The Middle Eastern country of Jordan, situated between Israel and Saudi Arabia, has been a destination for history-lovers for a long time. And it’s now emerging as a health and wellbeing holiday retreat.
But first, here’s why the ancient sites are outstanding. Petra was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World recently. This ancient city of buildings carved into the pink sandstone was only discovered by westerners at the start of the 19th century, because it’s hidden away at the end of a narrow canyon. The UNESCO World Heritage Site has been featured in many movies, including Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Adel Amin of Jordan’s tourist board says there are more amazing site’s than just Petra. “About one hour north of the capital Amman, you have some of the former cities of the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire,” she told me. “Ancient Jerash has an impressive colonnaded oval forum and well preserved ruins. Gladiators re-enact battles there.”
“Further up north you have Pella and Umm Qais, more of those important Roman cities related to biblical times. Go down to the Jordan Valley and at every corner you’ll find a story to tell from biblical times to the Islamic era. While in the south is Kerak, a beautiful 12th century crusader castle. If you go to Wadi Rum, there’s Lawrence of Arabia. In the Eastern Desert lie the Islamic Desert Castles. It’s an amazing destination everybody has to experience sometime,” says Adel.
If you want to take in all of those sites, you can do it in less than a week. “The typical length of stay is five to six nights. You should cover most of those attractions, including Petra and nearby Aqaba – a Red Sea port that offers diving around its coral reefs,” says Adel.
60,000 Brits visited the country last year and Adel says that the Dead Sea and the Ma’in hot springs have a lot to offer people who just want to relax. At the springs, visited by King Herod, hot thermal waters cascade down from waterfalls. It’s meant to be like a hot shower.
A number of health spas have opened around the Dead Sea and some visitors claim the mineral content of the water and the sunlight has provided relief for the skin condition, psoriasis
Adel says visitors often comment on the warmth of welcome they receive. “Everybody who comes to Jordan talks about the people. What makes a difference is the hospitality. We’ve got this from our roots. It’s well known that Arabs are very hospitable.”
Fly-drive holidays are increasingly popular with Dutch tourists, although social media comments suggest driving practices might surprise British motorists. Instead, you might want to arrange an all-inclusive package with one of the many specialist tour operators.
You can get five-hour return flights from Heathrow to Amman from around £300.