DO YOU WANT TO GO TO MARS? TRY JORDAN FIRST!

Updated: Jun 7

A little bit of everything in Jordan: floating in the Dead Sea, exploring empty Petra, getting Wadi Rum sand in our shoes and diving around the corals of Aqaba



One of the best photography places in Middle East and perhaps one of the most unique places in the whole world, Jordan continues to impress us even after we left. Even the one million pictures we made cannot describe how incredible this place is!


As well as with our last trip - Georgia - Jordan was for a long time on our list, but because it was so accessible to Europe, we just continued to postpone the trip, only to go now, during the most complicated period for travelling, requiring multiple PCR tests and extra formalities! But we made it!

And actually, if you think about it, despite all the annoying extra things we needed, it was one of the best times to visit: because it was completely empty and we had all the places only for ourselves!


How to get there? What are the Covid restrictions?


In terms of distance, Jordan is one of the most accessible Middle Eastern destinations from Europe. The flight time from Romania is just below 3 hours and there are even some direct flights. We flew there with Turkish Airlines, but you can find some cheap Ryanair flights.


In terms of Covid entry restrictions, the situation is changing, as it does everywhere.

At the beginning of May 2021, we needed one PCR test made within 72 hrs before departure and another one made in the airport upon landing. We had to pay in advance for the test that is made in the airport, as doing so generates a QR code that is required for boarding.

The result of the PCR test made in the airport comes within 5-6 hours and you will be provided with an username and password in order to check the result.

Apart from this, there are some other forms that need to be filled and apparently some health insurance which covers Covid. However, no one asked us about the insurance.


But, since there are updates everyday, it is best to consult your country`s Ministry of Foreign Affairs information or the Embassy of Jordan in your country before you decide to go.

For Romanians, all the information can be found here.


At the moment, the restrictions over there are being eased and it is even better that it was when we went, a month ago.

Apparently, the only restriction in place at the moment is the 23:00 - 06:00 night curfew. Which is amazing!


The Treasury - Petra

Good stuff to know before you go

First of all, bear in mind that Jordan is not a cheap country at all! Although we kind of knew that, we didn`t expected it to be soooo expensive! Apart from that, their currency - dinar - values more than GBP and this will add up extra money, as nothing is below 5 JOD.

Just for you to make an idea, only entering the country alone will cost about 40 JOD. The cheapest ticket to Petra ( single day ) will cost another 50 JOD. Wadi Mujib canyon costs about 20 JOD, without any extra rentals. Diving costs about 50 JOD, unless you get a special offer. Also, a lot of hotels charge the lunch or dinner buffet with 15-17 JOD per person.


Apparently, they say you can save some money if you buy a JORDAN PASS, but this one is expensive as well. It costs about 158 USD and includes the tourist visa plus the entrance to all major sites, including the 3 day Petra ticket. However, we added up everything that we paid and the total is more or less the same as the cost of the pass. So, unless you plan to visit literally all the attractions, I don`t think is really such a great deal.


Also, if you can, try to book at least 1 night close to Petra as the site is really big. We went straight to Wadi Rum and we kind of regret that.


A good tip, if you truly want to visit Jordan but you don`t really afford it and you don`t mind the weather: go out of season! That is, during the winter or during the summer.


Getting around


The best way to get around Jordan is definitely to rent a car, which we did! The public transport doesn`t really allow you to go to all the nice places or even if it does, it will cost you extra time to do that. An alternative to renting a car could be taxi, but it definitely costs more.


Although they don`t have the best reputation on several reviews, the roads are quite ok and usually Google Maps is pretty reliable. Maybe just add extra 30 min to the times, when it comes to long distances, just to be sure you get on time.

The traffic is a bit chaotic,in terms that nobody actually signals and some of them tend to over speed. But, overall, it is not so complicated to drive over there.


We rented a car from Monte Carlo Rent a Car and we were very satisfied with their services. They have really good reviews on Tripd Advisor and other websites and they are reliable and offered us a nice car. We communicated really well with them and they reply super fast to both e-mails and phone.


When to go?


