It’s the end of the year and with it everyone is thinking about where to visit in 2015 – I’m right there with you. A few months ago though I visited one of my favorite countries for the second time and began to realize just how perfect a travel destination it really is. Jordan offers a little bit of everything for every type of traveler. When it comes down to it though, these are the main reasons why I think everyone should start planning their own Jordan adventure for 2015 and for years beyond.
I don’t think that Amman gets as much attention as it deserves. So many people who visit Jordan just transit in and out of the city without taking the time to learn more about it. Amman is one of the oldest capitals in the world, and a walk up to the Citadel high above the city reveals relics left by each successive culture, from the Greeks to the modern era. But it’s more than just about a dusty past, Amman is a vibrant and thriving modern city with restaurants popping up all the time, great stores and a counter-culture being fueled by Millennials. In other words, it’s a lot like many other big cities, but I don’t think visitors expect it from Amman. So when you visit spend some time walking around the old markets, go to the Citadel for some amazing views but also try out some new restaurants and talk with the younger folks who are reshaping the city in their own image.
2. Luxury escapes
Yes, you can visit Jordan inexpensively and if you want a rough and tumble camping experience, you can easily find it. I’m a luxury guy though and each time I’ve visited Jordan I have been thrilled by the high-end travel products available to visitors. My favorite was the Kempinski Ishtar resort along the Dead Sea. Although it’s a massive resort, the hotel still manages to maintain extremely high levels of service at every turn. It’s also just a visually stunning resort and a place I could easily spend a few more days. Another personal favorite luxury escape in Jordan is the Evason Six Senses Spa and Hotel at Ma’In. This small, quiet luxury hotel is built high in the hills next to naturally occurring hot spring waterfalls. Stays there are meant to be calm, holistic experiences combining spa treatments with long soaks in the thermal baths. The property is an amazing place to go and just do nothing except relax and decompress. These are just a couple of the many luxury travel opportunities found around Jordan, an entire luxury trip touring the country couldn’t be easier to plan.
3. The people
I usually meet nice people wherever I go, but both times I’ve visited Jordan I have been impressed with the extreme kindness and generosity of the Jordanians. There are few places around the world where the citizens are as warm and hospitable as they are here. Without exaggeration, everyone you meet will first try to feed you and then try to help make sure you are enjoying yourself as much as possible. I’ve been invited into modest homes, fed, helped with directions, offered more coffee than I can count and all of it in a simple effort to extend some basic human kindness. That says a lot and believe me, is increasingly hard to find around the world.
4. Wadi Rum
One of the highlights of any trip to Jordan in my opinion is spending time in the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage recognized desert of Wadi Rum. This area has been used for thousands of years, from ancient traders to Lawrence of Arabia. Today tourists are the ones following the ancient paths through the bright orange sand, to marvel at the bizarrely beautiful landscapes found around the region. Wadi Rum is often used in movies as a stand in for the moon or Mars and with good reason, the landscape is decidedly alien. The best way to experience Wadi Rum is by staying at one of the luxury tented Bedouin camps and then joining them for daily activities in the desert. The camp is a big part of the experience and there’s nothing like sitting by the fire, enjoying a delicious meal and listening to beautiful Bedouin ballads being played by expert musicians. With a canopy of stars overhead, there’s nothing better.
5. Dana Biosphere Reserve and the Feynan Ecolodge
You might be surprised to learn that Jordan is home to one of the top ecolodges in the world, the Feynan Ecolodge. Built in the massive and gorgeous Dana Biosphere Reserve, the resort is completely off the grid and generates its own power for everything from hot water to nightlights. Getting there is half the fun though and many guests elect to hike a strenuous 16-kilometer trail through the reserve to Feynan. It’s not for everyone and guides are strongly recommended, but speaking from experience I can tell you it’s one of those things everyone should try once and is the perfect introduction to the philosophy behind Feynan itself.
6. The food
I’m often asked where in the world is my favorite food and I always give the same answer – Jordan. There’s just something about the country’s blend of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern staples that makes it unique and very special. Many meals are served family style with a huge array of starters and entrees with everything from hummus and bread to meats, cheeses and salads. Jordan’s traditional meals are also delicious, with the national dish mansaf taking center stage. Lamb cooked with yogurt and rice and served communally, to eat this in someone’s home is as high an honor as anyone can hope to receive. No matter what you eat though I know you’ll leave the country a few pounds heavier, but much happier for it.
7. Snorkeling in the Red Sea
For a small country, Jordan is surprisingly diverse. While a lot of the country features desert landscapes, the country also has Aqaba – a port city along the gorgeous Red Sea. Always listed as one of the top diving and snorkeling destinations in the world, this is a fun place to take a boat and just enjoy being on the water. I’ve been twice and each time I’ve enjoyed leisurely afternoons sailing, snorkeling, grilling out and basking in the sun. Away from the water Aqaba is a fun seaside community with plenty to do, including tax-free shopping and some truly excellent restaurants.
8. OK, Petra
It’s impossible to talk about traveling to Jordan without mentioning Petra. This ancient city is the top tourist site in the country and the reason why many people visit in the first place. And it’s all deserved. Spending a few days exploring this massive red stone city is an experience you will always remember. It starts with a walk through the kilometer long Siq, a slot canyon that shielded the city from prying eyes for centuries. It was also how ancient traders first entered Petra, a way to impress visitors with the wealth and power of the city. The first glimpse every visitor has of the city is the famous Treasury building, highlighted in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. But Petra is a lot more than just one building, numerous hiking paths allow guests to discover the full width and breadth of this beautiful complex, from the hilltop Monastery built into raw stone to the perfectly straight Roman road still guiding travelers along the way. Just be sure to plan enough time here, you don’t want to miss out on truly enjoying this once in a lifetime opportunity.
These are just a few reasons why I think everyone should plan a trip to Jordan in 2015 and beyond. It’s a very special country and one of my favorite places to visit, from the warm hospitality of the people to the delicious food and of course the many famous sites, it really does have it all.
This campaign was created and sponsored by Jordan Tourism Board in partnership with iambassador. LandLopers retains all editorial control of what is published and as you know, I never shy away from honest commentary.