Middle East & North Africa Vacation
Follow the ancient 'Kings Highway' in the footsteps of Ramses II, the Queen of Sheba, Marcus Anthonius and Cleopatra, the Prophet Mohamed, Jesus, and Lawrence of Arabia.
11 Days / 10 Nights
Activity Level Activity levels are subjective depending on your general level of fitness and your experience; however, all of our trips are self-paced.
Explore Jordan from modern Amman to historic Petra and the Biblical waters of the Dead Sea. Following the ancient ‘Kings Highway’ in the footsteps of Ramses II, the Queen of Sheba, Marcus Anthonius and Cleopatra, the Prophet Mohamed, Jesus, and Lawrence of Arabia, our Jordan adventure traverses the spectrum of time in a land of spectacular natural beauty and cultural heritage. We visit the nature reserves of Dana and Wadi Rum, Jerash, Madaba, and float like a cork in the Dead Sea. The centerpiece of all Jordan, Petra, is yours to explore with our expert guide and independently. Wander the deep-red sands of Wadi Rum where we take a 4WD excursion into surreal desert landscape with a local Bedouin driver. This is an active adventure for those travelers who wish to get off the beaten track and truly explore the authentic Jordan.
Jordan Seasons & Climate
The high season for travel to Jordan falls in 4 main months – April, May, September and October. Despite the small size of the country (57,166 sq mi), Jordan demonstrates wide variations in temperature and climate. Although Jordan is largely desert, the northern hill country abutting the Jordan River is rich with groves of olive trees and remains relatively temperate while the rest of the country bakes during mid-Summer months. The southern extreme, Aqaba on the Red Sea, boasts balmy climates while Amman may see snowfall in the winter months. Aqaba is also home to some of the most pristine coral reefs in the world and a popular resort. In between those two extremes, spectacular canyonlands, high deserts and woodlands harbor meadows of wildflowers and nature reserves filled with bird- and wildlife.
Spring (March-May) is pleasantly warm and beautiful wildflowers – including the striking Jordanian black iris – turn the countryside lush and colorful. Rainfall effectively ends by late April, although higher elevations, such as Dana Nature Reserve, can see some rain and wind into May. It is also during the late Spring-early Summer months that a gritty desert wind, “khamseen,” rises from the Arabian interior, bringing warmer temperatures and giving exposed surfaces a coating of dust. This condition thankfully lasts only a few days in Jordan.
Summer (June-September) is sizzling hot across the country, with the only possible respite coming in Ajloun, in the hills to the northwest. Temperatures in Amman can hit 100* and higher, while Aqaba and the Dead Sea may surpass 120*. Even the high deserts around Petra will reach the high 90’s, making it challenging to hike for any length of time.
While very brief, the Fall months (October-November) bring relief from the heat, making this a wonderful time to visit. Rainfall that starts in mid-October welcomes a return of the wildflowers for a few weeks before winter descends across the countryside.
Winter (December-March) can be bitter cold in Amman, with sharp winds adding to the misery. The short days and chill rains make Petra and even Wadi Rum less than welcoming for visits. But those seeking sunshine can find it at Aqaba and the Dead Sea, which remain in the mid-70s.
A few more reasons you have to go:
Float in the Dead Sea
Dana Nature Reserve
Wander the deep-red sands of Wadi Rum
Queen Alia International Airport AMM
Queen Alia International Airport AMM
On arrival at Queen Alia International Airport, you are met and transferred to your hotel. Amman was the capital of the Ammonites in 1200 BCE, known in the Old Testament as Rabbath-Ammon. During the 3rd century BCE, Amman was renamed Philadelphia (Greek for “Brotherhood Love”) after the Ptolemaic ruler Philadelphus (283-246 BCE). Following Seleucid and Nabataean rule, the Roman General Pompey made Philadelphia part of the Decapolis League – a loose alliance of ten city-states bound by powerful commercial, political, and cultural interests under allegiance to Rome. During the Byzantine period, Philadelphia was the seat of a Christian Bishop but the city declined somewhat until 635 ACE when the region became part of the Islamic caliphate and its original Semitic name Ammon or Amman was restored.
