Hiker at Wadi Rum Lookout, Jordan

Trekking Your Way to An Epic Jordan Vacation

One of the most eye-opening and enriching moments of your life can be experienced on a Jordan vacation, as you explore the country from top to bottom. But have you ever thought of taking the journey on foot? Taking the concept of a biblical pilgrimage to new heights, the Jordan Trail invites active travellers to hike the 650 kilometre trail in segments lasting from four to six days. The entire route can take up to 36 days, as hikers explore this incredible country in eight distinctive sections.

Anyone who thinks Middle Eastern countries are all about desert needs to take a closer look. Besides its archaeological riches, which are abundant from top to tip, Jordan boasts some of the world’s most impressive mountains and cliffs. Of course, the deserts – called wadis in Jordan – are pretty appealing too, particularly Wadi Rum, made famous in the film, Lawrence of Arabia.

Rock Arch Formations in Wadi Rum, Jordan
Rock arch formations in Wadi Rum

Unlike most trips to Jordan, which usually begin in Amman, the Jordan Trail sets out for Um Qais, high in the country’s north. Its first few 4-day segments showcase Jordan at its most lush and fertile. Hikers can expect green hills, natural springs, and farmland, as well as thriving villages. The highlights, of course, include Byzantine and Roman ruins, the namesake castle at Ajloun, and even some prehistoric sights along the way. The complex mixture of Christian and Muslim influences here has created a cultural legacy like no other. One notable Christian village is Fuheis, which holds the distinction of being home to Jordan’s first microbrewery. Further south, the town of Iraq Al-Amir is home to a unique formation of caves and the Iraq Al-Amir Women’s Cooperative, a former arts development project that has since taken on a life of its own.

Inside Ajloun Fortress, Jordan
Inside Ajloun Fortress

As hikers reach the middle of Jordan, they begin to notice a dramatic change in the country’s geography. The Mujib and Dead Sea region is where Jordan’s desert scenery really begins. Some even describe Wadi Mujib as the “Grand Canyon of Jordan,” thanks to its imposing 800 meter depth. The trail doesn’t take travellers to the Dead Sea itself, but rather through the famous “three wadis,” being Zarqa Ma’in, Hidan, and finally spectacular Mujib. From there, it continues to Karak, where the striking silhouette of the namesake castle and fortifications is testament to Jordan’s historical significance in the Middle East.

Travel through massive canyons in Wadi Mujib on the King's Highway, Jordan
King’s Highway in Wadi Mujib

Two of Jordan’s most famous treasures are found in its southern region. The southern segments of the trail extend to five or six days, allowing trekkers plenty of time to explore the city of Petra, and the surreal landscapes of Wadi Rum. In fact, many of Jordan’s highlights, including Petra, mark the checkpoints between segments on the trail. That means travellers who wish to linger, arrive early, or stay late to explore before or after the hike can do so. Hikers have the flexibility to join and leave the trail as they wish, meaning their Jordan vacation can be anything from a short 4-day escape, to the ultimate Middle Eastern trek.

As for Petra itself, staying an extra day or two is a tempting prospect for the curious traveller wanting to get the most out of travelling to Jordan. A two or three-day ticket costs little more than a one-day. Many travellers do find that one day is enough, but staying the extra day or two means you can split your visit into early morning and late afternoon, avoiding the sometimes stifling midday heat, and seeing the colours of the “Rose Red City” in the changing light. You can even opt for a Petra by Night tour for a completely different perspective, something few pre-packaged Jordan tours allow. The site stretches over 60 square kilometers, so comfortable shoes are a must. Still, donkey and camel handlers are never far away if you need a lift from a four-legged friend. Don’t worry too much about facilities within the site. From the path through the Siq, up to the famous Monastery, Petra is well equipped with toilets, cafes, and food stops. To the surprise of approximately no-one, food and drink prices are somewhat inflated within the city, and many visitors prefer to bring a packed lunch (which many hotels are happy to prepare overnight).

Treasury Building during the night walk, Petra, Jordan
Treasury Building during the night walk, Petra
Petra Monastery, Jordan
Petra Monastery

The other big name in Jordan’s south is Wadi Rum. One of the most visited deserts in the world, Wadi Rum has been a highlight of many a Jordan vacation since Lawrence of Arabia brought its landscape to the screen in glorious Technicolor in 1962. Many visitors reach it via a day trip from Petra, or Aqaba on the Red Sea. But Wadi Rum is actually quite remote, so hiking through the area can be a great way to appreciate its epic scope and beauty. Far from being a flat desert, this otherworldly landscape has played an alien planet in more than a few movies since giving Peter O’Toole his big break. One big attraction of walking the trail is suddenly catching that first glimpse of the Red Sea and the Mountains of Sinai – a breathtaking reward after almost six days of hiking this incredible terrain. The trail ends in Aqaba, Jordan’s most prominent port city and favourite seaside resort.

Seaside view of Aqaba and the Red Sea, Jordan
Seaside view of Aqaba and the Red Sea

For those who do want to make the Trail the focus of their Jordan vacation, Jordan’s weather is an important factor in deciding which sections to cover. Travelling to Jordan is easy and appealing at any time of year, but the cooler months of February and March are the best time to explore the deserts of the south. On the other hand, hikers wanting to explore the north may prefer to wait until spring. Remember, the country is much more than a simple desert, and the winter months can bring snow and rain, particularly in the north. For the most part however, Jordan is blessed with exactly the kind of year-round temperate climate that makes an outdoor adventure so tempting, meaning very few Jordan tours are ever spoiled by weather.

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Christian Baines
Christian Baines

Globetrotting Contributing Editor -
Christian’s first globetrotting adventure saw him get lost exploring the streets of Saigon. Following his nose to Asia’s best coffee, two lifelong addictions were born. A freelance writer and novelist, Christian’s travels have since taken him around his native Australia, Asia, Europe, and much of North America. His favourite trips have been through Japan, Spain, and Brazil, though with a love of off-beat, artsy cities, he’ll seize any opportunity to return to Paris, New York, or Berlin.

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