A lot of our trips are short and sweet.. but that's the reality with both of us working. That being said, we don't head on vacations just because we can. We only pick places we know we will enjoy. Mr. A mostly loves places with history.... but I love the outdoors. The places I pick usually involve mountains, treks, lots of roaming the wilderness. We would probably always stay away from the "islands" and "luxury beach vacations". It's not our style.
So why did we pick Jordan? Well the easy answer is because of it's proximity to Dubai but the truth is of course, the history and the landscape.
We finally made it here last November... while I wish we had more time to explore the other parts of the country, I am glad we did the best bits in just 2 days. If you are pressed for time - this is the itinerary I would recommend.
It was not until recently that this place became a top tourist hot spot... people have probably stayed away because of it's location in the center of a turbulent region. That's slowly changing with the rise of tourism across the globe.. and more millennial backpackers.
We had no issues while visiting this country. People are incredibly friendly and love showing their country off. Rightfully so.
Itinerary Break Down:
Day 1 - Arrival - Dead Sea - Explore Town of Madaba - Mount Nebo - Drive to Petra City Day 2 - Sunrise at Petra - desert safari afternoon Wadi Rum - night flight back
Best time to visit
The weather cools down from November to March. We enjoyed absolutely amazing weather when we visited during the second week of November.
Flights and Visa
We flew with Fly Dubai - short, direct flights all through the week. The visa - is on arrival for Indians. It will cost you JD 40 per person. Tip: The credit card machine at the visa counter may not always work, so if you do not have that amount in local currency, it would be a good idea to stop by the exchange shop inside the terminal before queuing for your visa.
Arabic - the official language. People also speak English and you should have no problem communicating when in the major tourist spots. Travel and Medical Insurance, Currency
As always, best to have medical and travel insurance. Life doesn't stop happening even when you are on vacation! Credit card machines don't work everywhere. I would recommend carrying cash in local currency.
This is another trip where I would recommend doing a tour. Picking a tour doesn't necessarily mean doing everything to their schedule.. it just means you have the flexibility to sit back and relax while someone else does the driving. Since we were pressed for time, we did not want to figure out driving around in a new country. After doing a lot of research, I went with Jordan Select Tours. The cost for two days USD 340 per person - inclusive of entrance to Petra, hotel for the night, drive to and from Amman.
Note: we paid an additional USD 200 for the two of us for the trip to Wadi Rum. More on this later.
Where we stayed
We stayed the night at Petra Moon Hotel. This hotel is literally 15 minutes from the entrance to Petra. We had an early start on our second day, so we wanted to save time. The room was spacious with a nice restaurant below. There are also other restaurants around this place - all just a quick 10 to 15 minute walk away.
Cost I would say Jordan is cheap but we just spent two days in the country, so I can't elaborate without speculating. The street food is definitely a lot cheaper than most places. For lunch and dinner, we spent the same as we would have in Dubai i.e. it's going to cost you close to $20-25 for a meal for two.
Had no issues with safety. We felt everyone we met was warm and helpful. Tip: Be weary of street vendors trying to sell you things at Petra.
Your usual middle eastern deliciousness - falafels, lentil soup, salad, mana'eesh and the works. Absolutely yum. It's super vegetarian friendly... so we tried a little bit of everything in 2 days.
What to pack
Toiletries. Medicines. Since we went in November, so the weather was chilly in the morning and at night... if you are traveling at the same time, pack a light fall jacket.
Day 1 -
We took the early morning flight out of Dubai and landed at Amman International Airport in 3 hours. Finish your immigration and your tour guide will wait for you outside the airport.
Your first stop will be the Dead Sea. The drive from the airport is about an hour. Your tour includes entrance to the Dead Sea via Holiday Inn Dead Sea hotel... you will be given towels at the hotel. There will be room to change into swim wear. We were at the Dead Sea around 9 30.. so we pretty much had the place to ourselves for about an hour (until the crowds started rushing in).
Fact: the Dead Sea sits 430m below sea level, making it the lowest point on earth and it’s also one of the saltiest places on earth....
It has a 35% salt content - to put things in perspective, that’s about 9.6 times more than the ocean. Definitely not the best idea to stay in the water for more than 15 minutes...
Did you know that it's called Dead Sea because no life can survive in it? All you can do is float. It's such a fascinating phenomenon.
Pro Tip: DON"T SWALLOW THE WATER. Whatever you do - keep your eyes and mouth shut. It will burn - like crazy. Trust us, we know! ;)
Oh and after you take a quick dip, take a break and get muddy.. if you are like me and don't particularly enjoy getting dirty, wait till you hear the benefits of this special "mud". There are minerals in the Dead Sea which are known to help alleviate the symptoms of skin problems such as psoriasis and arthritis. Don't have these diseases? Well you can at least have glowin' skin after!
After about 2 hours of lazing around.. we headed to Mount Nebo. Mount Nebo is believed to be the place where Moses was given a view of the promised land that god was giving to the Hebrews.
The Mountain is at an elevated ridge that is around 817 meters above sea level, in what is now Western Jordan. You will also find a huge serpentine cross structure. This is symbolic of the bronze serpent created by Moses.
Time for lunch.. you will drive towards the city of Madaba. The city is best known for it’s historically significant Byzantine era mosaics. I chose not to take pictures inside the church but the mosaics inside this place - much wow.
