Dana Nature Reserve


If you travel to Jordan, you typically spend a few nights in the desert of Wadi Rum at a Bedouin camp. Its one of the things here “not to miss.” So, we missed it. As it goes. But we had good reason! We’d desert camped in the Sahara, and judging by recent temperatures here neither of us were particularly interested in spending the day in triple digit heat in sand dunes. So instead, we headed north to Feynan Ecolodge (Truffle Pig recommended) where it was still hot, but at least had proper rooms and cold water. This time we drove the desert highway, which in the south is incredibly boring. If you can imagine something far worse than I-5 from SF to LA, then you have this highway, hot, flat shrub forever. Luckily, the drive was in no way a reflection of how we’d spend the next few days.

Dana Nature reserve is gorgeous, boasting everything from lunar landscapes to lush green canyons flush with water. We came here to hike, regardless of the temperatures. The night we arrived we had dinner and spent the evening star gazing and appreciating a silence we haven’t experienced in a long time. The ecolodge has a large telescope with knowledgable staff who pointed out planets, and helped us take photos with our smart phones through the lens.

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The next morning we left immediately after breakfast for our hike to beat the heat, or delay the inevitable discomfort. Normally, the weather is in the low 80’s at this time of year, but the weekend we arrived Jordan (and much of the Middle East) experienced a heat wave, shooting temps well into triple digits. Lucky for us, the canyon where we would be hiking was somewhat protected, and made the hike, for the most part, perfectly comfortable. A group of four of us headed out on a truck with a guide. Because of the heat we had a shorter amount of time than usual to cover the 9 mile return hike. And since the two women we were with seemed to want to go at a much more leisurely pace we decided to head off on our own. Which, is pretty easy to do on a canyon hike. You walk straight into the canyon. It is near impossible to get lost. They told us at the end was a pool of water you could swim in, not wanting to miss out we left the other three and hiked fast into the canyon.

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At first it was flat, hot, and wide, but as the miles passed the canyon narrowed and the water got higher, eventually we gave up trying to keep our shoes dry and hiked in the stream, which had the added benefit of keeping us cool. It was one of the most gorgeous hikes we’ve ever been on. From the desolate and stark desert all around us was this lush, colorful canyon. We traversed two waterfalls before rounding a bend in the now very narrow canyon to find we had to submerge up to our thighs to wade through the passage. From there, we came around another turn and were greeted with a swimming pool perfectly sized for two.

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Other than our hiking companions that we left, there wasn’t anyone else on the hike. The US has stunning hikes, but a place like this would be overrun pretty quickly, and we had it to ourselves. We lingered as long as we could before descending to meet our driver, on the way we met back up with our guide, they’d only made it about 70% there before camping out under a waterfall. Good thing we went on our own, or we’d never have discovered the best part of the hike.

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Mid day was too hot to do anything but nap, which we did as best as we could with no AC (its a true ecolodge, no electricity aside from a light in the bathroom, solar powered of course). Once the sun began to set we set off for a sunset run, which was stunning, but very, very hot by the end. Fairly certain the other guests thought we were quite odd for running eight miles after a day of hiking! But we did spend plenty of time relaxing.

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The ecolodge hires only people from the local community, one of whom owns goats who like to graze around the property. We spent well over an hour watching their antics, throughly entertained.

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On our drive from the lodge back up towards Madaba we made a quick stop at Mujb, a very large canyon where hikers also wade through the river to reach much more impressive waterfalls and pools. We decided against the full hike in the mid days sun, having just completed a similar hike, but we did pop into the entrance for a quick view of the canyon.

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One week in Jordan was just enough to scratch the surface. Travelers tend to fly through the country, visiting the highlights and leaving. But it’s clear you could easily spend a few weeks, provided you were interested in the outdoors, for which Jordan offers a myriad of options. It was also our first experience in Middle East, not counting my 20 hours in Abu Dhabi. And it that sense it was new and exciting, though it felt somewhat like Morocco, maybe a bit like Egypt, Jordan is a very unique place and we loved our time here. It was absolutely everything we wanted travel wise. Next up: Israel!

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