Why tour Jordan? The Royal Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a charming land that has preserved a remarkable character unlike any other in the Near East. Ruled by King Abdullah, the people have an unparalleled reputation for hospitality, from the office worker in the city to the Bedouin in his desert camp. Parts of the country are so rich in archaeology that it is literally impossible not to step tens of thousands of years back into time. The unique majesty of Petra, the Roman splendor of Jerash, and the elegant Omayyad fortress-palaces scattered in the eastern desert are only a few of the major attractions. And in addition to a splendid wealth of ancient cities, castles, Christian churches, and mosaic masterpieces, the landscape offers some of the most breathtaking vistas to be had anywhere on earth.
This 14-day trip has been designed to give you an appreciation of the country and its compelling history. The itinerary includes several highlights, including two full days at Petra, the marvelous repository of Nabataean culture and a UNESCO World Heritage Site; explorations of latest discoveries in the eastern desert; Bronze Age shrines found in Wadi Rum; a private tour of the Temple of the Winged Lions in Petra; a cooking lesson and dine on our creations; and ACOR, the American Center of Oriental Research where we will enjoy cocktails with the director and a private tour of collections, including the intriguing Petra Scrolls.
In 1974 while a highway was being built, workers uncovered remarkable archaeological remains. The site was named ‘Ain Ghazal. During excavations, Gary Rollefson and his team found numerous figurines that dated back to between 8500 and 9200 years ago, before the development of pottery. But the most extraordinary discovery were two caches deliberately buried beneath the floor of long-abandoned houses. Inside were more than two dozen large plaster and reed statues, some with two heads. The statues are among the earliest large-scale representations of the human form. The tallest of them is almost three feet high. Their disproportionately large heads display prominent eyes and staring irises. Scholars believe they may represent the ancestors of community members. They are regarded to be among the most remarkable specimens of prehistoric art from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period.
Depart on an overnight flight bound for for Amman, Jordan.
Arrive Amman. Overnight for two nights at the Al Qasr Metropole Hotel. Dinner is on our own.
Nestled in a green and fertile valley in the biblical land of Gilead, the remains of Jerash are impressive. Stroll along the city’s colonnaded streets and through ancient marketplaces, and visit imposing theaters sitting beside Roman, Christian and Muslim houses of worship. Return to Amman after lunch and enjoy a driving tour of the city landscape.
In the late afternoon, go to the American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR), where the director (if available) will host us with cocktails and a private tour including seeing the Petra Scrolls. Our welcome dinner is in one of Amman’s excellent restaurants. (B/L/D)
Today travel east of Amman along ancient desert tracks to explore several dazzling Umayyad palaces. Qasr al-Hallabat began as a Roman fort and ended as a luxurious country estate under the Umayyads. Nearby is its bathhouse, Hammam al-Sarah, constructed of fine limestone. Crafted of the area’s black basalt, Azraq Castle is located in an oasis and takes advantage of the important strategic position of the region’s four springs. The fortress was probably begun in the second century AD by the Romans, and was still in use when T. E. Lawrence used it as a base in the winter of 1917-18. The UNESCO World Heritage site of Qasr Amra is a well-preserved desert castle that was both a fortress and a residence of the Umayyad caliphs. The hamman (bath house) and audience hall of this small pleasure palace are richly decorated with charming, vividly painted frescoes. Overnight in the Azraq Lodge in Azraq. (B/L/D)
Our excursion in four-wheel drive vehicles will take us further into the eastern desert to the Ghura al-Qattafi mesas. Here, Professor Rollefson has found hundreds of tombs and monumental structures dedicated to powerful personalities among the prehistoric people who exploited the region between 6,500 and 2,500 BC. While here, we will gain insights into the development of the ritual and economic aspects of a lifestyle that eventually developed into the historic cultural patterns of the desert herders of the Bedouin today. On our afternoon return to Amman, we visit the lonely desert caravansary of Qasr al-Kharaneh, the most complete of the Umayyad castles, along the way. The steep walls rising abruptly from the flat plain create a feeling of strength, and archaeological excavations show that the building was used as an elegant overnight stop by camel caravans coming from the Arabian Gulf. Overnight back at the Al Qasr Metropole Hotel. (B/L/D)