The most acceptable temperatures are from March through June and September through November.

The official high season is in spring, though, but the best sea temperatures are in autumn. On top of that, there is more marine life in autumn, which makes it a great time for diving.

The winter is quite chilly and the summer is really hot.

Also, most of the people avoid Ramadan ( which falls on a different date each year ).


We went there at the beginning of May and although it didn`t seem so at the beginning, we couldn`t find a better time to go!

When we decided to go, there were still Covid restrictions in place, evening through morning curfew ( 19:00 - 06:00 ), restaurants closed, Friday lockdown and Ramadan time on top.

In the end, they removed the Friday lockdown, most of the hotels restaurants were open indoors and the evening restriction didn`t really affect us as we spent a lot of the time in the desert camp and hotel resorts.

But the bonus was that it was completely empty from both Covid and Ramadan and it felt as if we rented out all the amazing locations just for ourselves!!


So, based on that, if you can avoid the crowds just by going during Ramadan time, go for it! In reality, it doesn`t affect you so much but it really pays off.


If you really want to save money, don`t go in season under any circumstances! Try end of February or mid June, July.. basically when the weather is either too hot or too cold.


Wadi Rum sunsets

Accommodation


As all the other things, the accommodation can be also quite expensive, mostly if you go in high season. On the other hand, the standards are pretty high in a lot of places and you will feel indulged by the middle eastern hospitality.


As a general rule, in this country, there are mainly 2 types of accommodation: the well known hotel chains ( such as Hilton, Ramada, Movenpick etc ) and the desert camps ( either luxurious or Bedouin style ). As far as we noticed, there is not much in between, except in bigger cities such as Amman and maybe Aqaba.

However, bear in mind that if you go with the cheapest option even from a well known hotel chain, the standards might not be high as you would expect it to be. But,if you are not too pretentious, I guess that`s fine.

If you are picky about conditions, in order to be safe, go at least with a mid range option. Basically, don`t choose the cheapest of the cheapest!

That being said, I think it`s pretty obvious that budget accommodation doesn`t really fit into this country.


When it comes to desert camps, there are mainly 2 types: luxurious tent or Bedouin tent. Most of them tend to be expensive, apart from some basic Bedouin tents. When we say expensive, we mean roughly 130 - 200 Euros a night.

Being in the middle of the desert, the landscape is truly amazing but the conditions are not 5*. I mean, there is dust, the water doesn`t always have pressure, occasionally you can find insects etc. But, in our opinion, this is part of the experience and makes it more authentic.

There are plenty of camps in the whole park but we would try to avoid Wadi Rum village. The more remote the better.

Also, even if you find a camp around the designated Wadi Rum area on Google Maps, that is totally fine, as the landscape is amazing everywhere.


Another thing to consider is the lack of alcohol in a lot of hotels, mostly during Ramadan. 😊


Our accommodations were as follows:

  • Dead Sea - Ramada Resort - was the cheapest option we could find, but even though it is part of a well known chain, the conditions were not amazing, the beach was a bit far and not what you would expect from a Dead Sea beach in terms of scenery ( but I think the salty beaches are further south and none of the hotels has them ) and the food was pretty basic and pretty expensive.

If you can afford, some good options would be Hilton or Porto Dead Sea. The second one

has really good and affordable food!


  • Wadi Rum - Hassan Zawaideh Camp - was the best option we could find and we really enjoyed it. The camp belongs to some local brothers and it is really authentic, they also spend their time there smoking shisha and eating. The staff was really friendly, they even made an upgrade for us, the food was all right and plenty and the prices for everything extra ( water, juice, shisha ) were really good. Plus, they built a fire every night and it was really relaxing to hang over there by the fire, smoking shisha with the locals. We booked also jeep tours with them for a reasonable price and we enjoyed the experience. Another luxurios but expensive option ( and probably the most famous one ) is Memorirs Aicha Luxury camp.


