Updated 2020: I wrote this guide after recently returning from hiking the Jordan Trail from Dana to Wadi Rum (the south half of the trail). I did the hike with 2 other women and we aimed to do it as self-supported as possible (except for having water drops which can’t be avoided).
It was beautiful, challenging but also a little complicated to organise logistically. So I wanted to share my advice to make it easier for others looking to do some trekking in Jordan.The Jordan Trail thru hike is in the heart of the Middle East – a 650km hiking trail stretching the length of Jordan. It was established in 2015 by the Jordan Trail Association.
The southern section of the Jordan Trail involves crossing the desert. This was the most complicated part of the route so I hope this guide to hiking in Jordan will help answer some of the questions or reservations you may about completing this hike.Also check out:
- Day-by-day journal’s on the hike – start with day 1 here
- 22 Top tips for long distance hiking
- 9 Tips for hiking in the desert
Before we start….
If you are new to this blog, I’m Bex Band – a full-time UK adventurer and founder of the women’s adventure community, Love Her Wild. I’m on a mission to make getting outdoors and going on adventures as easy as possible. You can read more about me here.
If you have any questions, please do use the comments box below. And for ongoing adventure tips and inspiration make sure you follow me on Facebook and Instagram. I’d appreciate it 🙂
How long does it take to hike the Jordan Trail?This will depend on a number of factors including how fit and experienced you are. What sort of experience you want to have on the trail – do you want a challenging hike or to take lots of time to see places en route? And also, in some sections, logistics limitations like where you can get water and food supplies. The Jordan Trail route has been split into 35 days, although this doesn’t account for rest days. As a general when long-distance hiking you want to have 1 day rest a week. Plus its good practice to have a few days continency in case of injuries or delays. You’ll probably also want an extra rest day in Petra to make the most of the area. Taking that into account, 45 days is a good estimate for the average hiker. As some of the days are quite short, experienced hikers can definitely do the trail faster, doubling up on these sections. There is no official guide book yet for the trail. Although this book offers lots of advice about hiking in Jordan and covers a lot of the Jordan Trail. There’s an official Jordan Trail website. On the ‘Explore the route’ page, you’ll find a breakdown of the trail with information on things like food and water. They’ve split it into 9 sections (each 4-6 days in length). When I walked the trail I printed out all the information from the website to use as a guide. In the desert where water is sparse and you are reliant on Jordan Trail water drops, so you will need to plan this section of the route carefully. I am experienced with long-distance hiking so personally found some of the days too short so doubled up on days where distances are short (15km or less). But most days I stuck to the schedule recommended on the Jordan Trail website.
Is the Jordan Trail easy to follow?Easy answer – No!!! This is not like other established trails I have followed in Europe, America and in Israel. For a lot of the walk, the trail isn’t easily defined and there are no signs or waymarks. It is essential that you hike with a GPS device. There is no official Jordan Trail map so you will need to download the files (from the Jordan Trail website) onto a GPS unit. It takes some practice getting used to following a GPS. On some sections, there is no path at all and you are simply trailblazing. We also had parts where we lost the signal. Although you could use a phone, if you are planning to do this solo or without a guide, you really should get a proper GPS device. We used a Garmin GPS InReach Explorer which worked great and also doubled as a Sat Phone so we could check in with someone from home for weather warnings (also a huge consideration – more on that below). I wouldn’t recommend this trail unless you have some expedition and/or hiking experience. As well as confidence using a GPS (it’s very different from using a map and compass!). If you are looking for an easier trail to follow I can recommend the Israel National Trail and focusing on the Negev Desert section as an alternative. If you need any more convincing have a read of 25 photos that will make you want to hike the Israel National Trail!
What is the terrain like on the Jordan Trail?It is very varied. There was a lot of rocky sections (make sure you have good soles on your shoes!). There were ups and downs but no real huge climbs. And also sections of long flat meandering through Wadi’s and (the worst!!) sand. Sand is painfully slow and heavy on the legs. The last day into Wadi Rum follows a large (but not very busy) road for quite a few kilometres. The heat was bouncing off the road so it was pretty uncomfortable, but at least it was easy to follow.
Should you hike north to south or south to north?Generally, going Southbound (from North to South) is more favourable for a number of reasons. You start your hike in the North where there are far more villages and towns to re-supply. By the time you reach the sectioned half of the trail and the most difficult bit – the desert – you will feel more acclimatised to the challenge ahead. Doing it this way means you can finish in Aqaba….a swim in the Red Sea is the most inviting way to end a trek like this! And, you get to do the famous Dana to Petra hike. Following an ancient route that ends at one of the worlds natural wonders, Petra. I really think this is the best section of the Jordan Trail, although the stretch from Petra to Wadi Rum is also mind-blowing with some really incredible Wadi formations to pass.