This is also where we found the most amazing falafel ever... in a teeny tiny street shop.. for just one Dirham.. we gobbled four of these. Seriously blew our minds - the crunchy and the flavor.
After lunch, you will drive to Petra City for the night. We witnessed one of the most amazing sunsets ever on our drive into Petra...
Spent an hour just watching the sun go down. There was a slight nip in the air as the sunlight fell over the ancient city. It was a sight to behold. What a beautiful world we live in.
Day 2 - On your second day, you will start your day well before sunrise. Up at 5 a.m. - we packed our breakfast in a box from the hotel and started our walk towards the city of mysteries. Since your tour includes a guided tour of Petra, you will be met by your guide at the entrance of the monument.
The city is described as the “rose-red city, half as old as time”. The ancient city was founded by the Nabateans 2000 years ago. Its massive architectural structure and its multicolored stones are an incredible attraction.
The visit of the ancient Nabatean capital starts on horseback, followed by a long walk through the Siq, a long narrow fissure between two overhanging cliffs.
Colors of rocks.. everywhere you look.. each one a different shape.. just gorgeous!
Towards the end of the Siq, the lane gets narrow... there you will see Petra's most famous monument peek-a-booing at you. The tour then proceeds to gradually unfold the mysteries of the city.
Petra was designed to impress. 2000 years on, the effect is undiminished. Made it here at 6 a.m. and we were the first ones at the site. Spent close to 2 hours at the Treasury just learning about the history of Petra before making our way to the Monastery.
Pro tip: if you want a beautiful view of the monument without having to climb up to the now "cliche" instagram spot - just go around the rock toward the left of the treasury and snap away!
As you make your way towards the monastery, you will find lots of "houses" inside rock formations.. clear signs of civilization.
Keep walking... in about a 2 miles, you will come to a grand entrance of sorts. This is the entrance to the monastery. The guide will leave you here and head back to the entrance. You are on your own. We took a break - admired the stunning architecture around, had our box breakfast before making the trek up.
Pro tip: The way up is not marked until you walk past a "restaurant" and just after that you will sign marked as monastery.. or follow the crowd.
If you are not up for a 45 minute, 900 stair hike - you can also ride on horses to the top. Obviously we chose to pout and pant instead. There are places to sit and take a break.. so I would still recommend doing the walk up (if you don't have issues climbing steep rocks)
...and then you can finally see the the Al Deir - Petra’s largest ‘temple’. While I call it the temple lightly, the name is just a guess. Nobody knows what it was used for. Just like the Treasury, the Nabateans carved this enormous structure from a sheer rock face. Unlike the treasury though, the monastery is much bigger and doesn’t have a lot of ornate designs - except for the cross carved into the rock. There is so much more to this place than what meets the eye.
To me, the Al Deir Monastery was the most impressive building in Petra. Dating back to the 1st century B.C., it towers over everything else in the vicinity, reaching over 50 meters into the air. Again - to put things in perspective, you can barely see the teeny tiny me in front of it.
The descent was obviously much more easy and incredibly picturesque. Your guide will meet you at the entrance of the monument. It should be around 11 a.m. Head on towards Wadi Rum - a 2 hour drive from Petra city. Suggest you grab food on the way for lunch inside Wadi Rum
Full disclosure - Wadi Rum was an after thought. This was not a part of our original itinerary. Even though we started the day early at Petra, we weren’t sure if we would be able to make it. After reading all about it’s uniquely stunning landscape, we knew we couldn’t leave without visiting. Driving here was the best thing we could have done. We fell head over heels in love with this place.
So first things first - how do you access wadi rum? Well, remember the USD 200 we paid? You pay for the 3 hour Safari and a pick up truck. I am not sure if you will get something better than this if you pay more. I know this looks rough but it was actually quite comfortable with plenty of cushions to support you during the bumpy ride. Your driver will be Jordanian who will tell you lots of stories about the place and take superb pictures for you. So hop on for the ride!
As you enter the wide open space, the first thing that will catch your eyes are these sandstone and granite emerging from open valleys to form mesmerizing landscapes!
Since I was raised in the Middle East, deserts always hold a special place in my heart. However, the Wadi Rum desert just blew me away. T.E. Lawrence famously described it as “vast, echoing and God-Like”. How right he was. Wadi Rum is the replica of a moonscape. It’s a place where the sand glows red and color your cheeks orange. It’s a place where the further you go, the more stunning the sandstone mountains and endless sand dunes become.
When you stare out into the wild sparse desert, it’s hard not to imagine what life would have been like here a 100 years back. How fascinating to think there were camels roaming wild and making their way through these very dunes. If the seemingly endless views of sandstone boulders don’t take your breath away, climbing up the steep dunes certainly will.
Your guide will also take you to some of the off beat locations for otherworldly views and photo ops.
After about 2 hours of driving around, we took a small detour and found a lovely place. We did a little picnic here. Of course, many many pictures were taken. Last stop before you head back to Amman for your flight back home.
Final thoughts Thanks to my OCD, we rarely take trips without planning ahead. Since we were so busy at work and planning the Scandinavian trip at the end of last year, we did this quick getaway on a complete whim. On hindsight, we could not have picked a better place for a quick weekend getaway. Look how much fun we had!
Even if you have just two days, don't miss the Wadi Rum... known for it’s dramatic scenery from sky-high red sand dunes and epic canyons, it's easily one of the most unique places we have ever visited!
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