With hundreds of miles of hiking trails, desert adventures, and UNESCO World Heritage sites, Jordan is an ideal destination for backpackers. Jordan finds itself in a privileged position within The Middle East and borders a number of countries including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Israel and Egypt. This location makes Jordan an ideal starting point for backpackers who wish explore the region. The country also boasts good and affordable public transport networks making it easy to get around. As well as the country’s notable sites, there are also plenty of things to do away from the usual tourist tracks. Backpackers will find climbing, abseiling, and hiking across some of Jordan’s most beautiful destinations. There are also lots of affordable accommodation and cheap places to eat which makes it easy for those on a tight budget.
Jordan for Backpackers – Where to Go
Arguably one of the most architecturally beautiful locations in the world, Petra is a Nabatean city located in the Jordanian desert. Here, visitors will find jaw-dropping sites including Al-Khazneh and Ad Deir. Each monastery and temple in Petra is carved from sandstone into the cliff faces and archaeologists believe that only 15% of this ancient city has been discovered. Visitors can explore the sites on foot or on top of a camel. Backpackers have a range of ways to reach Petra from the major cities and there are also plenty of organized tours to Petra available.
Madaba is a bustling city that is best known for its mosaic art. Adorned with mosaics from the Byzantine Empire, Madaba is a colorful city steeped in history. It is home to the world-famous mosaic map of the Holy Land which attracts thousands of visitors each year. The city boasts a laid-back charm that is favorable to backpackers because it feels more likely a friendly neighborhood than a large metropolis.
Located directly on the Red Sea, Aqaba is a beautiful coastal city that offers a little something for everyone. This city is each to reach from Amman via plane or bus depending on your budget and timeframe. It boasts a wide range of restaurants, food stalls, local events, and water-based activities. Visitors can take to the water on a boat, windsurf, or snorkeling adventure. Although Aqaba has a number of luxury hotel resorts, it also has some backpacker friendly hotels and guesthouses. Furthermore, Aqaba is a great base to explore close-by sights such as Wadi Rum or Petra with one of the many tours available from Aqaba.
As it is the capital city of Jordan, Amman is a fantastic starting point for any backpacking holiday. The city combines trendy bars and restaurants with phenomenal Roman sites such as the magnificent Amman Citadel which is home to the stone Hand of Hercules. There is also some beautiful Islamic architecture including King Abdullah I Mosque which opened in 1989. Amman is perhaps one of the best cities for vegan and vegetarian food and it also boasts a vibrant nightlife that is difficult to find elsewhere in Jordan. Additionally, many organized tours to Petra, Wadi Rum or Jerash are available from Amman – find the whole list here.
For backpackers who wish to swap the city sights for the wilderness, Wadi Rum is the place for you. Also known as the Valley of the Moon due to its beautiful night’s sky, Wadi Rum spans across miles of mountains, rock bridges, sand dunes and notable sites such as the alleged house of Lawrence of Arabia. For thrill-seeking adventures, visitors can join a tour like the ones listed here and take on jeep rides, mountain climbing and overnight camping.
Mujib Biosphere Reserve
With such a diverse landscape, the Mujib Biosphere Reserve has plenty of things to do for those who like to experience the great outdoors. This reserve is particularly ideal for hikers of all abilities. A popular hiking route is the Mujib Trail which is a highly challenging route that covers 15 kilometers of flora and fauna. There are also easy and moderate hiking trails, and visitors should be prepared to walk through water on almost every route. Adrenaline junkies may prefer the Canyon Trail which gives hikers the opportunity to descend a 20-meter waterfall.
Dana Nature Reserve
This spectacular nature reserve covers a vast landscape that is home to buzzards, eagles, and a wide range of rare Jordanian wildlife. Backpackers can spend as much or as little time exploring Dana Reserve and its hiking trails. Visitors can also stay overnight in a chalet or a tent in order to fully appreciate the Milky Way display that is regularly seen from the reserve.
The Jordan Trail
If the above activities are not enough to excite you then maybe Jordan’s longest hiking trail will do the trick. The Jordan Trail spans across 650 kilometers of rolling hills, mountains, towns and villages. It was created by the local community with hikers in mind and is easy to navigate. There are plenty of places to stop for a bite to eat along the way and backpackers will have a large number of accommodation options on route. On average, the entire trail will take hikers around 40 days to complete. The route passes notable sites including Umm Qays and the city of Petra, making it easy for those with less time to hike a short section of the trail.
Jordan for Backpackers – Where to Stay
Depending on where you are, there is a variety of places to stay in Jordan to suit all budgets. In larger cities such as Amman, there is everything from five-star business hotels to international hostels. Hostels and guesthouses are the most affordable options for backpackers and also offer a great way to meet fellow travelers and share tips. Closer to the Red Sea, visitors will find larger beach resorts particularly in the city of Aqaba. These resorts are expensive but are also an ideal way to relax and unwind for a few days.
How to Travel as a backpacker in Jordan
Backpacking in Jordan is fairly easy thanks to the country’s vast public transport network. Whether you are exploring the ancient sites of Amman or bathing in the Dead Sea, you will find affordable public transport options. Though it can be slow, public transport in Jordan is highly accessible and easy to use.
The cheapest way to travel around Jordan is by local bus. When it comes to timings, Jordan is a fairly relaxed country and the buses here do not follow timetables. Instead, a bus will depart the station once it is completely full so passengers must be prepared to wait. In busier cities buses usually fill up quite fast. The roads in Jordan are very good and bus journeys are fairly quick. A trip between Amman and Aqaba takes just under four hours and it usually costs around 2USD per hour. An alternative is the JETT Bus which is a scheduled air-conditioned coach that can be booked in advance online, or, at the JETT bus office in Amman. A one way trip to the archaeological site of Petra departs Amman at 6.30am and costs 8.50JD (12 USD) for a four-hour journey.
A Jordanian taxi can be recognized by its yellow and green coloring and Arabic writing. Taxis are very affordable and drivers are usually happy to take visitors on both short and long journeys.
In order to save time, an internal flight is the best way to get from one place to another. In Jordan, all internal flights are operated by Royal Jordanian from Queen Alia International Airport, located 20 miles away from the city of Amman. The only internal route is between Amman and Aqaba which takes just half an hour and costs around 56JD (80USD).
With such a good transport network system and so much to see, Jordan is a great destination for backpackers. Backpackers can expect to find lots of thrilling activities and plenty of affordable food and accommodation options.