As many of you know my buddy Joel Runyon and I took a trip to Jordan back in June for a week. The trip was fantastic, and to be honest exceeded both of our already high expectations.
What I found to be so interesting about Jordan is that most people don’t know anything about it. Sure most people have heard of the Dead Sea, but few actually have any idea why it’s been given that name.
I love learning about places that are a little off the beaten path, and this wasn’t any exception.
For those of you that wanted more of a trip overview, this is it. Here are my ten best reasons for why you should head to Jordan next time you’re looking for something new, and perhaps a little adventure in your life.
#10) GO SOMEPLACE YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY ACTUALLY WANT TO HEAR ABOUT!
This one falls squarely into the category of bragging rights. It might sound a little conceded to say that, but more so than any place I’ve been, ever, people want to hear about Jordan for some reason.
Why? I think it has to do with the fact it’s so unexpected. Where is Jordan? What’s there? What’s it like? Even if places like China or Cuba were just as different in terms of landscape and culture, people have heard more about them. Most of the people I’ve talked to haven’t heard a thing about Jordan, and people get excited about something new like that.
So if you want to take a trip that people actually want to hear about, Jordan (based on my experience) would be an excellent candidate.
#9) WORLD CLASS STREET CAFES
This is one of my primary criteria for judging my love of a city.
In Bangkok we used to spend hours people watching over 2 for 1 99 baht gin and tonics near Silom. Sipping coffee on the streets of Barcelona is one of my favorite memories of Europe. Bottom line, if you want to top my list of best cities, I’ve gotta be able to drink, work, socialize in some fantastic cafes.
Amman didn’t disappoint. Pretty much the first thing we did after arriving was pop into a street side cafe near our hotel and grab some mint tea and shisha. The waiters were some of the friendliest I’ve seen, the temperature was perfect, and the people watching was right up there as well.
Sitting in street cafes is one of the best ways I know of to see what a city is all about. Whether it’s talking to people around your or simply watching the routines and traditions of those around you – next time you’re some place new make sure you find a spot to hang out for an hour and simply enjoy your surroundings.
#8) EXPERIENCE THE MIDDLE EAST (WITHOUT THE DANGER)
Many friends and family couldn’t believe I was heading to the middle east when I did. All you hear on the news is about how dangerous it is over there. The reality? It is pretty dangerous over there, but NOT in Jordan. Jordan is a bit of a safe haven from the violence going on in surrounding countries.
Jordan is on friendly terms with everyone that surrounds them, making it the safest destination to travel to in the middle east. Based on my experience there, I can totally back this up. Regardless of where we went I never felt unsafe, and in fact felt much more comfortable than many other places I’ve visited.
So if this has been a concern for you and is a reason why you haven’t ventured out into that part of the world, you should definitely reconsider.
#7) SWIM WITH JELLYFISH IN CRYSTAL CLEAR WATER
Something I’ve always wanted to do was swim in the Red Sea. During our time in Aqaba we were able to head out on a boat and do some snorkeling in what had to be theclearest water I’ve ever seen.
As we were cruising out into the sea, we couldn’t help but notice there were thousands of purple jellyfish in the water. “We must be heading out past all of them” was my initial reaction.
We arrived at our dive spot, and as I got to the back of the boat, there were still about half a dozen jellyfish hanging out in the water below.
Now, I don’t know about you, but in my 27 years of life, everything I’ve learned has told me if you see jelly fish you do NOT go in the water. No one else seemed bothered by this. Our guide told us they wouldn’t sting and we should get in.
I’ve never felt like such a wuss in my whole life.
I hopped in, and then spent the next 5 minutes sporadically flailing around as I kept thinking jellyfish were out to get me. Usually I’d be right, and I’d turn around to see a few of them hanging out around my legs – but sure enough, no stinging. I couldn’t handle it though and swam back to the boat.
It wasn’t until our guide literally fished one out of the water and placed it in our hand that I was able to get over my fear of jellyfish.
Looking back, I’ve gotta admit that it was a pretty cool experience, and one most people can’t say they’ve done. So if you’re a big diver, make sure you check out the Red Sea for it’s incredibly clear water and jelly swims.
