Dana Biosphere Reserve is one of Jordan’s hidden gems. The focal point is the charming 15th-century stone village of Dana, which dangles beneath the King’s Highway on a precipice, commanding exceptional views of the valley below. The reserve extends to the valley floor, the centre point of which is the reserve's famed Feynan Ecolodge. For wildlife enthusiasts it's a must, but it is also a wonderful place to spend a few days hiking or simply relaxing en route along the King's Highway.
The reserve is the largest in Jordan and includes a variety of terrain, from sandstone cliffs over 1700m high near Dana to a low point of 50m below sea level in Wadi Araba. Sheltered within the red-rock escarpments are protected valleys that are home to surprisingly diverse ecosystems. About 600 species of plants (ranging from citrus trees and juniper to desert acacias and date palms) thrive in the reserve, together with 180 species of birds. Over 45 species of mammals (25 of which are endangered) also inhabit the reserve, including caracal, increasing herds of ibex, mountain gazelles, sand cats, red foxes and wolves. The installation of night traps has given reserve wardens a better understanding of the movement of these rarely spotted animals.
The best time to visit Dana is in the spring, when the hillsides bloom with flowers, or during the autumn, when the auburn foliage thins out, making it easier to spot wildlife. That said, while the winter can be bitterly cold in the upper part of the reserve (some of the trails will close), this is a good time to explore the Feynan area in the lower part of the reserve. Similarly, when it is sweltering in summer in the lower reaches of the wadi, there's seldom need of AC in Dana.
The visitor centre at Dana is the first port of call for a visit to the reserve, unless you are staying at the Rummana Campground. The ticket office closes at 3pm, so if you are planning a sunset hike make sure you arrive before then.