Visiting Bedouin communities is a favorite cultural experience. // © 2016 iStock
Feature image (above): The seaside resort town of Aqaba offers world-class diving. // © 2016 iStock
Bordered by Iraq to the northeast; Syria to the north; Saudi Arabia to the east and south; and Israel, Palestine and the Dead Sea to the west, Jordan is something of an adventurer’s oasis. It’s safer than other destinations in the Middle East, it’s home to a humble and hospitable people, and many of its locals speak English. The small Arab kingdom is also a year-round adventure destination, offering a diverse selection of cultural and active experiences set in varied and ancient landscapes such as Petra, Wadi Rum and the Red Sea.
Malia Asfour was born in Jordan, has been there more than 20 times and continues to visit the country three to four times each year. The director of the Jordan Tourism Board, Asfour promotes all that the destination has to offer — which, according to her, is nearly everything besides winter. If pressed, she says her favorite activity is scuba diving in Aqaba in the Red Sea, but what she likes best is Jordan’s sheer number of options.
“Jordan has all the adventures a person could look for,” she said. “There’s climbing, canyoning, desert safaris, camel trekking, biking and watersports. Also, you can now hike the Jordan Trail from north to south.”
In The Company of History: Asfour says Jordan is where the adventures of prophets and explorers began — dating back to the Bronze Age.
Jordan is a country that must be customized to the client, says Maya Abdo, a travel advisor and global event and meeting planner for Travel Wt Maya, an affiliate of Worldview Travel, a Virtuoso Agency, in Beverly Hills, Calif. Abdo has been selling Jordan since she began working as a travel advisor in 1993 and has visited the country 12 times so far. She is a fan of the destination’s unspoiled natural and cultural sites, particularly the otherworldly landscape of Wadi Rum.
“When you see Wadi Rum from above, you realize how big, colorful and rocky the area is,” she said. “It’s an awesome view, and so relaxing.”
Wadi Your Way: Other ways to experience Wadi Rum include a guide-escorted camel ride, rock climbing and Bedouin-style camping.
Heat and terrain can make it difficult to navigate Jordan’s desert landscapes alone, says Tom Marchant, co-founder of Black Tomato, which started selling Jordan when the company began about 10 years ago. Marchant also recommends a guided experience for the ability to mix adventure with access to locals.
“Trekking via jeep safari through the mesmerizing landscapes of the desert is a favorite,” Marchant said. “We stop by the Bedouin communities in Wadi Rum to join them for tea and listen to their stories.”
Tea, Wine, Food: In Petra, Black Tomato’s guests meet local craftsmen for tea and stories about the ruins. In Ammam, Jordan’s capital, guests can tour wine cellars belonging to local families and learn how to whip up delicacies such as mansaf, Jordan’s national dish of lamb.