Roadtrippin’ Jordan – A Practical Guide

Our love for ruins and ancient history is no secret. Looking at old, tattered, majestic sites is something that excites both of us. Jordan had been on our bucket list for quite some time and this fall, we treated ourselves to this Middle Eastern glory.

Contemporary Jordan is placed in a tricky spot. Surrounded by unrest, it stands calm and solid. Not only is Jordan home to the enchanting city of Petra and Martian land of Wadi Rum, it also happens to be a great destination for scuba lovers and hiking enthusiasts. Floating effortlessly in the Dead Sea, walking the Roman ruins of Gerasa, sipping cinnamon loaded Arabic coffee at downtown Amman, camping under the stars with local Bedouins are just some of the many experiences Jordan has to offer.  There’s no way Jordan should not make it to anybody’s bucket list. If you are not convinced yet, check out our photo essay on Jordan.

Our 10 day long road trip across Jordan was not quite enough to explore every bit of the country and we made some hard choices to visit some sites over the other. Nevertheless, we came back having fallen in love with this beauty.

AMMAN

The capital city of Jordan is spread on hill tops and scattered in its tiny lanes and markets. While downtown Amman is loaded with local delicacies, everyday markets, hookahs, coffee shops, and lots of people, the fancy Rainbow Street is its extreme contrast. A walk up and down the hill will give you an insight into these contrasting features of the city.

Visit the Roman Amphitheatre, immerse yourself in the fascinating Jordan Museum, explore some exquisite Jordanian dishes in Rainbow street, and transport yourself to Parisian cafes in Lweibdeh. Amman is a fantastic base to explore the mosaic city of Madaba, the Greco-Roman site of Jerash, and the colourful markets of Al Salt. The Citadel of Amman that rests on the highest hill is a perfect point to view the entire city.

The Roman amphi-theatre glowing in the hue of the setting sun

Beyond  The Wall Tip:

  • The Jordanian charm of the capital is best explored in its old lanes. Take a trip to the amphitheatre and walk towards the old market. On your way, grab a piece of knafeh from Habibeh Sweets. They make the most delicious Knafeh we had anywhere in Amman, which is also evident by the long queue of locals seen at Habibeh.
  • The one day-trip you must go for is to the Greco-Roman site of Jerash to the north of Amman – incredible history, heart warming stories, and a peek into what life was like when Syria wasn’t in the condition it is in today.

Where To Stay

We stayed at Zaman Ya Zaman Boutique Hotel, located opposite of the Roman Amphi theatre. At 25 USD per night, we got a cozy room with twin beds with a view of the amphi-theatre ahead of us. Bathroom is shared but kept clean and catered to regularly.

We also stayed at the Amman Pasha Hotel just a few steps down the road from Zaman. The rooms are much bigger and come with an attached private bathroom. They also have a terrace restaurant with sweeping views of the downtown. There’s way too much of a ‘hostel vibe’ than one had like but at 35 USD per night for a double, it is still worth the price.


THE DEAD SEA

Our next stop in Jordan was the famous Dead Sea. We drove from Amman to the Dead sea, which is located not more than 50 km away. Given the short distance, Dead Sea also becomes possible to visit on a day trip but best is to spend the night near the beach to get the best deal. Dead Sea experience is as amazing as it sounds. The water is highly viscous and sticks to your skin as if it were oil. Smear some black mud all over you, get into a floating position, allow your head to stay above the water and float away with no gravity to pull you down.

Beyond The Wall Tip:

  • The only comfortable places to stay and dine in near Dead Sea are the luxury resorts and their restaurants. There’s one mall with a few fast food joints to explore but nothing more. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Resorts (Book via Rocketmiles website if you’re a JetPrivilege member and gain a whooping 5000 bonus miles!) as they offered the best prices among the resorts in the region.

Where To Stay

Holiday Inn Resorts is probably the cheapest option available at around 8000 INR (125 USD) per night for a double room. If you’ve got the power to spend, we strongly recommend the Kempinski Ishtar Hotel for a truly luxurious experience, replete with indulgent spas, gourmet cuisine, and infinity pools. The rooms begin at around INR 18000 (280 USD) per night.


PETRA

The show-stopper of any Jordanian trip is undoubtedly Petra. The fascinating capital of the Nabatean tribe that once lived here was secluded and unknown to the world outside until it was discovered by a determined explorer almost 1000 years after the city’s inception. Petra is a 3-hour drive towards the south of the Dead Sea. Most people visiting Petra stay in ‘Wadi Musa’, the modern city that surrounds the site. It is ideal to spend a minimum of 2 days to explore the site itself and the evening of arrival to settle in and explore Wadi Musa. Petra is one of the new modern seven wonders of the world, and justifiably so.

