Trip Report    

Hike the Jordan Trail to Petra and Beyond

Our group's time in Jordan was a revelation - amazing food, easy to strenuous walking through gorgeous red-rock scenery, friendly welcoming people, fascinating history and culture including the historic sites of Jerash, and Petra and Mt Nebo, a camel ride and extraordinary hike in Wadi Rum, a snorkel (optional, self-paid) in the amazing coral of the Red Sea, and an alkaline dip in the Dead Sea. We trekked 68.8 miles of the Jordan Trail, with 16,684 feet of gain and 14,583 feet of loss, with an experienced local guide and Bedouin support teams.

  • Road rough but passable
  • The Jordan Trail is a new, 650-km-long hiking trail constructed from ancient roads and shepherd's paths, from the breen north of the country at Umm Qais to the desert south through Wadi Rum to Aqaba on the Red Sea.  We walked about 110 of those kms (nearly 70 miles) over 7 days on some of the most memorable sections:  through Wadi Mujib, the Grand Canyon of Jordan;  and from the town of Dana to the ancient Nabatean trade center of Petra.   We took a dayhike in Wadi Rum which was extraordinary - highly recommended!

    The trail exists as a GPS track but no other markings or signage is present.   Our route was modified for part of the way to keep us up in the mountains rather than longer in the heat of the desert.  None of the route was extremely difficult, though there were two days with over 3000 feet of elevation gain and sections with steep scree.   Road access was straightforward.   Each night on the trail we camped at small semi-permanent Bedouin encampments where the Bedouin shepherds set up our tents and prepared wonderful local meals for us, which we consumed in structures surrounded by walls made of gorgeous weaved-wool blankets and with woven cushions and rugs on the floors.  We were provided with bottled water throughout (no one drinks tap water in Jordan!) and there was little flowing water along most of the route.  The weather was warm to hot during this April timeframe, and there were lots of wild flowers.

The extraordinary take-away from this trip wasn't specifically from the hiking - though it was gorgeous and really beautiful (reminiscent of the red-rock country in the US southwest).  It was the  the overall experience that was so very unique for each of us, in a part of the world that we knew only through pre-conceptions, and now we could hold close after living in it for a time.  And the people, from the hosts at the Jordan Heritage Restaurant who took such pride in each offering, to our amazing guide Aboud Hijazi who had played a big part in the building of Jordan's adventure tourism industry, to each of our Bedouin guides and camp hosts, each of whom was so genuine and humble and welcoming.   And finally the history - the Holy Land, the land of Moses, all around us - and Petra, with its rock-cut monuments illustrating its history as a major trading center from well before Roman times.

Because I knew that the hiking in the heat would be challenging and food and water supplies hard to resupply along the trail, I wanted to hire an outfitter who could support us with transport, food and water, guides and special cultural experiences including Bedouin camps.  I worked with Experience Jordan and they did a really good job, though with a couple of communication glitches - and their logistics capabilities were extraordinary.  For example, when we had a flat tire on our way to the first hike, far from any city, they had a replacement van pulling up within minutes.  Another time, when a thunderstorm made it unsafe to climb a peak in Wadi Rum, our guide took us on a desert hike which became a highlight of the trip and we ended up having a delicious homemade lunch made for us at another small Bedouin encampment on just a couple of hours' notice.  And the guide they secured for us, Aboud Hijazi, was a humble but incredibly experienced and capable Palestinian who helped us see the land and his people with new eyes.

We started the trip with an evening in Amman and great food (WAY too much of it!) at the Jordan Heritage Restaurant, and then a day in the green hilly north of the country visiting the expansive Roman city of Jerash and the castle of Ajloun.  Then we transferred about 3 hours south to the start of our Jordan Trail hike.  A gaia folder with all of our hiking routes on the Jordan trail can be found at this link, and a google photos album from the trip can be found at this link.



Day 3.  Drive from Amman  - Hike from Wadi Hidan to Wadi Mujib  - overnight wilderness camping 9.1 2454 3092

With an 11AM start this proved to be a LONG day.  It started with an extended uphill (exposed as this whole trail is) on rocky terrain from Wadi Hidan (a Wadi is arabic for 'canyon' or 'arroyo') to expansive views all the way west to the Dead Sea.  To our east, Wadi Mujib (the Grand Canyon of Jordan) wound northwest to join Wadi Hidan and then extend as one to the Dead Sea.  (To the west in this canyon are apparently some famous canyoning spots!)  As we reached the top of the bench between the two Wadis we were stunned to find a flat green grassy bench!  But alas, at the other side of the bench was a VERY long steep descent to the bottom of Wadi Mujib and back up the other side a bit on a seemingly endless road walk in the dark to our Bedouin camp.  On the plus side they had made a wonderful dinner for us which we enjoyed on comfortable cushions spread on the ground.  

