Active travelers looking to get in their steps during vacation are increasingly bypassing the traditional guided bus tour in favor of exploring a destination on foot.
Trips that emphasize walking have spiked in popularity after pandemic-era lockdowns pushed jetsetters inside, and for good reason. Not only does walking allow clients to escape the crowds, but it also ticks many other boxes for travelers: Walking is environmentally friendly, allowing people to escape confinement for quieter, more serene places; it introduces them to off-the-beaten-path destinations; and it has huge health benefits, reports travel writer JoAnna Haugen.
And one travel destination primed to become a hot spot for boots-on-the-ground travel is the country of Jordan; its many ancient sites, walking trails and city attractions are perfect for clients who want to lace up their sneakers and hit the road (or desert sands).
Here are four walks — ranging in distance and difficulty — to get them started.
1. Walk As-Salt’s Religious Harmony Trail
Distance: 0.5 Miles
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
The city of As-Salt, also known as “The Place of Tolerance and Urban Hospitality,” was built across three adjacent hills in the highlands of west-central Jordan, about a 30-minute drive from the country’s capital of Amman.
During a self-guided walking tour of the city, which was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2021, clients can break a sweat traversing winding streets, climbing hilly passes and ascending outdoor staircases — all while exploring the more than 650 historic buildings that feature a mix of residential districts and bustling public spaces.
If travelers are looking for a more spiritual experience, suggest they walk along As-Salt’s Harmony Trail, a half-mile stretch of the city that showcases the area’s mosques and churches that exist in interreligious harmony (the city itself is home to large communities of Muslim and Christian people). The trail can be guided or self-guided; guided tours can be booked at the As-Salt Information Center.
2. Stroll the Ancient Ruins of Jerash
Distance: Varies (the complex is about 200 acres)
The ancient ruins of Jerash, known as the “Pompeii of the Middle East,” represent the largest, most-intact group of Roman ruins outside of Rome.
Located in Northern Jordan about 30 miles north of Amman, Jerash covers a massive swath of land (the complex itself is about 200 acres) and is a major draw for tourists, who can spend hours walking along the streets of the once-thriving metropolis.
Highlights of a walk in the complex include ancient theaters, shops, a piazza, a hippodrome (circus) and the picturesque columns at the Temple of Artemis. Although the ruins are open for self-guided walks, a tour guide will enhance the experience by providing historical context to what clients will see along the way.
Pro tip: Jerash is Jordan’s second-most-popular tourist attraction after Petra, so recommend that visitors arrive early to avoid the massive tour groups that come to the city each day.
3. See Petra by Day (or Night)
Distance: 1 Mile (From the Entrance to the Treasury)
Although horse carriages, camels and donkeys are perfectly acceptable modes of transportation during a trip to Petra, Visit Petra calls “two good legs” the best mode of transport when exploring the iconic archaeological site.
Beginning at the Petra Visitor Center, clients will enter the ancient site through the Siq, the main entrance that starts at the Dam and leads to the opposite side of the city. From the entrance, it takes about 20 minutes to walk a mile to the Treasury, one of the most unique and striking facades of the “Rose City.” (Fans of Indiana Jones will recognize the Treasury from its appearance in “Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade.”)
More serious walkers should carve out ample time to explore the historical city, which includes 2,640 acres within Petra Archaeological Park. (Note: It’s best to arrive early, as midday temperatures can climb into the triple digits.)
If clients prefer a post-sunset excursion, they can book Petra by Night, a guided walk through the city that’s lit by 1,500 candles. The experience runs every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 8:30-10:30 p.m.
4. Traverse the Wadi Mujib Gorge
Distance: Varies Depending on the Trail
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
If clients' wish lists include stunning scenery, expansive biodiversity and varied terrain, suggest they head to the Wadi Mujib gorge, a deep canyon within the Mujib Biosphere Reserve, the lowest nature reserve in the world.
Located near the Dead Sea on Jordan’s eastern coast, the Wadi Mujib gorge enters the Dead Sea at 1,345 feet below sea level and has an elevation change of 4,265 feet in some places.
There are several different trails to hike here; all begin at the Mujib Adventure Center, and many include swimming or walking through water, so advise visitors that they are likely to get wet. The reserve is also home to more than 300 plant species, several species of birds and 10 species of carnivores.
5. For the Ultra-Adventurous: Hike the Jordan Trail
Distance: 400+ miles
The Jordan Trail is not for the faint of heart. Beginning in Northern Jordan’s fertile crescent, the trek ends at the edge of the Arabian Desert and the Red Sea in the southern part of the country (which, in total, is about the size of the state of Maine).
The entire route is more than 400 miles and includes eight distinct regions of varying topography. Clients who book the entire through-hike will spend some 40 days en route, hiking anywhere from 8.5 to 14 miles per day. They’ll pass through both well-known and off-the-beaten-path sites and stay in camps, homestays or hotels at night.
Less experienced hikers are welcome to bypass the full hike in favor of region-specific walks; more information on pricing and region rates can be found on Jordan Trail’s website.