Jordan in winter: a tale of adventure and incredible hospitality
Apologies for staying unusually quiet these last few weeks! After producing a few new blog posts over the quiet period of the holidays, work was unusually busy, and then I went on my much-awaited winter sun holiday. Or so I thought… Do you wonder what travelling to Jordan in winter is like? Read on…
Jordan in winter is exceptionally good value
It all started with me spotting a very cheap flight to Aqaba on the Red Sea back in November one exceptionally dark and wet afternoon. Having been to the Sinai in January before, I snapped it up and got very excited about long days and warming winter sun. I didn’t see the sun very much except in Aqaba – but this was a wonderful week, for various reasons. Here are some of them!
Amman is not to be missed
When you visit Jordan in winter, you might want to skip Amman, as its at nearly 1000 metres elevation and usually very cold. But what a wonderful capital city it is! Book a hotel with reliable heating, put on some good shoes and scale those steps! I used Booking.com which had very reliable reviews.
Amman has the finest shopping in all of Jordan – some of it tourist-orientated, but Downtown is a great mixture of local and souvenir shopping, and locals outnumber tourists by far!
The wonderful off the beaten track “Desert Castles”
The most famous one, Qasr Amra, is actually a bath house from the Umayyad bath era. It is also the furthest from Amman but worth the trip for its wonderful well-preserved frescoes alone. Thought all Islamic imagery was aniconic and austere?
Review your views on Islamic art here. Frolicking ladies everywhere.
Qasr Kharanah probably fits the description as a castle the most. A highly atmospheric place – you really feel like you are in the middle of nowhere.
O Little town of Madaba
Madaba is relatively little known outside Jordan, but “Everyone loves Madaba” my driver assured me as he dropped me of at my charming hotel run by an elderly couple. When visiting Jordan in winter, sticking to the lower places in the South (basically, Aqaba) might be a good idea, but I wanted to see this town and its excellent Roman and Byzantine -era mosaics. Perhaps the most famous one can be found in Madabas relatively modern Greek Orthodox Church and it depicts the Holy Land pretty accurately.
The Dead Sea Road and Petra
This might be the route you can travel on if you visit Jordan in winter. After some severe weather at higher elevations further South, taking the Dead Sea Road approach to Petra seemed my only option. Not that I minded – there was sunshine and warmth for two blissful hours as we travelled along the Dead Sea. Which has always warmer climate than nearby Amman and Madaba, and you might be able to take a dip even in Jordan in winter!
But this, time, sadly, I had no time. I was pleased to enter Petra through an extremely scenic and snow-free back route that isn’t even on the map. That alone was worth the taxi fare!
Beautiful scenery at every turn for about 40km from turning off the Dead Sea highway all the way to Petra.
And finally… Petra! I was a little unlucky with the weather, but I did make good use of the time I had before fleeing the cold and blizzards. Yes, blizzards!
After some pretty severe weather forecast for Petra, I fled the cold and snow and returned to Aqaba.
However…. after seeing pictured from my friends, I went on an impromptu trip to Wadi Rum. I had no booking, no knowledge, no nothing…. but thanks to some wonderful fellow travellers I met on the JETT bus, this was a great trip, although another cold and extremely windy one!
… and back to Aqaba where I finally caught my winter sun
I used Aqaba as a base for Wadi Rum, and seeing it was a little cold for me to lie on the beach, spent a lovely day eating and wandering though the markets. A resort town after my own heart – somewhat scruffy, unpretentious, and exceptional good value. Eastern Europeans in liquor stores, independent travellers, well-heeled people from the top class resorts and well-covered ladies – they all mix happily in Aqabas pleasant sunny streets.
And lets not forget the food! My culinary experience of Jordan was very good throughout, but the price for the best food has to go to Khubza &. Senaya in Aqaba. Extra bonus points for the great juice bar right next to it.
You may not be able to sunbathe on the public beach without getting some real good stares, but there are some (higher priced) hotels with private beaches as well as private beach clubs. It is quite an important post on the overland route to Mecca, so rather conservative, but not unfriendly. I loved the hustle and bustle at the public beach, great for people watching, not so much for swimming. The dive bases 10km South or the somewhat isolated resort of Tala Bay should provide for all your swimming, snorkelling and sunbathing desired.
