Wellness & Wonders of the World in Magical Jordan
From Petra to Wadi Rum, the Dead Sea and more - why an active holiday in the Middle East is a must for your bucket list…
When you think ‘religious history’ you may not immediately think ‘adventure bucket list holiday of a lifetime’, but then that’s Jordan in a nutshell.
A fascinating, intoxicating mix of old and new - a country chock full of literally thousands of years of history, story and fable that could power 72 Indiana Jones movies, and yet stuck slap bang in the Middle East’s gradual transformation into the modern world.
Let’s face it - a trip to Jordan is not your Mum’s idea of a holiday. And it’s all the better for it.
MTV headed out on a multi-adventure-based jaunt to soak up the classic Jordan sights (Jordan, Wadi Rum, the Dead Sea) but with a thoroughly outdoorsy, active twist.
It was incredible and informative in equal measure. Here’s why Jordan deserves to be on your must-visit list this year…
The Dead Sea really is as mad as you’ve imagined
You may already have heard the infamous list of weirdness surrounding the Dead Sea.
At a surface level of 1,412ft below sea level, it’s Earth’s lowest elevation on land.
It’s one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water (9.6 times as salty as the ocean, fact fans), with a salinity of 34.2%.
It’s this saltiness that means it’s nigh-on impossible for animals and plants to survive, hence the name.
But none of that compares to the incredibly bizarre experience of stepping foot in it. Beforehand, all manner of signs prime you on how to avoid the salty water getting into your orifices (seriously, you do not want even a drop of it splashing in your eyes).
As you tentatively wade into the water, you’ll quickly realise how viscous and dense the water feels on your skin, before the inevitable flummox onto your back leaves you literally bobbing.
Screw the pre-holiday diet - hop in the Dead Sea and float for hours. Read a book, starfish the hell out of your surroundings, or simply look up at the sky and feel your cares fade away.
As an added bonus, you can lather yourself in the shore’s mud before wading in, to give yourself a full body exfoliation.
Hiking through Wadi Mujib offers views for days
Wadi Mujib may not get as much press as Jordan’s other highlights, but it’s a stunning addition for anyone after an active holiday.
Over 80 square miles of barren canyon, it’s an area well worth exploring (with a guide, obvs) as it can offer abseiling and canyoning in the right weather conditions, and stunning hikes all year round.
Your calves won’t be thanking you, but your eyes certainly will upon ascending one of the lofty trails - offering a breathtaking look back at the Dead Sea in all its glory, and the hills backing onto Jerusalem itself.
Grab a beer in the world’s oldest bar
All of us have walked into a bar or pub before, smelled the fusty, dustiness, sticky carpet, marvelled at the ancient decor, and wondered just how long said hovel has been in existence.
Head to Petra though, and you’ll find the real deal - Cave Bar; a tiny, cosy drinking establishment occupying a 2,000 year-old Nabataean rock tomb, and said to be the oldest bar in the world.
Let’s get Biblical, Biblical
Whether you’re religious or not, it’s hard not to feel very aware of the region’s history, and the biblical tales associated with it.
As we stood at the top of a hillside on our first day of hiking, our guide was pointing out places of interest from our surroundings. After discussing the local fauna, we were casually told that ‘just over that hill’ was where Jesus was supposed to be born.
Which is not something you tend to hear every day.
Cliffside coffee and collding cultures
Even if you’re not a fan of coffee, you have to try Bedouin coffee when you’re in Jordan. Not only is it completely different (more syrupy, with a caffeine kick like rocket fuel), but it’s a nifty gateway conversation starter to get you chatting to the locals.
Obviously the Middle East has a turbulent past, and equally as fascinating a present, but the people we met on our trip were as warm, welcoming and open as you could hope.
We had long, lengthy chats about religion, women’s rights, and culture clashes with our Muslim guide and an array of locals - something that only accentuated the joy of the trip, and reminded us of the country’s unique history and fascinating future.
Petra is utterly spectacular
As one of the New7Wonders of the World, Petra has a lot to live up to.
Throw in the pop culture fact that you’ve already seen it in Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade, The Mummy Returns and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and it’s easy to assume you’ve seen it all before.
But a day spent in the cavernous, stunningly vast ruins of this ancient city is genuinely a bucket list moment that’ll blow you away.
The first thing that hits you is the sheer size of it. Walking from one end to the other will take you well over an hour, even at a brisk stroll.
Known as ’the Rose-Red City’ for its gorgeously sandy, auburn-coloured bricks, it dates back to 9,000 BC, and is hidden so smartly within winding gorges and around precipitous cliffedges that it was only ‘discovered’ (by the West, we should clarify) in 1812.
Numerous buildings still stand with immaculate detail carved into its walls - from the awe-inspiring Monastery to the picture perfect Treasury, which is accessed via The Siq, a winding, weaving path in the heart of the city.
Throw in an array of ampitheatres, tombs, caves, and other buildings in varying states of decay, and it’s a truly sobering experience to walk in the steps of those who have come before.
Camp in Wadi Rum and get your Indiana Jones on
What better way to top the trip off then with a night spent camping under the stars, in the middle of Wadi Rum - an epic and bogglingly-vast desert.
Hop on a 4x4, hold onto your hat and bounce off into the sunset as sand sprawls out for miles in every direction.
The only thing better than seeing the colours of the desert shift between reds, oranges and yellows as the sun goes down? Gawping up at the kaleidoscopic light show of the universe’s stars above you, as you camp out in surprisingly cosy huts for the night.