Nestled in a secluded valley surrounded by Jordan’s rugged mountains, Petra was left deserted and hidden from the world for hundreds of years. After being rediscovered in the 1800s, the lost city of Petra is now not only Jordan’s leading tourist attraction, it’s also one of the world’s most incredible archaeological sites, and was recently voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. To reach Petra you walk through a narrow 1.2km gorge, known as the Siq. The rocks give way to reveal the incredible facade of Al Kazneh (the Treasury), which served as a royal tomb, but got its name from the legend that pirates hid their treasure there. The Treasury famously featured as the Holy Grail's last resting place in the film 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade'.
Past the Treasury the hidden valley widens to reveal the remains of the city proper including dozens of ancient Nabataean tombs and a Roman rock-carved street lined with temples, royal tombs, public buildings and a vast amphitheatre. Petra's most imposing and impressive monument is Ad Deir (the Monastery), which is scenically perched above the city in the beautiful Petra Hills. The steep walk up to the Monastery takes about an hour.
Ancient riverbeds, vast pastel-coloured stretches of sandy desert and amazing rock formations known as jebels form the incredible landscape of Wadi Rum in the south of Jordan. Wadi Rum possesses unspoilt beauty forged by millions of years of geological formation, erosion and evolution. The region is home to the semi-nomadic Bedouins who live in goat hair tents, tend to their herds of sheep and goat and preserve a lifestyle that has been practised here in the Arabian desert for centuries.
On visits to Wadi Rum we take a 4x4 desert jeep ride through the heart of the stunning desert and spend a night at a remote desert camp where we watch a beautiful sunset, enjoy a traditional Jordanian meal and camp under the stars or in tents.
The lowest point on the earth’s surface, the Dead Sea is a fascinating natural phenomena. Straddling the border between Israel and Jordan, the mineral content of this 75km-long and 10km-wide saltwater lake is 33%, which is about six times as salty as a normal ocean. This incredibly high salt content means the Dead Sea is extremely buoyant, making it impossible to sink or swim in - the only option is to bob around like a cork! It’s called the Dead Sea as nothing can live in it. There are no fish, seaweed or plants of any kind in or around the water. What you’ll see on the shores are clusters of white salt crystals. These salts are mineral salts, which is just like you find in the oceans of the world, only in extreme concentrations. Many believe that these salts have curative powers and therapeutic qualities, and so the Dead Sea is a great place to try out a spot of pampering in the local spas.
Second only to Petra in touristic appeal, the 2,000 year-old Graeco-Roman ruins of Jerash are recognised as one of the best-preserved member cities of the Decapolis, a confederation of 10 Graeco-Roman cities. When Emperor Hadrian paid a visit in 129 AD, the place was buzzing. The citizens threw up a Triumphal Arch for him which still stands today. Exemplifying the finesse of Roman urban life, the town boasts a hippodrome, an old sports field that once held 15,000 spectators and a stunning amphitheatre with amazing amplification abilities. There is also the forum which gracefully links the main north-south axis of Jerash and a colonnaded street paved with original stones and the rut marks of chariots and a nymphaeum replete with ancient fountains trimmed with dolphins and various temples.
Situated on the tip of the Red Sea on the Gulf of Aqaba, the laid-back resort of Aqaba is Jordan’s only gateway to the sea. Renowned for its pristine sandy beaches, clear waters and colourful reefs studded with marine life, Aqaba is just the ticket for sun, fun, diving, snorkelling and swimming. Awaba is also a great place for watersports such as waterskiing, parasailing, jet-skiing and fishing and ideal for a spot of relaxation. Historically, Aqaba boasts sites dating back to 4,000 BC, including the recent discovery of possibly the world’s oldest church dating from the 3rd century AD, the remains of the medieval walled city of Ayla and a Mamluk fort.