Posted in Middle East on March 8, 2013
This is a guest post by David Hanson. David works for Headwater holidays – a tour travel company who offer walking holidays in Jordan and further afield. Below he’s given us his insight on the top 10 sites to see in Jordan that you can visit on best on foot.
Jordan is one of the most underrated countries on the planet from the point of view of western travellers and, as such, it rarely features in round the world itineraries. But this one small nation has a wealth of treasures just waiting to be discovered by those who venture there. Read on for a top 10 list of places to visit and things to experience that is more befitting of a continent than a country smaller than England.
The rose-red Nabataean city of Petra is Jordan’s most visited tourist attraction, and with very good reason. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985, it dates back to around 300 BC and walking around this archaeological wonder feels like a genuine honour. The rock-hewn architecture of the Treasury (as featured in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) and the Monastery is both awe-inspiring and spell-binding and an absolute must for any Jordan itinerary – especially for fans of Dr Jones!
2. Wadi Rum
Another of Jordan’s film stars, the evocative dunes of Wadi Rum featured in Lawrence of Arabia, Prometheus and other big budget movies. About 75 miles South of Petra, the area is a fantastic place for trekking, climbing and experiencing the famed hospitality of the Bedouin people. It is also a great spot to indulge in a bit of sandboarding; you can use a conventional snowboard on the steeper dunes, but take plenty of wax or you’ll certainly trash your board.
3. The Dead Sea
Ok, you won’t actually walk in it (or on it, sadly) but the Dead Sea is undoubtedly one of Jordan’s most well-known and satisfying places to visit. The healing properties of the water and mud are renowned but the main reason to come here is to experience the feeling of super-buoyancy in this saline-rich sea – and perhaps to get a few silly snaps of you reading the paper while floating to your heart’s content.
One of the best-preserved Roman towns in the world, Jerash has been inhabited by humans continuously for over 6500 years. Strolling round its impressive columns and colonnaded streets even the least imaginative soul can picture life as it may have been back in the golden age of Jerash under Roman rule.
5. Aqaba and the Red Sea
Two seas in a list of places to visit on a walking holiday may be excessive but given Aqaba’s wonderful climate and the crystal-clear turquoise blue waters of the Red Sea (which does make you question where the name came from!) it merits inclusion. A sensational spot for snorkelling or SCUBA diving, the resort is also within easy reach of Wadi Rum or a longer jaunt up to Petra.
The crusader fort at Kerak (sometimes written as Karak) dates back to the 12th century and was still in use until 1917. It is well-preserved and strolling around the imposing compound is a great way to while away an afternoon.
The Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics that reside in Madaba have led to it being dubbed the “City of Mosaics” and the impressive artwork are both fascinating and magnificent. The most famous mosaic is the Map of Jerusalem, containing around two million tiles and dating back to the fifth century. And I thought my 500-piece jigsaw of Petra was tough!
The capital of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (to use its full title) is a pleasant Middle Eastern city notable for its ancient citadel which overlooks the modern areas. If you are walking around ancient Amman, it can easily be navigated on foot with plenty of opportunities to stop and sample the delicious local food and get to know some of the wonderful people who live in this eclectic hotchpotch of history and culture.
9. Hammamat Ma’in
Hot waterfalls? Yes sir. This hyper-thermal waterfall is like a desert oasis and it is said that Herod the Great enjoyed the medicinal properties of the very same waters. Relaxing beneath the falls as the naturally-heated waters (at a temperature of around 45 degrees Celsius) pound your aching muscles is a wonderful sensation whilst the indoor Roman baths offer a little more luxury for those who seek such things.
10. Mount Nebo
According to the Bible this was the place where Moses was shown the Promised Land and, according to both Jewish and Christian tradition, where he is buried. It’s a fine walk to the church and monastery at the top the views are magnificent so it is definitely worth the effort, as is a trip to Jordan in general.