Years ago my husband lived in Israel and he still has quite a bit of family there. When we got married we vowed to visit every two years. Our last visit was in May 2014 so we’re a year behind. Usually we visit his family in Jerusalem and then spend a week or so exploring the rest of Israel. This time we decided to go a little further and cross the border to Jordan to visit Petra. You know, the place from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Visiting Petra, one of the new 7 wonders of the world is no easy task. Below is my recap of my 2-day excursion to Petra & Wadi Rum using Desert Eco Tours.
Finding the Right Tour
I don’t know anyone who has been to Petra or Jordan for that matter. Where to start? Google of course. I was quickly overwhelmed. I like to do a lot of research before I do any traveling but when traveling overseas that’s kicked up a notch.
The main factor for me was safety. I wanted a tour company that had a great reputation for safety. From the guides they provide for the tour, to the hotels they recommend or book us in, safety is the number one factor. I’m willing to pay more for it. I also want comfort. There’s an option to stay outside at a Bedouin camp. We passed. When I say comfort I mean a hotel with air conditioning. We knew after a long day in the desert we would want 3 things: air conditioning, pool, and a bed. A glass of wine if available. Traveling with my husband’s Orthodox female cousin, it was important for us to use an Israeli tour company. There are several companies that offer tours and they all seemed to have their pluses and minuses. Luckily Rachelle, our cousin in Israel, offered to ask & call around for us. Desert Eco Tours, while a little more pricey than the others, came highly recommended so we went with them.
We decided on the 2-day Petra/Wadi Rum tour. Adding in the second day at Wadi Rum just made sense. Unfortunately cousin Rachelle had to bow out so I completed booking the trip with Liz from the tour company with absolutely no problem. All of Liz’s emails were so extremely detailed and informative that I never had any follow up questions. And yes she speaks and writes perfect English.
Visa Fees & Tips
You need a visa to enter Jordan. The visa costs $60 and there’s an additional $65 border tax you have to pay so the total border fee is $125 (or $131 if paying by credit card). However, if you spend 2 nights or more in Jordan then you get the visa for free. With the two of us, spending the night in Aqaba before our tour rather than Eilat saved us $120 in visa fees and the hotel was a heck of a lot cheaper than what we paid in Eilat. Staying 2 nights, you also receive a discounted entrance fee to Petra.
Bring small bills ($1s & $5s) in cash for tips. American dollars preferred. The Jordanians expect it and frankly they work hard for their tips.
Border Crossing – Aqaba
One of the main reasons we chose to cross the border to Jordan the night before our tour & stay in Aqaba was not just to avoid the additional border fees – we also wanted to sleep in! Leaving from an Eilat hotel would mean a 6:00 am pick up. Staying in Aqaba, our pick up time was 9:00 am. As they say online, it’s cheaper to stay in Aqaba than on the Israel side in Eilat. That’s 100% true. Even with the additional fee we paid to upgrade to the Hilton DoubleTree Aqaba, it was cheaper than what we paid for our hotel in Eilat.
Desert Eco Tour’s extremely helpful guides made crossing the border a breeze. They suggest you cross before the commuter rush hour times of 16:00-18:00 so we decided to cross at 15:00. When Desert Eco Tours says they handle everything, they mean it. We were picked up at our hotel right on time and driven right to the border. I’m blanking on our contact’s name but he was very nice. First he made sure we paid the remaining balance for the tour. Then he got all our paperwork together and walked us through as far as he could. No other people were crossing when we arrived.
Ahmad met us on the other side to help us with our paperwork and get us across safely. Ahmad was the nicest guy. We hit it off with him right away. Before he passed us off to Ala to drive us to the hotel, he asked us if we wanted to go out on the town later that night and if so then meet him in our hotel lobby at 20:00. When Ala dropped us off at the hotel, she said she’d see us later. Long story short we met up with Ahmad and Ala and they gave us a small tour of Aqaba. We closed out the night (morning actually) at a local bar playing pool with some of their friends until 2:00 am. If was one of the best nights I’ve had out with locals on the road. All the Jordanians I encountered were genuinely friendly & welcoming. And everyone speaks English.
