The Best of Jordan 

When my friend, Jodie, told me she was going to be in Jordan for spring break with her kids, I jumped at the chance to come join her. We used the opportunity to stop in Istanbul to visit another friend, which was a great layover city before launching into our Jordanian adventure. Jordan has long been a bucket list country for me and one that I didn't expect to visit with my kids any time soon. But I love how casual conversations over coffee can quickly become a reality if you have the desire to make it happen. 

Jodie's husband was working on a film in Jordan, so we oriented ourselves around Aqaba, which is where they were going to be stationed. Her kids are quite a bit younger than mine and so we both had realistic expectations of how much we could do together and what would be better to do separately. Thankfully she and her three kids are amazing travelers and we were all on the same page the whole time, so it worked out to be a perfect week. 

One of my friends commented that it looked (from Instagram) that we were always on the move and traveling a lot. It's true that we did everything we wanted, but it never felt rushed or hectic. Being oriented in Aqaba actually made moving around quite easy. I will share our itinerary below. 

Day One

  • Fly from Istanbul to Amman

  • Private transfer from Amman to the Dead Sea, booked through Viator. This saved us time and made getting to the Dead Sea easy (and safe.) I had heard quite a few stories about driving in Jordan being complicated and possibly dangerous with random animals crossing the roads. We never saw anything like that and the roads seemed well run and fairly straight-forward; however, I was happy to leave the driving to the locals. 

  • One night at Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea. This hotel was gorgeous and the view of the Dead Sea while we had drinks at sunset was perfect. We ate dinner here and went to bed early so that we could wake up early and get into the famed waters. 

Day Two

  • We wanted to beat the crowd, and we sure did... I'm not sure if there was ever a crowd because it was freezing on this early April morning. We carefully covered ourselves in the Dead Sea mud, which was even colder, and I guess in a way it made getting into the water less shocking. But that water! We really did float. You hear about the Dead Sea for your whole life and you can't really imagine what it's like until you're there and bobbing around. We had heard from some naysayers that the saltiness stings and is actually unpleasant, but we really didn't have that experience. We were careful to cover ourselves in mud and shower everything off afterwards, but all told it was a great experience. Although 10 degrees warmer would have really been ideal! Thankfully the hotel has a beautiful infinity pool (heated, thank you!) which was our first stop after the Dead Sea. 

  • After breakfast, we took another car that I'd booked through the hotel to the Kempinski Hotel Aqaba Red Sea. From the Dead Sea to the Red Sea with a few tourist overlooks along the way. 

  • We met up with our friends and spent the afternoon exploring Aqaba, which is quite tiny and not much to see. The Red Sea is beautiful and we enjoyed an afternoon swim.

  • We wandered from our hotel to a delicious little falafel shop, Falafel w Bus, for dinner.

Day Three

 

  • After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel overlooking the sea, our friends picked us up and we headed off for an overnight in Petra. Lucky for us, Jodie was given a local driver with a big SUV for her stay in Jordan, so we were able to avoid hiring cars for a few of our excursions. It turned out that Odie, the driver, wore a lot of hats and we were all grateful to have him with us. He helped carry tired kids, woke up to get our crew to Petra before sunrise, then circled back to provide a mule companion for one of her kids, and he also photographed and negotiated for us. 

  • We dropped our bags at our hotel for the night, the Old Village Resort. This hotel was a bit out of main town, but it was a beautiful and traditional structure with gorgeous views over the city. The staff could not have been more lovely and in fact, they gave us complimentary sand-jar creations with our names and camels when they realized Jodie knew one of their cousins from her hotel in Aqaba. 

  • We ordered tickets for the evening, Petra by Night, through the hotel and then headed out for lunch in a local restaurant, Al-Arabi Restaurant, and to explore little Petra, Siq al-Barid

  • Little Petra is a great place to visit with kids. You get a preview of what's to come, yet don't have to deal with the crowds, long walk to the site, or the people selling stuff. We hired a guide to show us around and explain a little of the history, though the kids were busy gawking at all of it and climbing up and down the carved hillside staircases and probably missed most of the lesson. 

