Jordan is a country in the Middle East and known for Petra, the city in the rocks and one of the seven new wonders of the world.
More than 2,000 years ago, a city was carved with muscle power in the rocks. Today it is one of the 7 new wonders of the world. Petra is known from Indian Jones and when you see it with your own eyes, you cannot shut your mouth in amazement.
Jerash is one of the best preserved Roman archaeological sites. I have seen many in my life, but the gigantic size of this site was amazing. An insider tip beyond the beaten path and only 40 km from the Syrian border is now an exciting place to explore.
The capital Amman impressed with the citadel in the city center, which has a long history and was dominated by many civilizations. The museum displays finds dating back to the Stone Age.
Red sand and dramatic mountain formations are the trademarks of the Wadi Rum desert.
Overnight in a Bedouin camp
A unique experience was the overnight stay in a Bedouin camp near Petra.
- I traveled Jordan on a backpacking trip to the Middle East with Israel.
- When I’m back in Jordan, I want to see the Dead Sea. A sea that has more salt than your salt shaker and when you get water in your eyes, a hot pepper is mild. You will float like a cork on the water surface.
How did you travel to Jordan?
Since I was limited in time and wanted to see all the highlights of Jordan, an organized tour was the best decision. I traveled to Jordan in combination with Israel and booked a three-day tour from Jerusalem. I chose Abraham Tours. The advantage is that it included all the highlights of Jordan and you have a full day in Petra. In addition, it was a small group of 15 people, inexpensive and designed for individual travelers.
Day 1: Jerusalem – Jerash – Amman – Bedouin Camp
It started at 6 o’clock in the morning from the Abraham Hostel in Jerusalem, and we drove by bus to the border crossing Beit She’an in the north. Between the 600 km border between Israel and Jordan, there are 2 border crossings, one in the north and one in the south. There is a third border crossing in the middle, Allenby Bridge, but you can only cross from Jordan to Israel.
At the border control of Israel, you have to leave your luggage in the bus and enter a building. There is a fee of 105 NIS (about 26 €) for leaving Israel. You can pay in NIS, Euro or USD. For Euro and USD, it is a bit more expensive because of the exchange fees. Officially, the credit card is accepted, but at my counter the device was broken and I had paid a little less than 30 €. You will receive a receipt and continue to passport control. There, your passport and the card that you received when entering Israel are checked. My group of Italians, Australians, Brazilians, Americans and myself had no problems. The bus will take you to the Jordanian border post. There you have to unload your complete baggage, will be received by the Jordanian guide and change the bus. First, there is a passport control and then the luggage is scanned like at the airport.
We finally arrived in Jordan and in rain and thick fog we drove over the rolling mountain landscape to Jerash. After a guided tour of this large archaeological site we had lunch. Most participants in our group were already very hungry, as they had no breakfast. I bought something at a bakery in the evening before. The restaurant was modern and very touristy, it felt like all the tour groups were stopping here. There was a delicious buffet, which was included in the travel price. But for the drinks you had to pay extra.
Then we went to the capital Amman and visited the Amman citadel. Afterwards, we tried the typical candy Knafeh. An Arabian cheese pastry soaked in sweet syrup. It was getting dark and a long drive to the Bedouin Camp near Petra was imminent. The last part was through rolling mountains and a strong fog raised. The visibility was limited to a maximum of 5 meters and our bus driver had to drive at walking pace. Our tour guide also took a picture and had never seen such dense fog before. Our driver had to breathe heavily several times as we drove serpentines. Everyone was tense and on Google Maps we observed the road. After an hour’s delay, we arrived at the Bedouin camp. Everyone was hungry and there was again buffet and water for drinking. It was freezing cold and staying in a Bedouin camp also means sleeping in a tent. At first, I had a queasy feeling, but when I saw that we had four blankets I felt fine again. It reminded me of Albania when I was hiking and also spent an icy night with four blankets. At the end of the day, we sat around a campfire and enjoyed hot tea. Since there was no hot water for showers the next morning, we had to do this in the evening.
Day 2: Bedouin Camp – Petra – Bedouin Camp
After breakfast, we finally went to the rock city Petra. When we arrived, I have already seen many large coaches and the entrance was full of tourists. I did not think it was that touristy. Especially because of the conflict in Syria. Admission is 50 JOD (60 €) and was already included in the tour price. After the entrance you can ride the first 600 meters “free” with a horse to the beginning of the canyon. After that, however, a tip is due and our guide did not recommend it. We finally arrived at the canyon. A narrow path leads into the reddish gorge. It has rained and all the details of the rocks have come to light. It was an adventurous moment to walk through the winding gorge. There was so much to discover and on closer inspection you even discovered animals in the rocks like a fish and a camel herd. After about half an hour, a narrow rock passage came, and we had to walk very close to one side. The tour guide showed us different points and navigated us very cleverly. As we turned around, a big wow came from all. We got radiant eyes. The Petra Treasury (Al-Khazneh) was in our view, the best known of sandstone carved temples. If you see pictures of Petra, it’s this one.
From here you leave the gorge and the rock city begins. As you walk down the valley, many caves are carved into the sandstone on either side. This was done over 2000 years ago with pure muscle power – a very impressive achievement.
Our guide did not choose the way through the valley, but we walked over the rocks on one side. This allowed us to visit caves and had a breathtaking view. After a while we arrived at several huts and had to decide if we wanted to have lunch or take a voucher to eat later. A few others from the tour group and I have decided to eat later and go to a temple first. For half an hour, we went steps carved in the rocks up. On the way, traders have settled to sell bowl, jewelry and locally made souvenirs. When we finally arrived, I had to make a loud wow. I barely got the smile off my face, a temple as big as the treasury was in front of us.