#6) WORLD CLASS CUISINE
If you’re into Mediterranean food, you’re going to love Jordan. Olives, hummus, baba ghanouj, falafel – all here in spades. It was a big departure from the street food I’ve experienced throughout Asia, but a welcome change.
If you come to Jordan you need to make sure you don’t miss their national dish of mansef. We changed our plans on our last day so that we could go experience it ourselves. It’s a giant plate of rice and lamb covered in yogurt sauce. It’s a very communal eating experience, and once you get the hang of rolling the rice, lamb and sauce around in your hand before popping it in your mouth it quickly becomes an addicting meal.
#5) YOU CAN SEE IT ALL IN ONE TRIP
I remember thinking back to planning my trip to Brazil in 2009 and saying I wanted to go to Iguazu, the Amazon, Rio, Sao Paulo and about 6 other different places scattered throughout the country.
Oh how young and naive.
It didn’t take long before I realized that saying that was like coming to the United States for a week and wanting to see the Statue of Liberty, Golden Gate Bridge and Disney World all at once.
This is the beauty of Jordan however.
You can drive from the northern border to the southern tip near the Red Sea in about five hours. While we certainly wish we had more than the 6 days we did in Jordan, we were able to at the very least see all of the highlights. If you’re traveling on a limited time frame, you can see most of the country in just a week. There are also buses that run from all of the major tourist spots, so getting around is relatively easy and affordable.
#4) DETACH FROM REALITY
The night we went out to Wadi Rum to stay in a traditional Bedouin camp we had no idea what to expect. I barely knew what a Bedouin was, let alone what camping in the desert with them would be like.
It turned into one of my favorite parts of the trip, as we truly felt as though we were in a completly different time and world. Whether it was the old guys sitting by the fire with their shisha pipes, the vast night sky, or the traditional meal of zarb, it was unlike anything I’d experienced before. Being out there with no internet or modern distractions was something I’ll never forget.
If you like the outdoors and want to get away for a bit, staying in a camp like this is a great way to do that.
#3) GET AS CLOSE TO MARS AS POSSIBLE ON EARTH
Ever wonder what it would feel like to walk on the surface of Mars? I’m pretty sure it would be a lot like walking through the desert canyons of Wadi Rum. Almost any movie that you’ve seen about Mars had at least some of it’s scenes filmed in this region of Jordan.
Now imagine what it would be like to fall from the sky over a giant red rock that’s completely different from anything I’ve seen in the states. That’s what we were able to do thanks to Skydive Jordan. They are in the middle of expanding their diving operations, so if you’re considering going next year, try and time it with a time they are doing the jumps, you won’t regret it.
#2) EXPERIENCE THE SENSATION OF FLOATING IN THE DEAD SEA
The Dead Sea is the saltiest body of water on Earth. It’s also the lowest point on Earth. If this isn’t enough to get you excited about visting, how about the fact that because of its extremely high salt content when you get in the water you actually float. That’s how it got it’s name actually. There is somuch salt, that nothing can live in the water, hence the name, the Dead Sea.
I was skeptical about this, I mean how cool can it be? Turns out, very.
Our time in the Dead Sea was one of my favorite points of the trip, well you know, aside from when I accidentally opened my eyes letting the salt slowly drip into them…just watch the video for that one.
#1) TOUR A CITY BUILT INTO A MOUNTAIN
It’s true, the best reason to visit Jordan is without a doubt the most well known: to tour the incredible city of Petra. Just ask Indiana Ogle about that one.
It began about an hour after arriving to Petra when we decided to do the Petra by Night tour. Hundreds of candles illuminating the mile long trail through the Siq, culminating with a fully lit up Treasury definitely goes down in history as one of my favorite travel experiences ever.
However there’s so much more. You could easily spend a week hiking through Petra – unfortunately we had less than a day. We made the most of it however by making the trek up to the massive Monastery and a couple of the best view points of the trip.
All in all, Jordan was amazing. No country has ever surprised me as much as this one did, and I mean it when I say I can’t wait to go back and spend more time there.