The long winding walk through ‘The Siq’ is full of surprises at every corner

Beyond The Wall Tip:

  • We strongly urge you to spend a minimum of two full days to get a complete picture of Petra, covering the Monastery on Day 1 and High Place of Sacrifice/ Tombs on Day 2. You may be interested in adding the ‘Petra by Night’ experience as well but it is a mere decorative trip for your Instagram account.
  • Petra can also get very crowded unlike other places in Jordan. But, if you love your history, you wouldn’t mind it. But, if you are not as much a sucker for history, then you may want to skip the main site of Petra and opt to do a multi-day hike from Little Petra to Petra instead.

Where To Stay

We stayed at the Petra Nights hotel which was a bit too stuffy and jaded, even for the measly price we paid for it. In Wadi Musa, stay at the Cleopetra Hotel for 40 USD per night. If you’ve got a slightly higher budget, Petra Moon Hotel at the foot of entrance to the site is a lovely option at 70 USD per night.


WADI RUM

There’s no experience in Jordan (or anywhere else) that you should trade for a night under the Wadi Rum sky. When I say that it’s life changing, I am not exaggerating. Miles of red desert land (just like in the movie Martian), gorgeous rock formations, clear skies and fresh air, camels strolling about in the open and most importantly, the Bedouins whose hospitality and friendliness that might just make your heart melt.

Our Bedouin guide, Atallah, and his 4WD that took us around the desert

Beyond The Wall Tip:  

  • There are plenty of affordable to luxury camping options to choose from. To get the best out of Wadi Rum experience, choose to explore the desert and stay with the Wadi Rum Nomads. The most unique feature of their arrangement is the open air camping they place for you. Sleep under the stars and listen to the winds as the Bedouin tells you his life stories.

DANA

Dana is one among the many hidden pearls of Jordan. A historical village once upon a time, it hosts only a handful of locals today. Located conveniently on the drive back to Amman from Wadi Rum, Dana is a delight for the lovers of adventure. It plays host to some fascinating creepy-crawlies that one wouldn’t imagine in a Jordanian landscape and offers challenging hikes for the mountain lovers. 

You’ll need to leave aside a lot of time for contemplation while in Dana

Beyond The Wall Tip:

  • Spend a bare minimum of 2 days in Dana to complete at least one good hike as most hikes take 6-8 hours to complete. The short treks in and around the village aren’t the most exciting.

Where To Stay

Feynan Ecolodge is a popular eco-resort in Dana (and probably in the whole world!) and the best place to stay, but if you’re on a budget – spending 15000 INR (230 USD) per night might not work for you as it didn’t for us. Instead, you can stay in small cozy hostel-like places in the main village. We stayed in Dana Tower Hotel and found it comfortable enough for a couple of nights. Since there are not many restaurants around, it is best to indulge in the scrumptious buffets provided by the hostels.


OTHER DESTINATION CHOICES

From Dana, we drove back to Amman and spent a few days exploring the coffee and food of Amman that we missed out on earlier. If you have time to stay for a little longer in Jordan, here are a few places and sites that we recommend you to explore:

  1. Aqaba – For lovers of scuba diving, spending 3-4 days going on world class Red Sea wreck dives is a must-do!
  2. Mount Nebo & Madaba – If biblical history intrigues you, visit the ‘mosaic’ city that holds a map to the promised land and hike the mountain from where Moses saw the ‘promised land’
  3. Al Salt – An offbeat city north of Amman, Al Salt’s local eateries and markets are incredibly charming!

VISA FOR INDIANS

Jordan Visa is available on arrival for Indian citizens, at INR 3600 (~56 USD) per person. You are expected to produce proof of stay, return air ticket, and 1000 Jordanian Dinars in cash. There are ATMs just outside of the immigration counter from where you can withdraw the money in case the officers ask for it. We strongly recommend not to carry more than INR 20000 (~300 USD) in cash, as the officers never really ask for it as long as documents are in place.

Alternatively (and ideally!), buy a JORDAN PASS online that gives you access to all historic sites in Jordan, including the costly ticket to Petra. If you hold a Jordan Pass, then your visa fee is fully waived off handing you HUGE savings. More details on the budget tips we’ve shared in the link below.

Preparing your Jordan trip already? Head over here to unlock secret tips that will help you enjoy Jordan on a budget.

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