  • We had a little rest in our hotel and then fueled up for Petra by Night at the hotel's gigantic buffet. Jodie was debating on whether or not to take her kids to Petra by Night, as we knew there was a significant walk to the site and they were getting tired. Thankfully she powered on because it is really magical and well worth the extra effort. Not to mention, we had Odie who her carried her sleepy kids back to the car at the end. 

  • I had read conflicting accounts of Petra by Night... one- it's a total tourist trap and two- it's exquisite. I'm in the latter camp and honestly I think it's just a frame of mind. It is touristy for sure. I can't even totally recall the actual the program, but it was just the feeling of quietly walking up the Siq and seeing the glowing candles covering the ground in front of the Treasury, then sitting with a warm cup of tea and hearing traditional Jordanian music played by the local Bedouins. I'll always vote for a little slice of magic. 

Day Four

  • My family and I woke up before sunrise so that we could get to Petra before the big tour buses. We had a quick breakfast at the hotel and were at the entrance as the sun was starting to rise. We really did not see anyone while we walked all the way from the entrance to the Treasury, save for an occasional horse and buggy. There were a handful of people milling around the Treasury, but nothing compared to the scene later in the day. I highly recommend just getting up and over there, if you can. It is such an otherworldly experience to be there alone. You can climb up the hillside and get an amazing birds eye view of the Treasury as well. 

  • We leisurely made our way around the main lower road towards the climb to the Monastery. The guide map said the climb takes about 45 minutes, but it is not nearly that long or hard, assuming you are in decent shape. There are a lot of places to pause and look out over Petra, so don't worry that it is a grueling experience at all. There are a few stalls selling souvenirs and drinks along the way and they seemed desperate for business, so that made us feel a little bad, but we kindly said our hellos and kept going. 

  • The Monastery is similar to the Treasury, though slightly less elaborate. It is equally mystifying- how on earth did these things get created?! It is an unbelievable example of early architecture and engineering. We loved sitting up there, just taking it all in, and seeing the goats climbing around the mountainside. Because it is a climb (or maybe because it was still early) there are not many people up there and you can really just enjoy the space and the beauty. 

  • Climbing down we said our goodbyes to the sellers and we saw some people coming up on donkeys- I say that's cheating and probably pretty cruel to the donkeys, but to each their own. 

  • The scene at the Treasury had grown chaotic since we left, but we managed to find our friends who were coming down the Siq. We decided to leave them to explore for a while and we went to the Movenpick hotel across from the entrance to wait for them. The gift shop had cards and the cafe had the amazing lemon mint drinks, which I drank all over the country. We were deep into our hummus and pita and card playing when they came and found us. The beautiful lobby of the Movenpick is a really great place to be waiting for friends- and probably a really great place to stay with the proximity to Petra. It was already booked when we were looking for hotels, so I would say to get planning well in advance if you want to stay there. 

  • We drove back to Aqaba, which is about 2 hours, and spent the rest of the evening relaxing in our hotel and eating dinner by the sea. 

Day Five

  • We had a leisurely morning in Aqaba before heading out to Wadi Rum around noon. Wadi Rum is only an hour's drive from Aqaba. 

  • We pulled up to Sun City, where we had booked a Martian Dome for the night. There are individual, traditional Bedouin tents and domes to choose from and we really thought it would be fun to be able to see the brilliant night sky from our beds. Well, the joke was on me because it was cloudy and we didn't see a thing, but we can always say we slept in a martian dome in the middle of Wadi Rum. 

  • There was a big buffet for lunch and afterwards I volunteered to go on a camel ride with Jodie's family because they needed an extra adult for their third child. To ride a camel is not the most pleasant experience, but still incredibly cool to be wandering around the desert like Lawrence of Arabia. 

