Canyoning

The central part of Jordan is riven with wadis and canyons, some only coming alive during a flash flood and others home to permanent watercourses that push their way through the rocky landscape to the Dead Sea. Along the way the presence of water creates beautiful semi-tropical oases of palms, oleander and ferns. Often hidden from the road, these secret gardens are one of the treasures of Jordan.

While the most spectacular canyons (such as those of the lower Wadi Mujib) are protected and made safely accessible by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN), there's nothing to stop a visitor from exploring other canyons off the beaten track. The Upper Hidan Gorge and Wadi Zarqa Ma'in near Madaba, together with Wadi Ibn Hammad and Wadi Labun near Karak, offer a range of outdoor adventures, from casual splashing through shallow pools to technical routes involving abseiling and swimming across deep pools with points of no return.

It's worth bearing in mind with any veering off the beaten track in Jordan that canyoning is not yet an established sport here and you're more likely to bump into shepherds than fellow adventurers. You must be self-sufficient and aware of the potential dangers.

To go it alone, the essential companion for canyoning is the widely available Jordan: Walks, Treks, Caves, Climbs & Canyons, by Di Taylor and Tony Howard (4th edition 2007). For escorted trips (recommended, given the unpredictability of flash flooding), contact the RSCN (www.rscn.org.jo) at Wadi Mujib or Dana, Feynan Ecolodge, or Black Iris Hotel or Mariam Hotel in Madaba.

The Jordan Trail: Three Wadis to Karak

  • Distance 75km
  • Duration Four days

This is one of the most scenically dramatic legs of the Jordan Trail, as it involves traversing three of the great canyons that bisect the country and reveal its geological history as the uppermost tip of the Great Rift Valley.

The trek begins in Wadi Zarqa Ma'in, which you ascend to enjoy views of the Dead Sea, before crossing the gorgeous Wadi Hidan, where there's the chance to bathe in its waterfalls. The second day sees you climbing the gorge to hike to Wadi Mujib, which at nearly 1km deep is the most spectacular of Jordan's canyons. You'll overnight near the river at the bottom, before rising the next day for the stiff half-day hike back to the plateau and eventually the rim of Wadi Ibn Hammad. From here, the final day is a relatively easy stroll, crossing the King's Highway and concluding at Karak under the imposing gaze of its Crusader castle.

The Three Wadis hike is probably the most physically challenging stage of the Jordan Trail, as the days are particularly long, with some steep descents and climbs. It's wild camping, and you'll need filters to access water sources, particularly at Wadi Hidan and Wadi Mujib.

Visit www.jordantrail.org for route maps, GPS waypoints and detailed breakdowns of daily hikes.

The Jordan Trail: Karak to Dana

  • Distance 83km
  • Duration Four days

This is a dry stretch of the Jordan Trail through rocky and only sparsely green landscapes, but with a few hot springs and great wild camping.

Leading out from the shadow of Karak Castle, you follow the geologically striking Wadi Ed Dab’a to a series of abandoned villages. There are more canyons on the subsequent days, with unexpected cave houses in the cliffs near Taboun. The landscape greens around the hot spring at Burbeita (where you can camp), before the track gently rises to a ridge that takes you to the village of Ais. There are views of the Dead Sea again past Tafila and then the trek runs through olive groves to Ma'tan, sitting dramatically above Wadi Labun. The last day takes you to the pretty Ottoman village of Dana, at the edge of the Dana Biosphere Reserve, where there are good accommodation options.

Visit www.jordantrail.org for route maps, GPS waypoints and detailed breakdowns of daily hikes.

The Jordan Trail: Dana to Petra

  • Distance 73km
  • Duration Four days

The hike from Dana to Petra is the crown jewel of the Jordan Trail, hiking through one of Jordan's best and most scenic nature reserves along the back route to one of the Middle East's most iconic sights at Petra. It's a truly world-class hike.

Day one takes you down the sandstone cliffs of Dana through the long valley of Wadi Dana. It's a biologically diverse area and a historically important one, too – you'll pass ancient copper mines before arriving at Feynan Ecolodge, where you can spend the night. The next day you'll follow the open valley of Wadi Al Malaqa to Ras Al Feid, passing local Bedouin camps along the way. After camping here, you'll enter rocky sandstone terrain and pass more Bedouin camps until you reach a narrow canyon, through which you'll wind your way to Beihdah, the site of Little Petra. The last day follows Nabataean tracks out of the valley to the dramatic chasm of Siyyagh. When you emerge, you'll be rewarded with your first view of Petra's Monastery, where you can have a hard-earned cold drink at a tourist cafe and enjoy the fruits of reaching the site the long way round. Explore Petra on foot, walking towards the Treasury and the Siq to the town of Wadi Musa, where soft beds and refreshing showers await.

Reserve entrance fees are payable to hike through Dana. You'll also need a reserve guide – they're extremely knowledgeable about the local flora and fauna. Unless you have a Jordan Pass, you'll need to arrange your Petra ticket in advance, as you'll be entering through the back door.

Visit www.jordantrail.org for route maps, GPS waypoints and detailed breakdowns of daily hikes.