This story appears in the June 2020 issue of National Geographic magazine.
Stretching about 400 miles, the Jordan Trail weaves through such storied sites as the ancient city of Petra and vast spaces of desert dune and rocky valley. Where Nabataeans and Romans once walked along trade routes, adventure travelers now roam.
What you’ll see
Opened in 2017 and conceived as a north-to-south route, the trail begins in the village of Umm Qais and ends at the Red Sea city of Al Aqabah. Despite Jordan’s arid climate, the landscape varies from olive tree–studded slopes in the north to water-lapped shores in the south. In between lie the otherworldly sandstone formations of Wadi Rum—often a movie stand-in for Mars—where inscriptions from the Nabataean culture date back more than two millennia.
On the trail: Earth’s lowest land point, the Dead Sea has a salt content so high that it inhibits macroscopic life—and allows swimmers to float effortlessly on the surface. Divers are drawn to colorful coral reefs in the waters off Al Aqabah.
Off the trail: The well-preserved Roman city of Jerash holds a massive hippodrome once used for chariot racing. In the Shaumari Wildlife Reserve, visitors can glimpse such rare species as the rhim gazelle and Arabian oryx.
How to get there
The trail’s starting point, Umm Qais, is roughly two hours by bus from Amman, Jordan’s capital city. Some travelers walk on their own, but the Jordan Trail Association supports weekend trips, four-day section itineraries, and an annual group expedition. Overnight accommodations can be arranged in village homes or in ecolodges staffed by local Bedouin.
By the numbers
40: Days it typically takes to hike the entire trail
52: Villages along the way, many offering homestays
2,300: Approximate age in years of the city of Petra