About the Intercontinental Jordan Hotel
This 5* hotel is a well-known landmark in bustling Amman, offering cosmopolitan amenities with a distinctive Middle Eastern touch. Light-filled rooms, vibrant modern furnishings, international cuisine, luxurious spa amenities and views all combine for a relaxing, comfortable stay. Rooms offer cable TV, climate control, work desk and safety box. WiFi is available for a nominal charge. Dining options cover a broad range, from casual Café Boulevard to Bourj Al Hamam, known throughout the city for its excellent Lebanese cuisine.
Join your guide for a walking tour of Amman. This is a city of hills, so bring your walking shoes and high spirits. Explore Jebel al-Q’al’a (Citadel Hill) with its Roman Temple of Hercules and Byzantine Ummayad Palace. Then it’s a tour of street food – public markets and bazaars. If you’re game, try a hookah at a local café.
Jerash/Ajloun Nature Reserve
Begin your journey through Jordan’s fascinating history with a visit to Jerash, one of the world’s most extensive restorations of a provincial Roman town. You’ll explore its theaters, temples, and colonnaded streets. You then visit the nearby Castle of Ajloun or Qalaat Errabadh (Arabic for “Hilltop Castle”), with a splendid view over the Jordan Valley. Built in 1184-85 ACE by Ezz Eddin Osama bin Munqethe, a nephew of the Ayyubid leader Salahuddin Al-Ayyoubi (Saladin), to protect the region from invading Crusaders, it was one of a chain of forts which lit beacons at night to pass signals from the Euphrates as far as Cairo. Enjoy lunch at a local Jordanian family restaurant before returning to Amman.
Madaba Walking Tour/Dana
Today you’ll drive the famous Kings’ Highway stretching from Amman to Petra. Almost every historical character from the Middle East that you can think of has traveled this road; Ramses II, the Queen of Sheba, Queen Zenobia, Moses, Marcus Antonius, Cleopatra, Augustus, Mohamed, Richard Coeur de Leon, Christ, Lawrence of Arabia, Gamal Attaturk – the list goes on and on. Today, it is your turn. Original Roman milestones stand at the side of the road, their distances still relevant.
Your first stop is Madaba, the “City of Mosaics.” While most visitors to Jordan make a quick stop in this charming village to glimpse its most famous mosaic, a 6th century Byzantine map – the oldest surviving map of the Holy Land in existence – you will meet some of the people responsible for the very survival of these fabulous works of art! Join your guide for a stroll through the Madaba “Souq” getting a glimpse into the daily lives of merchants as they go about their business. Finally, you make a stop at the Apostles Church, with its spectacular mosaic dedicated to the 12 Apostles, its centerpiece dominated by a regal woman personifying the sea and all its real and mythical creatures. You continue to the Dana Nature Reserve, a visionary program combining scientific research with sustainable tourism, benefitting the traditional inhabitants of the village. Dana Nature Reserve is a system of wadis and mountains extending from the top of the Rift Valley to the desert lowlands of Wadi Araba, an elevation drop of over 1,600 meters. This vast, newly developed reserve serves as a refuge for endangered species, including ibex, mountain gazelle, badgers, red fox, and wolf. There is some free time to explore the walking trails before dinner. Dana Village has been continually occupied for about 6000 years. Although this ancient stone village was almost abandoned, it is now coming back to life with color and vitality through assistance from local conservation groups and determination of the local population.
