A supercharged week seeing the highlights of Israel and Jordan

Nature
The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
9
Culture
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
9
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
9
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
5
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
10
unique
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
10
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
82 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
continent
Asia / Middle East
country
Israel / Jordan
Length of time
Around a week
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 1,300
Time of year visited
January
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
RANKING
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
22nd/334 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 10% SUMMARY RATING: Unmissable

Summary

I say this trip is supercharged because it doesn’t leave much time for chilling out.  But, if you’re like most of us and only have a limited amount of vacation, then this is a fantastic weekend to weekend trip that takes in the world famous sites of Jerusalem, Petra and Wadi rum; while providing time for some fun experiences like floating in the Dead Sea, scuba diving in the Red Sea, driving through sparse deserts and a party in Tel Aviv

You’ll need energy for these 7 days, but you’ll be rewarded as, in my opinion, its one of the world’s best week long trips in the world

I was hesitating in going in winter as I’d seen low temperatures.  Don’t.  The winter helped with reduced crowds, not needing to book far ahead and not getting exhausted by the heat.  Perfect trip for a week-long winter break

highlights

#1 Exploring the vast complex of Petra by walking from Little Petra to the world-famous Treasury (the one from Indiana Jones). You'll make your way through surrounding mountains and seeing one carved wonder after another interspersed with friendly Bedouin tents offering tea

#2 The incredible diversity in Jerusalem as you walk through the very distinct quarters all held within the city walls

#3 Sitting in the open back of a 4x4 as you zip through the otherworldly red landscape of Wadi Rum

#4 Floating - really floating! - on top of the water and trying as much as you can to push yourself down. Heaps of fun

#5 Catching first light from one of the Martian tents as you see those wonderful pinks and purples change into oranges and reds in the deserts of Wadi Rum

#6 Visiting the old Roman amphitheatres, forums and temples of former mighty Jerash

#7 A night out in the cracking nightlife spots of electric Tel Aviv

#8 Walking through the narrow winding route of The Siq to be rewarded at the end with your first view of the famous Treasury of Petra

#9 Driving along the Dead Sea, Kings and Desert Highways to take in the views and check out the former crusader castles such as Karak

#10 Marvelling at the sacred spots in Jerusalem such as the Western Wall, Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on the biblical Calvary where Jesus was nailed to the cross

#11 Enjoying the great visibility and wrecks while diving in the Red Sea in Aqaba

The route

Rough itinerary

This trip can be started in tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Amman, Aqaba etc.  We started in Tel Aviv just because the flights worked out better

  • Day 1 – Taxi from Tel Aviv airport (super early) to Jerusalem for one day seeing some of the world-famous sites and getting lost in the Old City
  • Day 2 – Travel from Jerusalem to cross into Jordan at the Sheik Hussain Bridge Border crossing (note that you cannot gain a visa on arrival at the King Hussain Bridge border crossing near Jerusalem, so need to head north).  Hire a driver to take you to the Roman ruins of Jerash for 3 hours and then down to Amman for the evening
  • Day 3 – pick up a hire car for the next 4 days.  On the way to a resort at the The Dead Sea, stop off at Madaba and Mount Nebo.  Spend the afternoon floating in the Dead Sea and chilling out watching the sunset views
  • Day 4 – Drive to the crusader fort of Karak on your way to Petra.  Spend the afternoon checking out, in no particular hurry, Petra’s key sites: The Siq, Treasury and High Place of Sacrifice.  Evening option for Petra by Night
  • Day 5 – Spend the whole day adventuring around the surrounding mountains of Petra as you walk from Little Petra to the Monastery and back to the key sites.  Evening option for Petra by night
  • Day 6 – Drive to Wadi Rum to start a 4×4 tour with a guide and check out the otherworldly landscapes.  Spend the evening under the start in one of the desert camps
  • Day 7 – wake up to catch first light change the desert into mesmerising colours of red, oranges and purples and drive to Aqaba for scuba diving in the Red Sea.  Cross the border back into Israel and catch one of the afternoon buses to Tel Aviv where you can celebrate your week by hitting the bars and restaurants of this super cool city
  • Day 8 – fly out knackered, but with some world class memories

Travel Tips

  • Bring your energy for this trip because although there are a couple of afternoons to take a breather, it is jam-packed
  • I’ve mentioned above that I think this is the perfect trip for the winter, but do bring some warm clothes.  You’ll generally find that you’ll be walking around so much that you won’t really feel the cold, but in the evenings you’ll need to wrap up.  And for scuba diving, wear an extra wet suit and a hood
  • If you’re like me and don’t mind booking things as you go, then there isn’t really any need to book anything beforehand.  We booked one of the Martian tents in Wadi Rum because they were in short supply, a hotel for the first night and the hire car from Amman
  • I’ve written a series of individual entries for some of the pieces that make up this trip
  • Driving a car in Jordan:
    • We felt safe the whole time we were driving.  Getting out of Amman can be a bit frustrating, but apart from that we loved every bit of driving.  I’d imagine doing this without a car would be quite difficult, especially if short on time
    • We went with Thrifty from Amman Airport dropping off in Aqaba and was JD100 for 4 full days (10am day 3 to 10am day 7) and JD50 for the relocation fee.  Ask if the hire car company can drop the car off at your hotel – they actually offered to do this for us in Amman
    • As with all countries in this part of the world, be prepared for some rather crazy overtaking
    • Watch out for speed bumps, which aren’t always signposted or easy to see
  • A trip to the Roman ruins of Jerash
    • This itinerary means that you will cross the Israel Jordan border at the Sheik Hussain Bridge in which case it would be criminal on your way to Amman and the Dead Sea not to spend 2-3 hours at the Roman site of Jerash
    • Make sure you check out the two amphitheatres as they are slightly hidden
  • There are a host of things to see along the Dead Sea, Kings and Desert Highways.  Some are certainly worth stopping, others less so
    • Madaba – don’t bother.  The mosaic on the floor is cool, but the various churches etc in town are not worth stopping
    • Karak Castle – well worth it.  When you first enter and walk around you think, “Yeah, quite cool, but rather dull”.  Head deeper into the underground hallways and you see the scale of the place.  Well worth a visit for an hour or so when driving through
    • Mount Debo is worth stopping at for the views over the Dead Sea, but not if you’re tight on time as you’ll basically see the views as you drive down to the Dead Sea
  • Scuba diving from Aqaba:
    • I feel like I’m being a bit negative on the Aqaba scuba diving experience because I’ve been fortunate to dive in some great sites.  But, I’ve also dived in the Red Sea and was disappointed with the 2 sites we saw in Aqaba (Japanese Gardens and Cedar Pride wreck)
    • My main tip would be to see if you have time for a boat dive rather than a dive from the shore
    • In winter, you’ll likely be recommended to wear two wet suits (a long and a short).  I would also suggest a hood – it makes a huge difference
  • A note on safety – I think the Lonely Planet put this well: “Don’t believe everything you read about the Middle East. Yes, there are regions that are dangerous to visit and you should, of course, always be careful while travelling in the region. But alongside the sometimes disturbing hard facts is more often a vast corpus of exaggeration, stereotyping and downright misrepresentation. We’ll try and put this as simply as possible: there’s every chance that you’ll be safer in many parts of the Middle East than you would be back home.“  We felt safe throughout this trip and have whenever I’ve visited the Middle East
  • The online Jordan pass is worth getting if you plan on visiting a few sites and staying for in Jordan for 3 nights or more.  JD75 includes 2 days in Petra, entrance to Wadi Rum and most sites in Jordan and covers your visa fee (note though – it is not a visa.  You still need to apply for one, this just covers the fee)

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Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone