I was curious about Jordan. After all, there are almost unearthly pictures circulating on Instagram of the rock city of Petra and the Wadi Rum desert, where so many Hollywood blockbusters have been filmed.
Since I’m not a fan of tour groups, I really wanted to explore the country with my own rental car, and so I was immediately faced with the first challenge, because international flights usually land in the middle of the night at Queen Alia International.
Let´s go quickly to the hotel to have a few hours of sleep before continuing to Petra, the nucleus of all travel in Jordan.
While you hardly ever see a second rental car on the way, all tourists seem to be focused on the rock city of the Nabataeans. You stream through a narrow canyon called The Siq, to stand after about 30 minutes in front of the film set from Indiana Jones, the Treasury, to marvel.
Even though it feels like camels, guides and travelers are all around, there is enough space to enjoy the moment in its entirety. I am thrilled by the versatility and size of Petra and make my way to the royal tombs and the amphitheater before it goes up to the crowning conclusion called the monastery.
It’s a steep 850-step climb before standing in front of the most impressive rock temple in Petra and gazing devoutly at the masterpiece, which was created some 2,400 years ago. Truly a place for every bucket list.
It’s the same with the Wadi Rum desert, where Hollywood filmed Star Wars, The Martian and Lawrence of Arabia, among others.
I’m off to what is probably the best camp in the desert, because the accommodations at the UFO Luxotel really do look like small research stations that have all the luxury you could wish for.
There are no wishes left over, same with the activities, which are organized directly from the hotel. Whether a balloon ride at sunrise, a camel ride through the desert or the obligatory jeep safari – the number of adventures is almost immeasurable.
After the desert, I went to the Red Sea, where I picked the top dog, the Kempinski Aqaba. What a superb resort with a great infinity pool and its own beach.
You get even cocktails, wine and beer, which is not a matter of course in Jordan, plus two international restaurants attract with fair prices and delicious food. The rooms are bright and modern, and the huge lobby is probably one of the nicest I’ve seen in a beach hotel.
It’s a good place to stay for a couple of days, even though the itinerary sends me to the Dead Sea the next day. The more than 300 kilometers drag on a bit, because apart from desert and a few small villages, there is not much to see. All the greater is the fascination at the sight of the milky-blue lake, which lies 400 meters below sea level and is covered with salt crystals at the edges.
With a flat tire, I drag myself the last few meters to the hotel and look desperately at the tire, in which a thick nail is stuck. „Don’t worry. You’re at the Kempinski,“ the concierge greets me and promises to take care of the tire repair right away. I can hardly believe my luck and the exceptional service because the next morning the tire is repaired without paying anything for it.
This is the benefit of staying at the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar, by far the best hotel at the Dead Sea. Modeled after a Moorish palace, you move back and forth on the huge grounds between countless pools and restaurants with golf carts to finally take the path to the small private beach, which is located directly on the Dead Sea.
Down here, after all we are 400 meters below sea level, the ground is hot and stony, so you should wear bathing shoes, which are provided by the hotel. However, I can’t wait that long, because I finally want to get into the lake, which, with a salt content of 30%, is about ten times as salty as the Mediterranean. How will it feel to swim in it? First, I trudge my legs a fair distance into the shallow water and feel every scratch on my skin, which immediately starts to burn. Then I try the classic breaststroke style, which I don’t last three seconds before flipping onto my back like a bug and floating in the sluggish water.
Yes, I float like an astronaut in outer space, drifting with pleasure. A truly extraordinary feeling that is topped off by a mud treatment with salt scrub, which looks scary but is supposedly good for the skin.
The Kempinski Ishtar not only offers the Dead Sea, but also Jordan’s Grand Canyon, the Wadi Mujib, on its doorstep. The canyon, however, is more like the famous Narrows in Zion National Park, even though the fun & adventure character is probably much higher. It’s not for nothing that you pack your cell phone in a waterproof bag and get a life jacket at the entrance, since 80% of the route is in and under water.
And so first the ankles, then the knees, and finally the upper body disappear, until you literally have the water up to your neck and have to swim or shimmy on ropes to get ahead.
The reward for the daring trip, are breathtaking views into the canyon, as well as lots of fun and adventurous moments. Wadi Mujib is definitely a highlight before heading to the capital, Amman, to finish the trip.
Here I can recommend the Amman Rotana Hotel, which is housed in the highest skyscraper in Jordan. Be sure to take a room on the upper floors and book the Rotana Lounge with your stay. The panoramic view from the 42nd floor with a glass of wine or beer in hand is simply priceless. I spend three nights in the capital, because there is a lot to see.
For example, the ancient Citadel Hill and the Roman amphitheater.
Or the lively Rainbow Street with its restaurants, boutiques and the picturesque balloons, which are wonderfully illuminated in the evening.
Not far from Amman is the largest Roman settlement outside of Italy, so an excursion to ancient Jerash is a must, as is a trip to Mount Nebo, the mountain where Moses stood and looked into the Promised Land without ever setting foot on it. In general, Jordan is an interesting country to visit places from the Bible, such as al-Maghtas, the place where John the Baptist once baptized Jesus. Those who wish can be baptized in the Jordan River during the tour, which is enthusiastically accepted, especially on the Israeli side.
10 days of Jordan come to an end and the time could hardly have been more exciting, varied and interesting. With the exception of downtown Amman, driving a rental car is not a major challenge and you can explore this fascinating country on your own.