What time of year should you hike the Jordan Trail?We started hiking on the 23rd March. Most days were hot (into the 30’s) but manageable. We were also lucky to have a few cooler days. The best time to hike the Jordan Trail is in spring or autumn although being post-winter, spring has the advantage that the vegetation is at its most lush. Summer is far too hot and temperatures in the desert are too dangerous for hiking. Also, avoid January and February when risk of flash flooding is at its highest.
Where do you sleep on the Jordan Trail – do you camp?The daily guides on the Jordan Trail website give information on possible sleeping options from hotels to hostels. We took a tent and wild camped almost every night. You can wild camp almost anywhere except for in the Dana Reserve and Wadi Rum (although we did manage to camp here without disruption). Flash Flooding is a risk in some areas so it is good to use the suggested wild camp spots. You’ll find these marked on the GPS route and also sometimes mentioned in the Jordan Trail website route. There is nothing in these designated areas but they are usually flat and up high where flash flooding is less of a risk. When we weren’t wild camping we stayed in hotels or homestays: We stayed in Dana Tower Hotel at the start which was a good place to stop and very cheap. It was good to use this as a base to prepare for the desert stretch of the hike. We then took a rest day in Petra, staying at Al Rashid Hotel. It wasn’t really a rest day as I did so much walking around seeing Petra, although it was nice to have a break from the rucksack. While staying here I saw the most beautiful sunset: Near Humeima there is an option to stay with Abu and his family in a traditional Bedouin homestay. An amazing opportunity that will give you a real taste of middle east culture!! They are very welcoming and it’s a great experience that shouldn’t be missed. He didn’t set a price but said we could pay what we wanted or “nothing at all”, so you decide what it is worth. In Wadi Rum the Beyond Wadi Rum Camp is a brilliant place to spend a night. And to really splash out and celebrate at the end of your walk, look no further than Movenpick Resort! We spent a couple of nights here at the end enjoying the fresh sheets and recovering in the spa. Bliss!
Is the Jordan Trail busy?We met only 2 other groups of hikers the entire time. One was a group hiking from Wadi Rum to Petra and another was a couple walking the full Jordan Trail thru hike. There were a few guided day walkers near Petra otherwise the trail was very quiet. Most days we would meet just a couple of Bedouins out herding their goats or riding on camels. Occasionally you’d pass bedouin local communities (usually these were just a few small temporary structures that they’d constructed as their home).
Jordan Trail Water options & who to use to help with water dropsWater was very sparse in the desert and even guaranteed natural sources were not in a good way (stagnant and not possible to drink from). We used a guide called Mohamad Al-Ahwat to help us with water drops each day but he was AWFUL!! Very unreliable and rude! He basically actually left us in the desert without water on one day because we had to change the plan due to an injury and he didn’t like this (he took our money but didn’t leave the water he said he would…..luckily we had another contact in the area who helped). These are he’s contact details….DO NOT USE HIM! Everyone we have spoken to used Habu (who is recommended on the Jordan Trail website) and only has positive feedback. Online, it says his number is: Habu: 0778332061 Before going to Jordan I called the guide and said what I wanted in terms of water drops and booked the date. I don’t think any of them have email contacts so you’ll need to do this by text and phone.
What kit to take for the Jordan Trail?Check out my full kit list here for all my suggestions on what to pack and what clothes to wear for the desert.
What Insurance did I use for the Jordan Trail?You will want to make sure you have decent travel insurance that covers non-guided hiking. For insurance, I used World Nomads who cover a lot of adventure activities (including scuba diving at the end in Aqaba). You can get a quote with World Nomads using this link.
