Jordan’s Ancient Ruins, Desert Landscapes, and Starry Skies - May 3, 2019 - Atlas Obscura Trips


Jordan’s Ancient Ruins, Desert Landscapes, and Starry Skies

Join us in a vibrant country with stark landscapes and dramatic ruins, exploring magnificent Petra, floating in the Dead Sea, riding a camel across the desert, and cooking and eating with Jordanians.

We’ll visit long-abandoned desert fortresses, spectacular mosques, Biblical landmarks, and Roman ruins. We will marvel at intricate mosaics of Madaba and Bedouin textiles, the rose-colored buildings carved into rock faces in Petra, and the pale stone structures of Beidha, which are 9,000 years old.

Discover dramatic rock formations, pine forests, and shrubland up close, journey across the rugged, desert landscapes by jeep and camel, and sleep beneath a blanket of stars in Wadi Rum, the orange-colored dunes that “Lawrence of Arabia” deemed “vast, echoing and God-like.” On this unforgettable trip, we’ll wind through narrow passageways, scale steep cliffs, and find traces of the wondrous past at every turn.


  • Awe-inspiring ruins: Discover ancient fortresses, tombs, and settlements, including Petra, one of the world's most stunning ancient cities, which you'll see in sunshine and by candlelight.
  • The Dead Sea and other natural wonders: You'll float in the salty salty water of the Dead Sea, clamber through dimly-lit gorges that lead to breathtaking sites, and climb up to the tops of hills to survey the magnificent views.
  • Desert adventures: You'll experience Jordan's Bedouin culture, traveling across the vast, undulating desert by camel and jeep, and sleeping under the stars. 
  • Home cooking and local perspectivesYou'll experience about modern life in Jordan by meeting Jordanians. You'll learn Jordanian cuisine by cooking with an excellent home cook, and spend time with a winemaker, an archaeologist, an astronomer, and many others along the way. 


A $500 deposit is required to secure your spot; we have a limited capacity, and we expect the trip to fill quickly. The deposit is nonrefundable after three days. The trip will cost a total of $3,590 (the $500 deposit plus the $3,090 final payment), which covers all fixed costs including accommodations, local guides, and all meals and activities listed in the itinerary.


If you have any questions that aren't answered in the itinerary, or would like to chat with someone about whether you think this adventure is the right fit for you, please don't hesitate to contact us! Email us at or give us a call at 646-961-4857 anytime between 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m. ET.

