I now live in Lyon, and Transavia had the good idea to open a new airline directly to Amman. To be fully free to travel, I rented a car and during 7 days I’ve crossed the country. I had an amazing time and felt welcome everywhere. I began by the North, Amman, the desert castles and the Jordan’s valley to the Israely and Syrian border. Then I took the King’s Road from Madaba to the famous Petra, and finished my trip in Wadi Rum Desert before going back North by the Dead Sea road.
Amman and desert castles
I arrived a Friday evening and rented my car from the airport. The road to reach Amman city center is quite easy, only 30min to the roman theatre (but check my feedback on “driving in Jordan”. Arrived in the hotel, I’ve been upgraded for free: private double room right in front of the theater.
So I woke up quite early (7 am), and left directly for Qasr el Kahana, taking the desert road to the East. At 8.30am I was the first arrived, even the guard was sleeping. At 9am I finally met him: he was preparing a tea, and told me to open myself what looks like an old fortress. It wasn’t a castle but a caravanserail and I passed a magic moment there.
Second castle, old terms this time, with amazing frescoes on the wall: Qasr Amra. Classified by Unesco, it was a royal retreat built some time between 723 and 743. The third “Desert Castle” I visited (but there are others!) was Qasr al Azraq, a crusader castle built around 300AD (but the remaining parts are from the XIIIe century). It was also the house of Lawrence of Arabia during the Arab Revolt in 191!
Back to Amman, I had time to visit the roman theater, the citadel, to have a great shawarma and follow a tour for tips into downtown starting 2 times per day from Jordan Tower Hotel. Perfect way to learn about the city but also tradition, history, to taste a little bit life in Jordan and meet other travelers.
Hotel: Zaman ya Zaman Boutique Hotel (13€ a night for a dorm)
Citadel and theater: included in the Jordan Pass
Shawarma and water: 1,75JD
Restaurant: The Amman Pasha with rooftop, live music, and foreign exchange
View from the theater:
Second day, I pack my stuff and take the road on the way North, with no booking for the night as I didn’t know where I would lend, and wanted to give me the chance to follow the moment.
My first strop was Jerash, also called Gerasa. I left my hotel at 7.30 and was there at 8.30. The earliest evidence of settlement in Jerash is in a Neolithic site known as Tal Abu Sowan, where rare human remains dating to around 7500 BC were uncovered. The rest we can see today are mainly greco roman.
Pella is a treasure for archeologists! The research haven’t been fully finished, and you can visit the hills of this uncovered with an history extending back into the Bronze Age. Pella grew to its largest size during the Roman period. Sadly the site is really not indicated and seems to be forgotten by the tourists.
After almost two hours of visit I left at 10am and went to Ajloun castle, the only existing muslim medieval fortress. It really worth the detour if you have enough time, for this XII century buiding but also for the view on the hill!
Situated on the border of Israel and Syria, this 3rd century BC city was huge, with theaters, a colonade avenue and terms. It’s now lost in this countryside, and visited only by few people.
Named after Moses, who took his people to reach North of the country. This road between Madaba and Petra is one of the most beautiful I ever seen!
I left Madaba after a quick look on the oldest map in the World (also known as the Madaba Mosaic Map, it is part of a floor mosaic in the early Byzantine church of Saint George).
I first made a stop to Umm er Rasas, a bunch of ruin. In 2004, the site was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is valued by archaeologists for its extensive ruins dating to the Roman, Byzantine, and early Muslim periods (wikipedia).
After 2 hours driving I reached Karak fortress. This crusader fortress still has its subterranean paths! I’ve speed up a little bit this visit to be able to make a quick stop in Dana’s Valley and to see the sunset at little Petra. Known as the small version of Petra, with a Siq and a main tomb drawn in the mountain, this site is really magical!
Hotel: Queen Ayola (8JD a dorm, if you doesn’t care about the morning prayer call!)
Restaurant: Haret Jdoudna
Other tip: if you have time, a half day trekking is possible in Dana’s Valley, and as far as I saw it really worth it!
