Don't Miss | Aqaba
Aqaba is the ideal location for combined holidays for divers and non-divers. There is plenty to do in and around Aqaba to keep everyone happy. With its laid back atmosphere combined with history, culture, good food and shopping, the city of Aqaba is a holiday destination in itself. It is also the perfect base for visiting the rest of Jordan, offering easy access to its archaeological and natural attractions. The spectacular Nabatean city of Petra, the Wadi Rum Reserve, Dead Sea, Bethany beyond the Jordan, Crusader castles, nature reserves and much more are just hours away and are ideal for day trips or overnight stays.
Towering mesas, beautiful sandy valleys and steep cliffs in shades of beige and orange-red set the Wadi Rum area apart from the open desert. Wadi Rum’s mountain deserts supports a unique ecosystem that is home to an equally unique human culture, that of the pastoral nomadic Arab tribes, better known as the Bedouin.
Wadi Rum and the nearby area of Disi cater to nature lovers, to those looking for a climb or a trek or those eager to try their first camel ride, to eat traditional Bedouin food by an open fire and for those wanting go off on a Jeep or horse safari for several days. The less adventurous will marvel at the stunning landscape they can admire from the Wadi Rum Visitors’ Centre. In between, a whole range of desert experiences is available.
Today large numbers of tourists visit the landscape which covers some 720 square kilometres and is characterised by vast mountains of sandstone and granite that spring up from the desert. Public minibuses run daily between Aqaba and Wadi Rum and cost 3JD or you can take a taxi, for 20JD, it's about 40 minutes by car. Local Bedouin tribespeople host visitors in traditional tents and you can tour the area by camel, jeep or even by hot air balloon. This breathtaking landscape is undeniably beautiful, and the star-filled skies make an overnight stay a must.
Another advantage of Aqaba is its proximity to Petra, Jordan's ancient Nabatean city that was announced as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World during a star-studded event held on 7 July. 2007 in Lisbon, Portugal.
The city invites superlatives and is not to be missed. It lies in the heart of the remote Shara mountains but was once a vital part of a major trading route connecting ancient Mesopotamia, Africa, China and India. The Nabatean traders prospered and built a city of rock that remains a place of magic with its ornate carved façades and ever-changing colours. The Nabateans were not alone in appreciating Petra’s location, the site also has fascinating Roman and Byzantine remains.
Petra’s most impressive monument is El Khazneh - The Treasury, which is nearly 140 feet high and 90 feet wide. The Treasury set among hundreds of rock-cut tombs, temple facades and funeral halls was used in the final sequence of the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Three large structures, identified as the Royal Tombs, have been carved into the face of the rock which is known as the King’s Wall. The tomb of Sekstus Florentinus, a Roman governor, is another famous monument in Petra. Don't miss the amphitheatre which is preserved in perfect condition.
It is possible to spend a day on a comfortable walk through Petra and if you have more time you can climb to the High Place of Sacrifice or to the Monastery, two of its highest points. They are easily accessible if you are reasonably fit and you will be rewarded with wonderful views. The High Place of Sacrifice involves a 30–40 minute climb. The climb to the Monastery is more demanding but it is one of the largest monuments in Petra with a 50-metre square façade, and the area has views over both the Petra basin and Wadi Araba.
You can catch a public minibus to Wadi Musa from Aqaba bus station for around 5JD, the trip takes 1.5 to 2 hours. Alternatively take a taxi for 30JD or 80JD for the round trip.
It may be the lowest point on Earth at 400m below sea level, but people have revived their spirits in the salty water of the Dead Sea for thousands of years. Rivers flow into this large body of water bringing rich minerals and salt which evaporate in the landlocked lake making a wonderful natural spa. Join everyone else capturing photos of newspaper-reading bathers in the wonderfully buoyant water.
For a dramatic location, few places can challenge Shobak castle; the first crusader castle built in Jordan and still standing sentinel over the landscape. Both Mamluk and Ottoman rulers in Jordan have extensively rebuilt the Castle since Crusader times. Traces of this work can be seen in fine Mamluk inscriptions and the remnants of Ottoman houses. Get ready to a warm welcome from the Ayoubis. Go for the ultimate underground tunnel challenge which will take you out of the castle and from there go into a breathtaking hike all the way through Wadi Al Ghweir.
Experience the wilderness while hiking in Wadi Araba, a desert with gorges and mountains and part of the Great Rift Valley sited between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea.
Mujib nature reserve
The lowest nature reserve on earth but high in interest, the Mujib Nature Reserve borders the Dead Sea and is rich with wild life. The Reserve is home to a successful ibex breeding programme run by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN). Take a guided hike through Wadi Mujib’s spectacular gorge and rappel down its waterfalls or hop on the RSCN’s solar-powered boat for a view of the Mujib mountains.
Dana Biosphere Reserve
Hiking, canyoning and bird watching are just some of the activities available at this large reserve to the east of the Dead Sea. Known for it's rich biodiversity, Dana encompasses Jordan's four geographical zones (Mediterranean, Irano-Turanian, Saharo-Arabian and Sudanian) and as a result has a remarkable combination of animals and plants. Look out for mountain gazelles, red foxes and wolves and pack your binoculars, there more than 180 species of birds including steppe eagles.