I’m not sure if it was the interesting history, beautiful culture, or stunning natural beauty of Jordan that first grabbed my attention. All I know is I’ve been captivated by the idea of visiting the country and perhaps eating my way through it for years. With a loose itinerary in hand, I boarded the 11hour flight from NYC to Amman buzzing with excitement for what was to come. This 7 day Jordan itinerary includes many of my favorite stops (and a few things I wish I had done) along the way.
Day 1: Arrive in Amman
Start your trip in Amman, Jordan’s capital city. While you might be inclined to head straight to Petra, take some time to enjoy what Amman has to offer. Although it felt almost impossibly difficult to sit still on my first day in Jordan’s capital city I knew that the half-day between a long flight and days of hiking, climbing, and adventuring was best spent relaxing (and napping). But if you’re too excited to relax, the city is filled with art galleries and historical landmarks, including Umayyad Palace and Roman Theatre.
Stay: W Amman
I booked a stay at the stylish W Amman located in the trendy Abdali Boulevard neighborhood, the city’s top shopping district. The hotel was beautiful, modern, and everything you’d expect from the W brand. After a trip to the onsite AWAY Spa for a massage and a bit of shopping at the Abdali Mall, I ventured out for dinner for my first taste of Jordanian food.
My first of many incredible meals was at Sufra, an upscale restaurant located in an early 20th-century villa along the popular Rainbow Road. Not only is it beautiful but they serve incredible homestyle Jordanian food. Try the mansaf, a classic lamb and rice dish with a yogurt sauce. It’s the national dish of Jordan. What better way to kick off the trip.
Tribe Tip: Reservations are necessary for a table here but it’s worth it. If the weather is nice, ask to be seated in the courtyard. It’s absolutely stunning.
Day 2: Amman to Wadi Rum
Drive Time: 4 Hours
It was hard to say goodbye to Amman when it felt like I’d hardly scratched the surface but knowing I would return for a full day in the city at the end of the trip made it a bit easier. Many visitors opt for a rental car to get them from Amman to Wadi Rum, however, I’m not much of a driver so opted for a private transfer (easily arranged through the hotel) out the desert. The drive along King’s Highway offered beautiful views and glimpses into local life making the 4-hour ride pass quickly.
Stay: Memories Aicha Luxury Camp
As an experiential resort, my stay at Memories Aicha Luxury Camp was both the day’s activity and where I would be sleeping. I was greeted by the camp’s staff outside the gates of Wadi Rum National Park and immediately asked to climb up onto the cushioned bench in the back of a 4 wheel drive pick up to head to camp. As we cruised through the desert kicking up reddish sand sandwiched between towering sandstone mountains, a Bedouin man leading 3 camels crested the horizon — an image and moment I’ll cherish forever. The Jordanian adventure, my dream trip was really kicking off.
The camp itself is situated in a secluded patch of dessert tucked against the mountains. The property offers two-room styles: a luxury safari-style tent and a Panoramic dome for viewing the dark sky stars. Let it be known, there was no roughing it here, tents in every room category come with en suite bathrooms, hot showers, heating, and air conditioning.
Wadi Rum is one of the world’s top destinations for astrophotography, strict regulations on light pollution mean the desert maintains a level of darkness rarely duplicated. Each evening all guests are invited to partake in a stargazing walk with the hotel’s General Manager who uses a laser pointer to point out constellations and doubles as an expert photographer. Pack a flashlight and a tripod to join each night because the amount of stars is truly unbelievable.
Day 3: Wadi Rum
After a quick breakfast, the full day exploring the 183,352-acre Wadi Rum protected area of the trip kicked off with a camel ride. I was introduced to my new friend FuFu, a lovely gentle camel who led me through the desert for about an hour taking in the Mars-like environment from my perch high on his back.
Explore: Wadi Rum
When I got back to camp I met Khalil, a Bedouin man who would be leading me on a private tour through the desert. Throughout the day we made 8-10 stops including one for a picnic lunch and capped it off with a stop to take in the sunset. Most of the desert day trips are private and fully customizable to include exactly what you want to see. I’ve included photos of some of my favorites below.
Um Fruth Rock Bridge
Abu Khashaba Canyon
Tribe Tip: This tour was physically strenuous. I took over 33,000 steps, many of them in loose sand. If that’s not your jam, communicate that to your guide early on, there are tons of stops and options that don’t require that amount of hiking.
Dining options are not plentiful here in the desert, but luckily the camp’s on-site dining room situated in a large geo-dome tent decorated in boldly colored Bedouin textiles has a large and delicious buffet. Platters of grilled meats, fresh pita, various salads, dried fruits, and cheeses provide endless options for all dietary needs. I couldn’t get enough of the local pomegranate, olives, fresh hummus, and hot tea.
Day 4: Wadi Rum to Petra
Drive: 1.5 Hours
It was hard to pull myself away from camp, harder than I expected, even considering one of the Wonders of the Word was waiting for me on the other end of the drive. An unexpected bonus of my stay in the desert was the 3-day digital detox courtesy of absolutely no wifi. It was lovely to spend quiet mornings and evenings reading under stars or soft morning light. While exciting, the short drive from Wadi Rum to Petra came with the familiar buzz of my phone and mixed feelings for reconnecting to the outside world.
