Thinking about Backpacking Jordan? Read about what to see, what to eat, and how to do it while maintaining your sanity.
First, let me say that I know it’s been a while since I’ve shared a new post with you, and for that I’m sorry. Really, really sorry. I’ve been a bad friend.
The thing is, I’ve been busy. And without a computer. And mostly just giving myself a much-needed break from reality by galavanting around the globe with a backpack, a camera, and a travel diary.
It might not seem like I’ve been working, but really I have. I’ve been working around the clock for the past 152 days!
Alright, that’s a bit of a lie. I’ve mostly been spending equal amounts of time between busses and beaches, saving and splurging, hiking and drinking…
Shit, that’s just more lies. I’ve definitely spent more time on busses, I’ve been staying in hostels and couchsurfing, and I think we all know that my beer-to-exercise ratio leaves much to be desired.
Well, let’s just say that I’ve been busy collecting stories, experiences, travel tips, and recipes to share with you. I’m still on the road and without a proper kitchen, so for the time being I’ll be sharing travel posts.
I left off by writing about my experiences in Egypt, so I thought I’d just keep things in chronological order and talk to you about the place I went next: Jordan!
Jordan is a country filled with stunning natural beauty, remarkable historic sites, and superb food. It’s hard to know where to start!
I arrived in Jordan after crossing from Taba, Egypt into Aqaba on the Red Sea. A lot of people stay in Aqaba to snorkel and enjoy the sea. I had been in Dahab for two weeks doing just that I only passed through for a night. The border crossing was a bit of an event, so I was happy to have nothing else to do that day.
For those that don’t know, to cross from Egypt to Jordan by land you are required to pass through a small sliver of Israel. While Israel will issue you a stamp card rather than stamping your passport, Egypt will give you an exit stamp that indicates you left the country by land through Taba.
I haven’t personally tested this out, but I’ve heard from other travelers that this stamp is a red flag for border agents in places like Lebanon who won’t let you enter the country if you’ve been to Israel. I wanted to go to Beirut on this trip, but quickly realized there wasn’t any easy way to do so after having left through Taba. Just something to keep in mind!
After spending an uneventful night in Aqaba, my travel buddy and I caught a bus from the main “station” in town (essentially a small parking lot with a few mini-vans loading up passengers) to Wadi Rum.
The ‘bus’ cost just a few Jordanian Dinar (I believe it worked out to be about $6 USD), but it only leaves when it is full so be prepared for a bit of a wait. Of course you can also arrange taxi or private transfer. My travel buddy and I were traveling on a budget so we went with the cheapest option.
The mini-van dropped us off near the Visitor’s Center in Wadi Rum where we had arranged for our tent camp to pick us up. We stayed at Wadi Rum Beduland Camp and had a lovely time. There are lots and lots of tent camp options. You shouldn’t have any trouble finding one that suits your budget!
Most of the tent camps can arrange jeep or camel safaris, but we decided to just stick near camp and go on some hikes during the day.
Exploring the stunning rock formations felt like wandering around on another planet!
When the sun goes down you are treated to a spectacular sunset followed by a night of unparalleled star-gazing. I’ve truly never seen anything like it.
Our camp prepared meals for us, so other than hike around during the day we didn’t have much to do! We decided to rest up, play cards, read books, and get to know the other camp guests. I recommend electing to sleep out under the stars! Our Bedouin hosts were gracious, hospitable, and happy to go out of their way to make our stay as enjoyable as possible.
When we were finished camping, our hosts drove us back to the visitor center where we picked up a mini-van bus to Petra.
Before I visited Petra I didn’t realize that there is a good size city surrounding the ancient ruins. This make visiting the site quite easy because you can stay right in town and just walk down to the ruins to explore them for a day or two. There are also some killer sunsets to see from the upper part of town.
I also didn’t realize that Petra is a HUGE site, not just the iconic Treasury structure made famous by Indiana Jones.
If you can avoid it, try not to visit the ruins on the weekend. Whichever day you go, get up early and be there right when the gates open.
Walk straight through to the Treasury to get some pictures before the crowds arrive.
