After 4 days at the Dead Sea we were ready to see more that Jordan has to offer. Our next stop was the Dana Biosphere Natural Reserve, but we made a quick stop along the way at the Wadi Mujib Adventure Center.
At 410 meters below sea level, the Mujib Biosphere Reserve is the lowest nature reserve on earth. Its rugged and spectacular mountains border the Dead Sea coast and are dissected by several river-filled canyons that offer the best river and adventure hikes in Jordan.
The breathtaking scenery and the challenge of negotiating Mujib’s fast-flowing rivers make the Reserve one of Jordan’s most popular natural attractions. Most activities are only offered April through October and unfortunately since we arrived in November we knew that all this fun would have to wait for a subsequent trip.
The Ibex Trail is a dry trail hike which can be prearranged during the winter months, however only groups of 6 are allowed.
We pushed on, climbing higher and higher east out of the Dead Sea, passing sheep herders with their flocks and oddly huge packs of beautiful large dogs. Driving into Dana Village at sunset was truly fantastic – one of the most beautiful sunsets we had ever seen.
We stayed at the Dana Towers Hotel which doubles as a hostel. A funky place located on the edge of the cliff over the Biosphere. We really enjoyed the vibe there and the fantastic views over the canyon.
The food, which is offered for breakfast and dinner buffet/family style, is a good value and had great vegan options for me. During the dinner we met some fellow travelers who quickly became our friends. We decided to travel together to Petra with a stop at Shobak Castle.
Shobak Castle (Montreal)
Shobak Castle (originally called Montreal) is an early 12th-century Crusader castle perched on the side of a rocky mountain at 1,300 m (4,265 ft) above sea level. It has fantastic views of the valley and the fruit trees below it.
This castle is located along the famous King’s Highway, some 118 miles away from the capital city of Amman. A drive from Amman to Shobak Castle will take around two hours and 35 minutes, and the city of Madaba is located two hours and 25 minutes away. The site is only a 40-minute drive from the renowned historic site of Petra.
Shobak Castle hangs on top of a mountain. It must have been an enchanting place in it’s day. Although now it really has fallen into deep disrepair. Shobak Castle was built in 1115 under the rule of King Baldwin I.
Within the castle grounds, there were ruins of ancient churches, other historic remains, and a secret passageway that lead us to a spring. The castle also boasts a watchtower, catacombs and a number of Christian carvings and Islamic tablets.
Although it is not as well-preserved or visited as Kerak Castle, it is definitely worth a stop – especially for the catacomb tunnels (not marked) which we discovered underneath one of the churches.
Jordan has so much natural beauty to offer. Especially when hiking the Biosphere Natural Preserve!
We met some amazing folks at the Dana Towers Hotel who quickly became friends for our future travels around the middle east. This is a part of our travels that we look back on very fondly.
Have you been hiking through the Biosphere or visited the Shobak Castle?
Perhaps you have been to the Jordan side of the Dead Sea or maybe the north of Jordan? And if you haven’t been to Petra or Wadi Rum you absolutely positively have to go! These are some of the most interesting places on this planet!
Have you been? What were your impressions?