About Dana Guesthouse
Dana Guest House is a delightful 9-bedroom property with stunning views over Wadi Dana. A 2.5 hour drive from Amman and 1.5 hour drive from Petra, the Guest House is located close to the picturesque Dana village and right next door is a small handicrafts workshop and nature reserve museum. The Guest House rooms are simply furnished, clean and comfortable, with shared bathroom facilities, although one room is equipped with an en suite bathroom. Most rooms have a private terrace overlooking a 1000m drop to Wadi Dana. The sun setting on the far side of the Wadi makes the balconies an exceptionally beautiful place to linger during the evenings.
Spend today hiking from the Dana Village into the heart of the spectacular Jordanian high desert. The trail contours huge escarpments of the Wadi Dana, along impressive white sandstone domes overlooking the reserve below before descending through all four of Jordan’s eco-zones, each with a distinctive landscape and complex of flora and fauna. Look for the tiny but brilliant blue agana lizard, or the black iris, which could be thought of as Jordan’s national flower.
About Feynan Ecolodge
Deep in the heart of the mountainous Dana Biosphere Reserve, at the end of a rugged track, an idyllic candle-lit lodge rests in the magnificent Wadi Feynan. Here, set against the glorious desert landscape, guests staying at the 26-room lodge can be found adventuring through the untouched outdoors, sipping mint tea with the native Bedouin, exploring local archaeological sites or simply unwinding in the serene courtyards and terraces of the candle-lit complex; safe in the knowledge that they are vacationing in a socially and environmentally-responsible way. Hailed as one of the top fifty ecolodges in the world by National Geographic Adventure Magazine, the solar powered Feynan Ecolodge offers the most developed eco-experience in Jordan; an experience made possible by a unique partnership between EcoHotels and the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, a Jordanian NGO devoted to the protection of the Kingdom’s finest natural landscapes.
Watch the video below for a preview of the experience:
Enjoy a leisurely last morning at Feynan before checking out to continue on with your Jordanian adventure. You stop en route to Petra for a visit to Shobak Castle, the first fortress to be constructed by the Crusaders in Transjordan. The original fortress has been rebuilt by subsequent conquerors – Mamlukes and Ottomans, with delicate calligraphic inscriptions carved into exterior walls dating from the late 13th century. The castle boasts secret passages and mysterious deep stairwells descending into the cliff on which the fortress is perched. Shobak is also surrounded by additional ruins of Ottoman homes an ancient palace complex and ghostly arches of a long-crumbled church. You arrive in Petra, the crown jewel of Jordan archaeological sites, in late afternoon. This evening, stroll through the candlelit Siq until you reach the breathtaking spectacle of the magnificent Treasury, illuminated by thousands of candles. Music drifts through the air while ancient stories and poetry are told. Hot sweet tea warms you, as the magic of this special place sweeps you along.
About Crowne Plaza
Located just steps from the gateway to Petra, the Crown Plaza is set in landscaped grounds with breathtaking panoramic views of the Petra Mountains. Hotel facilities include an outdoor pool and jacuzzi overlooking the mountains of Petra. After touring the archaeological wonders of Petra, relax with cocktails at the Cave Bar, a beautiful 2000 Nabatean Rest House which once provided refreshments for passing merchants. Today, the honey-colored walls and columns create a uniquely authentic setting for good music and a long cool drink. Enjoy dining ‘al fresco’ or delicious buffets combining traditional Arabic cuisine with continental favorites at one of three on-site restaurants. All 147 rooms, including 31 newly renovated hillside chalets tucked into the Petra rock face, have air conditioning, high speed internet, telephones, and satellite TVs.
