When you think of Jordan, you think of the desert, long sweeping sand dunes and the hot beating sun. The landscape baren except with the possible occasional cacti, standing upright and solemn. Well, I was amazed at how different my pre-conceptions were of this diverse and small country. Here's what you need to know and why you should travel to Jordan in January.
Jordan In January
Getting To Jordan
We flew with Easyjet from Edinburgh with an overnight at London Gatwick Premier Inn Hotel before catching the connecting Easyjet mid-morning flight to Aqaba, Jordan. The outgoing flights were perfect. For the best views like the one above of Wadi Rum, sit on the right-hand side of the plane.
There are other airlines and routes available.
Top Tip: On arrival, you have the opportunity to invest in a mobile phone sim card. We managed to get by without one. As each of the hotels had complimentary wifi (with the exception of Wadi Rum Luxury Night Camp).
Where To Stay
There are a number of accommodation options available for all budget levels but after doing some research I discovered the Full of Stars tents located in the Wadi Rum Reserve. The igloo-shaped tents have their own door, facilities and the incredible views of the night sky.
Have you heard about the celestial meteor shower due to take place in the Wadi Rum Desert this year? Said to peak between the 12th and 13th August 2020. For more than 2,000 years events like this have been enjoyed due to no light pollution, cloudless skies and the dramatic desert landscape.
We opted to stay one night and the cost included buffet dinner and breakfast. With so many options included in the buffet, it was hard to decide. The desserts were delicious.
It was a really unique experience! You can also enjoy a jeep tour of the reserve to see it's lunar landscape, stargazing events and a local Bedouin campfire with shisha.
Did you know the area is famous? It's been the backdrop in movies such as The Martian starring Matt Damon, the legendary Lawrence of Arabia starring Peter O'Toole and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Top Tip: Pack warmer clothes for January especially the evenings. Although the Full of Stars tents are heated we still felt a bit cold (and we're Scottish), though this might have been down to the extreme weather that was due in the upcoming days. (The area was closed due to heavy snow that lasted two days).
Our decision for accommodation in Petra came down to which hotel was closest. So we didn't have to get out of bed really early to beat the crowds. I discovered that the 5* Movenpick Resort Petra was just across the road from the visitor centre and entrance. Perfect!
It was ideal for our two-night stay. The perfect location to relax after a long day exploring Petra. The room was so comfortable, the food was excellent and of course, the chocolate hour made me jump for joy. Having a sweet tooth and all. highly recommend it!
The next place to visit in Jordan had to be the Dead Sea and I was so happy to find that there was a Movenpick Hotel there too! Wow, we were not disappointed. The hotel was so much larger with landscaped gardens, three swimming pools one of which is an infinity pool with views out to sea. The sunsets were just mesmerizing.
We opted for the half board option for the two nights, as we were unsure if we would go out and explore or enjoy one of the small eateries in the resort.
The hotel is divided up into the main building, several smaller buildings with courtyards and water fountains. Each had a name relating to a place in Jordan. We were in the main hotel building called Zara.
One thing you must try while at the Dead Sea is floating in it's healing and relaxing salty waters. On the first day, I braved it (not a water fan at all), it wasn't as smooth as I thought it would be. Read more Kiss of The Ocean.
Did you know there is actually a ritual? So it starts with no longer than a 15-minute soak in the vast salt bath, followed by slapping on the healing mud. Once dry you take a cold shower to remove all the mud and salt. What an experience! I must say my skin was silky smooth. Have you ever tried it?
On the second day, I got even more adventurous and decided to book in for a traditional Hamman experience. They say when in Amman scrub up in a Hamman. Well, I wasn't in Amman but the spa looked very tempting.
This Hamman was a private one and it was a lovely female masseuse. If it's your first time I would opt for a female masseuse, considering the amount of nakedness. Always Carry On has put together a wonderful blog about her experience.
The final stop was one night at the Movenpick Resort and Spa Tala Bay, Aqaba on the Red Sea. Only five miles to the border of Saudi Aradia and literary across the sea from Eilat, Israel.
The resort is beautiful with it's landscaped gardens, crystal clear swimming pools, the long private stretching sandy beach and sounds of the tide coming in on the shore.
