill right on the border with Palestine, so from its summit you can see jericho quite clearly. Even if you're not religious it's still worth to go there and see the nice mosaics inside the ittle church. The friars are very friendly and welcoming and, this is another reason to go there, produce and sell a great wine: mount nebo wine. Address:
Franciscan Friars, Mount Nebo
P.O.Box 2 Faysaliyah - 17196 Madaba - Jordan
Of the many spectacular sights along the King's Highway, perhaps the Wadi Mujib canyon is the most impressive. This huge canyon winds its way from the mountains down to the Dead Sea, dropping from a height of 1200 metres to the lowest point on Earth, 400 metres below sea level.
The canyon is situated between Madaba and Karak, and the best way to access it is along the King's Highway, a long, winding route through the hills which stretches all the way from Madaba to below Petra. There is a viewpoint on the King's Highway above Wadi Mujib from where there are excellent views of the canyon. This is a very windswept place but worth stopping for the superb scenery.
The ruins of Pella pale in comparison to those in Jerash or Umm Qais, but the location in the hills east of the River Jordan Valley is stunning and it's a very peaceful and scenic place with good hiking opportunities.
Pella's ruins consist of three Byzantine churches spread out over a wide area. The site is free to visit but there's no information available on site about what you are seeing.
Above the ruins lies the Resthouse, a restaurant run by a friendly local man, Hussein, who also operates the Countryside Hotel, the only hotel in the area. See my accommodation tip on the Countryside Hotel for more about this - most people visit Pella on a day trip from Jordan taking in Jerash and Umm Qais, but it's much nicer to stay in the area if you can.
To get to Pella you turn off the River Jordan Highway at Msharea, until after about two kilometres you'll see signs for Pella.
Most visitors to Umm Qais take the road from Irbid, but there is a more scenic route along the Yarmuck Gorge road, which takes you from the River Jordan Highway up into the hills via a spectacular winding route with switchbacks.
The views of the Jordan Valley and the Yarmuck Gorge are spectacular while you can also catch an occasional glimpse of the Golan Heights to the north. The drive starts from the village of Shuneh in the River Jordan Valley.
The turn off is signposted only in Arabic, so it's very easy to miss. We drove through the village and ended up at near Baquora, an area close tot he Israeli border patrolled by the Jordanian army. The army guy spoke no English but he pointed us back to Shuneh. Once back in Shuneh we finally worked out the way to the Yarmuck Gorge road by comparing the Arabic writing on the signposts with what was in our guidebook!
It took about 30 minutes to reach Umm Qais along this road, but we did stop a number of times to take pictures and to admire the view. We also caught a glimpse of the huge Wihdeh Dam, a joint engineering project between Jordan and Syria.
This whole area is very close to the border so we also had to stop at a couple of checkpoints. But despite the security presence it's a wonderful drive and a good alternative route to Umm Qais.
In your Jerash visit, you see three Arabic men in local costumes at ancient theatre. I call them "The Jerash Trio". When a group of tourist came into ancient theatre, they start to play most famous song of those tourists' country. They have a man at the entrance of theatre therefore they know the origin country of groups. It's fun. Tourists dance by their songs and sing together.
Dead Sea is, a place under 400m. of sea level, a real must see in Jordan. There are fine spa hotels and beaches for having mud experience. Dead Spa Hotel is a nice place with pools, a red beach and goor food.
Protect your eyes when you play in mud. It hurts...
The most impotant thing is in Dead Sea get relaxed and float. Sea will do everything for you :)
The small village of Mukawir is reached by a 20 km detour off the King's Highway, and is worth a visit for the chance to see the ruined Palace of Machaerus, which stands on a hill beyond the village, and which is best known as the place where Salome danced for King Herod and where John the Baptist was beheaded.
Not much remains of the palace nowadays, but the view is still superb, with excellent panoramas in all directions, especially down to the Dead Sea and across into Israel. There is a car park opposite the hillside, from where it's a 10 minute hike to the top.
After staying overnight in the Pella Countryside Hotel, we hiked to the summit of Jebel Sartaba (309m) the following morning. This is a fairly straightforward hike though finding the summit took us longer than I would have thought.
The hike starts from the Pella resthouse, and descends to the Pella ruins (40 metres below sea-level), before climbing steeply to Sartaba. This hike is especially nice in spring when flowers cover the hillside. It took us just under two hours for the whole hike - ie to the summit and back to the Resthouse. The mountain was deserted other than for a couple of shepherds and their sheep and goats.
From the summit there are excellent views down to the River Jordan Valley and across into Palestine. Also on the summit are the ruins of a Hellenistic fortress. We learned about this hike from the useful trekking book "Jordan: Walks, Treks, Caves and Canyons" by Di Taylor and Tony Howard.
Socialization efforts with camels are sometime an efficient way of bonding with bedouins. I'm not kidding (not too much), as the love Bedouins have for there camels, horses and dromedaries is not a legend.
This could be extended to donkeys also (Petra)
Old crusader castle near Shobak village around ½ hour from Petra. The exterior walls are very intact and the castle commands a superb site. Inside is pretty much in ruins. Great example of crusader style castle and great views over Jordanian countryside. Well worth a detour.
Well, its a little off the beaten path, around ½ hour in taxi from Wadi Musa (Petra). The Dana village is set amongst some beautiful cliffs with Wadi Dana in the valley some 1500m below. Its very nice wandering around the village and lots of little treks around the town.
I was moved to this hotel in Wadi Musa, after the hotel I booked did not have a room available. The...more
The Four Seasons Hotel in Amman is definitely fit for a king (or queen). An Arab sheikh would like...more
Wadi Rum, Jordan
Good for: Couples
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