I took the 2 days pass with the Visa, and was ready the first day at the entrance on opening time (6.30 am)! As described in my guidebook, guys try to make you ride their horse, and take advantage of the walk to sale you something. Probably still blurry in my head, I accepted the ride. It was included in the ticket, but the guide started to tell me about the best walk ever to reach the best spots. This secret path is indicated on the map, it is called “El-Madras trail”. It’s really easy to reach, but the guide convinced me it was absolutely needed to pay for his services. He offered me 10JD instead of 50 (like he said) and passed approximately one hour with me. It’s not a dead end like the map indicates. After an easy walk which lead you to the top of the Treasury, you will get a crazy view on the Theater. Then the guide left me to go to the Sacrifice place: down and up to the Sacrifice place, and down and up again to stairs going back to the ground, at the Soldier’s tomb.
Once you get down there it’s pretty easy to get to Qasr el Bint and the Cathedral. Don’t forget to make a stop to the Tiger Tomb. I must admit I was quite tired, and at 2pm I decided to go back to the city, change money, and buy some souvenirs for my friends.
Second day I was the first arriving on the site, and wanted to climb to El Khubtha trail and assist to the sunrise on the Treasury from above. It took me and my new slovenian friend Uros only 35min to go up from the Treasury. After almost 2h waiting and drinking tea, we went to the discovery of the North part, Urqub-al-Hisha where we were totally alone. We went back by the Ridge church and Blue church. I said goodbye to my new friend and went to visit the Royal tombs. At 12 I went back to the Siq and enjoyed some moments alone. It was nothing compared to the night show. Only 3 days a week they light up the dark way with small candles, and perform a light and music show in front of the Treasury (nothing special in term of special effects, but if you’re aware on magic and peace, then you should definitely experience it!).
– Jordan Pass of 2 days (see current price on their website)
– Night Show: 17JD
– Hotel: Neighbors Hostel (30JD double room for 2 nights)
– First if you don´t have a map and good sense of orientation, don’t exit the main paths or don’t go to the following paths without a guide! I did have Maps.me application, but the connection can fail, so be very careful.
– Al-Madras trail: starting behind a guardian’s box before entering to the Siq, then get down to take back the Sacrifice trail, and take the direction of Wadi al Farasa to arrive to the Soldier’s tomb and reach Qasr al-Bint.
– Organize your time to visit the Royal Tombs in the afternoon to have the sun lighting it!
– You can climb the big rock behind Qasr al-Bint to have an amazing view on the main avenue of Petra, to Al-Habis.
– I took only 2 days entrance, which is quite sufficient if like me you like to walk fast.
– If you have extra time you can go to Little Petra from the Cathedral, or take the oposite direction and Jabal Aroun Trail
I arrived around 9h30 to Wadi Rum, and before passing the official entrance, I tryed to find the french fortress. I had booked a night in a bedouins camp, with a 2h tour in the desert, but I wanted to live and feel the loneliness, the silence and the peace of the desert. I managed to drive a bit closer to my target, but as I didn’t have a 4×4 I had to stop quickly. I looked for my fortress during one hour, before going back to be at the meeting point ontime. I’ve been stoped by some bedouins who yeld at me because I was alone, before offering me a tea…
I went back and met xxx after a quick stop at the entrance to stamp my ticket. He brought me to the main spots of this part of the desert: the bug Dune, Nabateen petroglyphs, the small arch, the big one. We finished the day smoking a chicha and waiting for the sunset. When we arrived to the camp I met my italians friends I met the first day in Amman!
– Wadi Rum Fire Camp (40€ a night with 2h Jeep Tour included)
– From Wadi Rum to Dead Sea: 5h
– From Dead sea panorama to Amman airport: 1h15
The last day I lived at 8am the camp, with other tourists who had to take their bus at 9. After 30min we arrived to the car park where my car was expecting me. I took back the Desert Highway to the South. I arrived quickly to Aqaba and took North the Dead sea road. Here you have some spots to go swimming, but I prefered to go up and visit Macheronte (nice view but don’t worth to waste time there) and to have a nice lunch at Dead sea panorama complex.
Drive alone in Jordan:
Well, after living 1 year in Panama, and crossed craziest asian cities, driving in Amman was pretty easy, but still challenging! The rest of the roads were really easy to drive and perfectly safe. It is not recommended to drive by night, because people use to forget to switch on their lights (true). There was quite a lot of security stops, a lot of speed bumps, and I’ve been controled 4 times by the police. People were very friendly, finishing the quick control by a traditional “Welcome to Jordan”.
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