Day - 1
Location: Amman - Ahlan Wa Sahlan! Welcome to Jordan, cosmopolitan and contemporary, yet steeped in biblical history. On arrival at Amman's Queen Alia International Airport, you will be met by our representative and transferred to your hotel. This is simply an arrival day so you may arrive in Amman at any time. Note that hotel rooms are generally only available after midday. Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm on Day 1. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please have these on hand. As there's not much time spent in Amman on this itinerary, it's worth arriving a day or two early to explore the sights. If you do then the highlights are the citadel with its amazing sweeping views of Amman, the Jordan Museum – home to the Dead Sea Scrolls – or the Roman Theatre, right in the middle of downtown Amman. Either way, this evening get out on to the streets, where you’ll soon hear “Welcome to Jordan” from the locals, and maybe pick up a coffee from one of the cafés and partner it with an ara’yes, a toastie filled with spicy mincemeat.
Day - 2
Location: Aqaba - After breakfast today you’ll leave the Jordanian capital of Amman and journey down the Desert Highway, with the beach resort of Aqaba as your destination (approximately 4 hours). On arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Aqaba is the only port city in the country, lying at the very northern tip of the Red Sea, and you will have the rest of the day free to explore the town and port. The small Ottoman Mamluk Fort, dating from the 14th century and from where Lawrence of Arabia rode to Cairo, is worth a look. Otherwise, most of the fun is to be found in the water. Acquaint yourself with the hotel's pool, or head to the beach – some of the best snorkelling in the world can be found around the untouched coral reefs just south of the town.
Day - 3
Location: Wadi Rum - This morning take a brief orientation walk of Aqaba with your guide, visiting the old castle if time permits, before driving to Wadi Rum. See the contrast between the sparkling waters of the Red Sea and an ochre sea of desert on the way to spellbinding Wadi Rum. Drive approximately 1 hour into this landscape of rugged sandstone mountains, desolate yet achingly romantic, the way the locals do – in rather old, rickety (but reliable) jeeps operated by the local Bedouin Community. After lunch (not included) in the small village of Rum and a browse around the excellent and informative visitor's centre, you will visit some of the most stunning desert scenery you will ever witness. Wadi Rum is a truly beautiful place, where great gouts of rock have been eroded by wind and ancient water into fantastical gnarled shapes; watch them change colour throughout the day, and soak in the vast silence of this lunar-like landscape. Wadi Rum is probably best known for its connection with the enigmatic British officer T.E. Lawrence, who was based here during the Great Arab Revolt of 1917-18. Today you will also meet your new Bedouin Friends, the backbone of Jordan. Ride through sweeping swathes of desert, wondering how this place could be liveable until you soon get your answer – a group of dark tents low-pitched to the ground: a Bedouin camp. In traditional Bedouin culture, a huge onus is placed on taking in and feeding any visitor, and so a very warm welcome is assured on your arrival. Spend the night in this incredible location, deep in Wadi Rum and under a huge expanse of stars.
Day - 4
Location: Petra - After waking up in the unique surrounds of the Bedouin camp this morning, you will enjoy a walk around the area (the length of the walk will depend on how energetic you are feeling) before scaling one of the large dunes to enjoy sensational views of the surrounding area. Keen photographers will be delighted. You will then take 4WDs from your camp back to the main entrance, which is opposite the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, the mountain named after Lawrence of Arabia’s book. The visitor's centre here is also a great spot to buy some jewellery and handicrafts, mostly made by a women's co-operative that is aimed at supporting traditional local industries. You will then continue your journey to the fabled city of Petra (approximately 2.5 hours). On arrival there is time in the afternoon to check out the town that has grown up around the site, and to just relax… ready for a big day of exploring Petra tomorrow.
Day - 5
Location: Petra - Petra is justifiably on most people’s list of ‘must-visit’ places. It’s regularly cited as the world’s ‘8th Wonder’, and in fact made the list of ‘New7Wonders of the World’. Petra is the jewel of Jordan, the lost city of the biblical Nabateans, an impressive series of tombs and dwellings hidden behind ornate façades carved directly into the rock. Dating back to the 6th century BC, the site was lost to Western minds until it was rediscovered in 1812 by a Swiss explorer. The iconic Petra view – the Treasury's glorious façade, glimpsed from the narrow cleft known as the Siq – is arguably the single most striking sight of the entire region. The Siq leads through the rock and is sometimes only a few metres wide, with walls soaring up to 180 metres on either side, and it is impossible not to imagine the armies and traders who made their way down here in the ancient times. Petra's greatest surprise, however, is its size. With your guide you will explore the old Roman road, amphitheatre and several old tombs. You will also climb up to the Monastery – carved from a mountain summit and the site's second beautiful façade – from where you will have a magnificent view of the entire site. This is a memorable day exploring a truly extraordinary destination and is sure to be one of the highlights of your trip. There is a cafeteria on the site, where you can enjoy a light lunch. In the mid-afternoon you will return to your hotel and it won't take much convincing for you to try a soothing traditional Turkish bath.
Day - 6
Location: Amman - Petra is an incredible site and almost demands more than one visit. If you want to see more, then get up early to soak in the dramatic setting, walk to extra sites like the High Place of Sacrifice, and just try to comprehend the history and life of a city that was once able to challenge the might of Rome. Later, the ancient Crusader castle at Shobak makes as imposing sight as you make the short drive up to it. It was originally built to protect the eastern flank of the Latin Kingdom and its trade routes to the sea, before it fell to Saladin in 1189. Stroll the site and discover a small chapel, original gatehouse, and find out where a long, dark secret passage leads. Continue half an hour to the ancient village at Dana, on the edge of the Dana Biosphere Reserve, where local artisans sell attractive silver jewellery and charms. Drive on to Madaba (approximately 3 hours), home to a number of fine Byzantine mosaics. Visit the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George and see an impressive mosaic map of the Holy Land that clearly depicts Palestine and Lower Egypt around 550 AD. You will arrive in Amman in the late afternoon, where you can spend the evening in one of its several fine restaurants.
Day - 7
Location: Amman - Today you will leave Amman for a short drive north (approximately 1 hour) to Jerash, once one of the grandest ancient Roman cities in the world. These are some of the best Greco-Roman ruins around. Reaching its zenith as a favourite of the emperor Hadrian, it has a striking collection of archways and theatres, baths, public buildings and colonnaded streets, and is a beautiful place to spend a morning exploring. Grand ionic columns encircle the city's centrepiece, the Oval Plaza, a wonderfully atmospheric place to linger after exploring Jerash's riches. Then, you’d better have brought your swim gear as you can wash off the dust from exploring with a dip like no other. Drive approximately 1.5 hours to the shores of the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth (420 metres below sea level). This isn’t actually a sea but a super-salty lake (dead because of the lack of life in it) where the density of the water means you’ll go for a float, not a swim. Spend some time relaxing here and get some classic floating pictures. The mud here is supposed to have healing properties, so why not cover yourself from head to toe for a nutrient-rich natural mineral mud bath. Afterwards you will return to Amman for the evening (approximately 1 hour). Maybe spend your final night at one of the many bars and restaurants in West Amman, or ask your leader about the traditional cafes dotted around the city where locals spend their evenings.
Day - 8
Location: Amman - Your trip will end today after breakfast. Check-out time is usually around 12 noon and you are free to leave at any time. If you have arranged a private airport transfer you will be advised of the pick-up time. Additional accommodation can be pre-booked if you wish to spend more time exploring Amman.