Walking in Jordan

You’ll explore some truly awe-inspiring landscapes when walking in Jordan. There is the vast, almost-Martian canyons and mountains of Wadi Rum, contrasted with the wooded peaks of the Ajloun Forest Reserve. There is the Arcadian bliss of the Dana Reserve, where rural communities farm the same land that their families have for centuries, the iconic rock-hewn majesty of Petra, and the epic Jordan Trail that connects them, following an ancient trade route that it is said Jesus, Moses and Muhammed all strode along in their time.

Find out more about the best places to walk in Jordan below, as well as what you can expect from hitting the trail in this spectacular desert country.

Best walking trails in Jordan

1. The Jordan Trail

The best-known of all the Jordan hiking routes, the Jordan Trail is a 675km epic, spanning the length of Jordan from Umm Qais in the north to Aqaba in the south. It’d take over a month to walk the Jordan Trail in one go, so the route is normally broken into sections.

One of the most renowned sections of the Jordan Trail is between Dana and Petra, which sees you descending from mountain plateau to valley floor through several ecosystems, including dramatic mountain peaks and peaceful countryside.

At the end of this 85km route, which you might tackle across four or five days at a relaxed pace, you have the main event: the ancient rock city of Petra – among the world’s most spectacular feats of architecture.

Walking from Dana to Petra in the company of a local guide (and wild camping much of the way) is a fantastic way to appreciate the traditions, customs and culture of the communities you pass along the way, as well as to learn about the flora and fauna of protected areas such as the Dana Reserve.

2. Wadi Rum

Wadis are valleys, and in Jordan the largest and best-known is Wadi Rum, just east of Aqaba. T. E. Lawrence frequented Wadi Rum on several occasions during the Arab Revolt and a rock formation here is named the Seven Pillars of Wisdom after his book – seven flutes of rock rising out of the desert floor.

There are numerous Wadi Rum hiking trails, and a holiday here will typically involve around four days of walking, with 5-7 hours a day on the trail. The red-rock landscapes of Wadi Rum are utterly captivating, resembling those you might expect to find on Mars. Walking in Wadi Rum alongside a local guide, with the silence of the desert all around, is not an experience you’ll forget quickly.

A highlight of any Jordan desert trek is your sleeping arrangements. You’ll stay in private campsites beneath a vast canvas of glittering stars, your Bedouin hosts offering companionship as well as an introduction to their traditional nomadic way of life. Sometimes just sharing a pot of tea around the campfire, the quiet dunes all around you, can afford the most memorable moments of a walking tour here.

3. The Dana Reserve

Of all the nature reserves in Jordan, Dana is special. Not only is it the largest, it also has an incredibly diverse biosphere. From the lofty, rugged clifftops of the Great Rift Valley, down 1,700m to the desert of Wadi Arabia, Dana’s territory passes through four distinct eco-zones, giving it a wealth of diverse plant, animal and birdlife.

The Dana Reserve has a number of walking routes, such as the Dana Village Trail, which leads you out into terraced fields where farming families grow olive trees, herbs and other crops.

Dana is saturated with stunning views. Stood at the very lip of the Great Rift Valley you can look down through the snaking near-vertical wadis towards the desert far below. At sunset it can feel as though you’re stood at the edge of the world.

Dana village perches like an eagle's nest at the brink of the precipice. Its natural defences, fertile soil and springs have made it an ideal home for human communities for over 4,000 years. In recent years, however, the picturesque, honey-coloured, rock-built houses have been slowly abandoned as families left in search of jobs elsewhere.

Walking here contributes not only to the preservation of Dana’s natural landscapes and biodiversity, but also provides much-needed employment through the use of knowledgeable local guides. Indeed, some accommodations such as the prestigious Feynan Ecolodge aim to employ 100 percent local people, from chefs to drivers. In this way the reserve is able to balance conservation efforts with the requirements of surrounding communities for grazing, recreation and employment.

4. Ajloun Forest Reserve

The Soap Makers Trail is one of several routes you can take when walking in Ajloun Forest Reserve in the mountains of northern Jordan. Most walks in the reserve are guided, revealing countryside largely untouched by agriculture or human habitation.

Paths pass under a canopy of evergreen oak and small rugged trees with intricately twisted trunks and boughs. Every now and then, the unusual pink-tinted trunks of strawberry trees appear in stark contrast. Wild pistachio and carob trees also make occasional appearances as you wind your way between the trunks and duck under branches. The forest is dotted with small meadows, and if you are here in the spring, the whole area is carpeted in delicate wildflowers.

The Soap Makers Trail is 7km long over hilly terrain, and although not punishingly steep, the path can be quite rocky in places. Expect to walk up to the crest of hills from where there are beautiful views across the reserve and down into the wadis.

The trail starts at the visitor’s centre and passes through the forest before dropping out of the reserve to finish with a visit to the Orjan Soap House where local women make soap from olive oil and locally grown herbs.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Jordan or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

What do walking holidays in Jordan involve?

Small group or tailor made?

Most of the time when hiking in Jordan you’ll be joining a guided small group, with numbers capped at around 16 people to minimise the impact on what can often be fragile environments. Jordan is not a country that lends itself well to independent walking due to the harsh desert landscapes and hot temperatures.

There are tailor made walking tours ideal for those looking for flexibility on routes and travel dates, or for those who prefer not to walk in a group. But these will also be led by local guides who will ensure you stick to the trail.

Where will I stay when walking in Jordan?

Our accommodation for walkers in Jordan varies from small family-run hotels to wilderness camping and sleeping under the stars in traditional Bedouin desert camps. Wherever you hang up your boots at night, you can expect warm Jordanian hospitality and an engaging introduction to the culture here.

How fit do I need to be for walking in Jordan?

You’ll want to be in decent physical condition and a regular on the trail for hiking in Jordan. Most routes here are only moderately challenging, and it’s rare to be at high altitudes. But several days of walking across soft sand in arid desert conditions for up to seven hours a day under a bright sun can definitely take it out of you.

You’ll only have a daypack to carry, though, and your guides will ensure that everyone has plenty of water to stay hydrated. Fundamentally, while a few sessions at the gym before you go won’t hurt, these holidays are carefully designed to ensure they’re suitable for most people of reasonable fitness.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Konstantinos Kaskanis] [Intro: hikinginjordan] [1. The Jordan Trail: hikinginjordan] [4. Ajloun Forest Reserve: hikinginjordan]