Hiking the Jordan Trail to Petra

Billed as the “Inca Trail of the Middle East,” the 400-mile Jordan Trail runs from the Mediterranean-influenced villages of Umm Qais in the north to the coral-rich Red Sea in the south, passing through 52 villages en route, as well as two UNESCO-listed sites. The result of an eight year effort by 40-some volunteers, the route is primed to put the country on the radar of travelers seeking an adventure without the crowds.

Trekkers can tackle the 36-day hike in one go or choose one of eight 50-mile-long sections. The most established route is a flashpacker-friendly stretch from Dana to the “Rose City” of Petra.

Planning a trek is surprisingly easy: The Jordan Trail Association, an NGO formed in 2015 to help maintain and develop the trail, has created a website filled with information on everything from licensed tour operators and hiking companies to what to pack and how fit you should be for different trail sections.

Yet unlike the well-marked and trafficked trails of trekking meccas, such as Switzerland and Chile, trails in Jordan can be difficult to navigate alone. A guide is recommended and because adventure tourism is still in its infancy here, there are only a handful of licensed hiking guides in the country.

Until you walk across Jordan, you won’t grasp the diversity of its landscape. Leave Dana and descend 4,000 feet into the Dana Biosphere Reserve’s central valley, taking in four unique ecosystems. Lonely cypress trees give way to Martian-like rock formations. Then the landscape changes to bone-dry river beds lined with palms and oleander, before, finally, becoming rust-hued desert.

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