For many travelers, Jordan brings to mind a single iconic image: the soft pink ruins of the ancient city of Petra, which have been named a Wonder of the World alongside the Great Wall of China and Peru’s Machu Picchu.
Yet that’s just one of many remarkably varied landscapes you can experience in Jordan, from colorful reefs to ethereal sand dunes.
Nicknamed “the Valley of the Moon,” Wadi Rum also draws comparisons to another planet: Mars. (The area was a stand-in for the Red Planet in Matt Damon 2015 movie, The Martian.) We all can agree that Wadi Rum’s beauty is otherworldly; rock formations and dramatic sand dunes punctuate the vast landscape. Most visitors come during the day, but it’s worth waiting until the sun goes down. This remote area offers some of the best stargazing opportunities in Jordan, and you can stay overnight in a traditional Bedouin tent.
More aquatic adventures await at the magnificent Wadi Mujib gorge, along the east coast of the Dead Sea. You can hike, climb, and sometimes even wade or swim through the gorge to reach a magical pool and waterfall that emerge like a mirage from amidst the surrounding warm cliffs and barren hillsides.
The only coastal city in Jordan is Aqaba, and this spot on the Red Sea has become one of the world’s premier diving destinations. Expect mild water temperatures and a vast underwater system of over 200 species of colorful coral and plenty of marine life, including sea turtles, dolphins, and even gentle-giant whale sharks—all with a backdrop of orange-hued mountains.
If you’re keen on breathing some fresh country air, Jordan has big swaths of hilly, forested land dotted with fragrant wild strawberry bushes and pistachio trees. There are hiking trails and idyllic camping spots at Ajloun Forest Reserve while the Dana Biosphere Reserve counts four different bio-geographical zones along the Great Rift Valley (Mediterranean, Irano-Turanian, Saharo-Arabian, and Sudanian) and over 400 animal species.
And, of course, there is Petra, which inspires travelers from all corners of the globe. They come to admire the valley’s outstanding architectural antiquities, from elaborate mausoleums carved into rock faces to a Roman-style theater built to seat thousands. Hiking is a popular way to explore, though you can also hire a horse-drawn carriage or a colorfully bedecked camel to transport you through the colonnaded streets. Then lace up some comfortable shoes to ascend the hundreds of steps required to reach the magnificent Ad-Deir Monastery.
Adventure through Jordan’s breathtaking landscapes with Intrepid Travel and learn about special offers here.
© 2017 AFAR Media