From the other-worldly landscapes of Wadi Rum to the curiously salty waters of the Dead Sea, Jordan is the sparkling jewel in the crown of the Middle East, offering some of the most unique and adrenaline-packed activities for any adventurous traveller. The iconic lost city of Petra, featured in Indiana Jones, has fast become a bucket-list destination for many, alongside the likes of Machu Picchu and Rome’s Colosseum. Yet beyond Petra, you’ll find many more adventurous activities to fill a week or two in Jordan.
We spoke to the guys at the Jordan Tourism Board to get an idea of the best adventures the country has to offer, and how to do them.
Camp out for the night in a traditional Bedouin tent
The nomadic desert-dwellers known as the Bedouin have been thriving in these hot, harsh conditions for centuries, enjoying the vast expanse of untouched scenery and dazzling display of stars at night. Experience the peaceful serenity of a night under the stars by spending the night in a traditional Bedouin camp in the heart of the Wadi Rum desert, where Lawrence of Arabia once fought alongside the Bedouins against the Ottoman Empire.
Tents are laid with goats-hair, as is traditional Bedouin culture, and most camps have use of western bathroom facilities. Many camps even host educational talks by locals and serve food and delicacies unique to Bedouin culture. A number of organised tours to Jordan include an overnight stay in a Bedouin camp, which is a great way to get to know the ancient local customs. See Intrepid Travel’s range of Jordan tours for a glimpse into some of the experiences available.
Hike through the deserts of Wadi Rum
Jordan’s ever-changing landscape offers a vast array of terrain and scenery to excite most hikers. If you’re short on time, head straight for the moonscapes of Wadi Rum, where you can trek through the sand dunes and arid plateau, with incredible red rock formations stretching far into the distance.
The hiking opportunities in Wadi Rum are wide and varied, but what they all have in common is spectacular views over this Martian landscape. Climb to the top of one of the area’s distinctive rocky monoliths or tackle a hike to one of Wadi Rum’s famous rock bridges, such as Burdah Bridge.
Visiting with a guide or on an organised tour, like Intrepid Travel’s Trek Jordan trip, is recommended in order for you to see some of the best local sights while avoiding crowded areas. As Wadi Rum is located quite near to Petra, it’s easy to combine Wadi Rum and Petra together into one itinerary.
Make a pilgrimage to the ancient city of Petra
Channel your inner Indiana Jones as you hike through vast gaping canyons to reach the incredible lost city of Petra, carved into the towering rock face like a work of art. You can reach Petra on foot, which involves hiking through a short rocky passage known as the Siq, accessible from the desert town of Wadi Musa.
But if you’re looking for an off-grid adventure then we suggest trekking to Petra via one of the many back entrances. These are longer hikes and offer the opportunity to visit other less-discovered sites en route. We love the Dana to Petra trek, often referred to as the ’Inca Trail of the Middle East,’ which takes about a week and journey’s through deep gorges, stunning valleys and high ridges, with a little scrambling thrown in.
Feel weightless in the Dead Sea
The Dead Sea is known to be the deepest hypersaline lake in the world. Thanks to its incredibly high salt content and high density, you can float weightlessly and effortlessly on the surface – a curiously unique experience only found in a handful of places on Earth. Many believe the rich mineral mud found on the seafloor has therapeutic properties, so it’s a rite of passage when visiting to slather it all over your skin while bobbing about on the water’s surface.
Driving to the Dead Sea takes about two hours from Amman or three from Petra, so it’s easily added to a wider Jordan itinerary or makes for a great day trip. There are also accommodation options on the shores of the lake, if you’re hoping to stay longer.
Go canyoning in the waterfalls of Wadi Mujib
Cutting through sandstone rock like a hot knife through butter, the Wadi Mujib river has created an immense gorge, rife with adventure. The river flows from an elevation of 900m above sea level to 400m below at the shores of the Dead Sea. The rugged terrain and fast-flowing waterfalls make a canyoning adventure in the Wadi Mujib one of the most adrenaline-packed things to do in Jordan – one for the top of your bucket list. Work up a sweat on a hot hike to the canyon before donning a wetsuit to make your way through the river. Slip down natural waterslides, abseil over waterfalls and navigate your way through the rapids.
To help keep Jordan’s fragile eco-system thriving, book a canyoning tour operated by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, who work to promote the biodiversity of Jordan through eco-tourism. There are three different trails of varying lengths and grades to choose from, so you can pick one that best suits you. Tickets can be bought from the Wadi Mujib Adventure Centre, located near the Dead Sea Resort Area.
More adventurous things to do in Jordan…
There are plenty more adventurous things to do in Jordan just waiting to be discovered. Check out cycling and mountain biking on the outskirts of Amman, snorkelling and scuba diving the coral reefs of the Red Sea, and rock climbing, quad biking, jeep safari or camel riding in the deserts of Wadi Rum.
Adrenaline junkies can even skydive over the Valley of the Moon, while sunset seekers can take things slower in a hot air balloon. For more information on all the incredible things to do in Jordan, just check out the official tourism website.