The eighth week of my crazy 52 countries in 52 weeks of adventure took me to the jewel of the Middle East from Jordan, the cheapest flight from Budapest. Don't get me wrong, I love European cities, but after two months full of churches, castles and old towns, I was so excited to take a different path from the first part of my big trip.
Jordan jumped onto my bucket list a few years ago after seeing photos of the breathtaking ruins of Petra on Instagram. I have not yet managed to make it there. But now that after spending a week exploring everything the country has to offer, I can say for sure that it is absolutely worth the money!
Here are five reasons why you should visit Jordan and where you should go, and instructions on how to get around when you are there.
1. The people
Jordanians were some of the friendliest people I have ever met. After experiencing the craziness of souks in Morocco and bazaars in Istanbul where women were pulled into stores and shouted at ("Spice Girls! Lady Gaga! * Insert another western celebrity here *!), I was totally into it in Jordan prepared. It turns out that was unnecessary!
While shopkeepers are still vying for your business, I found that shopping in Jordan was much more pleasant than in Morocco and Turkey. I was never touched, most shopkeepers say a polite "hello", maybe show you a few specialties and then let them browse for a while, and while there have been people who stare, especially in downtown Amman, I never had Lust I was attacked or pressured.
The taxi drivers I had were all so friendly (including a driver who picked us up from the airport, a pleasant surprise to start our trip!), The waiters were always more than happy to help translate menus and there was a group of schoolgirls in Ajloun Castle who were all desperately looking for selfies with us just because we looked different and then congratulated my friend on his birthday! Beautiful people, beautiful moments.
2. The ancient ruins of Jordan
Aside from the people and food, the obvious next reason to visit Jordan is the incredible ancient ruins it is in.
The magical ancient city of Petra, one of the new wonders of the world, is the obvious leader in terms of Jordan's must. The city is more than 2000 years old, was rediscovered in 1812 by a Swiss explorer disguised as an Arab scholar and visits almost a million tourists every year.
The most famous part of Petra is Al-Khazneh, the Treasury Department, which appeared in Indiana Jones and Last Crusade in 1989 and is now one of the major tourist attractions in the entire Middle East. Actually, it's considered a king's mausoleum from the first century, and the facade shows bullet holes from tribesmen who attacked the building hundreds of years ago to look for (and not find) treasures.
Another place worth seeing in Petra is the monastery, although the hike is not for the faint of heart. You'll have to climb 800 uneven steps to reach the monastery, which can be difficult in the summer heat (I went in August, wouldn't recommend it), but you'll be rewarded with close-up pictures of this magnificent 3rd century BC tomb. It is similar to the treasury, but is even larger with a width of 50 m and a height of 45 m.
And for some completely different, but also very impressive ruins, it is worth going north of Amman to the Roman ruins of Jerash. These ruins are some of the best preserved ruins I have ever seen, and there is a main street with pillars that still contains the original stones, so you can see where the chariots used to go over them.
3. The meal
My stomach growls when I think of Jordanian cuisine. Local dishes are very similar to other countries in the region, with huge mezze plates, hearty meat dishes, endless falafel and sugar-soaked desserts as staple foods for restaurant menus.
Local hospitality pervades the restaurants, which serve gigantic meals that you probably won't be able to eat without going into a coma. If small plates are an option, you should get a few to avoid over-ordering. If you're in a group, take a few hours to order as much as you want, then put it in a bit of a syrupy goodness like knafeh to wrap up a delicious meal.
While Jordan is an expensive country overall, if you have a limited budget you could definitely make a living from pita, falafel and hummus if you have to (like me!). I would recommend visiting Hashem in Downtown Amman, one of the city's most popular and affordable falafel restaurants.
4. The natural landscapes
Jordan is beautiful not only thanks to man, but also thanks to its landscapes and natural phenomena with the ruins of the country's best sights.
The Wadi Rum desert looks like another planet, so much so that it was a location for The Martian, a Transformers film and Star Wars. It is home to huge dunes of red sand, huge jagged rocks and Bedouin tribes that run beautiful camps where travelers can spend a night in the desert.
If you feel the need for speed, you should book a place on a 4WD safari, where you can hit the dunes hard and fast on the back of a 4WD jeep or opt for a sunrise camel ride. See the desert in a quieter environment. Please note that camels can only carry one person at a time, passengers must not weigh more than 90 kg and report any abuse of the animals to the supplier or the local authorities.
Do you want to get wet? Jordan is one of the countries that border the Dead Sea, a salty lake (yes, the name is confusing), where the shore, at 432 meters below sea level, is the lowest point in the world's arid land. The Dead Sea salinity is 33.7% (compared to the ocean salinity of 3.5%), which means that the human body cannot literally sink and just sit on the water. It's a crazy sensation, you have to try it yourself to believe it!
For another underwater adventure where you can actually go underwater, go to Aqaba and dive in the Red Sea. The Red Sea is home to lively corals, whale sharks, turtles and many other sea lovers, as well as some incredible wreck dives.
Jordan is one of the safest countries in the Middle East and the 40th safest country in the world, according to SafeAround.com.
Borders with Syria and Iraq are particularly dangerous, but the rest of the country is seen as a safe haven in an area often known around the world for its instability. If you want to get an idea of the Middle East but are concerned about the political and security issues that unfortunately occur in many other countries in the region, Jordan is a great option for you, and in my personal experience, it was absolutely safe for female travelers *.
* A disclaimer for the safety of single travelers: While I had no problems as a girl traveling in Jordan, it should be noted that there were cases of harassment of single travelers in some tourist locations such as Petra. Most of the attention you get from locals (and if you look different you get attention) is completely harmless and not meant maliciously. However, if you are touched, grabbed, or chased, it's best to avoid contact, say, or scream I alone & # 39; come to an area with the police and / or other tourists.
Getting around in Jordan
Jordan is best explored in small groups. You will not only get a guide that deals extensively with local history, culture, activities and sights. You also get the assurance that your trip will be organized in advance, you won't have to deal with difficult language barriers and you will hang out with a pre-made group of travel partners.
If a tour is not your preference, you can also rent a car or a private driver because public transport in Jordan is extremely limited. Car rental costs around £ 40 a day. However, you must be familiar with local traffic regulations and be prepared to remove language barriers. Private drivers reset at least GBP 70 per day.
temptation? Book flights to Jordan and see all of our Jordan travel tours.
If you want to follow more of my adventures, see my previous guidebooks for Paris, San Sebastian and Sofia or on Instagram to see what I've done so far!