From walks through forests to bird spotting, Jordan offers you the perfect chance to get back to basics with nature. You may have thought Jordan was all desert, but think again. From the fertile green hills of the north, to the stunning nature reserve in the southern Dana Valley, Jordan offers plenty of ways to experience the great outdoors. One of the best introductions is to enjoy the network of nature reserves run by Jordan’s Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN). Their Wild Jordan tourism division showcases walks, cultural encounters and overnight stays in natural settings across the country.
The canyons above the Dead Sea, southwest of Amman is the lowest nature reserve on Earth, the Mujib Valley ends 400 metres below sea level, at the River Mujib’s outflow into the Dead Sea. From here, routes lead up into the narrow, high-walled canyon where you can enjoy epic adventures gorge walking, wading and canyoning or venture into the canyon at its outflow, working your way through the pool-studded gorge to a hidden waterfall.
Set amid green hills roughly 46 miles north of Amman. The Ajloun forest stands 1,200 metres above sea level and is home to pine, oak, pistachio, carob and wild strawberry trees, alongside olive groves. As well as roe deer, you may see badgers, foxes and wild boar, as well as plentiful birdlife. Try the Soap Makers’ Trail that goes through the woods to Soap House, a community project employing local women to make olive oil soap. Or tackle the Prophets’ Trail, going past caves and meadows to Elijah’s Hill, above the Jordan Valley.
In the desert, 62 miles east of Amman. Azraq oasis is a major stopping-off point for migrating birds. A vast area of wetlands extends out from Azraq village into the desert, home to birds, water buffalo and one of the world’s few species of desert fish. Sunset and sunrise are the best times to spot hoopoes, warblers and finches among the wetland pools and reeds – hundreds of migratory species have been recorded here. Hospitality.
In the mountains of southern Jordan, about 31 miles north of Petra. It’s Jordan’s largest nature reserve, extending from the village of Dana – a cluster of 15th-century stone cottages amid lush, spring-fed gardens with incredible hillside views – all the way down Dana valley to Feynan, isolated amid the arid deserts of Wadi Araba. The reserve includes a variety of terrain and habitats, from sandstone cliffs over 1,500 metres high near Dana to verdant, sheltered valleys. You could hole up in Dana village, to relax and enjoy the views and the silence, perhaps doing a spot of bird-watching (vultures and other birds of prey are frequent visitors to these rugged cliffs). There are also plenty of walks to do, including the three-hour trail around the head of the valley to the campsite at Rummana, or the full-day ramble down through the valley to Feynan.
Switch off and relax at a sensitively designed wilderness lodge. Whether you walk from Dana, or approach across the bumpy desert track from Wadi Araba, don’t miss the chance to visit Feynan Ecolodge. Located at the far western end of the Dana Biosphere Reserve, this wilderness lodge stands miles from the nearest road. All 26 rooms are lit solely by candles – solar-generated electricity is used only in communal areas – while water, sourced from local springs, is also solar-heated. The array of traditional dishes includes only locally sourced ingredients, which are predominantly organic. Feynan offers a truly magical experience, whether you come for a peaceful retreat, or want to embark on walks and bike rides in the surrounding desert and mountains. Trained nature guides from local Bedouin tribes can bring Feynan’s stunning natural environment to life, pointing out the desert’s uniquely adapted flora and fauna, taking you to explore archaeological sites or simply showing you the best spots from which to take in a breath taking sunset.