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Thru-hike the 400-mile Jordan Trail: “The Inca Trail of the Middle East”

Jordan is a staggeringly beautiful country. It’s vast, rugged, and otherworldly — all reason why its valleys are so often the set of blockbuster movies like The Martian, Lawrence of Arabia, and Prometheus. Now, adventure travelers have a brand new way to explore the entire country from tip to tip: by thru-hiking it.

Though segments of the 400-mile trail have existed for decades, the official “Jordan Trail” was announced earlier this year and is already being called the “Inca Trail of the Middle East.” It’s the most epic, most ambitious trail in the region, stretching from Umm Quais in the north, passed 52 villages (including well-known Wadi Rum and Petra), before terminating at the Red Sea in the south. The 40-day hike was inspired by Petra’s architects, the Nabataeans, who used the route primarily for the spice trade. It follows King’s Highway (a trade route mentioned in the Bible), plus ancient Roman roads.

the jordan trail
The Jordan Trail/Facebook Image used with permission by copyright holder

It’s an arduous trek for sure. Listed as “challenging,” hikers must often brave 105°F midday temperatures and steep ascents of more than 3,000 feet per day. The country’s diverse terrain adds another degree of difficulty as it crosses a range of landscapes including its famous wadis (valleys), desert sands, olive groves, and hot springs. For those without the time or means to thru-hike the Jordan Trail’s entire length, there are a few shorter options. The 55-mile stretch that connects Wadi Rum to Petra is among the most popular. This five-day alternative was a favorite for Lawrence of Arabia as it provided a great “sampler” of the best of Jordan including stargazing in the desert, cliff hiking, mountain scrambles, and Bedouin camps.

The mainstream media often unjustly lumps Jordan with other Middle Eastern countries where turmoil and terrorism are a concern for travelers. With the debut of this trail, the country is hoping to reshape foreign impressions of its safety, beauty, and potential. Jordan Trail Association President, Muna Haddad, noted, “the Jordan Trail is what the Middle East needs: a tourism experience that allows its visitors to get to know the genuine kindness and hospitality of a place that has been misrepresented in the media.”

Start planning your epic thru-hike of the Jordan Trail at JordanTrail.org.

Mike Richard
Mike Richard has traveled the world since 2008. He's kayaked in Antarctica, tracked endangered African wild dogs in South…
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