Experience: Petra at Night
Petra at Night is undeniably one of the most magical experiences I’ve ever had. The 1.25-mile walk from the Petra entry gate through the siq to the Treasury as well as the area in front of the Treasury was lit by 1,500 candles. Local Bedouin guides and merchants offered hot tea while I sat in the cool sand and took in the unforgettable experience.
Tribe Tip: Great photos here can be challenging. Bring a tripod to hold the camera still for long exposure shots and ask local guides to take you to the best photo spots.
The most popular luxury stay in Petra is Movenpick Resort Petra. This five-star hotel with luxurious amenities is positioned directly outside of Petra’s visitors center and main gate. From the hotel take in breathtaking views of Petra’s surrounding landscape.
Day 5: Petra
Tucked in a valley amid cliffs and mountains covered in sandstone rocks stands one of Jordan’s top attractions – Petra, one of the wonders of the world. Dating back to around 300 BC, Petra was the capital of the Nabataean Kingdom and is home to over 1000 ancient tombs and temples carved into rose-colored sandstone cliffs. While I’m far from a history buff, it was impossible not to enjoy exploring the ancient temple complex and hiking the deep canyons and soaring cliffs.
One of the biggest tips I learned from a local guide was that I could access Petra from the back gate of the complex. Normally Petra is accessed via a narrow canyon called Al Siq, which leads directly to Petra’s most famous structure, a temple with an ornate, Greek-style facade, known as The Treasury. Beyond the treasury, the complex opens to a series of trails that stretch 102 square miles. If you start at the Treasury and hike all the way to the top of the ruins complex to see the second most famous landmark, The Monastery it will be a minimum of 5 miles walking with 850 stone steps. And then you have to turn around and retrace your steps to hike back down. For most people, the walk from one end to the other is a full-day hike. Instead of exploring Petra from the front gate, I opted to start at the back gate and work my way to the front which eliminated walking the same trail twice. If I was doing it again I’d make that same choice every time.
Tribe Tip: To get the best views from above the Treasury talk with one of the Bedouin guides in front of the Treasury and ask about the “Indiana Jones Way”. You’ll climb through the mountains and stop at various viewpoints for hot sage tea.
The best meal I had during my trip was at My Mom’s Recipe Restaurant, a simple restaurant decorated in bright red Bedouin fabrics just blocks from the entrance gates. Each meal starts with puffy, hot, fresh pita, olive oil, and za’atar and their mains include options like Musakhan (sumac, onions, and chicken), grilled meats, and salads. It was so good I ate there every day I was in town.
Day 6: Petra to Amman
Drive: 3 Hours
The drive from Petra back to Amman is a full-day tour in itself. Again, I opted for a private transfer so I could make stops and move at my own pace.
My trip started with a stop at Little Petra, the smaller but equally impressive ruins site built for another king. The ride is beautiful through winding mountain roads and eventually lush farmlands with vendor after vendor selling roadside produce. We stopped for a simple lunch before heading to one of Jordan’s most popular attractions, the Dead Sea.
The Dead Sea is actually a salt lake and gets its name from its stunningly high salt content. While it’s called a sea, it really isn’t a sea because it’s landlocked. Bring your swim stuff and towels because the Dead Sea is the perfect place to float. Don’t forget to bring home some of the locally crafted skincare products made with the mineral deposits found in the sea.
The InterContinental Amman is one of several luxury hotels in Amman and the one closest to Rainbow Road where I was looking to explore. The property offers impressive views of both Amman and its ancient surroundings. The rooms are simple but comfortable and feature soak tubs and rainfall showers perfect after spending days covered in sand. Amenities include several restaurants and bars, a fully-equipped fitness center, a day spa, and a swimming pool. Because I visited in the winter my favorite spot was in front of one of the many lobby fireplaces.
Day 7: Amman
After a great breakfast of made-to-order omelets and fresh-squeezed juice, I was ready to explore. With only one full day to see the city, I wanted to make the most of it and see the ancient ruins and experience modern-day Jordanian culture.
The day started with a walk from the hotel to King Abdullah I Mosque. A beautiful blue mosque built in homage to the late king’s grandfather. With room to accommodate over 7000 worshippers, the sprawling complex gives visitors a peek inside the life of devoted Muslim Jordanians.
From the mosque, I headed to the Amman Citadel, perched high in the hills with views over the modern city. I loved the juxtaposition of street at murals just behind the ruins. From there you can also see the Roman Theater.
After soaking in the city’s history I headed to Rainbow Road, known for shopping and dining to close out the trip. While the road is littered with popular high-end eateries I opted for a suggestion from an Uber driver — Al Quds, a tiny food counter serving only one thing, hot fresh falafel in a pita, or on a sub roll with tomatoes and pickles. It was the best falafel I’ve had to date and a perfect experience to end this incredible adventure.