Jordan? Isn’t that next door to Syria?
Well. Yes. it is. But it’s a separate country and it’s completely safe, incredibly friendly and mind-blowingly beautiful. In fact I'd say that I felt much safer the whole time we were in Jordan than I did in Brazil or South Africa (and I didn't really feel unsafe there!)
Affordable flights operate between London (and most major cities) and Amman, the country's capital, and visa's can be purchased at immigration on arrival for just over $50 USD (there's an ATM in the arrivals hall) so it's super easy and currently pretty cheap to get to.
When you arrive, the obvious place to head first is downtown Amman but If you’re landing late consider staying in Madaba which is closer and suffers from less traffic jams. We chose a hotel I wont be writing home about - perfectly fine for a nights sleep but not a place where I wished we could stay a longer - so on our first full day, we hit the road straight after breakfast (side note - if you're heading to Jordan, make sure you like humus and pitta bread as they’re staples at every meal!) and headed north to Jerash.
The ancient Roman City of Gerasa is approximately an hours drive from Amman and absolutely worth every second of the journey. Marketed as "Rome away from Rome" it's one of the largest sites of Roman architecture in the world, outside Italy. There's just something so splendid about an ancient arch that it gets me grinning on first sight.
A grand display of colonnaded streets leads through to churches, theaters, plazas and baths which have been carefully excavated over the past 70 years and maintained in excellent condition.
We meandered our way through, passing a couple of bedouins selling trinkets and camera accessories (Jordan's answer to amazon.com can be found on the steps of the Oval Plaza should you forget your memory card!) trying to imagine what it would have been like to go to a concert or cheer on the gladiators in the arena.
You could easily spend the whole day in Jerash and guides are available at the visitors centre if you want to get into the history but if you're pushed for time make sure you allow at least 2 to 3 hours to see the whole site. Tickets are 15 dinars ($20) for adults.
From Jerash it take 3-4 hours to get to Petra so it’s feasible to leave Amman in the morning, see Jerash and be in Petra in time for dinner, which is what we did. If you’re short of time and don’t fancy driving around Jordan, hire a driver from Local Trips - we found ourselves relieved that we hadn't hired a car instead as road rules are applied loosely by locals and lanes on highways appear to be used merely as guidelines! Not to mention the road signs….. Our driver Mohammad was an absolute legend - I just emailed him our itinerary a couple of weeks before we left and he was waiting at the airport, ready to chaffeur us around the country. He was punctual, courteous, very professional AND he even had free wifi in the car!
There are tonnes of accomodation options once you’re in Petra - the town itself is 3kms from the entrance gates so if you’re planning on doing a lot of walking, staying closer to the visitors centre is recomended. We checked into the Petra Guest House which is right next to the gates, and headed straight to the Cave Bar - the oldest bar in the world no less - which is conveniently part of the hotel! After all the walking we'd done earlier in the day, we were ready for a cold beer and sat back to relax on the cushions in the 2000-year-old Nabataean rock tomb.
Suitably refreshed we realized that we were starving hungry after a long day so we set off in search of dinner. Buffets are all the rage in Jordan and the Movenpick Hotel appeared to offer the best one so we decided to give it a go, but while it served decent food the ambience and extremely high prices left us feeling pretty mediocre about the whole experience and having stuffed ourselves silly (the curse of all you can eat!) we opted for an early night in preparation for Petra in the morning…. :)