With its rich history and culture, Jordan is a destination that will surprise and delight even the most experienced of travelers. The country is warm, friendly, and inviting, offering unique opportunities to explore enchanting cities, breathtaking landscapes, and an array of wonders left over from the ancient world. For centuries, Jordan has served as the crossroads of civilization and trade, and even now it remains an important hub for the Middle East and beyond.
But Jordan also has plenty to offer those who are looking for an adventure as well. Whether you're looking for an adrenaline-inducing thrill ride or a physically challenging excursion to remote places, you'll find plenty to love in this country. With that in mind, these are our suggestions for the 10 top adventures for anyone visiting Jordan.
Go on a Camel Trek
As with other parts of the Middle East, the camel has played an important role throughout Jordan's history. While modern vehicles have mostly replaced the animals as a mode of transportation, travelers can still make a traditional camel trek deep into the desert. But unlike most tourist camel rides that only last a few minutes, these excursions can take place over a couple of days. Those adventurous enough to join one of these trekking expeditions will ride their camels along ancient Bedouin trading routes that are seldom seen be outsiders. They'll also get the opportunity to camp beneath the stars and experience what it is like to travel and live in the desert. The harsh environment found there may be unforgiving, but it is unbelievably beautiful too.
Explore Petra Beyond the Treasury
The Rose Red City of Petra is no doubt one of the most iconic sites in all of Jordan, having served as a backdrop for numerous films, television shows, and books. But what most people don't know is that the Treasury, the famous building carved out of the side of a mountain, is only the beginning. Wander past that ancient marvel, and you'll discover an entire city to explore, with homes, an amphitheater, palaces, tombs, and much more.
One of the truly great places to visit inside Petra is the Monastery, another structure carved into the side of mountain. The Monastery resembles the Treasury in many ways, but in order to get to it you must first climb more than 800 steps. The views at the top make it totally worth it, however, and there are far smaller crowds there than those near the entrance.
Go Rock Climbing in Wadi Rum
Cut from the granite and sandstone rock of southern Jordan, Wadi Rum (a.k.a. the Valley of the Moon) is an arid wilderness that has plenty to offer the wandering adventurer. For instance, the massive rock faces found there provide opportunities for some truly world-class climbing that lures some of the best rock climbers in the world on an annual basis.
There are literally hundreds of routes to choose from, most of which are seldom crowded. Beginners will even find some short, relatively easy walls to test their skills on, giving them the experience necessary to take on the harder, longer routes that are located across the region.
Wadi Rum climbing tours can last anywhere from a half-day to a full week, depending on how much climbing you want to do.
Embark on a 4x4 Desert Safari
Wadi Rum is a vast desert, stretching out across more than 278 square miles. The rocky cliffs that dot the landscape there create a maze of canyons just begging to be explored. The best way to do that is by 4x4 vehicle, wandering deep into the valley to discover the silence and solitude that can only be found at the heart of a vast desert.
Highlights of a Wadi Rum 4x4 safari include discovering ancient inscriptions and drawings on some of the rock walls, locating a hidden Nabatean temple, and witnessing a crimson sunset over the desert. Travelers will also spot natural rock bridges and arches which dramatically show the passage of time in the desert, while also driving up, over, and down some of the most massive sand dunes imaginable.
Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride Over the Desert
Wadi Rum's amazing landscapes are breathtaking from the ground, but to truly understand the full scope of the natural beauty found there, you really need to see the valley from the sky. Hot air balloon rides are offered most mornings, giving visitors a chance to rise above the towering sandstone cliffs and drift silently across the desert. It is a peaceful and relaxing way to get a sense of the grandeur of the place, which looks even more spectacular from a bird's eye view. This adventure requires travelers to get up bright and early, but the rewards certainly make it well worth the effort.
Go Snorkeling or Scuba Diving in the Red Sea
Jordan only has about 17 miles of coastline along the Red Sea, but those 17 miles offer up some of the best diving and snorkeling in the entire region. This section of the water is well known for its large and colorful coral reefs, which in turn attracts plenty of colorful fish and other marine life too. There are even several wreck dives in the area, including one that involves an American M42 Duster tank that was dropped to the bottom the sea.
One of the best wreck dives in Jordanian waters is certainly the Cedar Pride, a cargo vessel that sank off the coast in 1985. The ship sits just 35 feet beneath the surface and has become the home of stingrays and other aquatic animals in the years that have followed. The wreck is easily accessible and a popular spot for divers looking to explore more than just the local reef system.
Spot Wildlife in the Shawmari Reserve
Jordan's Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, founded the Shawmari Reserve back in 1975 as a place to protect some of the most endangered species across the Middle East. Since then, the wildlife experts at the reserve have worked with zoos and other wildlife parks in an effort to create a breeding center to ensure that many of the creatures found there will be around for future generations as well.
At just 8.5 square miles in size, the game preserve isn't particularly large. Still, it is home to oryx, ostriches, gazelles, and onagers, making it a good destination for those looking to spot some of the local wildlife. An observation tower makes that surprisingly easy to do, but safari excursions are also an option.
Spend the Night in a Bedouin Camp
The sprawling desert can provide some interesting cultural experiences, including the opportunity to spend the night in a traditional Bedouin camp.
During the day, the desert can be hot and arid, but at night it turns pleasantly cool, with millions of stars on display overhead. Guests at the Bedouin camp are treated to a traditional meal and are enchanted with local stories and legends about the desert and the people who live there. And when they are ready to retire for the evening, private tents will be waiting to provide a good night's sleep. Over night, Wadi Rum is incredibly quiet and peaceful, making it the perfect place for a camping experience.
Explore Vast Canyons
The landscapes found in eastern Jordan are particularly well suited for adventure travelers looking to go canyoneering. The Wadi Araba desert is filled with twisty, narrow gorges, some of which haven't been completely explored just yet. Visitors will begin by first rappelling down into the canyons, then spend several hours hiking their way through the sandstone passageways that have been carved by nature over thousands of years of geological change.
Two of the more popular routes include the Siq Trail, which is an easy two- to three-hour trek, and the Malaqi Trail, which is more difficult and requires roughly 7 hours to complete. Travelers looking for something that falls in between these two options will find plenty of choices, too, as the number of routes is practically endless.
Walk the Ancient Ruins of Jerash
The Jordanian city of Jerash holds the distinction of being one of the oldest communities in the world. The city has been inhabited by humans for more than 6,500 years, which means there is a lot of history to be found there.
Jerash is home to some of the best preserved Roman ruins in the entire Middle East, including paved and colonnaded streets, sprawling amphitheaters, large city squares, fountains, public baths, towers, palaces, and more.
A visit to Jerash is akin to stepping back in time, as much of the ruins found there are incredibly well preserved. The massive complex of Roman structures stand in sharp contrast to the modern city, which surrounds the ancient site, providing context and perspective on how far man has come in terms of technological enhancements.