Today is filled with history. Madaba was inhabited for nearly 3,500 years, and contains a most impressive work of art to survive from the mid-6th century – a mosaic map of Palestine. One of Jordan’s most significant and impressive historical sites, Shobak Castle is an early 12th-century fortification that was one in the great chain of ramparts that stretched from today’s Turkey to Israel. Um ar-Rasas, another UNESCO World Heritage site, contains ruins from the Roman, Byzantine, and early Muslim civilizations. The most important discovery is the perfectly preserved mosaic floor of the Church of St. George, the largest one in Jordan. Continue to Petra, with a stop at Mt. Nebo, where we overnight for five nights at the Petra Luxury Hotel, conveniently located at the entrance to the site. Gather for dinner together in one of Petra’s excellent restaurants. (B/L/D)
One of the marvels of the Classical World, Petra offers much more than stunning antiquities. Within a 25-mile radius are an exceptional array of monuments and entire settlements that span the last 9,000 years of human civilization. We begin at Beidha, a village that was inhabited between 7,000-6,500 BC, and is included in Petra’s UNESCO World Heritage status. The community constructed round houses of stone masonry and fortified the settlement with an encircling wall. Occupants cultivated barley and emmer wheat, herded goats, hunted for wild animals, and gathered wild plants. Nearby is “Little Petra”, or Siq al-Barid, where high sandstone walls within the narrow gorge keep the multi-story houses and temples cool. After walking through a miniature siq, a splendid collection of tombs, temples, houses, and staircases will appear. The afternoon is on our own to explore the village of Wadi Musa, where Petra is located, or unwind in the hotel swimming pool. This evening, enjoy a cooking lesson and then dine on our creations. (B/L/D)
Our full day takes us past the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, of T. E. Lawrence fame, to Wadi Rum, with UNESCO World status. This valley’s combination of immensity, richness of color, and awesome shapes creates an atmosphere that is other worldly. While here we will view a Nabatean temple, ancient rock art, and Bronze Age shrines discovered by Dr. Rollefson. Our lunch will be served to us under a Bedouin tent. Return to Petra. Dinner is on our won. (B/L)
Early this morning, walk through the siq, the fissure that is the gateway to the splendid UNESCO World Heritage site of Petra. Inhabited since prehistoric times, the prosperity of this Nabataean city was due to the trade routes that passed through the region. An important crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean, it is renowned for its iconic rock-cut façades, dramatic and elaborate tomb and temple architecture. The visible remains of water channelization, with tunnels and diversion dams which controlled and conserved seasonal rains, along with magnificent temples and churches, demonstrate the importance of this ancient town.
Our first view of the rose-red City is the dazzling Al-Khazneh Farun, or Pharaoh’s Treasury, carved out of the sandstone rock face facing the entrance to the city. Believed to have been the mausoleum of a Nabatean king. the tomb’s Hellenistic style reflects the influence of Alexandria. Walk along the Street of the Facades and view the magnificent tombs, theatre, markets, the Petra Church with its glorious mosaics, and the still being excavated Great Temple that was probably dedicated to the main Nabataean Goddess Al-Uzza, the consort of the Chief God, Dushara. If onsite, enjoy a private tour with ACOR archaeologists at the Temple of the Winged Lions. Dinner is on our own to enjoy one of Wadi Musa’s local restaurants. (B/L)
Today is for the hardy as we ascend into the more remote areas of Petra. The hike is worthwhile for the breathtaking views over Petra along with seeing the riches of Nabatean architecture. Begin in Qasr al-Bint Temple, dating from the time of Christ and surrounded by a peribolos, or enclosure wall. The sacrificial altar in front, once covered with marble, suggests that this was the main place of worship in the Nabataean city. Walk past the Unfinished Tomb and the Columbarium, a former tomb. Further up are the Lion Triclinium guarded by two feline reliefs, and Qattar ad-Deir, the Nabataeans’ water source. Our goal is the High Place, with views overlooking the city. In the afternoon, another stairway takes us to Ed Deir, the Monastery, to view a temple with the largest façade carved at Petra before returning to our hotel. This evening we will drive into the desert to feast on zarb, a traditional Bedouin meal of delicious roasted lamb cooked in a hand-built mud oven. (B/L/D)
This morning we will return to Amman with a stop at Bani Hamida House, home to a Bedouin women’s craft project that has revived traditional Bedouin rug weaving. Using home-made ground looms and wooden spindles, the project rejuvenated the unique warp-faced flat weave in pure wool, along with the colors and particular designs representing Jordan’s unrivalled traditional rug making.