What if you get lost or get into trouble?The desert section of the Jordan Trail is quite remote in parts and you can go almost a full days walk on some sections without phone signal. It’s important that you are a competent walker and having first-aid skills is really sensible. We had a Garmin GPS InReach Explorer with us. The Sat Phone capabilities on it meant we could send text and make calls if we got in trouble. I’d suggest picking up a local SIM which will help you in-country communicating with the water drops, booking hotels and also as a back up in case there are any problems. Important numbers to note are: Tourism Police:
- Hotline: 117777
- What’s App: +962 7 7099 1814
- Bashir +962 7 7844 2200
Is the Jordan Trail safe?When people ask this I think they are usually referring to crime or terrorist activities! We had no safety issues at all on the trail. We were 3 women hiking alone. The locals were for the most part very friendly…we certainly never felt in danger. Having said that, as women on our own I did feel they could be quite pushy. All the bedouins and guides we passed or worked with were certain we couldn’t possibly do the hike alone without a man. At some points, they would insist walking with us to make sure we didn’t get lost (at no charge) and while this was meant as a kind act we also found it frustrating as we preferred the satisfaction of hiking alone and people not knowing where we were camping each night – just to follow good practice. We had a problem with our guide who left us without water. There were 2 other occasions where we had men shouting at us angrily – one because he didn’t want us to pass a section without paying and another because he’d messed up our hotel booking and somehow this was our fault. I think this was mostly middle eastern brovardo though…..plus maybe a bit of not being used to having to deal with independent women (the guy at the hotel actually asked to speak to my husband on the phone!). The real dangers I think are in the remoteness of the hike. Some risks include.. Snakes and scorpions – we saw 1 snake and 1 scorpion on this trip. You just need to be careful to check your boots putting them on and putting down your tent. Dogs – the Bedouins like to have guard dogs and they can be quite aggressive. They usually stayed away although their barks were a bit intimidating at times and did put me on edge. Picking up a rock (as if to throw it at the dog) usually caused it to cower away. Dehydration/Heatstroke – you need to be very aware of your water supply and your body. Experience, taking it slow in the beginning and on hot days and being organised with your water drops and a rescue plan is important. Flash flooding – You’ll want to be checking the weather forecast regularly for warnings of flash flooding. It happens fast so if you do get caught somewhere with water coming in (even if it doesn’t look dramatic initially), drop everything and get to a high place fast! Getting weather updates on the trail is difficult as we didn’t have a lot of internet access. This is where our GPS came in handy. When we were hiking in the Wadi’s (in the desert stretch) I could text my husband at home each morning and he’d say if there was any rain planned. This is something you should take very seriously!! Shortly after our hike, people lost their lives in Petra due to flash flooding. Remember that flash flooding occurs when rain hits elsewhere in the desert causing a mass rush of water that is powerful (it can destroy houses and move cars) and fast. This is not intended to scare you or put you off as the chances of getting caught out in a flash flood are very low but it’s important to understand and be aware:
Trekking the Jordan Trail solo vs with a guide?Safety-wise, as long as you follow good practice – be prepared and self-contained, let someone know your plan at all time, be inconspicuous and don’t draw unnecessary attention – I think this is a safe enough trail to hike solo. As for doing it self-guided vs a guide, this depends entirely on your experience and what sort of hike you want. I loved the freedom of being self-contained and alone in the desert and the challenge of navigating and choosing where to camp. With a guide, you won’t get this. Joining a Jordan Trail Tour though might take the stress out of logistics. You’ll learn more about the history and culture and may meet other hikers who are joining the same tour.
Was it tough hiking in the heat?If you aren’t used to hiking in hot temperatures then you might find this quite a tough hike. You should account for this by having an easier start and slower days in the beginning so you can acclimatise. I’ve written my top tips for hiking in the desert/
How did I use a phone in Jordan?On arrival, I got a local SIM card to use in my phone. £15 covered a fair bit of texting, calls and also internet. We had coverage for about half the time we were on the trail although the last 5 days into Wadi Rum were noticeably scarce for signal
How do you charge your phone and electronics?I took an Anker Power Bank which was amazing and has enough power to keep my GPS and phone charged between the longest stretch without electricity (Petra to Wadi Rum). We also took a solar charger. I’m not a big fan of solar chargers as they really don’t work well when you are hiking (ie with them attached to your backpack) and they are painfully slow to charge but it’s good to have as a backup.
How do you get to the start and finish of the Jordan Trail?Our trek started in Dana and ended in Wadi Rum. We flew into Amman (which is an international airport) and got a pre-arranged taxi to take us to Dana (roughly costing 70JOD). At the end of our hike, we picked up a taxi in Wadi Rum to take us to our hotel in Aqaba (costing 20JOD). There are lots of taxis in the area as it’s a popular tourist spot so just negotiate to get a good price. Our flight home was from Aqaba. If you are using Habu for water support or booking to stay in a hotel, you can ask them to him you arrange taxis on arrival. Also to help with picking up a local SIM card.
