7 reasons why Jordan should be on your bucket list
Jordan is a country that often suffers guilt by association due to its location in the Middle East. But safe and hospitable, visitors who take the time to discover this beautiful country are rewarded with stunning natural landscapes and world-renowned historical and religious sites. Here are seven reasons why you should visit this hidden gem of the Middle East.
1. FLOAT IN THE DEAD SEA
Located in the Jordan Rift Valley, bordered by Israel to the East and Jordan to the West, the Dead Sea is actually a lake, and a very salty one at that. The Dead Sea's extreme saltiness means that once you wade in, your body instantly bobs to the surface — leaving you free to lie back, relax, and enjoy a soak at the lowest point on Earth. After your swim, you can slather yourself in Dead Sea mud, which has proven healing properties, due to its high concentration of salts and minerals.
2. VISIT PETRA, AN ANCIENT METROPOLIS
One of the 7 New Wonders of the World, Petra is a historical and archaeological city located in the south of Jordan. Also known as the 'Rose City' due to the colouring of the stone, the city's main entrance is a breath-taking sight located at the end of a winding stone corridor. Once home to the ancient Nabatean people, Petra is estimated to have been around since as early as 312 BC and has been described by UNESCO as "one of the most precious cultural properties of man's cultural heritage".
3. MARVEL AT MOSAICS
Just 30km from the capital Amman, along the 5,000-year-old Kings' Highway, is Madaba, also known as the City of Mosaics. Madaba is best known for its collection of Byzantine-era mosaics. The most famous of these is the map on the floor of St George's Church. Crafted in AD 560, the Mosaic Map has 157 captions (in Greek) depicting all the major biblical sites of the Middle East, from Egypt to Palestine. It was originally around 15m to 25m long and 6m wide, and once contained more than two million pieces.
4. CAMP UNDER THE STARS WITH THE BEDOUINS
Wadi Rum is a UNESCO World Heritage protected desert and is a must visit when in Jordan. However, the best way to experience it is to spend some time at one of the Bedouin camps. The word Bedouin comes from the Arab word 'bedu', which means desert dweller. Traditionally the Bedouin live in tents, moving with their herds across vast areas of arid land in search of grazing areas. Now, several tented campsites allow you to spend a few days roaming this wilderness, which humans have inhabited since prehistoric times. Far from roughing it though, these camps have every amenity and also include tours and activities within the desert itself.
5. ENJOY A DRINK AT THE OLDEST BAR IN THE WORLD
After a day exploring Petra, it would be rude not to stop for a drink at the Cave Bar. Occupying a 2000-year-old Nabataean rock tomb, this Petra hot spot is the oldest bar in the world and is known for its comfort food and party-friendly atmosphere. Alcohol isn't easy to come by in Jordan so you should definitely make the most of it while you can.
6. SNORKEL THE VIBRANT REEFS
With about 20km of coastline on the Red Sea, in the Gulf of Aqaba, Jordan offers excellent opportunities for snorkelling. Protected from the ocean currents, the waters of the Red Sea are particularly calm and enjoy high temperatures and excellent visibility. With its calm, crystal-clear waters and thriving marine life, Aqaba certainly lives up to its legendary reputation as a world-class snorkelling spot.
7. STEP BACK IN TIME AT JERASH
The Jerash ruins of Jordan are said to be the best-preserved Roman ruins outside of Italy. Hidden for hundreds of years under the shifting sands, these picturesque ruins are all that remain of a once great ancient city, which was destroyed by an earthquake in 749 AD. The ruins were re-discovered in 1806 by German explorer Ulrich Jasper Seetzen. The most spectacular sights are the 13m-tall Hadrian's Arch at the entrance to Jerash, built to honour the visiting emperor and the Hippodrome, which could seat 15,000 spectators at a time for chariot races and other sports.
About Gracie Stewart
A born and bred Kiwi, Gracie Stewart has spent the last six years living over three continents and writing for publications such as Vogue India, Vogue Arabia, OliviaPalermo.com, Emirates Woman and Style.com. When she's not busy writing about 101 ways to banish spots and get glowing, Gracie loves travelling or researching new places to visit. She is also particularly passionate about saving our oceans and spends half her life underwater.
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