Again we took the half board option as the resort offers a number of smaller restaurants and also snacks in the main foyer area. There is also the option to pay 10 diners per person to take the shuttle to the sister hotel - Movenpick Resort and Residences Aqaba.
Aqaba has many sites of interest including Aqaba Castle, Islamic City of Ayla and Sharif Al Hussein Bin Ali Mosque.
What will you visit first?
We were advised to rent a car but I wasn't that keen. While on holiday I like to relax and not stress about trying to find someplace, also driving in the dark in a strange country is not my kind of fun. It's really easy to get around Jordan with public transport. There are Jett buses as well as smaller local minibuses. At the airport, Wadi Rum and Petra there was an abundance of local taxis.
While researching I came across a private transfer company called LocalJo. It was more expensive than the above options but we felt safe in the knowledge when we arrived, we wouldn't have to worry about getting to and from each location in a short period of time.
There were moments when things didn't go quite according to plan. Ah, what plan ever does, and it's always better to be a bit flexible. If you do decide to book with LocalJo opt to pay via Paypal at the end.
Top Tip: If you have a smartphone you could download Careem, Jordan’s car ordering service that is comparable to Uber. Uber is available in larger cities such as Amman.
What You Need To Know Before Visiting
Do look into the Jordan Pass as it is extremely good value and saves so much time. Not only does it include the entry into Petra for one or two days, but it also includes the entry visa.
For more Top Travel Tips: How To Get The Best Travel Deals: Love Travel? You Will Love This Book.
The best time to travel to Jordan, with no crowds is in January. We were told how busy it can be to visit the incredible and magical Petra. That you had to get in line before 6 am for the ticket office opening. On the first day, we did just that but it wasn't necessary. There was nobody! It was so surreal and quiet that it felt eerie.
The tour buses started to arrive around 12 noon and many didn't venture much past the famous Treasury. Did you know the site is over 100 sq miles?
There is a drawback, the weather can be a little unpredictable and many of the hotels take January to do some maintenance. Did it cause any problems? No, it was all part of the adventure! To see the rainwater pouring into the Siq creating mini waterfalls, the colour of the rock changing into the famous rose colour it's named after - The Rose City and a river slowly emerging, flowing through past the Treasury. That night, unfortunately, the evening candlelight event was cancelled but we were so tired after exploring. We took the time to relax, enjoy the spa and of course chocolate hour.
While in the low valley of Petra it was heavy rain, on the higher ground it was heavy snow. Can you believe it? The main road from Wadi Rum to Petra was closed. We were lucky to have travelled the day before and leaving via a lower road from Petra onto the Dead Sea. We were a little disappointed not to have seen the snow. Excuse to re-visit.
Seven Day Itinerary
One night Wadi Rum - Full of Stars Tents, Wadi Rum Night Luxury Camp
Two nights Petra - Movenpick Resort Petra
Two nights Dead Sea - Movenpick Resort & Spa Dead Sea
One night Tala Bay on the Red Sea - Movenpick Resort & Spa Tala Bay Aqaba
What To Pack
Don't forget your woollies in January and also the tail end months of the year. These can get rather chilly. We saw some incredible footwear options at Petra. Please do take walking boots that are comfortable and waterproof. These will protect your feet across all the different terrains, protect your ankles if you slip and keep your feet dry if you're caught in the heavy rain like us. Many of the walking trails take you up steep weather-worn stairs to much higher ground. The views are incredible but they can be slippery.
A day pack is ideal to carry water, sun hat, sunglasses, some chocolate to keep your energy levels up and possibly a packed lunch. Don't forget your camera!
Although we stayed at 5* hotel resorts, the dress code for the main dining room was casual. If you choose to make a reservation to eat in one of the smaller restaurants, smart attire is required for the evening.
Going to the spa or to enjoy the beach? Don't forget to pack your swimwear. I was surprised that the Dead Sea was very rocky. You might like to take aqua shoes or Teva sandals to protect your feet and help to avoid slipping. Would highly recommend Flip flops too for walking on the floors at the spa (I've been caught out and ended up taking something extra home on my foot).