Hikers, bikers, and climbers looking to experience the most remote and challenging landscapes in the world head to Jordan, the jewel of the Middle East. Once there, the best 50-mile trek in this biologically diverse country — and one of National Geographic’s 15 best hikes in the world — is the hike from the Dana Biosphere Reserve to Petra.
Dana Biosphere Reserve
Encompassing 109 square miles, the Dana Reserve is home to a wide range of plant and animal species, including 25 endangered species and three that are found nowhere else on the planet. The trek begins here, at an altitude of 4,900 feet on the Qadisiyah plateau with a clear view to the mountains of the Great Rift Valley on the horizon.
Just a few hours into the journey, the trail drops 2,000 feet and passes through all four of Jordan’s biozones. From lush green wadis to endless expanse of desert, the trip continues along old Bedouin trails, sheepherders’ paths, and hunting trails in some of the most remote parts of the country.
Across the desert and into the mountains
This is generally about a 6-day trip. The terrain varies radically from day to day, and includes some rough climbing, long stretches through desert, and camping under the brilliant desert stars. As you make your way toward your destination, you’ll share tea with local Bedouins, feast on food cooked underground in the traditional tagine style, and probably see more goats and camels than other travelers.
After crossing the wide desert expanse of the grueling Wadi Araba, you’ll climb once again into the Sharah Mountains. The soaring gorges and spectacular views here make it a hiker’s heaven. You’ll find a lush landscape blooming with oleander, 500 year old junipers and finally, a well-deserved rest at a mountain oasis.
Days of travel through this remarkable, isolated terrain create a rare level of mystic intensity. Anticipation builds when the landscape changes once again. Rock formations are now rounded rather than jagged, and hidden deep in the canyons below is your destination — the ancient city of Petra.
Winding your way through narrow gorges, your first sight of Petra is breathtaking. A World Heritage Site and arguably one of the most visited archaeological sites in the world, the rose-colored sandstone walls of this mythic city are carved out of the mountains themselves, emerging from the canyon walls like a strange dream landscape.
The Nabatean Arabs carved this city out of solid rock over 2,000 years ago. Unique in its location and its astonishingly ornate design, much of Petra remains underground, and new discoveries are still being made.
Truly one of the new Wonders of the World, the city of Petra is an amazing destination and an experience of a lifetime on its own. But to reach Petra at the end of an epic adventure through the wildest regions of Jordan — that’s an adventure trek like no other on earth.
Photos Credit: Dennis Jarvis