MOSAICS IN MADABA: The final leg of our adventure in Jordan

We went back to Madaba, which is one hour by taxi from the Dead Sea.

Madaba is famous for its Byzantine mosaics, including the oldest map of Palestine at the Greek Orthodox Church.

In the evening, we went for a great dinner at Haret Jdoudna, which had an amazing selection of mezze and Mount Nebo wine.

The next morning we had a nice breakfast before making our way back to the airport.

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HOW TO DO IT:

  • Stay: We stayed at Mosaic City Hotel, a good hotel very close to the main sites. It cost around 50JD per night, and it’s well worth it. In Madaba we also stayed at Mariam Hotel, which is not as nice but offers cheap taxi tours throughout Jordan.
  • Getting there: Madaba is a good place to stay on your way in or out of Jordan as an alternative to Amman, as it’s very close to the airport. A taxi to the airport costs 17JD.

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This was the end of our trip through Jordan. It was an amazing adventure! We saw so much and had a great time along the the way. You can read all my posts on Jordan here.

Below are my tips on how to organise your trip to Jordan.

HOW TO DO IT – JORDAN:

  • Where to go: We visited Madaba, Mount Nebo, Wadi Mujib, Karak, Petra, Wadi Rum and the Dead Sea, but there are other interesting places to see. Dana reserve offers great hiking experiences; Jerash has amazing Roman ruins; Aqaba is the gateway to Red Sea diving; Little Petra has more stone monuments beyond Petra; Ma’in offers relaxation in natural hot springs; Bethany is the baptismal site described in the Bible; and Amman has its shares of souks. Not bad for such a small country!
  • Getting there: we flew BA (which had really poor service this time) and paid around £400 for return flights. The journey takes about 5h. Visas on arrival at 40JD.
  • Food: Food in Jordan is really good. Hotel restaurants often have buffets with a range of local and international food. Local cafes and restaurants have a wide range of mezze to choose from. It’s really easy to find vegetarian options: tabouleh, hummus and falafel are always on offer. Labneh (soft cheese) with pitta bread was my favourite!
  • Hospitality: Jordanians are really welcoming. Everyone would ask where we were from and greet us with ‘Welcome’. We got tea as a present from our Bedouin host, and along the way we were offered juicy dates, fresh figs and warm bread by our drivers. Although people often want to talk to you and offer some sort of service, there isn’t much hassle in Jordan. Everyone just seems very keen to leave you with a good impression of their country!
  • Money: We got good value for things in Jordan, but overall it’s not as cheap as one might expect. Dinner for two costs around 25JD at a cafe. Taxi journeys are also not super expensive, but you will pay around 80JD for longer trips.
  • Safety: Jordan is at the heart of the Middle East, sharing borders with Israel, Palestine, Iraq and Syria. Tensions in the region meant that we got to explore many places completely alone. But is it safe? Well, there are no restrictions for travelling in place at the moment, except for the border with Syria where the largest refugee camps are. We felt completely safe and I highly recommended it – but you should never go to a place where you don’t feel comfortable!

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FLOATING IN THE DEAD SEA: Relaxation 400m below sea level

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We left Petra early in the morning to make our way to the Dead Sea.

The taxi journey takes about 3h30 and goes through the King’s Highway and the Dead Sea Highway. We stopped during the journey to take more pictures of the beautiful landscape.

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We also stopped at Wadi Mujib Bioreserve, the other side of Wadi Mujib – which we visited a few days earlier.

This looked really nice and it would have been good to spend a couple of hours around the waterfalls, but we didn’t really have time to stay long.

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We arrived at our hotel (Crowne Plaza Dead Sea, yes!) and went straight to the beach. The water was really warm and nice. We then stayed around the many swimming pools cooling off for a bit.

At around six, we went back to the Dead Sea and covered ourselves in dark mud before going back to the sea for some more bobbing around. After watching the sun set above the waves, we made our way to a Lebanese restaurant for a hearty meal overlooking Jericho across the sea.

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The next morning we had breakfast in the amazing buffet before going back to the Dead Sea to take some silly photos and float some more.

We then made our way to the local spa for invigorating Oriental massages. After an amazing luxurious day, it was time to get back on the road and head to Madaba.

