Road trip in Jordan – Driving around canyons, deserts and the Dead Sea

JUAN MARTINEZ

April 2, 2018

Road trip in Jordan – Driving around canyons, deserts and the Dead Sea

There is an inexplicable charm to driving around a country and my road trip in Jordan was no exception.

I had always wanted to do a road trip in a middle eastern country and a road trip in Jordan was the perfect opportunity to make that dream come true. I find it fascinating to drive along highways traffic signs in a foreign alphabet or to have lunch in restaurants where you need to communicate with hand gestures to let your waiter know what you want to eat.

For this road trip we decided to start in the city of Aqaba in southern Jordan and drive all the way up to Amman. In order to safe time, we paid an extra fee to the car rental company to drop the vehicle in Amman.

Road trip map of Jordan - Click to open in full size
Road trip map of Jordan – Click to open in full size

Renting a car in Jordan

It was midday in Aqaba and we had just crossed the Israel-Jordan border some minutes ago. The sun was shining in this part of the world and although the temperature was not as warm as we expected from a middle eastern country, I was happy to have left the -10 degrees in Germany. The car rental company Monte Carlo offered to bring our car to Aqaba, so we could start our road trip from the South of Jordan in the direction to its capital Amman.

We also decided to get a WiFi router in our vehicle, as we wanted to use Google Maps instead of a GPS device. This decision made our trip more comfortable as we were able to search for getaways along the way, information about certain locations and connect with our accommodation or tour operators in case we got lost.

Driving from south to north

Roads in Jordan are in a very good condition. Main highways usually have 3 to 4 lanes and the traffic is not as chaotic as in many other countries outside of Europe. Of course, driving in Amman was another story, but more on that later.

A road trip in Jordan can be easily organized. Most of the country´s hotspots for visitors are right along the way from south to north. Our first stop was Wadi Rum, a desert in southern Jordan with impressive and dramatic sandstone mountains. Its red and purple sand emulates the feeling that you are walking on a different planet and with isolated camps in the middle of the desert, Wadi Rum is the perfect getaway for those travelers who want to see something unique and at the same time avoid overcrowded tourist hotspots. Wadi Rum also offers a good opportunity to learn a little bit about the Bedouin community, as most tour operators and camp owners belong to this group and are happy to tell you more about their culture.

Read more: Camping in Wadi Rum

Highways in Jordan after sunset
Highways in Jordan after sunset

Wadi Rum is one of Jordan’s most iconic places. Its colored mountains served as perfect locations for movies featuring alien landscapes.

Although Wadi Rum is a desert in the middle of nowhere, we decided to spend 3 nights in this area. This was not only a great decision, as we will able to see way more of Wadi Rum of what we knew before and relax in one of the most beautiful landscapes I´ve ever been.

While being there, we also booked several activities during the days we went there and took some time as well to explore Wadi Rum ourselves.

Tips for traveling in Wadi Rum

Since you are going to be in the middle of a hot desert, there are some essential tips that made our trip easier and more comfortable:

  • Accommodation is very simple and you will spend a lot of the time outdoors under the sun. Bringing sunscreen (even during winter) will make your trip more comfortable.
  • Water is essential for this environment and since you will be traveling with your own vehicle, you should bring even more than necessary if possible.
  • Depending on the type of accommodation you book, you might not have either WiFi or even electricity. Keep enough battery for continuing your trip or using the GPS afterwards
  • Wadi Rum is completely dark in the night and bringing a headlamp will simply make your trip more comfortable.
Visiting and camping in Wadi rum
Visiting and camping in Wadi rum

Driving to see a world wonder: Petra.

Not more than 3 hours north from Wadi Rum we reached Petra – probably the highlight of our trip and yet a place that unfortunately disappointed us a little bit due to its mass commercialization, overpriced surroundings and extremely expensive entrance fee.

Moving around Petra is not very complicated and you will see many visitors who also rented a vehicle. However, this was probably one of the spots we used our vehicle the least. The town next to Petra has everything you need and visiting Petra means mostly walking long distances.

During our visit to this area, we also had personal transfers who took us through Petra’s back entrance and skip the crowds of people rushing in the morning to walk and take photos of the Sig.

NOTE: Don’t use your vehicle for going to Petra’s back entrance. The road is only possible to be done with a 4×4 and an experienced driver. Besides, if you drive and leave your vehicle there, you will have to pick it somehow in the future.

Although Petra was the places we wanted to visit in this part of the country, having a car help us moving around the area with more freedom and visit smaller sightseeing spots like the Shobak Castle or take narrower streets to see different landscapes.

Read more: I could enter Petra without paying entrance fee and nobody seems to care

Petra without entrance fee
View of the Treasure in Petra

Driving through the Arabah Valley

The easiest way to follow this way and not get lost is using Google Maps as your guide. The streets don´t have names and sometimes the GPS might lose signal. But don´t worry, this street will take you straight to the highway that goes along the Israel-Jordan border. However, no road trip in Jordan is done until you get lost at least once.

INSIDER TIP: From Petra to the Dead Sea take the street that goes through the Arabah valley. To take this route follow the street that goes from Petra to the main highway in direction to Amman and take a left more or less 10 km before Shobak Castle. The panoramic views in the valley are amazing and it is worth a visit.

The map below can also serve as a guide for you. It indicates more or less where the left turn is. (click on the image to enlarge)

Road trip in Jordan, car rental Jordan, Driving in Jordan
Alternative road from Petra to the Dead Sea via Arabah Valley

This might be a longer route to take, but you will cross some of the most beautiful natural landscapes Jordan has to offer. At the same time, you will be able to be in a more isolated area, as there are only a few tourists.

Once you cross the Arabah Valley, you will encounter Route 65, which is one of the direct routes to the Dead Sea.

Taking a dip in the Dead Sea is probably the dream of many travelers. The idea of being able to stand, lay and even walk in the water sounds fascinating to everyone. However, most tours taking you to the Dead Sea will take you to overpriced and overcrowded spots, where entrance fees can go up to 25 EUR, all just to feel the salty waters of the Sea in your hands. A road trip in Jordan offers you the alternative of experiencing the Dead Sea as a local, as most Jordanian´s simply drive along the highway next to the sea and stop at a spot that seems pleasant for them. No fees, no crowds, no overpriced restaurants.

View of the Dead Sea from the Jordan side
View of the Dead Sea from the Jordan side

Driving through the chaos of Amman

From the southern part of the sea to Amman we drove around 3 hours. The highways became busier, traffic jams started to appear in certain spots and for the first time in days we saw a traffic light. Amman is hectic and crowded. Not a good place for driving around unless it´s necessary. However, without a car on our trip, our journey in Jordan would have been completely different.

Monte Carlo Car Rental also offered to pick up the car at our hotel, saving us the worry about dropping off the vehicle in some place in Amman and then returning home. Gasoline prices are very reasonable in Jordan and with more or less 70 EUR spent on gasoline for a distance of over 400km, transportation was by far the cheapest expense during our trip.

A road trip in Jordan does make a difference when it comes to traveling in this country. It not only makes the journey more comfortable and simpler, but it can also be less expensive than other kinds of transportation. Definitely a good choice if you want to see Jordan and not be stuck in tourism masses and overly expensive spots.

Amman chaotic landscape
Amman chaotic landscape

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