Our trip ran more or less to the itinerary which we had decided for it, which worked well …
Amman was a fairly pleasant city to walk around and explore, although we didn’t really appreciate it as much on our first day in Jordan – by our last day we were more relaxed, and could cope a bit better with the hustle and bustle. We ate in two classic budget restaurants – Hashem and Al Quds. Both were enjoyable experience, as much for the atmosphere as the food.
Jerash was an excellent day trip, though I’d dispute our guidebook’s claim that you need more than half a day. We ate in the best restaurant of our whole trip – Lebanese House – having a superb fattoush, hummus and kebabs.
The Dead Sea was an experience, though I wouldn’t want to stay there for too long as you can’t properly swim in the sea and the water is extremely, extremely salty. Madaba was also enjoyable but one night is sufficient.
Karak Castle was worth a stop off on our way to Dana, which itself was a quiet and atmospheric rural village perched in a rocky hill in a fairly dramatic location. We didn’t do any serious hiking here but again one night was sufficient in our opinion.
Up to this point Jordan had been extremely pleasant, with a number of diverting but not world class destinations. Add to this the excellent food and hospitable people and it was an enjoyable trip. However, what really elevated this trip was our next two stops – Petra and Wadi Rum. I’d strongly encourage people to visit both for a number of nights, particularly Petra where you need at least two and a half days to truly explore the site.
In Petra we stayed in the slightly shabby but very friendly Al Rashid Hotel. On day one we visited the Siq and Treasury in the evening light, before returning after dinner for Petra by Night, an unmissable experience for photos despite the large number of tourists somewhat spoiling the serene atmosphere. The next day was a rain day – fine as we had another full day, but if we hadn’t had that extra day I’d have been very disappointed. Having said this, in some ways the rain contributed to the atmosphere, reduced the number of tourists, and added an element to my images that most pictures of Petra don’t have (glass half full!). We visited the Royal Tombs, one of the highlights of Petra, and the downtown area. On day three we explored fully, seeing the High Place of Sacrifice, retreading our paths through the downtown area (including the Churches), taking our time before climbing up to the Monastery in the late afternoon. Petra is a breathtaking, unmissable world experience. Our days and nights there somewhat reminded me of our exploration of Angkor Wat four and a half years earlier. Both are large, sprawling complexes (with high entrance fees), local towns perched nearby (Siem Reap is a lot nicer than Wadi Musa though) and large numbers of tourists to contend with in order to get the images you want. I might do a more in depth comparison in the future.
After leaving Petra we went to Wadi Rum, where we spent one night in the desert. In some ways I’d say you should spend longer here, but having said that the desert is really more about the experience than seeing sights, and after a day and a night we felt like we’d had that. Also, after the extreme walking and early mornings of Petra and Wadi Rum, we were ready by that point to lounge on a beach in Aqaba! Wadi Rum is gorgeous, and our Bedouin guide found the perfect spot for sunset, where I took one of my favourite images of the trip. The slow, sand-cooked meal at our Bedouin camp was also a highlight.
We ended our trip in Aqaba, a very pleasant seaside city where we had a number of tasty local meals, including local bread, coffee, falafel, kebabs and finally some fish. The beaches themselves were OK, nothing special. On one day we paid to use the Intercontinental Hotel (25JD as it was Easter), the other Berenice Beach Club (10JD with a discount through our hotel, the excellent Cedar Hotel). We much preferred the Intercontinental, as the beach was a lot nicer and the loungers were padded. Both were fine though, and allowed us to relax at the end of a long and tiring, but very satisfying, trip.
We took the JETT bus back to Amman from Aqaba, which took about four hours, and had a late afternoon exploring the city again before our early morning flight back to London.
Must see: Petra, Wadi Rum
Must eat: Lebanese House (restaurant, Jersah), fatteh, fattoush, hummus, kebabs (food)
Must stay: Cedar Hotel (Aqaba)