Where do you buy food on the Jordan Trail?We took food with us (from the UK) for almost the entire hike and I’m very glad we did! The supermarket food options weren’t great and stock up options sparse. This is especially true for me as a vegetarian which is an alien concept in Jordan! We had trail mix, peanut butter, crackers and expedition (add water) ration packs. We got our guide to take half our supplies to bring us at the halfway mark so we didn’t have to carry it the whole way. In the Southern stretch of the Jordan Trail can get food in Dana, Petra, Wadi Rum and Aqaba. There are lots of supermarkets in Petra to stock up. Make sure you try some of the traditional Middle East foods – hummus, falafel, etc when you have access to restaurants. Although I can’t personally comment on the Northern section of the trail, the couple we spoke to (who were doing the full Jordan Trail thru-hike) said this part was much easier to find food as the re-supplies points were more frequent.
What preparations do you need to do before the trip?You will want to be familiar with the kit you are intending to take and with the sections of the Trail (particularly for the desert section) so you can make a plan for water drops. Having a good base level of fitness is important and the fitter you are the more enjoyable you will find the hike. Getting used to carrying a heavy pack is probably the most useful training you can do. Other than that it was simply a case of booking our flights, making reservations at our hotels, coordinating with getting water drops and getting comprehensive insurance.
What did you love and what didn’t you love about hiking in Jordan?Loved:
- the desert!! The views and those rock formations in the Wadi!!
- having a fire and camping out under the stars
- hiking into Petra amongst all the shiny clean tourists
- finishing in Aqaba with a luxury hotel and some diving
- seeing the mistreatment of donkeys and camels (please don’t ride them!!!)
- the bedouins and locals being over-bearing with their opinions that as lone females we weren’t safe or capable of hiking. I know they were mostly trying to be nice but it got a bit tedious
- the lack of cheap street and local food en route
How much does it cost to hike the Jordan Trail?Excluding food that we brought with us and kit, here’s a breakdown of what I spent. Note these are only rough figures…. Flights return from UK: £400 Taxi’s (from Amman airport to Dana, Wadi Rum to Aqaba and from our hotel to the airport): £100 Dana reserve fees: £7 Petra entrance fees: £60 (for 3 day entry) Water drops support: £200 (this was total for 3 people. We spoke to a couple though who said they were only paying £90 so I think we were being ripped off!) Food in restaurants: £90 (I didn’t eat out that much and found the food really expensive in the tourist areas) Drinks: £30 Hotels: £110 (for 1 night in Dana and 2 nights in Petra…our 2 nights at the end in Aqaba were giving to us complimentary as a blogger) Jeep tour of Wadi Rum: £25 (I thought I’d enjoy doing this at the end of the hike but actually after all the quiet of the desert I found the hoards of tourists quite overwhelming. They also took us to a lot of beautiful spots but I’d seen much better places along the way while hiking) Total: £1112 This was for a 16 day trip hiking in Jordan. We did 11 days of hiking. Took a day in Dana, Petra and 2 days in Aqaba. Adding on more hiking days wouldn’t make it much more expensive as the bulk of our costs were the flights, water drops and Petra which was of course unmissable!
A couple of other things I want to mention…We initially planned to hike all the way to Aqaba (Dana to Aqaba). Because of time restraints though we decided to end it in Wadi Rum (which ended up being a good decision as one of our team had an injury). All the people we spoke to said the stretch after Wadi Rum, especially as you near Aqaba, isn’t that nice so we won’t miss lots by cutting this out. We were also told that the last couple of days, passing over the hills to Aqaba, is still a smuggling route so on the entire trail is the area where you need to take the most care. I’m not sure how true this is but wanted to mention it in case you wanted to do your own research. I also wanted to mention getting into Petra. As we were hiking from Dana we entered Petra from the back entrance where there is a guard. We knew we had to pay on arrival (because we were taking a rest day to see the place we paid the £60 for 3 days entry) but the guard said we couldn’t buy it from him. It took a lot of negotiating, him calling and getting grumpy with us but eventually, an official drove to meet us so we could buy the pass that would let us gain entry to the area. If you are with a guide they will sort this for you. I don’t know if we just had a grumpy and unhelpful guard but if I was to do the hike again I’d arrange to get the tickets in advance to stop this delay and hassle which took over an hour (that’s a lot when you have a shower, bed and food insight for the first time in a week!!). I’ve been getting a lot of people getting in touch asking questions about the Jordan Trail. I’m really happy to help, but…..If there is something you are wondering please ask in the comments box below so I don’t have to repeat myself (and please read through the previous questions first to check it hasn’t already been answered). Another good resource for gathering information and asking questions is the Jordan Trail Facebook group – definitely worth joining.
If you found this post helpful, follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Or you can subscribe to my YouTube channel. I give all my advice out for free on my website. If you want to say thanks, you can buy me a coffee!