Hubby and I had planned a lovely winter sun holiday to Jordan in December 2021, but Steph got covid just before we were supposed to leave. Having paid all the deposits, we managed to salvage most of the cost, and we are off for a very hot September week.
Floating in the Dead Sea
We had a meandering first day, up late as we were 2 hours behind local time. After a hearty buffet at the Opal airport hotel, we went back to the airport to pick up a car and sort a sim card (details below) and then Steph drove us out to the Dead Sea. We stayed at the luxurious Kempinski which had unbelievably friendly staff and a lot of local families staying. We spent a couple of hours down at the sea, mudding myself up for a dead sea treatment and then floating in the water. We then migrated up to the pool at the hotel and drank mocktails and ate by the pool. Staff bought towels, water and fresh watermelon. It was a tough day. I don’t usually have such lazy holidays. We rounded out the day with an enormous Lebanese dinner (we ordered sagely but the portions were nuts) and a wonderful sleep.
After a large buffet breakfast at the Kempinski we meandered down the Dead sea highway stopping sporadically to take photos. Everytime we got out of the car we sweltered, so we would retreat swiftly to the AC after a couple of minutes. After some spectacular desert scenery we arrived at Feynan Village – the gateway to the Dana Biosphere. We were staying at Feynan lodge – an expensive eco lodge at the bottom of Wadi Dana, accessed via a 4wd road that required us to get a lift with a local bedouin. The lodge was a delight – excellent vegetarian food, lovely rooms, very friendly staff. The only downside was the lack of electricity, no aircon obvs (it is eco), and a relatively weak fan. In 43 degree heat, that meant we spent the afternoon lying down trying to acclimatise, and occasionally getting up for another cold shower. We roused ourselves at 5pm and did a 6.5km round trip stroll up wadi Dana, meeting the local Bedouins and their goats….. and then returned to the lodge as the sun went down. The vegetarian dinner was incredible (and i am not a keen eater of vegetables). Then we went upstairs and lay on mattresses while Ali talked us through the stars, and I saw Saturn and her rings through the telescope
Wandering through Wadi Ghuweir
The best hike in Jordan (apart from around Petra) is apparently the Wadi Ghuweir. I was not keen to do a huge 25k hike in the heat, so Steph and I valiantly got up at 5.45am and headed out at 6am. The first 5 k was pretty boring until we hit the wadi proper. But once in the wadi, and then the steep sided canyons, it was blissfully cool in the shade and with the running water (which our feet were submerged in much of the time). The walk isn’t possible in the winter given the danger of flash floods. It was an amazing and pretty easy hike (with a few hand scrambles required). The only downside was the plentiful rubbish – tuna cans, empty yogurt pots, and a very dead decomposing smelly donkey. The return trip to Feynan, once out of the wadi was a sweltering 5k in the 40 degree heat, so more cold showers were had on arrival. Then we had lunch and lay under the fan.
We went out again for the sunset hike (an easy 3k return) hosted by the lodge with six other guests, loved the views and had some sweet arabic tea before returning for another epic dinner and a good sleep
And heading on to Petra
We are having a relaxed (husband) paced holiday, so we had a leisurely breakfast and then drove slowly down to Little Petra. The scenery is stunning, and while half the road was excellent and well engineered, the last 10km to Little Petra from Feynan was very reminiscent of kiwi back roads (potholes, gravel, windy and narrow). We had a lovely wee stroll around little Petra – which had very few tourists and no hassle.
A short drive and then checked into the lovely Movenpick Hotel in Petra (quite an impressive upgrade from the dorm room in the grubby hostel I was in when I last visited 25 years ago).
We decided to have breakfast before heading out, and made it to the park at 6.30 am. Petra has a lot more hustle and hassle than when I was last here, but it was still a lovely experience to walk down the Siq and see the treasury. We then headed up to the Monastery (apparently a 90 minute hike up but took us 35 mins) and enjoyed the views and tried to ignore the legions of overdressed millenials posing for insta perfect moody shots – I can’t quite figure out how people were managing to walk in some of their impractical shoes and dresses.
It was hot so we stopped frequently for iced tea. After looking around the tombs on the east cliff, we hiked up to the high place of sacrifice and then (with the assistance of an enterprising local teenage girl) found the look out point down to the treasury (which was accessed via a mildly sketchy path). After 16km we had had our fill of touts by then, so clambered down the ‘private’ trail back to the treasury and headed back up the Siq to the hotel for lunch and a nap.
It only costs another £6 to buy a two day ticket for Petra, so we went back for a second day. We got into the park at 6am and wandered around the tombs some more before walking up the Al Kubtha trail to look down over the treasury (this was the best viewpoint). We hung out for 45 minutes playing with the local cats and chatting to other tourists, and then meandered back to the hotel to make it in time for the huge buffet breakfast at the Movenpick (which we felt we had earned). While Petra it is probably over-visited, if you are happy to go early and go off trail and use Gaia GPS you can avoid the bulk of the tourists. It was a nice place to revisit
Pampered in Wadi Rum
Wadi Rum is renowned for the desert and rock formations, and also for an abundance of sleezy touts and grubby tent camps with less than clean shared facilities. It was the last night of our holiday (apart from a night near the airport in Amman) so we lux’ed it up and stayed at the nicest camp in the region – only six tents – and it was lovely. We met Ibrahim at the visitors centre and he took us around the Wadi to the main sites. We then arrived at Discovery Bedu for a blissed out 20 hours. The service at is divine, and we were pampered from cool towels on arrival, a lovely fire pit, the best food we ate in Jordan (zarb lamb, chicken, veges and salad, with um ali), and a stunning sun set. Two fantastic ladies from New York were the only other guests, so we drank wine and gossiped about politics and enjoyed the stars. We had a lazy next morning – coffee at 7, a divine breakfast at 8, and then a morning nap before heading back to Amman to stay near the airport for our flight home.
Jordan really is the perfect place for first time visitors to the middle east – lots to see and do, friendly people, and easy to self drive. It was nice to come back.
September 3, 2022
We arrived at Amman airport after midnight. We had read reviews that the rental car service was very poor and it would take hours to get a car, so we arranged to pick up the car the next morning. I had booked the airport hotel (2.5km from the airport), but the reviews were epically bad, so we booked the Opal Hotel – about 20 mins in a taxi from the airport. The hotel charged 25 JD for a pick up after midnight (which we booked as I didn’t want any faff), and then we uber-ed back to the airport in the morning to get the car. We learnt that the Avis, Sixt, Budget and Thrifty franchises are all owned by one family. Service was fine, but we were the only one’s there. The car had a lot of dings and was given to us empty – but it was all noted down.
We also picked up a mobile card (15 JD from orange for 7 days and 5 gb). Zain has apparently slightly better coverage but there was a queue.
Our original flight plan would have been into Amman and out of Aqaba, but the flights were not running on most days from Aqaba so we had to back track all the way to Amman to fly home.
I had an old rough guide, which was pretty decent in describing what to go se.