Known for its adventurous itineraries to places like Petra, Jordan is also a place where you can build a trip that allows you to experience the buzz of Amman before heading to unwind and relax in places like Wadi Rum and the Dead Sea.
Fashion designer Tania George shows you how to unwind in her Jordan.
Born and raised in Amman, Jordan, I launched a seasonless fashion company in 2016 dedicated to telling stories about Jordan through clothes. It’s a playful brand that highlights hidden gems of everyday life in Jordan.
Why you should unwind in Jordan
It’s always fun to come to Jordan. You will for sure have new experiences and learn so much about our beautiful culture. Our people are some of the most hospitable on the planet and it’s super fun to interact with them. You’ll also taste some of the most delicious food you’ll ever try…so get ready to eat. A lot.
City: Start in Amman
Amman is my home, and there is so much history and culture here. You can find Roman ruins nestled among a totally modern city, with tons of restaurants, shops and galleries to explore.
Experience the cultural scene by visiting Darat al Funun (“the House of Art”), which has a great atmosphere and amazing art by Middle Eastern artists in its gallery.
As a designer, I love to shop at Amman’s many boutiques. It’s a great way to take a unique souvenir back home while supporting a local business.
Check out Soap House, home to Trinitae, my favorite Jordanian natural cosmetics and Dead Sea salts brand, which is run by a third generation of makers. The house is a landmark of old Amman, and an absolute pleasure to visit. The interior is beautiful, and the garden is relaxing and lovely.
Another of my recommendations is a boutique called Reverie, where you’ll find brightly colored, locally made wares with custom embroidery.
Make sure to get lost in the downtown vegetable market, where you can discover all of the fresh, local ingredients chefs here use. This is a great representation of Amman as you can find everything here. During pomegranate season, you’ll see the fresh, bright red fruit everywhere. My tip if you’re having trouble navigating the chaos: book a shopping cart to help you carry your purchases while you shop.
To me, home cooking is the best. Lucky for you, you can actually experience my mom’s recipes at her restaurant, called Najla. Eating here is truly like being invited into a Jordanian’s living room. Come hungry – and order all the mezes.
Another choice for Jordanian comfort food is Sufra, where you’ll find a beautiful garden and hearty fare.
Want to get your hands dirty and cook a four-course Jordanian meal? My sister offers classes at Beit Sitti, where you can get to know our country better through its flavors and tastes.
Desert: Disconnecting in Wadi Rum
Wadi Rum is one of my favorite places on Earth. It’s always an adventure driving there: it can be a bumpy ride, but I think it is so much fun. The desert is dry and hot, so make sure to pack provisions to keep cool and hydrated.
There’s no cell service or frills in Wadi Rum, which means it’s the perfect place to unwind, reflect and get creative. I think looking at all the colors surrounding you can rewire your brain.
You truly feel like you are on another planet here – so it probably is not surprising the landscape has served as a backdrop for movies like The Martian, Dune and Aladdin (to name just a few).
While a lot of people come to Wadi Rum on a day trip, it can be soul-changing to spend the night out here.
I love it so much out here that my friends and I built our own campsite. Called Gamra, we built it hand in hand with the native Bedouins who have lived here for thousands of years. This is a unique place that encourages you to get grounded and absorb nature.
Sunset is my favorite part of the day. We found a spot that nobody seemed to know about. We’re always alone out here and it is always magical.
After sunset, the desert creates the perfect backdrop for connecting with friends and the local Bedouins that call this land their home. When the darkness settles in, you’ll be able to look up and see galaxies you would never see against city lights.
Sea: Unwind near the water
On the Red Sea, Aqaba is dear to my heart because I’ve been coming here since I was a kid. The water is always warm and clear: a fun way to cool off for the afternoon.
The glass-bottomed boats that set out on the water are affordable and always a party. For an elevated experience, book a place aboard Ayla Resort’s Trident, which is stocked with towels, flippers and masks so you can jump in and enjoy the sea.
For even more indulgence, visiting the Dead Sea is a must. At 1414ft (431m) below sea level, this is the lowest point on Earth – and it’s super calming. Since biblical times, this has been a place for people to heal. The drive to get to the Dead Sea through the narrow canyons is scenic as it brings you toward the blue water.
The Dead Sea is nature’s spa. Hop in the water and you’ll naturally rise to the top, floating effortlessly. Lather yourself with mud, wait 15 minutes then rinse for an exfoliating treatment.
I suggest unwinding at the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar’s Dead Sea Spa. Enjoy a Thai massage or facial – or just post up at the pool and watch the sunset.
So come to experience the excitement of the city. Take in the spectacular beauty of the desert. Relax at the sea. Jordan is my home – and it welcomes you with open arms.
Want to head to Jordan but wish there was someone to plan this out for you? Let Lonely Planet’s sister company Elsewhere take away some of the stress of planning by connecting you with the best local expert to craft your dream trip.