As soon as you’re done there, walk all the way through the ancient city and take the stairs to the top to see the monastery. You’ll be glad you got up there early before it’s swarming with selfie sticks!
The Treasury and the Monastary look very similar, so a lot of people don’t realize they are actually two separate sites. The Treasury is tall, skinny and near the entry to Petra. The Monastary, built later in the image of the Treasury, is wider, shorter, and located at the top of a 20 to 30 minute hike.
After you’ve seen the Treasury and the Monastary, spend the rest of the day exploring the nooks and crannies of the ancient city.
If you are a Western woman traveling alone (or in our case, as a pair), be prepared to be approached by men in and out of the ancient city who will want to chat you up, invite you to parties, and generally just hit on you.
This gets a bit weary after several hours, and we never did find a way a good way to avoid them. Ignoring them just seemed to provoke them! I finally told a particularly persistent gentleman that my friend and I were trying to spend time together and preferred to be left alone. This worked for a time, but didn’t entirely get the point across. As with most places in Jordan, I’d recommend keeping your knees and shoulders covered to avoid attracting (even more) unwanted attention.
After we had finished exploring Petra we spent another night in town before catching yet another mini bus to Amman.
Amman, or Philadelphia as it used to be known, is a bustling city about an hour away from the Dead Sea. I recommend staying in Amman and using it as a base to explore the area, including the Dead Sea.
You can take a bus or arrange a private transfer down to the sea, and once you get there you can purchase a day pass to use the facilities at one of the resorts. This isn’t cheap, but I think it’s the best way to visit the sea from the Jordanian side.
I went to the sea twice while I was in Amman and both times went to Movenpick. I loved it so much the first time I had to go back! There’s direct access down to the sea, clay pots full of Dead Sea mud to rub all over your skin, plus lots of pools and lounge chairs to relax next to for the day.
The sea itself is an absolute trip. If you have any cuts or abrasians (or have recently shaved), the water will sting a little bit. Avoid getting it in your mouth and especially your eyes! The salt deposits on the rocks can be quite sharp, so wearing foot protection is a good idea.
Make sure to stick around to watch the sunset!
Back in Amman, explore the ruins, museums, and be sure to eat as much knafeh as you can manage. Knafeh (I’ve also seen it spelled knaffe, kanafuh, k’nafa, and all sorts of other variations) is a delicious dessert made with savory cheese, semolina, sticky syrup, and pistachios. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever had and I still find myself craving it!
There are lots of other ruins near Amman and most hotels and hostels can help arrange a shared car service to take you around to the various sites. Jerash is the most famous and popular, but there also smaller sites around you can explore. If you’re staying in a hotel or hostel, check with the front desk to see if they can arrange a car to take you around from site to site. Share the ride with other travelers to save some money!
While things like busses and accomodation are pretty reasonable in Jordan, food and alcohol can be a bit pricey. For a cheap meal, head to Al Quds Falafel for an awesome vegetarian sandwich. Shams Albalad is a great place to treat yourself to a luxurious brunch, and be sure to check out Habiba for sweets (including Knafeh!).
My favorite thing to eat in Jordan was usually just listed as “mix salad” on the menu and consisted of an assortment of dips and spreads served with bread.
If you plan to cross into Jerusalem after visiting Amman, you’ll need to take a bus or taxi to the King Hussein Bridge border. I was really nervous about this crossing, but I didn’t have any trouble. There can sometimes be long queues and wait times, but the whole process seemed pretty straight forward. You go through the exit process on the Jordanian side, take a shuttle to the Israeli side, and go through border control before catching a bus to Jerusalem.
Prepare to be questioned and have your bag searched. Once you get through the border there are lots of buses around that go into the city, so just ask the driver for the destination. They will sometimes take Jordanian Dinar, but try to use the ATMs at the border to get your hands on some New Israeli Shekels before heading into Jerusalem.
All in all, backpacking Jordan was surprisingly easy. While it is still more common for people to visit the region on a group tour, don’t let budget restrictions stop you from visiting this amazing part of the world!