Today you embark on a four hour guided tour of Petra, one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. No amount of hype can prepare you for the thrill of entering the ancient city through the dramatic chasm of the ‘Siq.’ Inside Petra valley there are caves, buildings, tombs, baths, funerary halls, temples, arched gateways, and colonnaded streets carved from the kaleidoscopic-colored sandstone. You’ll explore the valley with your local guide and learn that for more than 400 years Petra was the fulcrum of the ancient world’s spice and incense route; a city hidden behind an almost impenetrable barrier of rugged mountains, approachable only through the ‘Siq’, the kilometer long sheer-walled chasm that a force of twenty could hold against an army of ten thousand. Built by an industrious Arab people called the Nabataeans who moved up the Red Sea coast of Felix Arabia (Saudi Arabia) to settle in southern Jordan more than 2000 years ago-the Nabataeans dominated the Frankincense Trade Route from Sheba to their capital at Petra. Petra became the center for trade goods arriving via the Red Sea from the Far East and which came north overland on the Frankincense Route from Sheba (Yemen) and from Africa (Somalia, Abyssinia, etc). Following the tour, enjoy lunch in the valley at the Basin Restaurant, and then continue exploring the myriad trails on your own. This evening, join other travelers for a cooking class at the Petra Kitchen, a fun and active hands-on experience rewarded with a shared meal of typical Jordanian cuisine. You may find yourself chopping vegetables for salad or assigned something more intricate – the point is to have fun with your fellow travelers and share the fruits of your labors!
The full morning is free to return to Petra for last minute photos and exploring the places you may have overlooked previously. After lunch (on your own), drive to your next spectacular experience – Wadi Rum (1.5 hrs). On arrival you set off with your local Bedouin guide on an hour and a half – two hour exploration in 4×4 vehicles. On all sides the brilliant white-yellow sand is interrupted by towering red sandstone cliffs which soar vertically three hundred feet or more into the air, contrasting brilliantly against the azure blue and generally cloudless sky. Wadi Rum was the setting for the film “Lawrence of Arabia” which gave birth to the mythology that T.E. Lawrence and the Arab irregulars rode through Wadi Rum en route to attack the Turks at Aqaba. Unfortunately, this never happened. Although the enigmatic British officer T.E. Lawrence depicted in the film did accompany the Arab irregular cavalry as it captured Aqaba from the Turks during the Great Arab Revolt of 1917-18 ACE, the Arab forces, quite logically, took the more direct, faster and easier route along which the highway to Aqaba now lies. But the legend has brought many to Rum, and when they arrive, it matters not who has been there before, for Rum is one of the earth’s treasures. Enjoy hot tea at sunset while watching the colors of the dunes and rugged mountains catch fire.
About Sun City Desert Camp
Sun City’s 30 ensuite tents are each 20 sq meters, each decorated with colorful carpets, low seating, and Bedouin themes. Beds have heated mattresses, and the bathrooms are modern with hot showers. A communal dining hall and bonfire area invite guests to linger and share their travel experiences into the night. A separate area, the “Martian Tents,” is a collection of 20 domed accommodations and close to where the 2015 movie “The Martian” was filmed. Each dome is fully furnished, features ensuite bathrooms, and panoramic views which allow guests to enjoy the spectacular sunsets as well as night skies filled with stars.
Depart this morning from Wadi Rum for the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth. The views of the entire Jordan Valley are revealed as you descend. En route, you visit the Crusader castle of Kerak then onto Mt Nebo, where Moses saw the Promised Land for the first time, but was denied entry. This is a serene spot for reflection and strolling through the gardens, inhaling fragrant eucalyptus all around. Arrive to the Dead Sea in time to jump into the saline waters which enable you to bob like a cork, never sinking. Many believe in the curative powers of the mud, slathering it over limbs and body. Regardless, it makes for interesting photographs!
About Dead Sea Marriott Resort and Spa
Located on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea at one of the most unique places in the world, the Dead Sea Marriott is surrounded by rugged purple mountains that subtly change in color as the day unfolds. This is where the spirit of Jordan fills the air and the pulse of history resonates in culture with an endless celebration of life and traditions. The “Spa” is an integral part of the resort. It offers a retreat for guests to unwind, relax and rejuvenate. The treatments use natural elements from the Dead Sea and are specially prepared to invigorate the body and soul. The hotel is also the first in the Middle East to switch to solar panel energy for hot water.