  • Aqaba - Movenpick Resort and Residences - was really nice and by far the most luxurious hotel we stayed in during our trip, but it is a cliche of a resort. The food was really good, they have really nice pool and their own small beach. However, the coral reefs are further south so the place is not really for snorkeling. But there are plenty public beaches for snorkeling, so for us that was not a problem.

However, two fancy resorts with coral reef in front of the beach are Tala Bay Residence

and Movenpick resort and spa Tala Bay the price price is double or even more.


  • Amman - here there are more options which are more affordable. We booked a cheap hotel as we were only having a short stay.


Hassan Zawaideh camp during a sand storm


This was our upgraded Martian tent

What to visit


The standard places are: Wadi Rum, Petra, Dead Sea, Red Sea ( Aqaba ), Wadi Mujib canyon, Amman, Jerash.


WADI RUM


"Wadi" means valley and "Rum" means moon, so the translation would be "the valley of the Moon". However, due to the red colour at the sunset, the scenery seems to be rather depicted from Mars. And this place is truly incredible and unique was definitely the highlight of our trip!

The light is also amazing for photography as the sand works like a reflector. No wonder why there were some many movies filmed here!!


Based on our experience and on the research we made, we reached the conclusion that the best way to see Wadi Rum is by 4x4 car. We booked a 4 hours tour at sunset during 2 consecutive days and we were super happy with our experience. Initially, we thought we are not allowed to self drive through the desert but we think this is an option as well, but not many people do it. If you do opt for this, do your research regarding driving in the sand and the conditions of entry by yourself in the Wadi Rum protected area.


There are other tours available, such as trekking tours or camel tours but unless it is a multi day trip, you won`t be able to see much. Also, we`ve seen some reviews that the concept of trekking is pretty different over there and many disappointed people got disappointed.


Another cool thing we heard about when we visited Petra is that, apparently, there is a 3 day trekking trip from Petra to Wadi Rum! Didn`t do much research about that, but it`s worth checking it out!


Wadi Rum

PETRA


Who hasn`t heard about Petra, the symbol of Jordan?

This is probably the main reason a lot of people travel to Jordan. And the place is truly magnificent, especially for photography.

However, during normal times, we`ve heard that it tends to become over crowded, which could be annoying.

But we were lucky enough to travel during Ramadan and during Covid restrictions and the place was literally empty!! Which added a lot to its beauty!


The site is really huge and they say you need about two days to visit it. We had only one, though. More precisely, around 6 hours. But although we didn`t visit everything, we did manage to walk around 4-5 km one way including the time to take pictures. So, if you book a night there, it should be perfect.

Usually, the site closes around sunset and the quietest times to visit Petra are usually in the early mornings and late afternoons.

Petra is also open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays nights when the Siq and Treasury are lit by candles for the Petra by night tour.


From left to right: The Treasury and The Siq

DEAD SEA


Dead Sea was not initially on our list, but since we had so many days in Jordan, we decided to give it a try. In reality, the Dead Sea is a very salty lake ( salinity around 30% ) which is shrinking more and more each year and it is the lowest point on Earth, around 400 m below sea level.


I think Dead Sea become famous due to the salt island pictures taken on the Israeli side. Unfortunately, the Jordan side doesn`t have any islands but it does have some cool salt formations.

Now, contrary to our expectations, the salt formations were not everywhere and definitely not on the hotel beaches. In order to find them, you need to drive south, close to Wadi Mujib Visitor Center and even further than that. You need to hike down few hundred meters in order to reach the water and the place is completely wild, there is no path or anything. But this is the beauty of it!


Beware that there are some death signs ( skull and crossed bones ) and some indicators that swimming is prohibited / swimming after dark prohibited. This is because there are some military fields in a couple of places BUT the signs apply only to that particular area but the rest is completely safe!


Last but not least, make sure you do try floating in the water! It is one of the best feelings in the world! The water just keep you floating. Don`t stay for too long, though, as it`s not good for the skin to spend more than 20 minutes in the water.


The salt formations give the water an amazing turquoise colour!

RED SEA / AQABA


Despite the fact that Jordan has only a tiny part of Red Sea shore ( actually it is the Gulf of Aqaba ) it is really worth to give it a try.

