Jordan travel advice?
August 19, 2010 5:09 PM   Subscribe

Jordan travel advice?

Thinking of spending the week between Christmas and New Year's in Jordan. Have you been? What was amazing and what is worth skipping? Apart from Petra and Wadi Rum and Amman, is there anything else essential? How long should I allow in each place? Did you use a specific tour company for the excursions - would love a recommendation. Thanks!
posted by meerkatty to Travel & Transportation around Jordan (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I loved Petra. Didn't spend too much time in Amman. Wadi Rum was cool but there isn't a whole lot to see. We went to a Turkish bath and got massages which was something different. We also went to one of the beaches on the Dead Sea which was awesome. If I was going to go back, I think I'd like to go to Aqaba and Jerash but I really would want to go back to the Dead Sea and Petra. Have fun!
posted by kat518 at 5:40 PM on August 19, 2010

Jordan is amazing. It's my favorite destination in the whole world.

I recently emailed this advice to a friend:

In Amman: For good, cheap food, take a cab to Hashem's in the old town for great
falafel & hummous. The restaurant Jaffra is nearby (great place for
hookah), and so is Shaherazade (good grilled meat).

For nature-type excursions, I recommend most any place listed at the Royal Society's website.

We went to the Dana Eco-Lodge, a beautiful and candle-lit (no power)
facility with nice hiking available, and on one of our last weekends
in Jordan, we spent a couple of days at the Mujib Guesthouses -- those
places are not to be missed. They're right on the Dead Sea, and you
get your own little chalet with hammocks and a view of the water.

And if you're feeling a little adventurous: We found out about far too late in our trip, is
that for a lot of destinations, you can take a minibus instead of a
cab to get there from Amman. This means the difference between a 3JD
trip and a 60JD one. I forget the name of the minibus location in
Amman, but I imagine the hotel can help you out there. Take a cab to
get there from your hotel -- and the cab driver will try to talk you
out of it, just cause he sees $$$ in driving you to your destination,
himself -- but be insistent, and you should get to the spot just fine.
Then just sort of approach people and say the name of where you want
to go, and _somebody_ will help you out. A trip to Mujib should be
around 3JD, to Akhaba, maybe 6. The minibuses we rode on were
comfortable, if a bit reminiscent of Chinatown buses with the loud
music & cellphone conversations, but they were fun, quick, and cheap.
I don't know if I'd travel on them as a single woman (just cause some
Jordanian men are pretty aggressive toward foreign women), but a couple should be fine on the bus.


If I only had a week in Jordan, I would spend a full day in Petra -- hike to the "top of the world" at sunup! -- and then a couple days each lounging at the Dana and Mujib guesthouses, with any leftover time spent in Amman.

Feel free to memail me if you'd like any more info or if you've got any questions.
posted by jacob at 6:09 PM on August 19, 2010

There is a great Knefe (cheesy honey pastry of awesomeness) in downtown Amman at Habibe's. (sp?) The main branch has a long line, but the place where they make it is only a few streets away and has no line. Delicious, but VERY filling - a little piece is more than enough. That was the highlight of Amman for me, besides the super-cool people I stayed with. The city is kind of sprawly and new and hard to find your way around. There's some Roman ruins on one of the central hills that are kind of neat, but not very impressive if you've seen other roman ruins. It was interesting being driven around town and told about the city by a local, but I don't know if this is an option for you. If you're a bit adventurous about meeting strangers, I met some really nice people via Couchsurfing in Amman.

I LOVED Petra. Try and go for at least 2 days, and make sure you get up early so that it's not too hot, though that might not be so applicable in the winter. All the tour groups seemed to arrive at 10am, wander for a bit, wilt, and leave by 2pm. So it was MUCH less crowded after or before those hours. The climb to the high sacrificial alter place leads to a great view over the valley, but the climb up the Monastery is higher and so so so beautiful. Make sure you go to one of the high up souvenir shops up there - not to buy souvenirs per se, but to see the view of the other mountains and valleys that stretch beyond Petra. I spent at least an hour there, mostly just shooting the breeze with the other tourists and the Bedouin locals and being astounded by the view. You can also scramble up to the top of the Monastery by going up the side of the mountain next to it, kind of around the back, and then onto the top dome part. I don't really recommend it, but it's do-able. I was with a few French people and our new Bedouin friends, and the Bedouin guys were far more dare-devilish at 150 feet up than I was comfortable watching, and one of them nearly fell off down the face. If you're coming up out of the valley late, you also get beautiful colors in the sandstone of the passage from the Treasury.

