Probably the single most common question I have gotten about this trip is how I came to choose Jordan as my destination. I have to give credit to social media for this one. I was inspired by other travel bloggers that I follow. I wouldn’t have known or seen the highlights of travel in Jordan without social media. I saw so many beautiful photos posted of this country. But it wasn’t just the scenery that inspired me. It was also that they spoke of how kind the people are, and how safe the country is. I hope that my readers, and people that keep up with me on social media are somehow inspired too. That’s why I started this blog in the first place. I love to share and inspire places to travel to that people may not think of, or even know to visit. For this trip, I was somewhat yearning for a more cultural travel experience than I have had in my other vacations. I’m so excited to share the details of this with you because I definitely achieved just that!
Jordan is located in the middle of Egypt, Israel, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. It has been called the eye of the storm because it is a very peaceful country despite it’s sometimes inharmonious neighbors. I coupled this trip with a visit to Israel and spent eight days in each country, but for this blog, I’m going to cover only Jordan.
Welcome to Jordan! I crossed the border from Israel to Jordan on foot at the Wadi Araba Border Crossing. You must cross on foot because Israel taxi’s are not allowed in Jordan. So, I took an Israeli taxi to the border crossing, walked across the border into Jordan, and took a Jordanian taxi to my first top. My route through the country was Petra, Wadi Rum, Aqaba, and the Dead Sea/Amman.
Drinking in Jordan: I had read that there is little to no alcohol throughout the country, as it is against the Muslim religion. Although we were staying at a very nice place in Petra (first stop) that did serve alcohol, the Wadi Rum Desert (our second stop), did not. There aren’t liquor stores to stop at, and only certain cities have such stores. This meant we had to plan upon entering the country, and bring it with us through our travels. As we crossed the border, we came across a duty free liquor store. Jackpot! We had planned to drive a bit out of the way, so you can imagine how happy we were to see one at the border. As we went through the final security scan, we got stopped by multiple guards who had to call in the General about our alcohol. Apparently we had purchased on the Israel side of the crossing, which was 20 feet before crossing into Jordan. That store had felt like it was too good to be true! It felt like we endured an eternity of interrogation. After pleading and sweet talking about our accidental mistake, the General yelled out “WELCOME TO JORDAN!”, and let us pass with all of our libations. It was a little bit of a rocky start to entering, and I certainly don’t recommend rolling the dice like this at the border. We got very lucky! After wiping all the sweat from our brows and shaking our nerves, we jumped in a taxi to our first stop in Petra.
1st stop: Petra
Petra is known as the “Lost City”, and is one of the Wonders of the World. It is also the most visited site in all of Jordan. If you are an Indiana Jones fan, then you are familiar with this site. For those that aren’t, Petra was once a trading center and capital of the Nabataean empire between 400 B.C. and 106 A.D. Following this, the city sat empty for centuries. In the 1800’s it was rediscovered! You need to purchase your tickets to enter the park to Petra in advance. Once inside the park, it’s a little over a mile walk to the Treasury. Being how popular this site is, we opted to enter the park at opening hour (6:00am) to beat the crowds and heat. It was also quite cool having this mysterious site mostly to ourselves so early in the morning. We got a ton of great pictures without people in the background, which is always important to me. Once down there you can enjoy some tea and refreshments, buy souvenirs, and take a camel or donkey ride if you don’t feel like exploring Petra on foot.
Because of our early start at the park, we were back at our hotel by lunchtime. I chose the Movenpick Petra for our accommodations for several reasons. Not only is this hotel absolutely stunning with seven phenomenal restaurants, but: 1) The hotel is located right across the street from the Petra park entrance. 2) It is the only hotel with a pool that isn’t miles away from the park entrance. Since we were visiting in June, this was a must for me. 3) It is the only hotel in the area that serves alcohol. Wow, I feel like I am talking about alcohol quite a bit in this blog. Haha!! I don’t mean to come off as a total professional, but I did a lot of research on this, and want to share it because it was important to us. We envisioned having a cold beer after exploring the park (which we did), spending a day by the pool with mimosas (which we did), and enjoying wine with our picturesque rooftop BBQ dinner (which we did)! The hotel was a perfect fit for us, and I can’t say enough about how great the service was. If you are visiting Petra, book this hotel! You will not be disappointed.
2nd Stop: Wadi Rum Desert
Wadi Rum Desert is known as the Valley of the Moon, and has the reputation of being Mars on Earth. It is easy to see why they filmed the movie “The Martian” here. It’s crazy that places like this exist, and are just a plane ride away. Talk about a spot to do some soul searching! We decided to do a real Bedouin experience, and camp in the desert. I chose Sun City Camp for our campground, and sprung the extra dough for the Martian Bubble Tent. This was the most unique accommodations I have ever experienced. The word “tent” doesn’t do it justice, as this is a true glamping (glamorous camping) experience. The Martian Bubble tents are clear so that you can stare at the beautiful desert in the day and watch the stars come alive at night, all while lying in a bed that felt like a cloud. So comfy! These tents are perfectly air conditioned with a full bathroom and refrigerator. Perfect place to store the hooch we were lugging around that had been purchased at the border crossing. Upon calling this camp to inquire about liquor, I was told they don’t serve alcohol or allow it in common areas, however they were completely ok with us enjoying it in our tent. So there in our bubble tent fridge, our drinks chilled. Breakfast and dinner are included in the hotel price, and all meals are served in the main dining hall. Every night the camp has a ceremony where they pull the Zarb BBQ dinner out of the ground where the meat has been cooking all day in the earth ovens. We all eat the best buffet you can imagine (seriously the food was to die for), and then the music starts thumping as they light a campfire, serve Turkish tea, and smoke hookahs. I even joined in on a dance around the campfire. Cultural travel experience?? Check!