Rise early to join your guide for an exhilarating hike through Mujib Siq, a scenic trail following a creek to a year-round waterfall and welcoming swimming hole. In 2011, UNESCO recognized Mujib Nature Reserve as an important Biosphere Reserve, a vital transit point for migratory birds as well as a permanent safe haven for rare species of wild cats, goats, and other mountain animals. Finish the day with a visit to the Dead Sea Panorama Complex, a natural history museum with breathtaking views of the Dead Sea and Israel beyond. The Museum’s restaurant is the perfect spot for a cold beverage to toast the end of your adventure!
Arrival & Departure
Your trip begins with your arrival into Queen Alia International Airport on Day 1. Upon arrival, you will be met by an Austin Adventures representative who will transfer you to Intercontinental Jordan Hotel for check-in. On Day 12, you will be transferred to Queen Alia International Airport for your flight home, approximately three hours prior to your flight departure time.
- Walking tour of Amman, visit Jabal al-Weibdeh neighborhood, Jebel al-Q’ala, street markets, evening wine-tasting
- Drive Dana Nature Reserve via Madaba, walking tour of Madaba
- AM in Dana Nature Reserve, PM drive to Little Petra via Shobak Crusader Castle, Petra by night experience
- Drive to Dead Sea via Kerak Crusader Castle and Mt Nebo
- Hike & swim Wadi Muji, afternoon tour of Dead Sea Panorama Museum
Discover dramatic Crusader castles, take a 4WD excursion into Wadi Rum desert, and absorb the wonder of Petra for two full days with our expert guide. Designed for active travelers, you’ll make enduring bonds with guides and as invited guests for lunch in the home of a local Jordanian family.
The hallmark of an Austin Adventures vacation is our exceptional dining. All meals: breakfasts, lunches, snacks, dinners, refreshments and receptions except one dinner on your own are included as indicated by the itinerary. (B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner). Alcoholic beverages and related gratuities are not included in the trip price.
After receiving your reservation and deposit, we’ll send you a pre-trip planner with general information about the area you’ll be visiting, a packing list, exercise guidelines, a guest information questionnaire and a liability release agreement for you to sign and return within 10 days.
Included in the Price:
- Airport transfers and land transportation as noted
- Meet & assist at airport
- Accommodations as noted
- Private vehicles with English-speaking guide and driver (except in Wadi Rum)
- Shared 4×4 vehicle ride in Wadi Rum with Bedouin guide
- All entrance fees to sites for touring as noted
- Collective visa to Jordan upon arrival for all staying more than 2 nights in Jordan. Full passport details MUST be received 14 days or more prior to arrival. This service is subject to change with no notice.
- Meals as indicated [B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner]
Not Included in the Price:
- International flights between USA and Jordan
- Exit tax from Jordan (10JD = US$15 per person at land borders only. Tax is included on air tickets) Taxes subject to change without notice.
- Tips and gratuities
- Alcoholic beverages and bottled drinks
- Meals not indicated above
- Extra costs for optional excursions or services on own or to be paid direct
- Travel insurance
- Extra costs due to unanticipated changes in your itinerary for reasons beyond our control
Activity levels are subjective depending on your general level of fitness and your experience; however, all of our trips are self-paced.1 Easy (1)
Activity levels are subjective depending on your general level of fitness and your experience; however, all of our trips are self-paced.2 Moderately Easy (2)
Curtis brings more than 10 years of professional travel experience to Austin Adventures. During this time he has explored some of the world’s most distinctive and culturally rich destinations. Highlights include riding the rails of India, teaching rural health education in the Peruvian Andes, learning to scuba dive in Australia, gorilla trekking in Uganda, mentoring students in Costa Rica, trekking through Asia’s Golden Triangle, exploring Cuba’s countryside by horseback, and learning to tango in Buenos Aires. Curtis’s professional resume includes years on the ground in Southeast Asia supervising a destination management company as well as roles in product development with several of North America’s largest young adult and adventure travel companies.