Our trip to Jordan was a last-minute decision and last resort after many failed attempts to find a warm destination for our annual winter escape. Being Canadian, escaping to a warm destination whenever possible during the winter months is a necessity. And so, I began my search for the “Florida” of Europe. After hours on google, it was clear that we would not be getting our annual winter vitamin D fix without having to fly more than 7 hours. A few options we considered before deciding on Jordan were Zanzibar, Maldives and Dubai. We ruled out Dubai since we’d already been and the other two choices required at least 16 hours of travel which wasn’t realistic for a long weekend.
In all honesty, I did not have high expectations for Jordan and with everything going on in the middle east I felt a little uneasy about traveling to a country surrounded by instability. That said, my ignorance and lack of expectations were quickly overturned shortly after we arrived. There are so many reasons to visit Jordan and I am so excited to share our amazing experience. Hopefully I can inspire you to travel to this beautiful country.
Planning the perfect trip requires a little help and that’s why I chose Discovery Circle Tours to plan our stay. Jadoun, our travel consultant, worked with Ahmad to tailor our itinerary to fit our interests. We were greeted by a gentleman when we arrived in Amman who provided us with our visa document which we presented to the agents at passport control. He then helped us with our luggage and escorted us to meet our driver and tour guide. That’s when it all began!
There is no better way to visit a country than with a local. We were incredibly fortunate to have Ahmad Al Khaldi as our tour guide and Ammar as our driver. Ahmad’s passion and love for his country is undeniable. His sense of humor was much appreciated and his vast knowledge provided us with tons of interesting facts about Jordan.
Visa Requirements: Make sure to visit your passport issuing country’s government website for visa requirement information prior to making travel arrangements.
“My job as a tour guide is not to show you places but to make you feel the place.” said Ahmad during our drive from the airport to our hotel. And boy did he succeed in doing just that!
Jerash Ruins Of Jordan
The next morning, we were greeted by Ahmad and Ammar in front of the lobby and we were off to Jerash for a half day tour. Jerash is said to be one of the best-preserved province cities of the Roman Empire outside of Italy. Archeologists have found the ruins of settlements dating back to the Neolithic Age also known as the New Stone Age. Indicating human occupation dating back more than 6500 years. A series of earthquakes hit the region in 749AD which buried the ruins in sand for hundreds of years. Rediscovered in 1806, it was then excavated and restored over the past 70 years to what it is today. Excavations continue to this day and it is now considered the second biggest tourist attraction in Jordan after Petra.
Kempinski Hotel Ishtar
We decided to spend the remainder of our day pool side enjoying the warm weather at the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar. The Kempinski Hotel Ishtar is a five-star hotel with direct access to the Dead Sea. It is located about 45 minutes from the airport. We booked a suite in the Ishtar resort area instead of the main building because it is much closer to the Dead Sea and pool areas. The Ishtar Terrace Room is located atop the Ishtar Villas and offer amazing views of the Dead Sea with a short walk to the 9 available pools, two of which are semi-private and private.
The hotel offers 4 restaurant options. Obelisk which is buffet style, The Codes offers Thai specialties with a sushi menu only available during dinner, Akkad Pool Grill and Ashur if you are in the mood for Italian.
The Dead Sea is the lowest place on earth at 400 meters below sea level. Because it is 1/3 salt, there are no living organisms, none you can see at least. Which means you don’t have to worry about weird things swimming up to you. I have a rule: “No entering bodies of water where you can’t see your feet.” Nothing to worry about here!
There are a few important things I wish I knew before visiting the Dead Sea. For that reason, I put together a few important tips on a separate post. Read: Dead Sea Jordan: Float the Right Way
Scenic Drive and Quirky Stops
We drove from The Kempinski Hotel Ishtar to Petra and stopped along the way. The 3-hour drive took us along the Dead Sea and through one of the most historic highways in the world; the King's Highway. Our first stop was Wadi Mujib, a river canyon. You can paddle and trek your way through a deep sandstone valley to the waterfalls. We are definitely doing this on our next visit to Jordan!
About half way into our drive we stopped at this quaint little rest stop in the middle of nowhere, also known as Fifa View. The views are incredible and we would have never found this place without Ahmad and Ammar.
Our last stop before reaching Petra was at the smallest hotel in the world in Al Shobak! We had the pleasure of meeting Abu Ali, the lovely gentleman who runs the place, what a character!
The Lost City of Petra
Petra, also known as the Rose-Red City, was declared a UNESCO World World Heritage site in 1985. In 2007, it was named one of the new seven wonders of the world. I’ve seen pictures and heard stories about Petra but nothing prepares you for what you’ll see once you get there. There’s no wonder why it is Jordan’s most treasured and most popular tourist attraction. This unique city, carved into the sheer rock face is ingenious; there was undoubtedly no room for error!
Ahmad took the time to explain the rich history behind the rock-cut capital city. The Nabateans occupied Petra since at least 312 B.C. according to archaeologist Zeidoun Al-Muheisen. It was an important junction for the silk, spice and other trade routes that linked China, India, and Southern Arabia with Egypt, Syria, Greece, and Rome. Despite being an arid area during the Nabataea, Roman and Byzantine periods it boasts an ingenious water management system which allowed for an extensive settlement.
We spent less than half a day visiting Petra and I would recommend setting aside a whole day to enjoy this site. It is said that only 15 percent of the city has been uncovered and the rest is still underground and untouched! How amazing is that?!
This hotel was quite a disappointment. It claims to be a 5-star hotel but it is closer to a very poor 4-star. The rooms are tired and the service is nothing to write home about. The only positive is the fact that it is located directly at the entrance of the city of Petra. If you are willing to forsake a little luxury this is the best location to visit the Rose City.
Jordan’s Desert Landscape
Wadi Rum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is absolutely breathtaking. As we drove through the desert we couldn’t help but be awestruck by the varied desert landscape, consisting of a range of narrow canyons, towering cliffs, massive landslides and grottos. We stopped along the way and Ahmad took us through a grotto to show us some petroglyphs. These inscriptions and archeological remains attest to human activity dating back as far as 12,000 years.
As we reached the Discovery Bedu Camp we were greeted by Mohammad, the camp manager. He then brought us over to the beautifully set up campsite where we could enjoy the sunset, some mezze and a nice glass of wine.
Related: Wadi Rum (Jordan): Glamping
Four Seasons Amman
We ended our stay at the Four Seasons Amman before catching an early afternoon flight back to Dublin the following day. The Four Seasons never disappoints, if you are planning to visit Amman this hotel is a must. It is well located, up to date and the service is outstanding.
Every amazing trip comes to an end and we left Jordan wanting more! This will not be our last visit and we look forward to experiencing all this great country has to offer very soon.
Related Post: Dead Sea Jordan: Float The Right Way
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