Day 1
Welcome to Jordan!
  • Once you land at Queen Alia International Airport, you’ll be met and driven to our comfortable hotel in Amman, Jordan’s capital city. There, we’ll start to learn about Jordan's biblical roots, and its remarkable geography.
  • Tonight, we’ll enjoy a welcome dinner together at Tawaheen al-Hawa, where we’ll get to know each other over plates of meat and mezze.
Mahmood Salaam
Day 2
Amman Discovery
  • We’ll spend today discovering the rich and ancient history of Amman. Our first stop will be the Amman Citadel, a cluster of fascinating prehistoric sites on a hill overlooking the city. There, a knowledgeable local guide will introduce us to the the 8th-century Umayyad Palace, partly fallen into ruin, and tell us about the Dead Sea Scrolls that were once housed inside the nearby Jordan Archaeological Museum.
  • Next, we’ll indulge our appetites with a cooking class at Beit Sitti (or “Grandmother’s House”), where we’ll prepare and feast on a four-course meal of Arabic specialities.  
  • Afterward, we’ll savor a tasting at one of the city’s boutique wine shops, where the owner will join us to discuss the challenges of helping vineyards flourish in the region. Then we’ll enjoy a delicious meal, with custom pairing suggested by the winemaker.
Alex Brey
Day 3
Desert Castles and Fast Cars
  • After breakfast, we’ll journey to a trio of castles, 7th- and 8th-century fortresses scattered around Jordan’s black basalt desert. We’ll marvel at the frescoes adorning the low-domed Qasr Amra—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—and the sprawling Qasr al-Azraq, an ancient center of military operations. We’ll be awed by the well-preserved Qasr Kharana. Built around 710, it’s one of the most spectacular examples of early Islamic architecture.
  • Next, we’ll return to Amman to rev our engines at the Royal Automobile Museum, which shows off the late King Hussein’s bevy of classic cars, from a replica of the 1886 vehicle that received the first patent for a motorized car, to a slick Cord, a rare Buick convertible coupe. Some of these models also offer a glimpse of Jordan’s history, such as a reproduction of the famously silent Silver Ghost, the armored Rolls Royce model that carried fighters during the 1916-18 Arab Revolt.
  • Your afternoon and evening will be free to visit the shops in the city’s old downtown and enjoy a delicious dinner on your own.
Day 4
Roman Ruins and Hilltop Views
  • After breakfast, we’ll drive north to Umm Qais, where we’ll enjoy breathtaking views of Roman ruins—and, in the distance, the Sea of Galilee and the green hills of the Golan Heights. With our feet planted atop this special lookout, we’ll survey the landscape of three countries: Jordan, Syria, and Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
  • Next, we’ll continue to the village of Ajlun, where we’ll take in a 12th-century hilltop fortress and another magnificent view across the Jordan Valley.
  • Then we’ll discover Jerash, a smattering of well-preserved Greco-Roman ruins. We’ll wander the still-grand remnants of ancient temples, bridges, baths, and streets, and marvel at the the columns of the oval Forum and the vaulted Arch of Hadrian, constructed in honor of the emperor's visit 2,000 years ago.
  • In the evening, we’ll return to Amman.
Day 5
Dana Biosphere Reserve
  • After breakfast, we’ll set out for the Dana Biosphere Reserve, where we’ll spend the day exploring the park’s striking rock formations and highland flora and fauna, from cypress trees to juniper. We’ll hike amid the shrubs and sandstone until we reach a vantage point with a stunning view of the village below.
  • After poking our heads into terraced gardens and craft workshops, we’ll enjoy a homemade lunch in the village, where we’ll learn about how this unique community has thrived.
  • In the late afternoon, we’ll make our way to Petra, and enjoy a good night’s sleep before another active day of exploring.
Day 6
Exploring Petra’s Past
  • Today, we will begin to explore the ancient city of Petra, which dates back as far as the 4th century BCE. The onetime home of the indigenous Nabataean people has earned the nickname the Rose City, because of the dusty color of the ornate structures carved into its rocks.
  • First, we’ll wind our way through the Siq. As we walk, we’ll be dwarfed by the undulating walls of this narrow gorge, which reach nearly 600 feet tall. The dim passageway, whose name translates to “the shaft,” will spit us out in front of one of Petra’s most spectacular monuments—Al Khazneh, or the Treasury. The elaborate structure was carved into the sandstone rock around the 1st century CE, and served served as a mausoleum or crypt. Even if some of the details have eroded over time, it’s still one of the dramatic and dazzling sights of the ancient world.
  • Our tour of Petra will continue as we explore the city’s royal tombs and burial chambers and uncover its time-worn mysteries.
  • We’ll spend the night in Petra, and your evening will be free. You’ll have the chance to raise a glass in the Cave Bar, a nightlife destination that stays open until the early-morning hours in a 2,000-year-old tomb. 
Zhu tian2000
Day 7
Climbing Above Petra
  • Today, we’ll uncover more of Petra’s fascinating past. To do so, we’ll climb up hundreds of steps to find majestic buildings tucked right into the hills. The steep incline guarantees marvelous views. First, we’ll discover the Ad Deir, or the Monastery, a tomb constructed in the 3rd century BCE that later served as a church.
  • Our next stop will be the High Place of Sacrifice, an altar with a fascinating past and a magnificent view of the wonders far below.
  • Back on lower ground, we’ll put up our feet to rest a while. After dinner, when night has fallen, we’ll see the city with fresh eyes by candlelight. At the Treasury, music and stories will help us imagine the ancient city as its early residents would have known it.
  • Cap off the evening learning to cook traditional Jordanian dishes in the company of local chefs. 
Day 8
Beidha and Wadi Rum
  • Today, we’ll journey thousands of years back in time, and to the ruins of Beidha, or “the white one.” Also known as Little Petra, this settlement may date to 7200 BCE, and is among the earliest examples of places where hunter-gatherer societies put down deeper roots.
  • Next, we’ll press on to Wadi Rum, a magnificent, orange-hued desert.
  • We’ll bounce along on a jeep safari, then set off on a camel trek that will carry us to our Bedouin campsite, where we’ll enjoy a traditional dinner.
  • We’ll spent a night beneath the desert sky in a comfortable dome tent.
Day 9
Rugged Wadi Rum
  • After a good night’s sleep in our domes under the stars, we’ll enjoy a full day of desert discovery. With advance arrangements, you can wake up with the sun to a hot air balloon ride at dawn.
  • Today, we’ll travel by jeep to see travelers’ inscriptions etched into mountains, ride along the rugged dunes, and retrace the steps of T. E. Lawrence, the British officer (better known as “Lawrence of Arabia”) who fought alongside Arab fighters during the uprising against the Ottoman Turks. We’ll also marvel at the Um Fruth bridge, a dizzyingly narrow arch over the desert.
  • You’ll have the afternoon free. After a spectacular desert sunset and dinner, we’ll have the chance to study the sky, far away from the glare that might block constellations from view. An astronomer will introduce us to the dazzling constellations and the local folklore that describes them.  
Faris knight
Day 10
A Dip in the Dead Sea
  • After an early breakfast, we’ll continue north in search of the sea.
  • By lunch, we’ll arrive at the Dead Sea, and will enjoy an afternoon of floating in its famously buoyant waters.
  • After a delicious dinner together, we’ll travel to Madaba, and rest up for another day of adventures.
Day 11
Madaba and Mt. Nebo
  • Today, we’ll visit Madaba. A local archaeologist will be our guide as we make our way through this Christian town famous for its Byzantine-era mosaics, including an intricate map of the 6th-century Holy Land, which sprawls across a church floor.
  • From here, we’ll visit the monastery on Mount Nebo, the ridge from which Moses was said to have glimpsed the Promised Land.
  • We’ll return to Madaba for the night.
Day 12
Global Citizens
  • Today, we’ll visit King’s Academy, an international boarding school that strives to educate curious, passionate students.
  • In the evening, we’ll gather for a delicious farewell dinner.
Day 13
Farewell & Departure
  • After breakfast in Madaba, we’ll say our goodbyes and head for the airport, ready to plan another adventure.
The Fine Print



