While not the first place you would think of for ecotourism, Jordan’s natural landscape of waterfalls and canyons as well as the Dead Sea and the Mujib gorge, which enjoys the distinction of being the lowest elevation nature reserve in the world, are placing Jordan on the map of new ecotourism destinations.
Sandwiched between Saudi Arabia, Israel and Syria, Jordan is embracing the concepts of conservation, green adventure and eco-friendly accommodations. The country is pro-western, welcoming to Americans, clean and offers many activities for all age groups. Some typical eco activities include heritage tours, biking, camping, snorkeling and swimming.
Up until recently, Israel had marketed itself as an ecotourism destination in the Middle East. Then in 2008, Jordan embarked on an economic revitalization plan that included conservation of its few natural resources. Some top sights include:
Petra – One of the new wonders of the ancient world, Petra the ‘Rose Red City half as old as time’ has dramatic scenery at every turn. Beginning with a visit to the remarkably intact remains of ancient Jerash and then journey southwards to the Dead Sea to the rocky pinnacle of Kerak, a crusader castle with sweeping views. Along the way, visit Madaba to see the oldest map of the Holy Land.
Wadi Rum – Travelling to the awesome desert landscapes of Wadi Rum, ride camels or take a jeep safari through terrain once familiar to Lawrence of Arabia. Then from Aqaba, take a ferry across the Red Sea to Nuweiba and continue to Dahab. After time spent relaxing on the coast, with opportunities to snorkel over multi-colored coral reefs, strike into Sinai’s wild and mountainous heart to visit the isolated monastery of St Catherine, in the shadow of Mount Sinai. A hike up the mountain allows us to witness truly breathtaking views over the barren peaks of the Sinai.
How ecotourism benefits environmental aims:
The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) has been at the forefront of Jordanian efforts for wildlife conservation as a rapidly expanding population, industrial pollution, wildlife hunting and habitat loss due to development, have taken a toll on Jordan’s wildlife population and natural resources. To date, the RSCN has established six wildlife reserves, which combine environmental preservation, archaeology and community development characteristics. The plan is to add six more wildlife reserves that will endeavor to protect nearly 4% of Jordan’s total land area.
Why a good choice for a family trip:
Of all the countries in the Middle East, Jordan enjoys the reputation of being the safest one with lots of activities for the whole family and plenty of Green Globe certified hotels, such as the Mövenpick Resort & Spa Tala Bay Aqaba pictured below, to select from if you choose to travel on your own. One word of note is that given that Petra has limited resources for tourists, the best advice would be to book ahead, book with a small-group operator, or travel in the offseason (which runs from May to the end of August). Whenever you decide to go, a biking tour through Jordan or a will provide lasting memories for all.