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HOW TO DO IT:

  • Getting there: Transportation to the Dead Sea is best done by car. A taxi ride from Petra takes about 3h30 and costs around 80JD. From the Dead Sea to Madaba or Amman the journey takes about 1h and costs around 40JD.
  • Stay: There are no budget options around, but the resorts are really nice and not too expensive. We stayed at the Crowne Plaza for £117 and got the luxury treatment you’d expect. This is a nice place to visit at the end of your journey to recover from the harshness of the desert. The spa was really nice and we had massages for 30JD (we got 50% off for morning bookings) but they had lots of options for different treatments with Dead Sea products.
  • Shop: Dead Sea cosmetics are not cheap, but they are really nice and make good presents.

WADI RUM: Exploring Lawrence’s Arabia

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I only heard about Wadi Rum when I started researching for this trip, but I knew straightaway I had to go there!

We booked a jeep day tour with overnight stay at Lovers Camp. After 1h30 taxi ride from Petra, we were greeted by our guide Hlyel at the Visitor Centre.

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Hlyel took us all around Wadi Rum, stopping at all the main sights. We visited canyons, rock bridges, sand dunes and many sights made famous by TE Lawrence (of Lawrence of Arabia fame). In a couple of places there were also inscriptions left by caravans many centuries ago.

We stopped for tea and lunch along the way – Hlyel prepared everything and was fine with making veggie food for us.

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Although this was a guided tour, we had plenty of time to explore by ourselves, which was really good.

We finally arrived at the camp at 5pm, with time to spare to watch the sunset from a vantage point a short walk from the camp.

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After a whole day of exploring alone, this was the first time we were together with other tourists for any length of time.

At night we had Bedouin music and a traditional dinner cooked from a hole in the ground (best onions ever!). This was a really good and authentic experience – very simple and nice, and didn’t feel posed for tourists.

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Another great thing was the night sky, with lots of stars and a very visible Milky Way.

We then went straight to bed for a good night’s sleep. After breakfast we were taken to Rum village to take the tourist bus back to Petra – but not before Hlyel gave us a gift of tea and wild sage!

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HOW TO DO IT:

  • Camps and tours: There are many options to choose from, but Hlyel’s Lovers Camp was amazing. He is really proud of his business and his tour was exactly what we needed. We did an 8 hour jeep tour which allowed us to cover a lot of ground, but tours can be tailored to the guests. Tour with overnight stay cost 80JD per person.
  • Getting there: There is a daily tourist bus leaving Petra at 6am. The same bus returns from Wadi Rum at around 8h30. Tickets cost 7JD. Alternatively, a taxi ride takes about 1h30 and costs around 40JD.
  • Weather: Not surprisingly, the desert is really hot and dry. After a whole day travelling around, you will probably start coughing and feel your nose really dry.

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BEING INDIANA JONES: 2 Days Exploring Petra

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Just like with everyone else, the main reason why we decided to come to Jordan was to visit Petra. It was well worth it!

Petra was a route for caravans around 2,000 years ago. I was really impressed by the scale of the place, with monument after monument and a large city centre. This really is one of the most amazing places on Earth.

Day 1:

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We stayed at Petra Guest House, a very nice hotel right next to Petra Gate – so you can get the place pretty much to yourself before most of the other tourists arrive.

We had breakfast at 6.30 and made our way to Petra at 7am. This was an ideal time, as the place was dead empty and it wasn’t too hot yet.

The entrance leads you to the Siq, an amazing winding canyon that leads the way to the Treasury. We were completely alone for most of the way and took our time to get lots of photos.

The main attraction of Petra is the Treasury and again we were lucky to be there when there was hardly anyone else around.

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Continuing alongside the main road, we reached the Street of Facades, with other impressive buildings along the way.

Because we had plenty of time in Petra, instead of taking the main route we climbed up to the High Place of Sacrifice. This gave us great views along the way, and when you reach the top you finally start to understand the actual size of Petra.

We descended through the long route that leads into a canyon full of temples and tombs. After a couple of hours we reached the city centre, where we had a deserved lunch break at Basin Terrace (which gave us 20% discount because we were staying at Petra Guest House).

At the height of the heat we made our way to the Monastery. This was a good climb up over 800 steps which took a good 50 minutes. But the Monastery was also the highlight of the day. This is a massive building at the top of the mountain, so in one side you see the building, and at the other you get breathtaking views across deep valleys.

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After that we made our way back to the city centre and followed the main roads to get back. We were quite tired, but there was plenty more to see on another day.

Day 2:

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We returned to Petra for some more exploring on our way back from the desert. We spent an afternoon seeing some more sights which we missed on our first day, such as the Urn Tomb and the Collonaded Street.