And that was my whirlwind Jordan in winter tour! I will write some more posts about this trip, but if you have any specific questions, please feel free to drop me a line or leave a comment!
Is visiting Jordan in winter recommended?
If you are prepared for stay flexible, keep an eye on the weather (and the current political situation, but that goes for every season), have an emergency budget for hiring private transport should the weather bust your plans, and aren’t upset if you see little sun, then Jordan is a wonderful country to visit in winter. Hardly any one visits the country in winter, except for Aqaba – and some cruises, so Petra and Wadi Rum are never out of season, but see considerably fewer visitors than in high season of spring and autumn when weather conditions are more favourable.
I recommend you keep your plans somewhat flexible to adapt to weather conditions, especially in the high-lying areas of Wadi Rum, Petra, Amman, Kerak and Dana, but also the Northern cities of Ajloun, Jerash and Salt. Also opt for accommodation that can be cancelled should the weather require a change of plan. I use Booking.com where a large number of hotels offer free cancellation. Thankfully, I only had to cancel once due to bad weather on a previous trip, and I received a full refund.
There’s more to come, but here are a few quick facts:
I flew from Berlin to Aqaba on Easyjet Europe for 42 Euro return.
My route took me from Aqaba to Amman. Here I did the Desert Castles Loop, continued to Madaba, via the Dead Sea to Petra and back to Aqaba. From Aqaba I did a day trip to Wadi Rum before flying back to Berlin. A week was plenty to see plenty of Jordan. A week would be sufficient to get a good idea of what Jordan has to offer, but not see all its sights.
I used public transport except on two occasions. I hired a car and driver for the Desert Castles Loop, as there is no public transport. Also, due to low season and snow, there were no shared taxis on the King Highway. Or public buses from Amman to Petra on the day I wished to travel. I had to hire a taxi to take me to Petra via the Dead Sea route. Both days cost approximately 90 Euro in travel costs alone. Public and tourist buses were a lot cheaper than in Europe – details to follow.
Due to the somewhat unexpected higher cost of hiring private transport, I saved on accommodation and paid approximately 25-30Euros per night for very clean and perfectly adequate private rooms in small owner-run hotels with exceptional hospitality.
Food was cheap and very good, and there was also some rather good shopping but this really deserves an extra post! Amman is by far the best place to shop (no surprises here) but you can pick up some lovely cosmetics and foodstuff in Aqaba and if you’re into silver jewellery, some tourist shops at Petra site had were surprisingly good!
Cost: Private taxi on two days (approximately 175 Euro) and entry fee to Petra (approximately 75 Euro), totalling 250 Euro. All other costs were about 300 Euro in total, including flight, accommodation for 6 nights, and public transport. This amounts to 500 Euro for a rather pleasant week exploring Jordan, travelling in relative comfort, and spending most of my money locally.
Is it safe to visit Jordan?
The situation in the Middle East can be volatile and change with barely any notice. I visited in the weeks following the assassination of General Suleimani, where foreign office travel advice from my home country, the United Kingdom and the United States of America urged people to be alert and avoid the border regions with Iraq and Syria as well as be mindful of political demonstrations.
Personally, being a white solo female with no knowledge of Arabic, I felt just as safe as in Germany, road traffic aside. People were polite I did not witness any political demonstration. There were police checkpoints all over the place, including an ever-present tourist police willing to help. Some gentle overcharging occurred here and there in tourist sites, but nothing terrible. Also, if you’re inclined to climb and hike, there are few security measures. Health and safety is if you’re worried, don’t do it.
The legal blurb
Disclosure: This trip was entirely self funded. I have received no monetary or non-monetary rewards for linking aside from some affiliate links to Booking.com. I will only review and recommend places that I have stayed in myself. You can trust me for the whole, unbiased truth. More details on my affiliate link policy are here.
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I book my hotels either directly or I use Booking.com for their flexible reservation policies, easy-to-navigate website and good customer service.