Four hundred miles, 40 days, eight sections, four biospheres, and 52 villages: The new Jordan Trail is an epic hiking adventure. Officially opened in 2017, it stretches from the Jordanian part of the Fertile Crescent in the north to the Arabian Desert and Red Sea in the south.
Launched to feed local demand for more outdoor recreation in the country, the trail took two years to map. “As with any trail, it’s an evolving process,” says Matt Loveland, owner of Experience Jordan, an adventure company guiding travelers along the Jordan Trail. “We discover new detours, access points, and landscape changes with every hike.”
The Experience Jordan team worked with many other guides and enthusiasts from Jordan’s tight-knit outdoors community to help create the trail, which traces a portion of the historical King’s Highway. This is one of the oldest continuously used trade routes in the world, and it formed a vital connection between Africa and Mesopotamia in ancient times.
Taking you past rural villages, Bedouin camps, and old shepherd trails and over spectacular canyons, the Jordan Trail is a chance to explore the country’s diverse landscapes and discover its rich history on foot. The route encompasses Byzantine ruins, Wadi Mujib (known as Jordan’s Grand Canyon), the Crusader castle Karak, Dana Biosphere Reserve, Biblical sites like the purported birthplace of the Prophet Elijah, and the striking rock formations and remote sandy plains of Wadi Rum.
The six-day section from Dana to Petra is arguably the most breathtaking, crossing through a labyrinth of hidden canyons, hills, and valleys and culminating in a backdoor entrance to the “Rose City.” Here, hikers first glimpse the spires of Petra’s famed Monastery, one of the many temples and tombs the ancient Nabateans carved into stone over 2,000 years ago.
Skirting the eastern rim of the Jordan Rift Valley, the trail has eight sections; each should take four to six days to hike. Most travelers choose to tackle just one part, but you can also join an annual through-hike that takes place in spring. Between February and April is the best time to go, when the temperature is pleasant and the land at its most lush. Related:Travel Guide
The AFAR Guide to Jordan
If you’re striking out alone, consider working with a local operator or hiring a guide. Although the trail is fully mapped, many areas are unmarked and are deep within Jordan’s backcountry, meaning topographical maps and GPS are essential for proper navigation. Either way, make sure to check the information on the Jordan Trail Association website. This association is a grass roots collaboration between members of the outdoors community; it continues to fund trail maintenance and mapping efforts with a grant from USAID and the support of private contributors and the Jordan Tourism Board.
Hikers can expect to pitch their own tents and cook their own food while on the trail, with a few optional lodges and homestays spread along the route. No special equipment is needed—just a good pair of hiking boots and plenty of water and sun protection—but you should be in decent physical condition since the trail often involves climbing more than 3,000 feet during a day.
The Jordan Trail gifts hikers with the opportunity to explore a fascinating and diverse part of the world. “The country has an amazing variety of terrain, historical sights, and natural wonders,” says Loveland. And now there’s another way to experience this: on foot, the way it was done for centuries.