We leave London for Amman, on a scheduled flight with Royal Jordanian. On arrival we transfer to our hotel in Amman. Those not travelling with the group from London will join us in Amman in the evening.
There is free time to relax this morning before heading south to the Dead Sea for a 'float' in the thick saline waters. We then head to Madaba where we spend the afternoon. Known as 'The City of Mosaics', Madaba is best known for its spectacular 6th century mosaic map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land.We will stop at Mt Nebo on the way, believed to be the spot where Moses was shown the 'promised land'.
Today we have a spectacular drive down the King's Highway, which winds its way up and down many wadis. We stop en route at Kerak, a castle that was hugely important in Crusader times. We then head south to reach Jordan's premier historical site and one of the world's most outstanding ancient cities, Petra.
The whole day is spent here at Petra, the 'Rose-red city, half as old as time'. The city was hidden for centuries until the Swiss explorer Burkhardt made his great discovery in 1812. Petra was founded by the Nabateans, an Arab tribe which arrived here in the 6th century BC and is an incredible site to explore. Building at Petra began in the 3rd century BC and continued through the Roman period, financed by taxes levied on the desert caravans. Two features of Petra are unique: firstly, it is a city made defensible by being built down a series of chasms, rather than on a hilltop. Secondly, it is built directly into the rock - beautiful red and yellow sandstone carved into the most impressive facades which glow in the brilliant sunlight. To enter mystical Petra we must begin by walking down the siq, the narrow chasm which is the only entrance to the city, we come out directly in front of El Khazneh, the Treasury. (Please note that due to current Jordanian group regulations the journey to the siq on horseback is part of the ticket price - it costs US$10 and is included in the price). It is possible to walk this short section for those who would prefer but the cost of the ride is part of the entrance fee and therefore cannot be refunded. Continuing to the centre of the city, we pass the houses and tombs of the rich citizens and the amphitheatre. A long walk beyond the centre is El Deir, the monastery, with its superb facade topped by a huge urn (the walk up is by a series of steps). Included in this day is an informative guided tour to provide background and historical information about this incredible site before leaving time for individual exploration.
We now join the modern desert highway and make our way to Wadi Rum, a stretch of beautiful sand and rock desert. This is where Lawrence of Arabia and Prince Faisal assembled the Arab tribes for the attack on Aqaba in the First World War and also where sections of the film of 'Lawrence of Arabia' were shot. Night skies can be spectacular here and we take a four-wheeled drive vehicle far into the desert for an exciting desert adventure. We camp here for the night after enjoying the unique hospitality of a Bedouin family at a semi permanent campsite and we experience the desert at its best.
Day 6 - 7
Beyond Wadi Rum, the road drops sharply through dramatic scenery to Aqaba, Jordan's port and holiday resort, famous for some of the most beautiful coral reefs to be found anywhere in the world. Over the next two days we have time to lounge on the beach, swim, go snorkelling around the coral or relax by the pool in the hotel. There are several good restaurants in Aqaba for evening meals too. Your leader will be able to advise you on which are the best private beaches to visit as the public beaches generally do not have as many facilities.
Today we drive back to Amman. It is a fairly long drive, but for those with enough energy it is possible to take a taxi from Amman to explore Jerash, one of the ten wealthy, self-governing cities of the Decapolis or visit the Bethany-Beyond the Jordan, where Jesus was said to have been baptized.