The “Valley of the Moon” has earned its reputation for good reason. The out-of-this-world landscapes of rust-colored sand dunes and rugged rock formations make it a dreamy place to escape. Explore on foot or with the help of a 4×4 truck by day. Then spend the night eating zarb (a traditional meal of meat and vegetables cooked underground) around the campfire with your local hosts and sleeping in a goat hair Bedouin tent. If you’re interested in a more luxury stay, book a bubble tent and enjoy the starry skyscape from the comfort of your own bed. Or, if you’re seeking an experience further from the tourist track, opt for wild camping in a more remote location.
Take a guided walking tour
Wandering around a new place on your own can certainly be exciting, but taking a walking tour with a local guide can provide a deeper experience. Whether you book a walking tour in a rural village such as Orjan or in the country’s buzzing capital of Amman (complete with ancient ancient Roman ruins, vibrant markets, striking city views, and a variety of dining options), a knowledgeable local expert adds a layer of historical and cultural insight as well as a modern perspective that gives context to the sites you see and foods you eat. Not to mention, your guide can answer your questions, point out their favorite spots, recommend where to find the best falafel, and even teach you a few helpful Arabic phrases.
Climb aboard a “ship of the desert” to Petra
You won’t be sailing to Petra on a boat but you can take a traditional means of transportation: the camel. Known as the “ship of the desert” for their ability to go for long periods of time without water and transport people and goods across the hot sand, swaying rhythmically as they roam, these quirky animals will carry you from your Bedouin tent in Little Petra to the “backdoor” of Petra. Here, you will part ways and hike the rest of the way with your own two feet, taking in panoramic views before reaching the famed Monastery.
Learn to cook (or forage) like a local Jordanian
No matter where in the world you travel, breaking bread is one of the best ways to connect to locals. Making bread (and other dishes) elevates the experience to the next level—bringing you into the kitchen and closer to the culture and people. Visit a traditional village and learn to bake shrak flatbread and galayet bandora (a tomato stew) over a hot fire. Or try a cooking class with a local chef in their home kitchen and make a traditional meal such as mansaf, the national dish of Jordan. If olives or other local vegetables and herbs are in season, add on a foraging activity such as olive harvesting in a local grove, fresh herb foraging in a nearby forest, or tomato picking on a local farm prior to preparing the meal. Consider extending your time in a local home with an…
Overnight at a Jordanian homestay
While Jordan certainly has plenty of outdoor adventures on offer, don’t forget to include cultural immersion on your itinerary. Spending time with a local homestay family provides a peek into the daily life and culture you simply can’t get if you stick to hotels. This friendly and casual setting tends to open the door (quite literally!) to interesting and authentic conversations over shai (tea) or qahweh (coffee). Jordanians are generally not timid about discussing a variety of topics including marriage, age, religion, and culture. So bring an open mind and your Arabic dictionary or favorite translation app and be prepared to ask—and be asked—questions in a blend of English and Arabic. Oh, and locals often love any excuse to laugh or break into song and dance, so don’t forget to bring your sense of humor and adventure, too.
Sunny is a Jordan-based writer and sustainable travel specialist. Her work appears in National Geographic, The New York Times, Lonely Planet, BBC Travel, and elsewhere. Sunny has a BA in International Studies from Middlebury College, an MA in Cultural Sustainability, certification in sustainable tourism, destination expertise in over 20 countries, and more than a decade of experience designing international programs for adventurous and conscientious travelers.
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