The public beaches are not great and they tend to be dirty but there are always the hotel beaches which are much better. However, what makes this place special is what lies under the water: the coral reef. And there is more! Actually this particular type of corals are special because they are thriving, despite the global warming! Researchers are studying these corals in order to find solutions on how to save corals across the world.


Although it is not Indian Ocean, the place has some amazing reefs and biodiversity, colourful fish, some wrecks and makes an amazing place for diving. And if you think it is only few flight hours away from Europe!

Here we found a really nice diving centre where we rented one of the best diving gears! The place is called Arab Divers and we fully recommend it! P.S: they also rent snorkelling gear


The reef garden lies south of the city, so this is where the snorkelling spots are. Some reefs that worth mentioning are: Japanese garden, Eel garden, Blue coral, Kiwi Reef. You can find the full reef of coral and diving sites here.

All reefs are along the shore, so it`s very easy to reach them.


Apart from that, Aqaba itself is a really nice city, probably the pearl city of Jordan. The city is really clean and civilized and has some amazing resorts.


Drone view of the water

The tank wreck

AMMAN


Although is nice to pay it a short visit, Amman is just a stop over during your Jordan trip. It is a proper Middle Eastern city, rather dirty and extended over 17 hills or so. Although it doesn`t seem so big at the beginning, the distances are huge. But the good part is that taxis are affordable. 😊


It does have some nice places to visit, some cool neighbourhoods, some great restaurants/ cafes and also a modern business centre.

We had only one day and we were happy with the time spent over there. However, if you feel you need to visit it deeper, allow another day or so.


Among the nice places to visit are the Amman Citadel ( where you can get a really nice view of the city ) and the Roman Theatre ( check out the acoustics of the theatre! ). P.S: Amman Citadel was the location where Coldplay filmed a video.


A very nice cafe/restaurant is Wild Jordan Center, where you can enjoy some nice food

( breakfast/ lunch/ dinner ) along with the Amman Citadel view.


The Roman Theatre

Amman Citadel

Our itinerary


We had a total of 10 days, which was really nice as we didn't feel we were in a rush at any point. We landed in Amman in the morning then we went straight away to the Dead Sea and then further down and we spent another day in Amman when we came back at the end of our trip.

  1. Dead Sea - 2 nights

  2. Petra - 1 day ( night in Wadi Rum )

  3. Wadi Rum - 4 nights

  4. Aqaba - 2 nights

  5. Amman - 2 nights ( 1 day )

How much time you need?


Ideally, a week is the minimum in order to get a proper feeling of the country.


Can you do it in less than that? It should be possible, but you need at least one day in each location. Add at least 3-4 hours driving time in between. So, the absolute minimum should be 5 - 6 days, unless you want to skip some places.

Any extra day, however, gives you more time to explore and relax at the same time and makes your trip more enjoyable.


The sunsets in Wadi Rum are just epic

Summary


Jordan is an amazing but expensive country. Although the internet is full of pictures, in reality, this country looks much better and it`s a real photographer`s and film-maker`s dream.


Regarding Covid restrictions, the country opened up at the beginning of this year and even if it requires some additional stuff, including PCR tests before and after arrival on Queen Alia airport, it is not impossible to get here. The restrictions in the country are also being eased.


Food is really good with both vegetarian and meat options and it is mainly Lebanese type of food. Expect hummus, labneh, babaganoush, manakeesh, tabouleh, fatoush, grilled lamb, rice, grilled halloumi and watermelon. And the hummus is really the shit here!


Roads are quite good and Google Maps is working properly, despite the bad reviews. Some drives tend to be a little crazy or over speeding, but nothing to worry about.

Be careful not to over speed when you drive here!


There are a lot of police checks down the roads and expect to be stopped every now and then.


Overall, we were really happy to have the chance to spend 10 days here and do all these various activities.


Next, you can enjoy our photo gallery. Because a picture is worth a thousand words! 😊

The photos are made by our Sony A7III with our 3 lenses: Tamron 17-28 mm, Zeiss 55 mm and Sony 135 mm.