We did two excursions during our stay at Sun City. One sunset truck ride through the desert, and one sunset camel ride through the desert. It’s hard to say which one I enjoyed more. The truck ride was super exhilarating! We were straight up railing through the desert as we blasted music. It was so much fun! The camel ride was very relaxing, and we stopped for a pit stop to watch the sunset in the sand with our camels. We also got incredibly lucky as both of these excursions were private. Just us and our guide…and our camels. LOL. Totally amazing!
3rd stop: Aqaba
After camping in the Wadi Rum Desert, we were ready for some beach time. Aqaba is exactly that…a beach town on the Red Sea. The Red Sea is well known for its water sports, and we were excited to enjoy the ocean and infinity pool at the hotel overlooking it. We stayed at Al Manara, a Luxury Collection Hotel, because it just looked like the most gorgeous hotel ever! The rates were really great for this type of hotel at $175 per night. Aqaba was the hottest leg of the trip, so it was a good thing we had the ocean, and the hotel infinity pool. Our first day, we were in that pool from the moment we woke up until the sun went down. We literally swam all day long! The second day we chartered a boat to take us snorkeling in the Red Sea. The Red Sea is huge for diving, but I’m a scaredy cat and prefer to snorkel. While out on the water, we could visibly see Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Jordan. It was pretty cool! We explored a ton of coral, a huge sunken ship, and jumping off the top of the boat into the refreshing Red Sea. My husband hit 1,389,486 back flips off the top of that boat. Haha! In case you were wondering, most hotels in Aqaba serve cocktails, but only a couple of restaurants in the city square (which was walkable) do.
4th Stop: Dead Sea
Well, really our “4th Stop” was a long day of travel with a stop at the Dead Sea, and dinner in Amman. Our flight home was at 3:00am, and the Amman airport is located on the opposite side of the country from Aqaba. We decided to spend our last day driving the four hour cross country trip with a stop at the Dead Sea, and a second stop in the capital for a late dinner. We hired a taxi driver for nine hours, which cost us $300. This was cheaper than the little hopper flight we could have taken from Aqaba to Amman, and was a much better way to see more of the country on our last day.
We arrived at the Dead Sea about one hour before sunset. Perfect timing! The Dead Sea is actually a lake, not a sea. It is a lifeless body of water, hence the name. It is eight or nine times saltier than the oceans of the world. It is so dense and mineral rich that it doesn’t even feel like normal water, but more like olive oil mixed with sand. The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth, and receding rapidly at 3 feet per year. I felt incredibly lucky to experience it before it possibly disappears forever. Here lies the famous photo op of a person reading a book while floating. It is impossible for one to sink in the Dead Sea due to the salt levels being so high. So, I just bobbed and floated watching my final sunset in Jordan. The mud also has a ton of minerals in it that is great for smoothing your skin. I missed the memo that said not to shave the day of doing this, and after I rubbed the mud all over my body, I broke out in a complete rash. Fail! Also, you can’t put your face in the water due to how strong the salt is. While posing for a photo, I took a wave in the face, and water shot in my eyes, nose, and throat. I kid you not, I thought I was going to go blind. It hurt so bad! I also tossed my cookies. Double fail! I haven’t thrown up since my very early drinking days, when my drink of choice was a 40oz of Mickey’s. I was on a budget back then. LOL. Regardless of what I had to go through…I got the photo!
Last stop was a late night rooftop dinner in Amman at Canteloupe. This is located in the perfect location to view the entire city, ruins, and huge Jordanian flag that blows in the wind. It was a great place to squeeze in our last supper of beef carpaccio and pasta as we looked over the city lights. The food was phenomenal! We were done at 11:30pm and headed to the airport for our 3:00am flight. Bye bye Jordan!!!
Side note on attire for the ladies: For those of you gals who are curious how to dress in Jordan, this is for you. You are welcome to wear whatever you want in your hotel or while out in the Wadi Rum Desert. However, any time I was outside of these areas, I covered up my shoulders and chest. I actually just wore my typical sundresses and wrapped a scarf around my shoulders and chest. It worked perfectly. It was definitely very interesting to me to visit a country where most women wear head scarfs at all times, some in full Niqab (covers everything but the eyes). But I have to say, the women and Jordanian people in general, were so kind. They truly do welcome all cultures and religions with open arms!
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