Wadi rum, Aqaba and the Southern desert, Jordan

Jordan //

Aqaba and the southern desert


The huge eastern deserts of Jordan are mostly stony plains of limestone or basalt, but much of the southern desert is sand, presaging the dunes and vast emptinesses of the Arabian interior. In the far south, squeezed onto Jordan’s only stretch of coastline, Aqaba forms a pleasant urban counterpoint to the breathtaking marine flora and fauna which thrive in the warm Red Sea waters just offshore. The real highlights, though, lie inland. You shouldn’t leave Jordan without spending time in the extraordinary desert moonscape of Wadi Rum, haunt of Lawrence of Arabia and starting point for camel treks into the red sands, while the award-winning ecolodge at Feynan makes a fabulous hideaway for walks, cultural encounters and off-the-beaten-track exploration in the little-visited Wadi Araba desert.

Two of the three north–south highways connecting Amman with Aqaba are desert roads, and only really of interest as access routes to and from southern Jordan. The easternmost of the three, the so-called Desert Highway, follows the line of the old Hejaz Railway and serves as a demarcation boundary between well-watered hills to the west and the open desert. The westernmost of the three is the Wadi Araba road, which hugs the line of the Israeli border south of the Dead Sea.

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