3 Days* in JORDAN
With staggering desert landscapes, impeccably preserved ancient cities and a long stretch of Dead Sea coastline, Jordan has attracted visitors for centuries. Still a relatively calm outpost in a chaotic region, the time to visit Jordan is now. So pack your road map and snack basket, here is a 3 Days* itinerary that takes you through the top three destinations at a pace that would have made T.E. Lawrence's head spin.
Day 1* in Jordan
We start Day 1* speeding south on highway 65, dipping back and forth over the slow-motion ripples of the Dead Sea coastline. We arrive early via the Allenby/ King Hussein crossing from Israel, an expensive and unnecessarily tedious process, but nothing compared to unabridged chaos we would encounter on the way back into the West Bank. (Hindsight: fly).
Our goal is to reach Wadi Rum, the spectacular desert valley in southern Jordan, before sunset. Carved into sandstone and granite, Wadi Rum was settled in 8000 BC and is perhaps best known (to Westerners) for its connection with British officer T.E. Lawrence aka Lawrence of Arabia.
Despite an abundance of vicious, unmarked speed bumps, we manage to reach the Wadi with our transmission intact and well before the sun goes down. We’re staying at a Bedouin camp called Rahayeb that consists of a couple dozen tents tucked into a sandy nook between dunes and rock.
Rahayeb is off the beaten-path, rather deep into the desert, so arrange for a pickup at the main parking lot unless you have a reliable 4WD vehicle. Tents are outfitted with comfortable cots and candles, some also have electricity and sparse bathrooms attached. We sprang for the latter but the difference was negligible, in retrospect. A semi circle of covered seating areas and outdoor tables makes up the communal area and give Rahayeb a social vibe. After arriving, we spend the golden hour slipping down steep dune faces and trying (in vain) to capture the rose-soaked sunset on our cameras.
Settling back into camp for the evening, we quickly realize Thursday night is the end of the workweek here so the grounds are crowded with young Jordanian families dancing, smoking shisha and drinking tea. This is sweet until the dinner buffet is served and it becomes clear the camp facilities are overwhelmed (any other night would have been significantly less crowded, we were assured). Nevertheless, the food is enjoyable enough: A Jordanian dish called Zarb consisting of lamb, chicken and vegetables had been cooked in a hole under the sand and was served with the traditional mezze salads and (somewhat stale) pita.
Day 2* in Jordan
Dawn is the second best time to gawk at the landscape, so we opt for a 530am camel ride- and we are not sorry. The desert is silent and the early morning light bounces off the rock faces with almost psychedelic clarity.
We hit the road after breakfast, heading north to the ancient Nabataean city of Petra. Established in 312 BC but unknown to the Western world until the 1800s, the city is considered by UNESCO to be "one of the most precious properties of man's cultural heritage”.
We’re booked at The Petra Guest House, situated about 20 yards from the Petra gates. A sweeping stone patio restaurant and ‘cave bar’ manage to be both gimmicky and inviting, and our rooms are comfortable and well appointed – as they should be for the price.
So, after a quick lunch of soggy burgers and violated fries at the hotel, we dive in. Your first impression of Petra must greatly depend on your expectations. I, having almost no pre-conceived ideas of the place, was awestruck. The city is accessed through a narrow passage carved into the rock called the Siq, which eventually gives way to the towering Treasury building.
From there you can wander through the streets, around the amphitheater, up to the Urn Tomb and, if you’re feeling fit, all the way up the 700 steps to a Monastery at the edge of the city.
The two most striking things about Petra are a) the vivid swirls in the eroding rock facades, and b) the over-the-top aggression of the (self-described) gypsies who operate the donkey, horse and camel operations inside the city.
One moment you’re overcome with the preservation and artistry of the place, and the next you’re being verbally assaulted by a jilted donkey-boy. It makes for an emotional afternoon.
A combined 8 hours gave us just enough time to see everything we’d hoped to and leave without regrets.
Day 3* in Jordan
1pm and we’re making tracks toward the Dead Sea. We choose a meandering mountain road called the King’s Highway that takes twice as long and turns out to be one of the highlights of our trip.
Think: arid hills and rolling grasslands, wild camels and stepped agricultural valleys, rolling rivers and eventually – the sea.
We arrive at our hotel by 4pm and are DEEPLY shocked to discover: this Holiday Inn is the shit. It’s well designed, spacious and set far enough apart from the other resorts to make it feel secluded. There are 4 pools, 4 well-intentioned (if mediocre) dining options. And the staff is killing it.
We waste no time stripping down to our skivvies, slathering our naked bodies with mud and jumping into the buoyant salt water. Note: do not, DO NOT, rub your eyes. Does the mud/ salt combo make your skin silky soft? Yes. Is four hours enough time to fully appreciate the experience? Absolutely.
A fresh shower and dinner under the stars is the perfect conclusion to our 3 Days* dash through Jordan.
- Dead Sea Salts
- Mud Facemask