Billed as the ‘Inca Trail of the Middle East’, travelers can now trek from north to south Jordan on the 400-mile Jordan Trail, thanks to the efforts of local hiking groups, volunteers, Bedouin tribes, grants and donations.
Earlier this year, Jordan announced its first long-distance hiking trail. An epic 400-mile route dubbed—rather predictably—the Jordan Trail, it runs from Um Qais in the north to Aqaba on the Red Sea coastline, taking in 52 villages en route, as well as the UNESCO-listed city of Petra and Wadi Rum valley.
Billed as the ‘Inca Trail of the Middle East’, the Jordan Trail is expected to shake up travelers’ impressions of Jordan, which have been greatly affected by the country’s proximity to neighboring Iraq, Syria, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
At the recent AdventureNext travel conference in Jordan, Malia Asfour, director of the Jordan Tourism Board in the US, was keen to point out that Jordan is “an oasis of peace in a noisy neighborhood.”
This was echoed by Muna Haddad, President of the Jordan Trail Association, who believes “the Jordan Trail is what the Middle East needs: a tourism experience that allows its visitors to get to know the genuine kindness and hospitality of a place that has been misrepresented in the media.”
The 40-day hike retraces Roman roads and, in part, the historical King’s Highway—an ancient trading route mentioned in the Bible that ran from Egypt to Syria via Aqaba. This was the route the Nabataeans—the architects responsible for Petra—used on their travels to exchange frankincense and other spices.
The finished route is the result of the combined efforts of local hiking groups, volunteers, and Bedouin tribes living along its length, along with grants from USAID and a series of private contributions. It’s managed by the Jordan Trail Association, who has built up a network of service providers along the entire route, including homestays and rest stops, as well as establishing guide training; a guided tour of the trail is set to become an annual fixture.
“Nature, silence and solitude are the only luxuries left in the world today, and Jordan offers them all.”
Andrew Evans, travel writer
In March 2017, the first thru-hike—a hike completed end-to-end during one hiking season—was completed, with US travel writer Andrew Evans part of the team. “The trail is a two-way street that creates a positive experience for hikers and the communities they pass through,” he said at his keynote speech at the AdventureNext conference.
He added, “It allows you to see the unabbreviated version of Jordan [whose] cinematic landscape leaves little wonder as to why it was used as the backdrop in so many films. [Out here] a rock isn’t just a rock; it’s a shard of Greco-Roman pottery or a millstone from the time of Jesus. Nature, silence and solitude are the only luxuries left in the world today and Jordan offers them all.”
The trail is classed as challenging, with routine climbs of up to 1,000 meters a day and temperatures reaching 40°C, and a diverse terrain ranging from the hot springs and wooded olive groves of the north, through to the rose-hued rocks of the wadis (valleys) and down to the clear waters of the Red Sea.
It may be tough, but the Jordan Trail offers a rare chance to traverse an entire country on foot. And for adventurous travelers, that is something special.
Plan your route and find out more at jordantrail.org.
Emma Thomson is an award-winning travel writer whose trips include an unsupported expedition across Namibia’s Skeleton Coast and traveling along the Silk Road. She often covers countries recovering from natural disaster or political upheaval, writing features to help travelers regain trust in these destinations.