When the greenery starts appearing in Wadi Ghwayr it feels like walking in a Jurassic Park movie
Dana Biosphere Reserve is the largest nature reserve in Jordan. For hikers and trekkers, it’s one of Jordan’s top places to get out into the wilderness, but even the less adventurous will enjoy a stop here simply to enjoy the tranquillity of Dana village, with its majestic views over the tumbling hills below. The reserve is dominated by enormous sandstone cliffs that guard the valley, creating a series of microclimates and ecosystems that house nearly 200 species of birds and most of Jordan’s mammals. Sightings of ibex, gazelles, and even wolves are not uncommon. At the entrance to the reserve in Dana village, you’ll find an excellent visitor center run by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, which can recommend park guides. For a different way to experience the reserve, consider the five-day hike from Dana to Petra—deemed one of the greatest treks in the Middle East. It’s particularly pretty early in the year, when the route is laid with spring flowers.
Hike the Wadi Dana Trail
It’s all downhill from Dana village. The Wadi Dana trail has to be one of the Middle East’s best one-day hikes. Starting from Dana village, at an elevation of 1100m, the trail threads down the ridge of the Great Rift Valley through a gorge of smooth sandstone outcrops to the sand plains of Wadi Feynan, 100m below sea level. This spectacular descent, traversing the full swag of Dana Biosphere Reserve’s diverse habitats, is also prime bird-watching territory, so keep your eyes peeled for kestrels and eagles swooping across the sky.
Hiking the Dana Biosphere Reserve
The Dana Biosphere Reserve is Jordan’s largest nature reserve and home to hundreds of species of flora and fauna, some of which can be found nowhere else in the world. Guided and self-guided excursions are available at Feynan Ecolodge in the reserve. Guests have two options for guiding services: private guided hikes or on an open guided hike available to all. For the open guided hikes, there are two options each day: a half and full-day excursion. I hiked on my own, encountering bedouin, goats, camels and a mule (donkey?) carcass.
DANA BIOSPHERE RESERVE
The desert isn’t the only spectacular setting for adventures in Jordan. Case in point: the Dana Biosphere Reserve, an oasis at the intersection of three distinct climate zones that, together, support more than 600 varieties of plants. Wildlife lovers can look forward to 180-plus species of birds and 45 species of mammals; if you’re really lucky, you might spot ibex, wolves, or the rare (and adorable) Blanford’s fox. So pack those binoculars, strap on your hiking boots, and explore the canyons and trails by foot. Along the way, you’ll also be treated to up-close encounters with Roman aqueducts, Byzantine churches, and ancient copper mines.