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Thru-Hike, Camp, and More in Jordan—an Outdoor Playground in the Middle East

If you’re taking a trip to Jordan there are some key outdoor adventures you don’t want to miss. Explore the Jordan Trail (which is more than 400 miles long), the Wadi Rum desert, or Petra. Make sure to plan plenty of time to enjoy the country’s mouthwatering cuisine by signing up for a food tour in the capital city of Amman. A visit to this Middle Eastern nation provides a peek into its rich culture, fascinating history, and delicious food—along with plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure. 

Hike a Section of the Jordan Trail 

Stretching more than 400 miles, from Umm Qais—just a few miles from the country’s northern border—to the Red Sea in the south, the Jordan Trail provides a great way for outdoor adventurers to explore a large part of the country. The trail passes by popular tourist destinations like Petra and Wadi Rum, providing a unique way to experience these highlights. Make sure you are well-prepared for a hike, and consider hiring a local guide for your adventure. The Jordan Trail Association provides a useful planning guide to help prepare.

The northernmost section of the trail starts at Umm Qais and goes by ancient Roman sites, continuing towards oak forests, rolling hills, farmland, and rural villages. Further south, pass by the Iraq Al-Ameer ancient palace, the Jordan Valley, and the Dead Sea, along with many wadis and limestone cliffs. Towards the southern end of the trail, hike through Dana Biosphere Reserve and Wadi Feynan. Then enjoy the week-long stretch from Petra to Wadi Run—a remote trek through the desert complete with gorgeous rocks and stunning stars—before reaching the southernmost section that leads to the Red Sea. 

The Jordan Trail Association recently formed a partnership with the Hitachi no kuni Long Trail in Japan, and the two trails are now Friendship Trails, which means they are working together on tourism and cultural efforts, encouraging hikers to explore both trails, exchange knowledge, find future opportunities for collaboration, share insight about cultural experiential tourism, and more. The Hitachi no kuni Long Trail is 320 km (around 200 miles) long and located in Japan’s Ibaraki Prefecture.

Join the Jordan Trail Thru-Hike

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Image by JordanTrail.org

Consider joining the Jordan Trail Association’s Thru-Hike to explore the trail. This year, the association hosted a Thru-Hike in October and November, with similar timing in 2022, so check the association’s website for updates and future dates.

The Thru-Hike provides plenty of options to fit different schedules, including a chance to join the fully supported hike, which includes a guide, transportation, some accommodations and meals, among other assistance. Options are also available to join the Thru-Hike for a region, weekend, or a single day.

Visit Wadi Rum for Camping, Jeep Tours, and Stargazing

Jordan’s Wadi Rum desert provides an opportunity to get away and experience life in a desert camp. Options range from luxury dome-style accommodations to more traditional camps. Be sure to take a Jeep or 4×4 tour to explore the desert while you’re there. Day tours range from just an hour or two of exploration to half and full-day options. Tours often stop at various attractions, with time to get out and take a look around or go for short hikes. Sunset is a great time to go out on a tour with the fading light dancing across the cliffs and desert landscape, creating beautiful scenes for photography during the golden hour.

Stargazing is a favorite activity at Wadi Rum, with the endless dark night sky serving as a canvas for the brilliant stars. Head out into the desert with a guide in the evening to soak up the stars—or just look from your camp to see them light up the sky. For a more immersive peek into the cosmos, sign up for an astronomy experience with Rum Sky Stargazing Adventures, which includes an introduction to the night sky, a guided tour of some of the constellations, and an opportunity to use massive telescopes for close-up views of the night sky.

Explore Petra by Day and Night

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Image by Alex Vasey

Known as one of the greatest wonders of the world, Petra is an ancient Nabataean city carved into cliffs. It is known as the “rose-red city” due to the reddish coloration of the rocks, cliffs, and features that define it. Visitors can explore the main trail on their own or hire a guide for either the main trail or side trails while explaining the history of this unique archaeological site. The main trail is around five miles round-trip, beginning at the Visitor Center, winding by the Djin Blocks, As Siq, the famous Treasury, Street of Facades, the Great Temple, and more. The area has a number of different hiking options, including a hike to the Monastery, so consider hiring a guide and venturing out on one of the less-trafficked trails.

In the evening three times a week, 1,500 candles light up Petra, providing a unique 2-hour experience called Petra by Night. During the event, visitors can walk the Siq to the Treasury to see it lit up by candle light. A special ticket is required for this event, in addition to the regular day time ticket. 

Amman Food Tour 

Stroll the streets of Jordan’s capital city on an evening food tour with Amman Food Tours. Wander around the Old Downtown area with your guide to sample incredible Jordanian cuisine, from the bustling outdoor market, to small shops and restaurants. Sign up for the three-hour evening tour or opt for a private tour during the day. 

Sample favorites like zaatar manaqish (a delicious flatbread with zaatar), falafel sandwiches, and lemon and mint juice, among many other bites along the way. Learn about Jordanian culture over bites of mansaf, the national dish of lamb, rice, and fermented yogurt sauce that families gather to enjoy together on weekends. The tour wouldn’t be complete without dessert—enjoy tasty treats like Arabic ice cream or kunafa, a delectable dessert made with pistachio and white cheese.

Float the Dead Sea 

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Image by Keith Chan

At around 430 meters (1,400 feet or so) below sea level, the shores of the Dead Sea are considered the lowest spot on Earth. Since the lake’s water level is dropping, the actual elevation changes from year to year. The shores of the Dead Sea are home to numerous resorts, where people stay to enjoy the water as well as the resort amenities, such as spas and massages. 

Enjoy a float in the Dead Sea, which is especially buoyant due to the high salt content. Be mindful not to put your head in the water or get any of the salty water in your eyes, and avoid taking a dip if you have any open cuts or wounds (many skip shaving for a few days before entering the salty water). Shoes or sandals are useful to protect your feet from walking on the sharp minerals, and you’ll likely only want to soak for a short time before getting out and rinsing off.

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