I didn't go to Wadi Rum or Jerash. I took the bus from Petra to Aqaba (4 hrs, cheap) because I was catching the ferry to Egypt. I also took the express bus from Amman to Petra. It was a bit of a pain to organize because I had to go a couple days before to buy my ticket, but it was fast and cheap-ish and efficient. I spent a day on the Egyptian side of the Red Sea, did a touch of snorkeling of the hostel beach, and wished I'd had more time there.

Overall, I'd say maybe 2 days in Amman, 2-3 days in Petra, ? in Wadi Rum, and a few days by the beach. I was travelling alone as a woman the whole time, and though people were VERY curious, particularly about my marital status and why my family was OK with it, people were very friendly and helpful. Though having local contacts definitely gave me some peace of mind in terms of on-the-ground resources. Have fun!
posted by foodmapper at 6:34 PM on August 19, 2010

If the minibuses in Jordan are anything like the minibuses in Egypt, I'd exercise a little precaution before using them. Not only were the minibuses in Egypt crowded, but the drivers don't seem to understand the concept of speedlimits. I once rode one in the evening and was slightly terrified to see that we were practically hurtling down the street.

Of course, it might be different in Jordan.
posted by joyeuxamelie at 11:12 PM on August 19, 2010

Another vote for Jerash. It's about an hour out of Amman, a worthwhile day trip - you can cover the whole site in a couple of hours or so. Best to go in the morning before the larger crowds arrive, though.

In Amman, check out Souk Jara (on Friday nights). Also in Amman, The Citadel is worth a look in, great views of Amman and some ruins of the old city of Philadelphia.
posted by medzmaestra at 2:14 AM on August 20, 2010

Petra is definitely worth at least a couple of days - as long as you're willing to do a lot of walking, you will be rewarded. While it's true there isn't a whole lot to see in the Wadi Rum, I spent three days there and it never stopped taking my breath away. Great place to spend time on your own and do some soul searching. While it wouldn't normally be my thing, after the Wadi Rum we went to Aqaba, and spent a day snorkelling at the Royal Jordanian Diving Club, and after a week in the desert it was absolutely fantastic.
posted by kxr at 4:37 AM on August 20, 2010

In Amman, I recommend Books@Cafe. It's a short walk from the first circle, down Rainbow Street and then take a right. Everyone round that way will know it. Wadi Rum is good if you go and stay in one of the desert camps overnight. If you're feeling a bit adventurous and want to get out and see what life is like outside the capital and the tourist destinations etc, you can take a taxi from Amman to Zarqa, for about 12JD, or take the bus. There are, however, few if any reasons for a tourist to go there. It's an industrial town, but I found (staying there) that the central market and residential areas as a whole just felt a lot more like "I'm in Jordan" than time spent in Amman. Petra, I thought, was massively overrated. You walk down a track, pass a few holes in the cliffs, see the treasury, get disappointed by the fact that it's just one room inside and not a whole impressive series of chambers, get to the hotels at the bottom then turn around and go back. Can be "done" in a few hours.
posted by Biru at 6:09 AM on August 20, 2010

Habiba (حبيبة), as mentioned by foodmapper, can be identified by this striking and slightly flying-saucer-like sign. I also have happy memories of it. Also in Amman, Darat al-Funun is nice for a peaceful hour or two.

If Byzantine mosaics are your thing then Madaba is an easy morning trip from Amman; I wasn't that interested, to be honest, but there you go. The view down over the Dead Sea from Mt Nebo, on the other hand, was good enough for me to go back a second time. In summer there's a gorgeous, elusive scent of sweet pine up there; I'd like to go in winter, though, because I think you'd have a better chance of seeing all the way to Jerusalem. (Too hazy in summer.)