In the afternoon, we venture west of Amman to Wadi as-Seer, one of the most attractive valleys in Jordan and containing Qasr al-Abd, the Palace of the Slave. Built over 2,000 years ago, the beautifully decorated two-story stone structure is a rare example of Hellenistic architecture in Jordan. After returning to the Al Qasr Metropole Hotel, our home for three nights, dinner is on our own. (B/L)
Amman’s Citadel sits on the highest hill and dominates today’s city of Amman. Occupied in the early Neolithic, and fortified during the Bronze Age, the remains visible today are from Roman and early Islamic times. The 8th century Umayyad Palace was probably used as an administrative center and governor’s residence. The great Temple of Hercules was built between 162-166 AD. Larger than any temple in Rome it was dedicated to the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius in the 2nd-century. Learn of the Roman city while viewing the amphitheater that seats 6,000 people and the restored odeon. At the National Archaeological Museum, the Dead Sea Scrolls found in 1952 are one of the most important exhibits as are the unique figures found at ‘Ain Ghazal by Dr. Rollefson. We will also visit the new National Museum. Gather this evening for our final dinner party in one of Amman’s finest restaurants. (B/L/D)
One of the best-preserved examples of medieval Arab military architecture in the Middle East is the 12th-century Ajlun Castle. Built between 1184 and 1188 by one of Saladin’s generals, it was an important strategic link in the defensive chain against the Crusaders. Explore the fortress before driving to the dramatically located ancient city, Umm Qais, perched on a high plain overlooking the Jordan Valley and the Sea of Galilee. The site of the ancient Greco-Roman city of Gadara, it was a member of the Decapolis. Pella was also one of ten Decapolis cities that were founded during the Hellenistic period and became powerful under Roman jurisdiction. Excavations have revealed evidence of 6000 years of continuous settlement from the Stone Age to medieval Islamic times. We will see mud-brick houses and defense walls dating from the Bronze and Iron age, and later remains from the Roman, Byzantine, and early Islamic periods. (B/L/D)
Transfer to the airport for our return flight home. (B)
Price is based on double occupancy and includes:
Trip prices are based on a minimum number of participants. If this minimum number is not met, trip prices are subject to change. Should the prices need to change, Far Horizons will reach out to registered guests to discuss directly.
Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement must be charged.
As a tour company that benefits from the cultural and natural riches of our destinations, we have a policy of donating to the scientific and cultural sites and projects which we visit. This has created a bond between Far Horizons and the academic and local communities that has helped us establish an extensive list of lecturers and contacts in each of our destinations. We ask that each participant donate to the noteworthy project we designate. The donation amount is $150.00 per person. Note that the donation is required as part of your registration for the trip and that it is non-refundable.
Prices are based on currency exchange rates keeping below a projected level. While it is unlikely, if the exchange rates should change substantially, Far Horizons reserves the right to charge an additional amount to the trip cost.
A deposit of $1000 per person is required along with your registration & health forms, which will be linked in the email confirmation you receive once you pay your deposit on our booking platform. Final payment is due 120 days before departure. Prior to departure, you will be sent a reading list and a tour bulletin containing travel information.
Cancellations received in writing at least 120 days before departure will receive a refund less a $500 per person administrative fee. Cancellations received less than 120 days before the departure date will not receive a refund. If for any reason you are unable to complete the trip, Far Horizons will not reimburse any fees. Upon registering for the tour, the purchase of travel protection with both trip cancellation and emergency evacuation is strongly advised. Links to recommended insurance policies will be included in the email you receive confirming receipt of your deposit.
International round trip flights are not included in the cost of the trip. If Far Horizons must change the trip dates or cancel the trip for any reason, Far Horizons is not responsible for any air ticket you may have purchased. Please send your complete air schedule as soon as you have it. NOTE: Please contact Far Horizons if you would like for us to handle your air ticketing.
The private tours of archaeological sites and talks by specialists are scheduled in advance and include a donation to each. Specialists working at these sites are excited about showing their work to interested enthusiasts. However, please be aware that there may be times when the director or a member of the staff may not be on site when our groups arrive due to other commitments.
Far Horizons expects all participants to be physically active and able to walk and climb independently throughout the full touring days. This includes walking over uneven terrain (uphill and downhill) for 2 miles or more at each site. You should expect to be on your feet for much of each day, averaging as much as 5 miles of walking per day. As such, each participant should be able to walk unaided at a pace of 3 miles per hour for at least an hour at a time, and to stand unsupported for at least 60 minutes. Bearing this in mind, we suggest that, if you have not already done so, you begin walking several miles every day, ideally including stairs and hills. If you have questions about your ability to keep up with the group or the strenuous nature of this trip, please contact the Far Horizons staff.
This tour is designed for flexible, energetic people who like to be active, have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. We have designed this trip to be as comfortable as possible, while also aiming to visit some remote or unique sites that other companies do not attempt to include in their itineraries. There may be days where we have very long drives and the conditions of the roads may vary. Hotels and transportation in some remote areas may not be up to western standards. There may be times when no bellhops are available; please pack with the understanding that you need to be able to handle your own luggage at times. At times we may be walking over uneven trails for a mile or more; hiking boots are strongly recommended. Not every meal will not be haute cuisine and several lunches may be picnics or box lunches. By maintaining a flexible attitude we will soon be captivated by the beauty of the natural scenery, the hospitality of the local people, and the fascinating sites we will see. Your flexibility and patience will be appreciated.
Changes in our itinerary, accommodations, and transportation schedules may occur. While we are committed to keeping as close to the published details as possible, sometimes it is simply not possible. Weather events, government affairs, or other factors out of our control sometimes come into play. A good book to read as well as patience, flexible attitude, and a sense of humor are essential.