It was great coming back to see some more and to have a final look at some of the things we’d seen before.

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We finished the tour with a cold beer at the Cave Bar at Petra Guest House, located in a 2,000 year old Nabatean tomb – supposedly the world’s oldest bar.

Petra by Night:

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On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays it is possible to visit Petra in the evening. The visit starts at 8h30 and finishes at 10h30.

The main route through the Siq is lit with candles that lead the way to the open area in front on the Treasury.

Everyone sits around drinking sweet tea and there are demonstrations of local music and culture. It is a quick display, then it’s time to make your way back.

This is a nice thing to do if you’re around at night, but it’s not in any way unmissable.

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HOW TO DO IT:

  • Stay: There are lots of hotels in Petra, but Petra Guest House has the best location and it’s a great place to relax after a long day exploring. This is definitely my recommendation. We also stayed at Al Rashid a simple but comfortable hotel at 46JD per night. It’s about 30min walk to the entrance of Petra, but a taxi ride costs only 3JD.
  • Tickets: Entry to Petra costs 50JD for one day, 55JD for two days or 60JD for three days – so it’s worth buying tickets for as many days as you have available. Tickets for Petra by Night cost 12JD and can be bought at the Visitor Centre or arranged with your hotel.
  • Weather: We went in September and it was really hot after 10am. Petra is never really cold, so wear sunscreen and drink lots of water. Shops selling water, tea and souvenirs are available inside Petra.
  • Inside Petra: Get there early and take lesser known routes to get the place all to yourself – although these paths do not have much in way of signage or facilities. Petra opens at 6am and closes at 5pm.
  • Transport: We hiked all the way, but camels, horses and donkeys provide alternative transportation.

TRAVELLING THROUGH JORDAN: Taxi ride in the King’s Highway

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We started our tour of Jordan with a day trip from Madaba to Petra through the King’s Highway.

We arranged this through Mariam Hotel, which provided our driver for the day, Issa, for 68JD.

Mount Nebo

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After a nice and big breakfast, we left early in the morning as this was going to be a long trip. Our first stop was Mount Nebo, a holy site from where Moses saw the promised land.

You get great views over the Jordan Valley, with Palestine and the Dead Sea in the distance.

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King’s Highway

We continued our trip via the famous King’s Highway. The winding roads led us to Wadi Mujib, known as ‘Jordan’s Grand Canyon’. We stopped a few times to grasp the amazing views over the dam, and sipped mint tea with a view.

Karak

The changing scenery led us to Karak, a massive Crusades castle. We spent about one hour exploring all the different rooms and floors of the site.

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This was a really nice place and with very few tourists around, so we could take it all in at our own pace.

We were then back on the road for a few more hours. We stopped for more amazing views of Dana reserve, then finally made our way to Petra, arriving at around 4pm.

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HOW TO DO IT:

  • Travelling around: Taxis are available for hire throughout Jordan and are the best way to travel across the country as there isn’t much in way of public transportation. Hotels can often arrange these trips – but always confirm the price in advance. We paid 68JD for our day trip, which was really cheap.
  • Monuments: Entry to sites like Mount Nebo and Karak cost only 1JD – way too cheap!
  • Stay: Plan your itinerary in advance and book your accommodation accordingly. We decided to give Amman a miss and head straight to Madaba – a good option that worked well for us. We stayed at Mariam Hotel which was good for service but the facilities weren’t great. Much better was Mosaic City where we spent our last night in Jordan.

TRAVEL WISHLIST: JORDAN

Jordan is one of the top places in my list at the moment, but I want to get it right (which basically means ensuring I have time to see everything I want there).

The main reason I wanted to visit at first was Petra:

Photo from Wikipedia

The place looks absolutely amazing! And you can even see it live through this great Earthcam.

But now that I’ve started doing some research I’ve realised there’s much more to see: a day trip to the Dead Sea is a must, and visiting Wadi Rum must be a surreal experience:

Photo from Wikipedia

HOW TO DO IT:

  • Go: there are plenty of flights from the UK, but tickets are not cheap at around £400 return.
  • Weather: avoid the summer as temperatures get way too hot.
  • Travel around: buses and taxis are the easiest way to travel around in Jordan, are not too expensive, and can be booked when you’re there.
  • Stay: Petra Guesthouse is the best accommodation in Petra in terms of location, but don’t forget to spend a night in a Bedouin tent for a unique experience.