Jerash is impressive, alright, but it didn't really grab me. Umm Qais, on the other hand, really did--here, too, enough for me to go back a second time on a later trip. (Link is to the Jordan tourist board's site for the town.) It's partly for the view--across a steep valley to the Golan Heights, and a bit further away down to the Sea of Galilee--and partly for the ruins, and partly just for atmosphere. Easy to get to from Amman, via Irbid. Oh, and when I went the Guest House was good for dinner, but that's a few years ago. On my second visit I also walked down into the valley to the village with the hot springs, al-Himma; this involved talking my way past a number of military checkpoints, though--they prefer you to take the bus--and I enjoyed the walk more than the hot springs. I did, though, like the anti-Crusader castle at 'Ajloun, in the same north-western corner of Jordan. The castle isn't enormous but it has splendid views across a landscape of hills which even in summer was much greener than you'd imagine for Jordan. In winter it's one of the places where you're most likely to find snow, I think.

On the way south from Amman it's worth stopping off to see the Crusader castle at Karak, which is big. It was home to one of the great villains of the Crusades, Reynaud de Châtillon. So wicked, the story goes, that he was executed by Saladin himself after the latter's victory at Hattin, when the other Crusader leaders were spared. You could do this on the same day as Mt Nebo and still be at a hotel outside Petra (ready for an early start the next day) by nightfall, though in winter you might have to get up early to make the most of it.

I don't especially regret having spent only one full (long) day at Petra, but I don't agree that it's over-rated. There's a lot more than the treasury and some hotels--follow foodmapper's advice again. I followed the even-more-secret-than-the-secret-way-in way out when I went; it'll be closed when you're there, though, because from October to May there's a risk of flash floods (and when you see the boulders larger than SUVs that have been tumbled down the canyon like dice by flash floods you realize that that's a warning to be taken seriously). I'm mentioning it here because (i) it was hella cool and (ii) other people might look at this page later.

I haven't been to Dana but a friend had a wonderful time there. An old teacher of mine also loved it. I'm sorry I didn't manage it myself.

Oh--and minibuses in Jordan are generally a less white-knuckle affair than their equivalents in Egypt. Taxis, too, tend to be larger, newer, and plusher than in Egypt or Syria, including the white shared ones that roll down Amman's hills in queues at taxi-ranks.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 11:59 AM on August 20, 2010

It's been a long time, and maybe you can't do this any more, but I took a very long hike along the top of the cliffs that surround Petra. Involved jumping over some infinitely deep narrow chasms. Pretty exhausting but simply stunning. The views from up there were amazing.

Jerash is well worth visting, especially if you've never seen Roman ruins.

Spend some time in Amman. It's a big city full of of friendly people. Maybe you'll get invited to someone's house and end up on the roof, looking at Jerusalem in the night, like I did.
posted by justcorbly at 3:47 PM on August 20, 2010

I was in Jordan this past March, and really loved it. Some recommendations:

Amman is a nice city, but hard to explore on your own. We hooked up with a few people from Couchsurfing Jordan & had a blast. Books@cafe is a pretty hangout, I agree. Definitely hit up the eatery Hashem: food there is amazing amazing, and very cheap.

We stayed at a luxury resort at the Dead Sea, called Dead Sea Kempinski. Quite expensive, but well worth it. They pamper you good, and the grounds are absolutely majestic. Movie stars & politicians stay there too, I was told. ;)

We stopped by Karak on the drive down to Petra. Not too many people there, was a nice side trip.

Petra is amazing. Definitely do at least a full day there. There's a ton to explore, it's a lot of walking, and gets filled up with tourists fast, so stay at a hotel nearby the night before and get in before the crowd and the sun. By 2pm or so the place is scorching hot and crowded, your feet will ache, and you will want to high-tail it out of there. We did the extra trek to the Monastery in the late morning which was nice because it is a lot farther out (fewer tourists), and just as good as the Treasury if not better.

In Petra, don't eat near the entrance to the hike. Only expensive tourist food is there. Instead take a taxi to the town a bit of a ways from there, called Wadi Musa. We ate at a place called Al-Wadi there, and it was like, the best meal in the whole country. Very cheap too!

We did Petra By Night the night before exploring Petra. This was OK. The crowd was huge, which was a let down, although we snuck our way to the front and had a great view.

We stayed a night at Wadi Rum, which was very cool as well. We stayed at Obeid's camp, which was highly regarded on TripAdvisor, and which I enjoyed as well (more here). Well worth it. His family is very kind & hospitable.

MefiMail me for more. I can show you my travelogue too if you like. Enjoy!
posted by gushn at 7:55 AM on August 21, 2010

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