Carleton, Scarlet, and I recently spent ten maginificent days touring the country of Jordan. From wandering the green north of Jerash, to luxuriating at the Dead Sea, to unplugging in Wadi Rum, to exploring the wonders of Petra, to relaxing at the balmy red sea of Aqaba – we had the experience of a lifetime. I’d like to share some highlights of our trip with you, and suggest the perfect Jordan itinerary for families with kids…
A Jordan Itinerary for Families with Kids
If you missed our video of the Top 15 Things for Families To Do in Jordan, you may want to take a look here.
Traveling in Jordan is both safe and quite easy. I recommend hiring a tour guide and a driver, this way you will be able to experience the country with context and free yourself from worrying about most logistics. Once you are in Jordan you can tour the whole country in ten days give or take. The best driver in all of Jordan is Ibrahem Hamoud, and the best tour guide in all of Jordan is Ibrahim Semrin – you can contact him at semrini(at)yahoo(dot)com, or you can visit the Jordan Tourism department at VisitJordan.com, and they will assist you in planning your ideal trip. You can also follow them on twitter @VisitJordan or on Facebook. But before you get into all of that, let me just give you the scoop on the perfect Jordan itinerary for families with kids.
You’ll start your journey in Amman. I recommend spending one full day here at the start of your trip, and a half day at the end. We stayed at the Landmark Amman, which is a good starting and ending point for your journey. Start your visit to Amman at the stunning Blue Mosque.
You’ll find that Jordanian people adore children. Everywhere we went people would offer assistance, they had such patience for normal child shenanigans, and you could just see the joy in their eyes. I can’t express to you strongly enough how overwhelming this sense of the value of family is in Jordan. This is our guide Ibrahem, whom Scarlet ADORES.
On your way out of Amman, stop at Mount Nebo to look across the valley at the promised land as Moses once did. You’ll see the Jordan river, Jericho, the Dead Sea, and on a clear day, all the way to Jerusalem.
The most luxurious part of your visit will be an overnight at Ma’in Hot Springs Six Senses Resort and Spa. Do not miss this. Here is a picture from the hotel of the spa, nestled in the valley.
Book your spa treatment in advance, cause it’s kind of heartbreaking to be there and find out all the appointments are already booked (sigh), but just swimming in the springs is amazing. There’s also a playground for the kids and lots of easy hiking paths. We had such a blast here.
The next day, you should drive to Petra. Spend the afternoon at Little Petra. This site is so peaceful and wonderful, and it’s great for children – less crowded and easier to scramble around the dwellings and tombs.
That evening, take a cooking class at Petra Kitchen. The whole family can join in and you’ll meet travelers from all over the world. A wonderful way to spend an evening, and I even brought the recipes home and have been making them!
In Petra, stay at the Moevenpick. Unfortunately I did not get many pictures of the inside of this hotel, but it is breathtaking. I want this chandelier. This hotel also has a lovely pool, which is ideal for the family after you’ve spent the day in the dusty heat.
Spend a full day at Petra. If you were traveling without children, I’d suggest staying longer, but one full day (two nights) is perfect for families. Petra is HUGE, so if you are with small kids, I recommend renting the horse and carriage at the entrance. It will carry you to the treasury (about a mile walk), but more importantly, it will meet you there later at a time you set, to carry you back. You’ll be glad at the end of the day.
From Petra, head to Wadi Rum. This valley is stunning, with desert sands and rocky peaks. Stay at Captain’s Desert Camp, where you’ll sleep in a tent and unplug for the night.
We stayed at the Intercontinental Aqaba, which I highly recommend because it has an expansive children’s pool, a beautiful beach, and a Kids Club where you can drop your tot while you head out for a romantic dinner. They had a pajama party the night we were there!
We left Aqaba and headed to Feynan Eco Lodge in the Dana nature preserve. This lodge is lovely – luxury accomodations but no electricity. Eating by candlelight and staring at the stars in the middle of the quiet desert – well, it’s amazing. however, there’s not much to do in Dana other than hike and enjoy the wildlife, so I’d suggest waiting until your kids are older and can hike and play outdoors without becoming too exhausted. But at the same time, we had two of the highlights of our trip in Dana. One was getting to see, through a telescope on the roof in the evening, the most spectacular clear view of the surface of the moon and of Saturn. Scarlet still talks about when she saw the moon in Jordan.
The other amazing part of this night, was experiencing Bedouin hospitality. Our nature guide, Saluman, lives in this area in a traditional Bedouin home, which is a tent made of goat-wool textiles. He invited us over so Scarlet could meet baby goats (“mommy! They are called KIDS just like me!). His family invited us into their home and served us Arabic tea and candies. We had the MOST amazing time. I would have loved to share pictures with you, but it’s not polite to photograph Bedouin families, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Next you will want to spend a day with the Zikra Initiative. You will learn local skills and crafts with the women of Jordan. This was very special for Scarlet and I. Here I am attempting to learn to make Shrak – a traditional bread that is tossed until very thin and cooked over a fire on what looks like an upside down wok.
Take your obligatory floating-in-the-sea picture. We stayed at the Holiday Inn, which was wonderful if not super luxurious.
I was surprised by how much the Dead Sea stings! I guess it makes sense. Scarlet had a cut on her toe so she was all about heading back to the kid’s pool. I had a Dead Sea mud wrap and I will tell you that stuff is MAGICAL. I swear I lost at least five pounds of pure water weight in one hour, and I felt like a million bucks afterwards.
From the Dead Sea we drove North, past Amman, to see Jerash. The north of Jordan is so green, it’s a definite change of pace from the rest of the country. I found Jerash fascinating, but it’s a bit heavy on the history/hiking for a four-year-old. Luckily, the day we visited Aljoun and Jerash was also national girls’ school field trip day. Girls were everyone goofing around and having a blast, and you would have thought Scarlet was Miley Cyrus from the attention she was getting and pictures they all took.
On our last night in Amman, we were invited by Ibrahem to visit his family at home and eat the national dish of Jordan, mansaf. Mansaf is served on a large tray, with a piece of shrak covered in rice and meat (we had chicken), then covered with a sauce made of Jameed, which is a dehydrated yogurt, and sprinkled with almonds and pine nuts. IT IS DELICIOUS! Scarlet wolfed it down, and now I am headed to my local Arabic market to hunt down some jameed and make this at home.
I hope that you will consider taking your family to visit Jordan. This country is the ideal place to experience the middle east in a safe environment with modern amenities and a strong tourism infrastructure. Seeing my daughter try new foods, hearing her say “thank you” in arabic (“shokran”), and feeling her little heart grow as her worldview expanded exponentially in just a matter of days – well, it was life changing, for my husband and I, and certainly for her. I wish you all such magical experiences!