  • Lodging in double-accommodation rooms in hotels (2- to 4-star) for 10 nights and 2 nights in an air-conditioned "Martian Dome" tent with an en-suite bathroom. (A limited number of single rooms are available at a supplementary cost of $650.) 
  • 12 breakfasts, 7 lunches, and 10 dinners.
  • All entrance fees, activities, and excursions.
  • Private transportation throughout the trip and airport transfers.
  • Local guides accompanying the entire trip.
  • A full briefing packet for each explorer, including country information, final itinerary, logistical and contact information, recommended reading list, and packing list.
  • A great group of fellow Atlas Obscura fans, excited to explore all that this unique region has to offer!
  • Please email us at with any questions about the itinerary, logistics, flight planning, and payment, or call us at 646-961-4857 anytime between 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m. ET.


Itineraries and pricing are subject to change. This particular tour has been designed with specific activities and events in mind, and schedules and availabilities may change in coming months due to inclement weather, forces of nature, and other circumstances beyond our control.


In cities or large towns you will be accommodated in convenient, modern 3- to 4-star hotels, while in more remote areas the hotels are comfortable but basic (2-star).  In Wadi Rum, you'll stay in a "Martian Dome" tent with terrace, en-suite bathroom and air‐conditioning. In addition to being comfortable, these tents allow you to gaze at a spectacular night sky from the comfort of your bed. 


Adventure is always accompanied by an element of the unexpected. The most important thing to bring with you is a flexible, positive, and open-minded attitude. During this trip, you will sometimes be staying in simple accommodations, and visiting remote regions. We recommend a medium level of physical fitness, since we'll be embarking on very active days together. Some of the drives are quite long, and sections of the roads are unpaved. You should be comfortable walking between three and five miles per day without difficulty, and spending extended periods of time on your feet. If you're uncertain about whether this trip is a good fit, please contact us and we'd be happy to discuss with you further. 


You will be charged a nonrefundable $500 deposit to hold your space. The final payment will be due by February 3, 2019. All reservations will be final after this date and subject to our cancellation policy. 


  • International airfare to/from Amman, Jordan. 
  • Travel insurance (recommended).
  • Baggage charges.
  • Tips and gratuities.
  • Camera and video fees at sites and monuments.
  • Additional meals and drinks outside of Atlas Obscura offerings.
  • If applicable, application for a Jordanian visa (not required for U.S. citizens). 

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