Jordan is fast becoming the Middle East’s capital of adventure, with iconic sites like the ancient city of Petra and the Dead Sea topping bucket lists in 2019. While it’s easy enough to head to Amman, hop on a bus to Petra and back again, a much more off-grid adventure can be found on Jordan’s many hiking trails, from treks through the Valley of the Moon to an immense long-distance trail that spans the whole length of the country. Here, we team up with Intrepid Travel and the Jordan Tourism Board to highlight a few of the best spots to go hiking in Jordan.
1. The Shepherds’ Trails, Mukawir
While the main draw of this region is the curiously salty waters of the Dead Sea, where tourists flock to float weightlessly on its surface, there are actually some fantastic hiking trails nearby that are often overlooked.
Enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the water as you follow an old shepherd’s trail, which weaves through the hills far from the hubbub of tourism below. This gorgeously quaint landscape comes complete with shepherds herding their flocks; be sure to chat to one or two if you can, to get an insight into their humble way of life.
This is a remote and unexplored area of Jordan that’s best discovered with the help of a guide; Intrepid Travel offer an excellent multi-day tour that includes this region, check it out here.
2. Back Trail Trek to Petra
A list of the best places to go hiking in Jordan could not be complete without a pilgrimage to the ancient site of Petra, the historic city carved into Jordan’s red rock and made famous by Indiana Jones. Everyone should visit Petra at least once in their lifetime.
The only way to get there is on foot, and the majority of people use the front entrance, which is a short trail through the Siq to reach the ruins. A much more adventurous way to do it is by hiking the back trail, which begins at Little Petra and traverses sandy plateaus and desert terrain before the gigantic door of the Monastery looms into view. If you really want to channel those Indiana Jones vibes, this is the way to go.
Those visiting under their own steam should use the Siq entrance to prevent getting lost in the harsh desert, but those on an organised tour can take the far more adventurous route with the help of a guide. See more here.
3. Wadi Rum
Known as the Valley of the Moon thanks to its lunar-like landscapes, Wadi Rum has no shortage of hiking opportunities. So many in fact, that it’s impossible to narrow it down to just one hike. This vast region is best explored with the help of a guide, who can take you on a trek into the desert, pointing out incredible geological formations as you go.
Another option is to stay the night in a Bedouin Camp, traditional desert dwellings with an unlimited array of nearby hiking options. It’s a great way to get a taste of life in the desert and explore this sandy kingdom on foot.
While it is possible to organise your own stay in the desert, many multi-day trips and tours include at least one night in a traditional camp as part of the tour. This saves you from worrying about the logistics of getting to and from the camp, and finding suitable hiking opportunities nearby. See a range of tours with stays in the desert here.
4. Wadi Mujib Canyon Trail
The Wadi Mujib river flows from an elevation of 900m above sea level all the way down to 400m below at the shores of the Dead Sea, and the huge sandstone gorge formed by its fast-flowing waters make for one adventurous hiking destination. Somewhere between hiking and canyoning, the various Mujib trails offer the chance to hike through the gorge and cool off by tackling natural waterslides and rapids en route.
In Jordan’s hot and dry landscapes, the waters of the river provide welcome relief, as well as a little extra adrenaline. If you haven’t tried canyoning before, the Siq Trail is the easiest route with the same stunning canyon views – just make sure you bring along a dry bag for your valuables or you can pop them in a locker at the activity centre before the hike.
5. Mount Nebo
This sacred mountain is known as Pisgah in the Bible and is believed to be the place where Moses lived out his final days with a view of the Promised Land he would never enter. Promised Land or not, this little spot certainly does provide exceptional views of the Dead Sea, the West Bank and the Jordan River, reaching as far as Bethlehem and Jerusalem on a clear day. The mountain is easily accessible from Madaba – in fact you can drive almost all the way to the top – but hiking there will give you a better idea of the historic and religious connotations of the area.
At the top, as well as the panoramic vistas, you’ll also find a small visitors centre and cafe, with a little more information on the mountain’s religious significance, as well as a wonderfully sunny terrace to soak up the views with a cold drink.
6. The Jordan Trail
Of course, one of the best hikes in Jordan has to be the epic long-distance route that spans all the way from Umm Qais, on the northern border, right down to the shores of the Red Sea in the south. It’s over 400 miles in length and takes an average of 40 days to complete, with the route broken down into eight sections for those with less time. It’s a rugged pilgrimage through some of Jordan’s most untouched landscapes, and one that should not be undertaken lightly.
A harsh climate, sparse water opportunities and lack of a way-marked path are just a few of the challenges you’ll face, but as with any long-distance path, the beauty of the fluctuating landscapes and satisfaction upon completing the trail are just reward.
Hiking in Jordan: how to do it
As many of the places to go hiking in Jordan are based in the desert or on remote trails with limited access to water, your best bet is to use an organised tour company such as Intrepid Travel. Doing so will not only mean you don’t need to worry about directions, getting lost in the desert or where your next water stop will be, but it also means you can visit a handful of the hiking destinations listed above in one trip.
For example, the Trek Jordan tour offered by Intrepid Travel is an eight-day hiking tour of Jordan including all the highlights, such as a visit to Petra, trekking and an overnight stay in the Wadi Rum desert, as well as extra excursions such as a visit to the Dead Sea. Click here to see more.