Photograph by Robert Preston, Alamy Stock Photo
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Goats wander in front of an ancient monastery sculpted into the rock in Petra, Jordan.

Photograph by Robert Preston, Alamy Stock Photo

Know Before You Go: Jordan

A trip to Jordan means a trip filled with ancient history, unparalleled adventures, and beautiful landscapes. Here are the details you need to plan a tour through this extraordinary destination.

The friendly heart of the Middle East glows beneath a clear and constant sun. Camels bob across the land, wild sage scents the air, and the melodic call to prayer echoes shepherds calling to their goats at dusk.

Jordan feels like the biggest small country in the world—nothing seems too far away, yet the sand and stars are infinite, and every standing stone marks the deep well of human history. A million things have happened here, and the bent olive trees are old enough to remember. These same slanted mountains and long desert valleys frame the scenes of holy books: Moses stood here, Jesus prayed in that cave, Muhammad spent the night in this town.

Today, the Hashemite Kingdom is a nation with open arms and a kind smile, beckoning all to come sit, have some tea, relax in the shade of a tent, then go and see all there is to explore.

Here’s what you need to know:

PACK

Hot days mean light, breathable clothing. Cooler evenings call for a sweater or a shawl. Sunglasses, hat, and sunblock are critical. Consider how you might pack for an African safari and add a few extra layers—modest fashion shows your respect for the local culture. Don’t be fooled by the desert—after sunset, temperatures can drop from 100ºF to near freezing. January and February are the coldest months, with rain and even snow up in the higher altitudes. Sturdy walking shoes or hiking boots are best for exploring the terrain.

SLEEP

Jordan is best enjoyed in the open air, out in nature, even at night. Nothing compares to camping out under the stars in Wadi Rum, and the remote but luxurious Feynan Ecolodge is a favorite escape for anyone longing to unplug. For something more lavish, treat yourself to the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar on the Dead Sea. InterContinental Aqaba features its own private beach, fringed by palm trees on the pleasantly warm Red Sea coast.

EAT

Jordan is a culinary crossroads, dressing up light Mediterranean fare with a range of bold and unexpected spices. Warm, fresh bread sets the stage for every meal—dip into a bowl of creamy hummus or smoky mutabal (eggplant), then move on to the plates of grilled meat. Lamb is the national favorite, along with goat, chicken, and beef. Don’t be afraid to use your hands, and don’t skip a sip of Jordanian wine, much of which you can taste only here.

BUY

Gold, frankincense, and myrrh are just some of the biblical gifts you can buy in Jordan. Visit the souk in Aqaba and merchants in Petra to find exotic perfumes, oils, and spices from across Asia. Clunky Bedouin jewelry is handcrafted from silver—buy it from antique shops or collectors. Stone mosaics and woven wool rugs are traditional, while aromatic soaps made from olive oil and camel’s milk make easy-to-export gifts. Check out the Nature Shop at Wild Jordan for unique handicrafts, and do not leave Jordan without buying an authentic kaffiyeh, the traditional headdress.

HIKE

Jordan is a hiker’s heaven, with ancient trails, caravan trade routes, and pilgrims’ paths that crisscross the map. Not many realize that Petra is a hiking destination, with so many astounding day hikes to remote, high corners of the vast ruins. The same goes for Wadi Rum, where more serious adventurers can head out for a several-day trek across the open red desert. And for the ultimate hike, hit the 40-day, nearly 400-mile Jordan Trail, which stretches from the northernmost border all the way down to the Red Sea.