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If you’re planning a trip to Jordan, it’s likely that a visit to the archaeological wonder and UNESCO World Heritage site of Petra is already on your itinerary. After crossing that must-see off your list, check out some of the many lesser known activities worth experiencing in this Middle Eastern country. Here are six unexpected things to do in Jordan.
National geographic photographic Play beekeeper, shepherd, or chef for a day.
Community-based tourism activities are growing in Jordan—which is good news for visitors and locals alike, as both groups can benefit from the cross-cultural exchange and economic opportunity. Don a beekeeper suit in Um Qais and accompany bee enthusiast Yousef Sayyah as he tends to his bee colonies and teaches about teamwork, conservation, and the healing properties of natural bee products. Tag along with a shepherd near the Dana Biosphere Reserve to better understand the Bedouin life. Or learn to cook Arab dishes in local family kitchens in Amman, Um Qais, and Orjan.
National geographic photographic Do some soul searching with the help of a horse.
Jordan’s rugged landscape naturally entices intrepid travelers seeking outdoor adventure. But this ancient place is also steeped in a spirituality so salient, you may be inspired to embark on an introspective journey as well. Head to Wadi Rum, where you’ll find a handful of Arabian horses and their trainer, Sandra Jelly, ready to lead you in an equine-assisted “soul session.” According to Jelly and other equine trainers and mental health professionals, horses are herd-minded and have an innate ability to act as mirrors. When you step into the stable, they believe that these gentle giants reflect your inner workings and worries, giving you the chance to identify limiting beliefs, address issues that arise, and (re)discover your most authentic self.
National geographic photographic Wander through wildflowers.
If you assume that desert dominates the landscape of this Middle Eastern country, you are correct. About 75 percent of Jordan is indeed considered desert. But that means there’s still 25 percent left to surprise you. Visit Jordan in the spring months (March to May) and you’ll find the fertile hills of the northern highlands bursting with brightly colored blooms. Take a self-guided stroll along the trails or hire a local guide who can offer cultural and historical context and help you identify wildflowers along the way, including Jordan’s national flower, the black iris. Unsure where to start? The Um Qais to Fuheis section of the Jordan Trail offers ample opportunities to enjoy a kaleidoscope of springtime colors.
National geographic photographic Get your drink on.
You might expect alcohol to be outlawed in this Muslim-majority country. It’s true that most restaurants don’t offer alcoholic beverages and it’s illegal to buy or sell alcohol on Muslim holidays (with the exception of some international hotels). But alcohol is, in fact, available in some supermarkets, select restaurants, and liquor stores in Jordan. For a one-of-a-kind intoxicating experience, head to Fuheis. Just 25 minutes north of Amman, this Christian town is home to Carakale, Jordan’s first and only craft brewery. Here you can take a brewhouse tour and sample handcrafted beers in the tasting room or on the open-air terrace overlooking Blue Canyon. Further north in Mafraq (about 1.5 hours from Amman), Zumot Winery awaits. During the summer months (April to September) you can request a private tour of the vineyards and a poolside wine pairing on the property.
National geographic photographic Dine in a cave or under the stars.
Sometimes the best activities are the ones you won’t find widely advertised. Select tour operators in Jordan (such as Experience Jordan, In2Jordan, and Engaging Cultures) can arrange unique VIP experiences. For an unforgettable evening, request a private candlelit dinner in the Nabataean caves of Petra or under the desert stars in Wadi Rum.
National geographic photographic Cross the entire country on foot.
If tackling a thru-hike is on your to-do list, consider the recently opened Jordan Trail. Traversing the length of the country from north to south, this 400-mile path weaves its way along heart-stirring scenescapes, up and down challenging and ever-changing terrain, and through some 52 towns and communities. Stroll through pine forests, ascend some of the steepest wadis (valleys), and trek across open desert—all on your own two feet. Experienced hikers can go it alone and at their own pace with the help of downloadable maps and GPS navigation, while those looking for a designated support team, preplanned itinerary, and hiking companions can join a group.