There are some parts of the world that have become synonymous with trekking. Nepal, Chile, Australia and the USA to name just a few. The Middle East may not strike you as the world’s greatest trekking destination but the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is set to change that with the completion of the 650km-long Jordan Trail.
This trekking route connects the ancient ruins of Umm Qais in the north with the Red Sea resort of Aqaba in the south. Making it now possible to hike the entire length of Jordan. And along the way you can stop at iconic sites including Petra, the Dead Sea and Wadi Rum. What’s more, the trail also traverses parts of the country that, until now, have gone unseen.
Still need convincing? Here’s three compelling reasons why Jordan has all the ingredients necessary to becoming the world’s next great trekking destination:
The variety of trails – it’s a bit of a cliché but there really is something for everyone in Jordan. There are short and easy hikes as well as long and difficult hikes. There are hikes that take you through gorges with swollen rivers and there are hikes across flat sandy plains. And with 650 km to choose from, the options are plentiful.
The combination of nature and history – many of Jordan’s trekking trails connect impressive historical sites ranging from Roman ruins and Crusader castles to UNESCO-listed archaeological wonders. And these same trails cover a surprisingly diverse range of landscapes too, from dramatic valleys and gorges to vast red-sand deserts. Jordan may not have the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas or the glacial lakes of Patagonia. But it does have spectacular ancient monuments, traditional Bedouin culture and a Hollywood-starring desert. It is also home to one of the world’s most unique bodies of water.
The lack of other trekkers – while Jordan establishes itself as a prime trekking destination, its trails remain blissfully devoid of people. Unlike some of the world’s most popular treks that require limited available permits or go by the nickname of the “Coca-Cola route”, Jordan’s treks receive only a handful of visitors each year. So you can enjoy the adventure without human commotion.
Best Treks in Jordan
For those with time on their hands and fitness on their side, the Jordan Trail offers 40 days of hiking to conquer the route in its entirety. Thankfully for everyone else, the Jordan Trail can also be tackled in bite size chunks with individual treks ranging from just a day to a week. Here are some of the best.
Dana to Petra Trek
The Dana to Petra trek is Jordan’s most popular. Not surprising given that National Geographic named it one of the world’s best hikes. The route starts in the Dana Nature Reserve and covers diverse ecosystems, dramatic sandstone valleys and small canyons to reach Jordan’s crowning glory – the legendary Rose City of Petra.
The trek ends entering Petra via Monastery, often referred to as the ‘back door’. The vast majority of visitors to Petra enter via the Siq, or the ‘front door’, and there’s a good chance you’ll have the impressive Monastery largely to yourself before the day trippers make it this far. From here you can walk down the notoriously tough-going 800 steps rather than up them. It’s a welcome bonus after six days of trekking across mountainous terrain.
This trek is, in essence, a hike to one of the world’s new seven wonders and a far quieter alternative to the renowned Inca Trail in Peru.
Petra to Wadi Rum Trek
This section of the trail connects two of Jordan’s most popular destinations across a long stretch of wilderness. From deep, rugged canyons to open, sandy plains, the route perfectly displays the country’s varied terrain. And best of all, it finishes with the chance to experience the vast Wadi Rum desert.
The hike officially starts at the Siq, the famed entrance to Petra created from a natural canyon. It then traces a route through the ancient city to the rock-carved amphitheatre. Here the trek heads up the mountain and continues south to reach an abandoned Roman amphitheatre near a natural spring. It also passes the ruins of Humeima, an ancient Nabataean city. These are sites few travellers see and makes the hike all the more gratifying.
The trek takes six days with camping along the way. For keen trekkers it’s possible to continue further south to Aqaba, adding an additional three days to the itinerary.
Umm Qais to Aljoun Trek
The trail connecting the ruins of the Decapolis city of Gadara with a 12th century Muslim castle is a crash course in the ancient civilisations that have left their mark on the Hashemite Kingdom. And the trail also boasts mysterious prehistoric structures, Byzantine monastery ruins and what remains of the Roman city of Pella.
As if that wasn’t enough, this hike takes you through the greenest part of the country for scenery that’s a far cry from the desertscapes of the south. This part of the Jordan Valley is characterised by hilly grasslands, oak forests and huge olive trees that give trekkers a completely different impression of Jordan. It’s possible to visit community-run tourism initiatives in the local villages and spend nights in homestays for a fascinating insight into rural Jordan and its people.
Wadi Hidan to Wadi Mujib
Jordan is home to a number of spectacular gorges and each offers plenty of adventure in their own right. In fact, canyoning is fast becoming one of Jordan’s other prime adrenaline-fuelled activities. The trek between Wadi Hidan and Wadi Mujib connects two particularly impressive canyons.
It’s a demanding trek that requires two river crossings – perfect for cooling off in the heat. And also handy for refilling your drinking bottle. The challenge is worth it for the incredible panoramic views and the scenic waterfalls enjoyed along the way.
The Wadi Mujib Nature Reserve is a popular spot for shorter treks too. You can spend just 3-4 hours following a section of the canyon for a taste of what the region has to offer. Depending on the time of year, this could be a hike in wide puddles or involve quite strenuous wading through chest-high waters as this part of Jordan is prone to flash flooding.
With so much raw adventure and miles and miles of unique trails, Jordan really does have what it takes to compete with the big boys of the trekking world.
So if you’re considering a visit to Jordan, go for Petra – it’s a New World Wonder after all. But stay for the trekking and consider taking a slower, less-trodden and more rewarding route there.
Ditch the King’s Highway and take a path that few else have yet to follow. And discover for yourself why Jordan will soon be herald as one the world’s greatest trekking destinations.
Just remember you heard it here first.
This article was written in collaboration with the Jordan Tourism Board.