Day 4.  Wadi Mujib - Hike from Wadi Mujib to Majdalein  - drive to Dana, stay in lodge 12.3 4200 870

From our camp we made another even bigger climb (over 4000 ft) out of Wadi Mujib to another green grassy bench on the far side.  Memories of this climb fade but on that bench there was a profusion of wildflowers including rare black irises!  We found ourselves on a road pretty quickly and were picked up by our van well ahead of the planned 12 mile distance (all on road), for transport to Dana.  Dana overlooks a UNESCO Biosphere Preserve but itself is a 600-year-old village that was nearly deserted after an earthquake and the pandemic, but is now rebuilding by the actions of its residents and the interest of tourists.  We stayed in a guest house made of original village stone, in rooms with private baths, and a wonderful kitchen-dining facility that made amazing buffet meals.

Day 5.  Hike from Dana to Mansoura - overnight wilderness camping 9.3 853 2263
Day 6.  Hike from Mansoura to Furon - overnight wilderness camping 8.7 1847 558
Day 7.  Hike from Furon to Ghbour Whedat - overnight wilderness camping 10.6 2460 3018

Beginning with a 15 minute drive out of Dana, we set out through a stunning red-rock landscape scattered with green shrubs and wildflowers, working our way to the edge of an escarpment and then descending along its side with panoramic views for the whole day.   Another Bedouin camp hosted us that evening with more great food and setup of our tents.  The next two days continued the rambling through lovely red rock, gnarled juniper and broad vistas west over the Arabian desert and Palestine, lots of ascents and descents with welcoming Bedouin camps in the evening.   We encountered a water course close to camp near Furon where everyone immediately soaked their feet!  At our last camp the wind whipped, dogs barked and donkeys brayed, making sleep difficult.

Day 8.  Hike from Ghbour Whedat to Little Petra - overnight in a Bedouin Camp 8.7 2001 1837

On this day we continued our walking on panoramic ridges with descents to valleys in between.  We changed our route in one place to visit a recently-discovered site of footprints in the stone of a small theropod (three-toed dinosaur)!  Then after lunch the rocks gathered closer into steep-walled gullies and we climbed through a narrow slot to find the rock-cut buildings of Little Petra, another Nabatean trading town in the outskirts of Petra.  We walked through little Petra and down the road on the other side to find our "Luxury Bedouin Camp" which was actually small individual cabins with nice beds and luxurious bathrooms, as well as a fancy dining hall and very cozy gathering area with cushions and hookas.  Showers and a good rest were had by all.

Day 9.  Hike from Little Petra to Petra - overnight at hotel in Petra 8.7 1627 1702

We had planned to hike from Little Petra into the main Petra site through 'the back door', i.e. over the top and down past the immense rock-cut edifice of The Monastery and from there into the main site.  However thunderstorms were forecast and we might have missed the main part of the site by coming in through the 'back door' so at our guide's advice we drove to the main entrance and came in through the traditional Siq or slot entry (famous views of the Treasury through the slot).  We were able to walk through the whole site, even up to the Monastery and back, and then back out to our nearby hotel just as the thunderstorm struck with torrential rain.  Petra is very exposed to flash floods with no where to escape in some parts, and our guide sent us a video of the flood rushing through areas that we had been walking through just a couple of hours before!

Day 10.  Another half-day to explore Petra, starting early.  Drive to Wadi Rum, have an hour camel ride in Wadi Rum, enjoy sunset and star gazing while enjoying dinner with the Bedouin.  Overnight at 'luxury camp' in Wadi Rum      

This morning several of us braved the drizzle and low clouds to go back in and climb to the Place of Sacrifice high above the main Petra site, very memorable!  Then we all loaded back in our bus and drove south to the broad desert of Wadi Rum, an extension of the Saudi desert and not far from the Saudi border.  We checked into another "Luxury Bedouin Camp' and had the opportunity to ride camels (really fun - not scary or smelly) and wander around the broad desert which was interspersed with tall red-rock outcrops, before a really unbelievable buffet dinner and night in our double and triple rooms.

Day 11.  We originally planned a Jeep ride and hike up Jabal Umm Adami (Jordan's Highest Peak), but after a WILD ride in the back of three pickups we found a thunderstorm over the peak so we backtracked and ended up doing a 5-6 mile flat desert hike through the lovely red rock country of Wadi Rum, and that was extraordinary!  Our outfitter had arranged on the fly for us to end our hike at a little Bedouin camp that served us a fresh and simple lunch.  Then we transferred to Aqaba on the Red Sea for overnight in hotel 1.4 1243 1243

Day 12 we had arranged to take a snorkel boat out into the Red Sea to visit a couple of different coral formations, and this was a really special trip.  (This was optional and each of us paid for it separately)  We spent a second night in Aqaba and everyone really enjoyed the marketplace there.

Day 13 was our last day, and we used it to the fullest with a drive north past the Dead Sea (stark no-man's land between our highway and the Israeil border) to Mt Nebo.  This was a historical site (where Moses first looked out over the Promised Land) with some nice views and a Byzantine church with pretty mosaics.  Not sure I'd recommend it but people interested in religious history really wanted to go there.  Then we  dropped back down to a resort on the side of the Dead Sea where we had an amazing buffet lunch and then swam in the sea.  WOW, not just salty, it's so alkaline that it's extremely astringent if you get any in your mouth!  Pots of Dead Sea mud by the shore are there for everyone to smear on their bodies for apparent health effects.  Fun time by all!  Finally we ended up back in Amman and had a last dinner at the Jordan Heritage Restaurant (amazing meal again, highly recommended).