  • We took all the kids on a sunset dune ride, where we were precariously seated in the back of a pick up truck. We rode all around the desert, stopping at historic markers like the petroglyphs and inscriptions, the remnants of prehistoric Nabatean society. We saw local Bedouins with their dark kohl rimmed eyes, who are now likely to be engaged in the touristic endeavors of the desert. Despite my attempt for a beautiful desert sunset, the weather wasn't cooperating and the sunset went the way of the starry sky. But the jeep ride was so fun! The kids loved playing on the dunes and especially loved when the driver drove fast down the hills. 

  • Sun City, our camp for the night, served traditional Bedouin dishes (platters of food that were cooked deep in the earth throughout the day) for dinner, accompanied by storytelling and live music performed on traditional instruments. 

Day Six.

  • We are clearly early morning people, as we decided to wake up again for the sunrise camel ride through the desert. A local Bedouin got us going and led us around to a perfect vantage point for seeing the sunrise. It was incredibly peaceful and beautiful so early in the morning. 

  • With such an early start, we were ready to head back to Aqaba after breakfast. 

  • Thankfully we had been staying on and off at the same hotel, the Kempinski Red Sea, throughout our time in Jordan, so not only were we able to store our luggage there, but they were very accommodating and let us check back in many hours before normal. We were happy to shower off the red sand and spend another relaxing afternoon by the sea and in the pools. 

Day Seven

  • We said goodbye to Jodie and the kids and headed off to Amman for our last two nights in Jordan. I hired a car through the hotel to take us to the Intercontinental Hotel. It was the longest leg of our trip, at four hours. We didn't make it to Amman in time to really do any sight seeing, but we walk around the neighborhood a bit and then walked to an exceptional dinner at Sufra. We were plagued by buffets for a long stretch of our time in Jordan from Aqaba to Petra and Wadi Rum- all buffets. If you can't tell, I am not a buffet lover. I was overjoyed at seeing the amazing menu at Sufra because honestly, Jordanian cuisine is delicious. Give me tabouleh, hummus, pita, eggplant, vegetables, and falafel all day. The kids also enjoyed some of their meat dishes, "clay pots baked slowly to perfection." The restaurant is so beautifully decorated, you feel like you are in someone's home. 

Day Eight

  • We wanted to see Amman as well as Jerash, so we hired a car through the car company next to the hotel. Weirdly, if you book the same driver through the hotel it is quite a bit more expensive than if you go there directly (it's literally a step outside of the hotel's front revolving door.) Our first stop were the two Amman sights, the Citadel and the Roman Theater. It is shocking to see such, well Roman, ruins outside of Italy. You start to get an idea of the history and legacy of the Roman Empire from around around 63BCE. The Citadel is up on top of a hill and the Roman Temple of Hercules is the most famous site within the complex. We enjoyed walking around and seeing all the pillars and other examples of early Roman architecture. From the Citadel we went down to the Roman Theater, which is very reminiscent of structures we visited in Italy. The stone steps are shallow and steep, so we wandered around carefully. 

  • Jerash is about 50 minutes outside of Amman and you really should make the journey if you have time, particularly if you are there in the spring because the wildflowers are incredible. Jerash has an interesting history through the ages, from Neolithic times to the Greco Roman periods to the time of Ottoman rule. It is nicknamed "Pompeii of the East" because it is one of the best preserved Greco-Roman cities. The grounds are sprawling and it would take a lot to see everything. We took our time and enjoyed the architectural remains and honestly, those wildflowers!

  • After a long day of sightseeing, we walked to another delicious restaurant, Fakhr El-Din, for our last dinner (and my last lemon mint drink) in Jordan. While Sufra felt like a cozy home, this truly was a home but a rather opulent one built by one of the Prime Ministers of Jordan. It was designed and constructed during the mid 20th century’s golden era, and over the years has also been a home to several prominent dignitaries in Jordan. The Levantine cuisine and service was upscale to meet the expectations of the location. We had a perfect final meal and walked back to our hotel to burn some of the calories from the delicious dessert specialty, Halawat Alqishta. 

© 2019 by Surrounded by Beautiful. Proudly created with Wix.com

  • Instagram Social Icon