Western Jordan (Aqaba, Petra, Wadi Rum)

From its ancient lost cities, Bedouin desert-dwellers, desert landscapes and clear Red Sea beaches, western Jordan stuns with beauty and history.

For both Petra and Wadi Rum, fly into the Jordan capital of Amman or the Red Sea city of Aqaba. Or, cross by land at the Wadi Araba Border Crossing between the Red Sea towns of Eilat, Israel and Aqaba, Jordan.

The Jordan Pass provides entry to over 40 major sites, including Petra and Wadi Rum, and for many nationalities covers the cost of a visa if staying in Jordan three or more nights.

If traveling from Israel to Jordan by land, note that rental cars are not permitted to be driven across the border. We entered Jordan via the Wadi Araba Border Crossing and left our rental car on the Israeli side in the Yitzhak Rabin Border Crossing parking lot before coming back into Israel.

As Americans with Jordan passes, we were able to receive visas on-arrival at the Wadi Araba Border Crossing.

If you do not want to rent a car in Jordan, we highly recommend the drivers from Bedouin Directions. Owner Mehedi Saleh Al-Hewaitaat is incredibly responsive and professional, and our drivers were knowledgeable and on-time.

Consider spending at least two days in Petra. The park is enormous and there are several difficult but rewarding hikes. Taking the park at a slower pace will allow you to see more and head back to town for a beer or swim in the afternoons when the park gets hot and crowded with day-trippers.


Alibaba Restaurant in Aqaba Casual place near the city centre with fresh seafood from the Red Sea.

Red Cave Restaurant in Wadi Musa/Petra Near the Petra Visitor Center, this restaurant serves simple but delicious bedouin fare.


Cave Bar Next door to the Petra Visitor Center, this ancient cave is great for a drink at the end of a long day.


Petra This 2000+ year old ancient city is a World Heritage site. Built by the Nabateans, it was eventually conquered by the Romans and abandoned centuries later after two earthquakes and changes to trade routes. An absolutely incredible and spiritual experience.

Wadi Rum The beauty of Wadi Rum’s mountains and rock formations against the dramatic red desert sands is unparalleled.


A few thoughts by location:

Aqaba Stay near the city centre or at one of the resorts on the beach, as the Al-Ghandour public beach is not very nice and would be uncomfortable for Western women in bathing suits. We enjoyed our stay at the Hilton DoubleTree in town, which was midrange, but the InterContinental, Kempinski and Movenpick all have private beaches on the Red Sea.

Petra/Wadi Musa Staying within walking distance of the Petra Visitor Center is critical. The Petra Palace Hotel is a basic, 3-star hotel very near the entrance. For those looking for something a bit more luxurious, try the Petra Guest House or Movenpick Resort Petra.

Wadi Rum Stay at a camp to fully experience the desert and stars by night. Most camps provide dinner and breakfast and can organize tours. We loved the Wadi Rum Bedouin Camp, which had excellent facilities, a lovely community tent and delicious food. For glamping, try bubble tents at Memories Aicha Camp and Sun City Camp.


Kyoto was the ancient imperial city of Japan. Today, many of its temples and structures are still standing and enjoy UNESCO World Heritage status.

Kyoto is a 75 minute train ride from Osaka’s Kansai International Airport, or a two and a half hour shinkansen bullet train from Tokyo.

The Kyoto Gion Matsuri Festival happens each July and is one of the most famous in all of Japan. The city celebrates with parades, floats and festival food stalls. While crowded, it is an unforgettable time to visit.


Nishiki Market A fun place to walk through and have a meal.

Kaiseki Kyoto’s haute cuisine is a beautiful, multi-course meal that originated 500 years ago.


The Gion District This part of the city escaped bombing in World War II and remains one of the most well-preserved areas of the city. Visit the old tea houses in this old geisha district, and if you are lucky, you may spot one of the few geishas left. Hanami Street is a particularly lovely walk.

Pontocho This narrow, ancient alley is over 500 years old. The area is well known for its excellent nightlife, dining, and is in general a lovely area to walk around at night.


Arashiyama Beautiful, tightly packed bamboo groves.

Fushimi Inari A short train ride outside of Kyoto’s main station, this Shinto shrine is a spiritual place. Thousands of brightly colored tori arches are arranged throughout the forest like dominoes.

Ginkakuji and Kinkakuji Temples The Silver and Golden Pavilions, respectively, are among the most famous of Kyoto’s thousands of temples. Rent bikes for a self-led tour.

Kyoto Imperial Palace

Shosei-en Garden Traditional temple garden.

The Philosopher’s Path A nice walk or bike along a peaceful stream. The path is very near Ginkakuji.

Yasaka-jinja A Shinto shrine in Gion.


We recommend basing yourself in Kawaramachi, Gion or near Kyoto Station. All are within walking distance of good food, nightlife and most of the top sites.