Finding Your Desert Oasis

While the rest of the Middle East boils, Jordan’s epic canyonlands are quiet—and empty

(Photo: Bashar Nabil Alaeddin)
desert feynan jordan night sky south travel travel middle east safety

Throughout the pandemic, we'll keep publishing news to help you navigate the state of travel today (like whether travel insurance covers the coronavirus), as well as stories about places for you to put on your bucket list once it's safe to start going more far-flung.

Location is everything. Which is why Jordan—long a hub for hiking, mountain biking, and exploring historical ruins and Bedouin culture—has seen a 22 percent drop in tourism since the tumult in neighboring Egypt and Syria began. But the Middle East has been rife with conflict for decades, and Jordan has remained calm. The Global Peace Index ranks Jordan above France and Argentina in key areas like security and the ­potential for violence. The upshot of the surrounding unrest is that you can have the sprawling, multicolored canyonlands of the Dana Biosphere Reserve—closer to Israel and Saudi Arabia than to Syria or Egypt—all to yourself. Explore it from the Feynan Ecolodge, a 26-room hotel that’s totally off-grid.

The lodge generates hot water through solar panels and is lit almost exclusively by candles. And because it has next to no light pollution, its outdoor patio and rooftop (the latter equipped with a ten-inch telescope) are perfect stargazing spots. Plus, Feynan offers daily, complimentary sunset hikes, and guests can book a guide for full-day excursions into the Dana’s slot canyons and Neolithic archaeological sites ($26). The guides are local Bedouins who know the area, and when you’re done they’ll cook up platters of makloubeh that are so rich, you won’t even notice they’re vegetarian.

Book your flight to Amman and reserve a ride in one of the lodge’s 4x4 pickups for the three-hour drive to Feynan. Deluxe rooms, $140.

68° high
48° low

Set out on foot or by truck for Petra, the famed city of ornate tombs carved into red sandstone canyons. The guided 41-mile, four-night trek traverses the Sharah Mountains on Bedouin shepherd trails. From $1,700.

Crib the secrets of making falafel and manakish, a type of flatbread, and stirring the right spices into lentil soup and tabbouleh with a Bedouin cooking class. $42.

Our mission to inspire readers to get outside has never been more critical. In recent years, Outside Online has reported on groundbreaking research linking time in nature to improved mental and physical health, and we’ve kept you informed about the unprecedented threats to America’s public lands. Our rigorous coverage helps spark important debates about wellness and travel and adventure, and it provides readers an accessible gateway to new outdoor passions. Time outside is essential—and we can help you make the most of it. Making a financial contribution to Outside Online only takes a few minutes and will ensure we can continue supplying the trailblazing, informative journalism that readers like you depend on. We hope you’ll support us. Thank you.
Contribute to Outside
From Outside Magazine, Jan 2014
Filed To: Asia
Lead Photo: Bashar Nabil Alaeddin
More Travel