But this was not the end, a path continued uphill. We followed him and arrived at the top of the mountain. An impressive view of rolling mountains and the desert could be seen. The sun has shone in our faces and a cold wind has passed over us. We enjoyed the view and time flew by.
It went down the mountain again and I bought a scarf from one of the dealers. The lunch was buffet again with fresh falafel. I have never eaten so much falafel in my life on one day. We slowly made our way back to the entrance. After all, 8 km were again before us. On the way, I had bought a postcard.
We went back to the Bedouin Camp by bus and arrived shortly before the sunset. An ice-cold night with a clear sky was imminent. The perfect starting point for taking pictures at night. The day goes to an end with sweet tea at the campfire.
Day 3: Bedouin Camp – Wadi Rum – Jerusalem
The third day has dawned and the journey continued early in the morning to Wadi Rum. A desert of red sand and dramatic sandstone mountains stood in front of us. Highlight was the ride with 4×4 jeeps. The back of the car was converted into seating, and we had a breathtaking view. The sun shone in the face and driving between the massive sandstone mountains was a great feeling. We made several stops to climb mountains and take pictures. We enjoyed tea at a Bedouin camp while listening to a classical instrument similar to a guitar but with only one string. For the first time in my life, I had the opportunity to climb a sand dune. At first glance it looks easy, with each step the sand slips down again. The shoes and socks have quickly filled up with sand. I was halfway up and the first drops of sweat were gone. Climbing the sand dune to the top was exhausting, but it paid off with a beautiful view. The most fun was to run down with the GoPro. I ran as fast as I could and nearly fell. It took only 45 seconds to get down.
The jeeps continued for lunch. When we arrived at the camp, there was a train in the distance. What a perfect picture. I quickly jumped from the jeep, took a camel in the foreground and photographed the train in the background of the dramatic sandstone mountains.
Full of highlights and unique impressions of the last days, the bus went back to Jerusalem. We crossed the border at Allenby Bridge, also known as King Hussein Bridge. On the Jordanian side there is a charge of 10 JD (12 €), which has been collected on the ride from the tour guide. We had to unload all the luggage and it was scanned like at the airport. On the Israeli side it was tense. Heavily armed soldiers have received us and with mirrors was checked if something was under the bus. At the next check point our luggage was unloaded, and we had to stay in the bus. When I pulled out my smartphone to take a picture, the bus driver immediately warned me. You could see the tension in his eyes. After a while, we were allowed to leave the bus and the luggage was scanned. I had never seen such a big scanner, it was over 10 meters long. It took an eternity before we continued with the passport control. Questions were asked about what I did. My passport was several months old and I hardly had any stamps. In general, I had the feeling that the German passport is of high quality and I had no intentions to do something malicious. In the next step, the passport was checked again and in German I was told “this is the new passport”. At that moment I felt comfortable. The control is over and none of our group had any problems. The bus from Abraham Tours has been waiting for us. Unfortunately, we had to wait more than an hour for more tourists to arrive from the Jordanian side until the bus was full, and we left for Jerusalem.
It had been nice. My recommendations when you make the trip with Abraham Tours:
- The Jordan-Israel border crossing costs 10 Jordanian dinars.
- A tip for the driver of 2 Jordanian Dinars per person is recommended on the Jeep Tour in Wadi Rum.
- So, you need 12 Jordanian dinars. At the end of the first day, we drove to a cash machine that paid a minimum of 50 Jordanian dinar with fees. I did not change money myself and exchanged the few Jordanian dinars I needed with the other travelers. At the end of the tour they had almost all over and had to spend it in a tourist shop.
- You can also pay in Euro in Jordan and do not have to exchange money according to the Tour Guide, but the traders only accept small bills and give you a bad exchange rate.
- At the buffets at lunch drinks are not included.
- Buy your needed drink for the 3 days in Israel, so you do not have to go around with Jordanian money.
- Pay the border fee from Israel to Jordan of 105 NIS in cash to save expensive exchange rates.
- The tour guide in Jordan does not get tips from the companies and when we ended up collecting 10 Jordanian dinars per participant, he was not very happy. He has expressed it in a nice way with an example. A porter gets for his service we say 1 dinar an hour. For several days of service, a corresponding tip comes together. Interpreted, this means that he expected a tip of around 30 dinars.
Is Jordan safe to travel in 2017?
Jordan is right next to Syria, a country that has had many conflicts in recent years. On my trip in November 2017, I was 40 km from the Syrian border when I was at Jerash. I did not feel uncomfortable at all. Next to me there were also hundreds of tourists in Jerash and none of our group had any thoughts.
After the crossing the border to Jordan, it took a few minutes to get used to it. The landscape was rolling mountains, it was cold, it was raining and there was a thick fog in the air.
My expectation was that I would see a lot of police and military. I did not see a single police car in the first few hours driving to Jerash. A sign that it must be peaceful. Also, in the next few days, I only saw police cars on the highway and in front of Petra. There was no sign of the military.
It felt like people were living as usual. I could not feel any fear and felt well.
Can I travel Jordan by myself?
Sure, if you have the time and the appetite for an adventure. This will give you more flexibility, get to know the country better and decide for yourself how many days you would like to see Petra. Your first trip with the backpack should not be Jordan. I have not used public transportation, but it will not be easy to get from A to B. I saw backpackers in Amman and Petra traveling alone. But if you are limited in time and want to take the easy route, I can recommend an organized trip. I traveled to Jordan for a three-day tour from Jerusalem. I can recommend Abraham Tours, they are inexpensive, have a small tour group of 15 people and are designed for individual travel.
Do you have questions to plan your trip or suggestions? I'm looking forward to your commentary.