If Indiana Jones felt the need to visit Jordan then who are we to argue with its merits? What Jordan lacks in geographical size it more than makes up for in world class attractions. In Wadi Rum, Petra and the Dead Sea Jordan has 3 world class reasons to draw tourists from around the globe and no-one goes home disappointed. One week may well be enough to quench your Jordanian thirst but every last drop should be savoured because this place truly blows your mind.
There are many places to see in Jordan but if you find yourself strapped for time and are asking ‘what should I see in Jordan’ then look no further. You won’t want to miss these 3 absolute gems:
Wadi Rum: Desert landscapes from another planet, Wadi Rum played host to the filing of ’Lawrence of Arabia’ and it’s easy to see why. Packed with undulating sand dunes and mountains to take your breath, surrounded in deep desert which changes colour with every degree the sun moves throughout the day, Wadi Rum can be organized as a day trip from Aqaba or Amman but to be honest, it’s better to stay the night. You can stay with the Bedouin, the indigenous people of the region, in one of their (not so) genuine local camps in the desert which is a great experience and watching the sunset/sunrise here is something close to magical.
Day trips costs around $50 where 2 days/1night cost around $75. I went for the latter and had an unbelievable time.
Petra: I’m going to struggle to articulate the awe you feel when you first see the Treasury at Petra (that’s the Indiana Jones temple from the Last Crusade gentlemen) but let’s just say it’s rather impressive. Temples and tombs carved from sandstone that reach 45 metres in height, the sight itself is massive. You’ll need 2 days before you get your fill of the Petra (‘rock’ in the Greek language) but it doesn’t come cheap – since the price hike in November 2010, a one day ticket costs around $70 with the two days offering much better value at $80.
One tip not to forget: On one of your days, be at Petra around 5.50am. The gates open at 6am and there will be NO ONE there. You’ll have the entire place to yourself for over an hour, it’s an eerily and impressive experience and one that I couldn’t believe wasn’t more popular. Your photos will be tourist-free and on your way back you can laugh in the faces of the hordes of tourists and their crowded Petra pics!! Check out the contrast….
The Dead Sea: The lowest place on earth according to many sources, the Dead Sea is a ‘must-sea’ (get it??) on your Jordan itinerary. It can be done in a day trip from Amman and in fact that’s probably your best bet if you’re on a budget as accommodation and food in the region will run up bills with more zeroes than your bank account. From Amman, public transport is a real mission so my advice would be to get together with a couple of people and treat yourself to a taxi. It costs around $40 for the cab (4 ppl, $10 each) and is well worth it for an entertaining day of covering yourself with the famous skin-regenerating Dead Sea mud and reading your book while floating in the water.
NOTE: There are 3 ‘official’ beaches on the Jordanian side – Amman beach (around $25 entry fee, with showers and good facilities), the public beach ($15 dollars, bucket showers and average facilities) and the free beach (a bit of a dump but the same water, free mud and, well… free!). Naturally, they all offer the same awesome effect from the high salt levels so the budget travelers, head to the free beach. That’s what I did and I think it offers far and away the best value for money. Be careful though, taxi drivers work on beach commission so they’ll try to discourage you.
Budget: $40 – $50 a day. Not cheap folks however this is largely down to the activities and pace at which you travel through the country. Petra – $80, Dead Sea excursion – $20, Wadi Rum – $80 and that adds up quickly, especially when you’re doing things on consecutive days. On the bright side, you can see most of Jordan’s famous sights in under a week, so take the hit for a few days, have an amazing time and escape before you’re broke.
Currency: 1 Jordan Dinar – $1.41 USD (November 2010)
Food: Standard middle eastern fare – Shawarma, falffel etc. Street food costs around $.50-$2.0 and is pretty delicious. Eating in restaurants, especially around the attractions, costs $5+++.
Accommodation: Each major town offers a sprinkling of cheap accommodation. You can find dorms for around $5 -$8 in Aqaba, Wadi Musa (Petra) and Amman but if you miss the backpacker hostels and take one step up in class you’re looking at $25 minimum.
Transport: Easy! Nice buses, good roads, no need to book ahead. Just head to the local bus station, preferably early in the morning, and sort out your departure. The old rule of one dollar = one hour in a bus is lost in Jordan though. Triple that and you’ll be about right.
People: Coming from the West, as usual we find the local people hugely welcoming. If you can ignore the hawkers around Petra then you’ll only have warm words about the people of Jordan.
Language: Arabic but thanks largely to the good standard of education and the massive tourist industry, plenty of English is spoken nationwide.
Weather: The seasons follow those of Europe so try to avoid December – February when temperatures can get as low as 10 degrees. Equally however, you’ll want to July and August with their 40 degrees + temperatures.
Religion: Predominantly Islam
Visa: VOA free for nearly all nationalities. NOTE: You have to pay 8 Dinar ($13) departure tax, regardless of mode of transport.
Getting there: The main routes to Jordan are:
Egypt via the expensive ferry running from Nuweiba-Aqaba. $80, one hour.
Isreal: Sheik Hussein, King Hussein and Wadi Araba bridges are all now open, just remember about that troublesome Isreali stamp in your passport.
Syria: 2 crossing north of Amman (about 90 mins driving) are Ramtha/Deera and Jabir/Nasib. Both are easily accessible. It costs around $15 from Amman to Damascus but your transport may not wait for you if you have visa issues on the Syrian border. Beware.