The Hilton DoubleTree Aqaba is a lovely hotel in the middle of Aqaba.The service was good, the pool had great views of the Red Sea and the food was fantastic. Worth the upgrade in my opinion.
Petra – Day 1
Petra, also known as the the Ancient City of Petra or the Lost City of Petra is located approximately 2 hours from Aqaba. In 2007, Petra was named among the New 7 Wonders of the World. These days, it’s Jordan’s most visited tourist attraction.
During the 2 drive, our guide Ali started sharing the history of Petra. For the people who were awake at least. He talked the entire ride. Ali was great; not just knowledgeable but extremely personable and friendly. Like every other Jordanian I met. Desert Eco Tours keeps the groups small. We were a group of 15 or so coming from all over the world. The guide is with you from the time you arrive at Petra (approximately 11:00 am) through lunch at 15:00.
- Dress appropriate for the season in comfortable clothes & shoes.
- Bring cash for tips.
- Bring a hat and/or sunscreen.
- Bring water.
Petra is everything I though it would be and more. It’s overwhelmingly spectacular.
You enter the Lost City of Petra through the Siq. It’s pretty much a narrow gorge surrounded by tall cliff formations. The colors on the rocks alone are fascinating.
For those who don’t want to or can’t walk the half mile distance through the Siq, you can take a horse or a horse-drawn carriage. The horse is actually included with the tour but the tips that you are required to pay the Bedouins who run the operation make it not worth it.
There are camels and donkeys also available to ride throughout the city. If you don’t want to ride and just want a picture, you can pay for that too.
Lunch is included with the tour package. After lunch is where you say good-bye to the guide and you’re on your own. The buffet lunch at Petra was the only bad meal I had my entire trip. Not sure what the ‘MEAT’ they served actually was, but our group’s guess was donkey!
We chose not to take the 2 hour hike to The Monastery, stopping at the burials on our way back to the entrance instead.
While we heard from others in our tour that the hike to The Monastery was definitely worth it; there’s no way my husband’s bum hip (he competed in a triathlon the day before we left for Israel) could make it. Plus by then it was after 15:00 and still almost 100 degrees out. We were ready to call it a day. Maybe next trip.
After exiting the city, we had a maybe quarter-mile uphill walk to Desert Eco Tour’s Jordanian counterpart, Why Jordan Tours office for our ride back to our hotel. Once again, we chose to upgrade our hotel to stay at the Marriott Petra. It’s a beautiful hotel on the outskirts of the city. I had such a wonderful time there, if you’re looking to upgrade your lodging, I highly recommend choosing the Marriott.
Wadi Rum – Day 2
Wadi Rum aka The Valley of the Moon is a beautiful desert in Southern Jordan.
We were picked up from our hotel promptly at 9:00 am for the 2 hour drive to Wadi Rum. For this portion of the tour, our group went from 15 people to 6. Upon arrival in Wadi Rum we were introduced to our Bedouin guide Ahmad and off we went in our open-air truck.
Several movies have been filmed in Wadi Rum including Lawrence of Arabia, The Martian, Red Planet and Transformers. It definitely looked like Mars from what I’ve seen.
99% of my pics of Wadi Rum are of rocks and miles of desert. While each pic means something to me, I’ll spare you the pain of having to scroll past them. Most of the time we were in the back of the truck being driven through the desert by Ahmad. It was amazing.
Ahmad was a very nice young Bedouin man of few words. After a long day in the desert, he made us a homemade Bedouin lunch. I’m not sure what it was, I think some sort of bean, but it was delicious. Or I was hungry. Probably a little bit of both.
After a long day in the desert, we were greeted by our old friend Ahmad (from Aqaba not our Bedouin guide) who assisted us with getting back across the border. From there Dorit from Desert Eco Tours picked us up and dropped us off at our hotel in Eilat.
Wow oh wow. I cannot rave about my visit to Jordan enough. Talk about experiences of a lifetime. Every single Jordanian I encountered was beyond friendly. Thank you to Desert Eco Tours for helping make an experience of a lifetime so memorable. I traveled to Jordan with the thought that this would be it and I would probably never go back. I now know this is not true. I will 100% go back to Jordan. If anything, I look forward to seeing my friends Ala & Ahmad again.
This is not a sponsored post, just my opinions.