Touch down in Jordan's main town, Amman. You’ve got the whole day free to explore the capital city (depending on when you get here of course) before you join up with your crew at a 6pm Welcome Meeting tonight (make sure you’ve got all your important docs and deets on you). Until then, hit the streets. Make a beeline for Rainbow Street for a falafel and a sheesha. It's what the locals would want. Something more substantial? Maybe head to the Old Town’s Roman Amphitheatre, have a cultured afternoon at the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, snap some pics of the city from the hilltop Temple of Hercules, or sweat it out in a Turkish bath house. Afterwards, rendezvous with your new Geckos crew for a team catch-up. It may or may not be at the local pub.
It's a four-hour drive today from Amman to Wadi Rum, but we'll be making some snack stops along the way, so all good (but we recommend stocking up on a few snacks too). In Wadi Rum you'll be meeting your Bedouin hosts, who'll show you around camp and offer you many rounds of mint tea. Then we'll all hop in jeeps, which aren't the Bedouins' traditional modes of transport, but are far less stinky than camels, and trundle off into the desert on a driving safari. Wadi Rum's favourite son, Lawrence of Arabia, called Wadi Rum 'vast, echoing and God-like'. Ridley Scott, who shot Prometheus there, called it 'the best view I've ever seen of what could be Mars'. You'll see where Lawrence of Arabia had a wash in what's now known as Lawrence's Spring, and the crumbled ruins of a house he supposedly used to snooze in. You'll also visit the desert's largest sand dunes and a naturally-formed rock bridge that looks like it should have collapsed years ago. This evening you'll be dining on traditional Bedouin cuisine, sleeping in Bedouin-style tents and gazing up at some traditional Bedouin skies. The camp has
If you're someone who hates amazing sunrises, by all means sleep in this morning. If you're not, then we highly recommend that you don't: Wadi Rum rarely looks as fine as she does early morning. Once you're awake and breakfasted, it's time to say bye to your Bedouin friends and journey on to Petra (about a two-hour drive). According to the legend of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, inside Petra's Treasury building is where the Holy Grail was discovered. Today you'll get to follow in Indy's footsteps on a guided tour that'll take you through the site's narrow siq (a narrow crack in the mountain) to Petra's tombs, temples and rock-hewn amphitheatre. You'll find no marauding Nazi's here, though (or goblet containing eternal youth, for that matter). For those wanting to admire the 'rose-red city' from a different angle, there's also the option of continuing up a cliff-top path for elevated views. At the end of a long day's tomb exploring you're probably feeling a bit grubby (and if you aren't, probably should be). Nothing a good scrub in the Turkish Bath at tonight's hotel won't be able to right. Notes:( one day entrance fee to Petra is included in the trip price). Please note that when entering Petra as a group, a complimentary horse ride is included in the ticket price from the entrance point down to the Siq. Geckos doesn't recommend that passengers take this option due to the safety and insurance liability involved. The Turkish bath is optional and not included in trip price.
Today is yours to explore Petra how you wanna. Options include: walking up the road to Al Khanzneh (The Treasury – one of the most stunning temples of the whole site); clambering up the stairs to El Deir (The Monastery); travelling out to the royal tombs, or visiting some pretty impressive Byzantine mosaics. One other option is trying to locate the cafe run by Marguerite van Geldermalsen, a Kiwi woman who's been living in Petra with a local Bedouin for the past 30 years. A little less adventurous perhaps this last option is, but still a quest of sorts.
We said something about crusades and Crusaders earlier right? Well they built Shobak Castle atop a grassy knoll and thought it would last forever, but Saladin's Arab army knocked it over after an 18-month siege. You’ll drive a short way from Petra to get here, and the castle makes an impressive sight as you approach. Poke around the site and discover a small chapel, original gatehouse, and find out where a long, dark secret passage leads. Kick on half an hour to the ancient village at Dana, where at the craft centre you can (you guessed it) pick up some crafts, like silver jewellery and charms. Drive on to Madaba (approximately 3 hours), home to Byzantine mosaics way better than anything you ever made in art class. Visit the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George and check out a sixth-century mosaic map of the Holy Land. Then it’s on to Amman and head out on the town at night.
Drive back in time (approximately 1 hour) to Jerash, once a thriving ancient Roman city, and now some of the best-preserved ruins this side of Italy. Do your best Biggus Dickus impersonation (Monty Python, anyone?) in Jerash's main street, check out the columns of the Oval Plaza and the tiered seating of the South Theatre, and imagine the chariot race from Gladiator in the hippodrome. In the afternoon, there's the option of driving for a bit over an hour for a dip in the Dead Sea. This isn’t actually a sea but a super-salty lake (dead because of the lack of life in it) where the density of the water means you’ll go for a float, not a swim. Here you can get that photo of you reading a paper while floating in the water – just like the ten billion visitors before you. Afterwards you will return to Amman for the evening (approximately 1 hour). Maybe spend your final night at one of the many bars and restaurants in West Amman, or ask your leader where locals spend their evenings.
Today it’s goodbye Jordan, shalom Israel. You’ll make your way from Amman to Israel via the Sheikh Hussein border (named after the small village nearby, but nobody knows who Sheikh Hussein really was). You will be crossing the border unaccompanied and today can kind of be a test of your preparation and patience skills. How many books did you pack? Did you charge all your tech? Where’s your water bottle? This border crossing is usually not as busy as the others and fingers crossed for a relatively easy pass, but it could take a lot longer that expected, so make sure to bring along patience, understanding and sense of humour just in case! When you complete all the important immigration stuff, you’ll also get a brand new local leader – lucky you, two leaders in two days! Join up with your crew at a Welcome Meeting this afternoon (make sure you’ve got all your important docs and deets on you). Until then, hit the streets. Grab a coffee from one of the cafes, or a cold one from the many bars and restaurants near your hostel. Meet your leader at the hostel at 4.30pm. After your meeting finishes head out on an orientation walk up to the very cool Machane Yehuda Market. Here you can sample tasty local eats using your your bite card at any of the vendors. Your leader will leave you here so you can kick-on after dark. We recommend grabbing a beer in one of the many laneway bars and watch the market come to life in the evening, bar hop, or go for a wander to check out the amazing graffiti popping up on shop shutters.
This morning drive to Jaffa Gate where you will start a walking tour of the Old City from above and below! Start with the Ramparts Walk from Jaffa Gate all the way to Herod’s Gate. This will take about 45 minutes. Go down at Herod’s Gate and walk along the Via Dolorosa (Stations of the Cross), stopping at the Austrian Hospice for a short break and go up to the rooftop for a view of the Old City, before continuing to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Walk to the Wailing (Western) Wall stopping at the 'Cardo' in the recently restored Jewish Quarter. The rest of the afternoon is free.
Rise and shine nice and early to drive out to the spectacular cliff-top fortress of Masada, near the Dead Sea. Kick off the day with an early morning hike up the Masada Snake Path which winds its way up approximately 400 meters from the lowest point on earth (The Dead Sea) to the Peak. This UNESCO site is super important to the Jewish people, a symbol of their exile from the Holy Land and of bravery and self-sacrifice. The story goes that here a Jewish sect called the zealots held out against the Roman army in AD66. Rather than surrender, they either fought to the death or committed suicide, every last man, woman and child. It's kind of like Gallipoli for the state of Israel. Catch the Cable Car back down then drive to the Dead Sea for a float in the salty waters.The story goes that Cleopatra used products from the area as part of her beauty regime, which also allegedly included asses' milk and almond extract! Return to your hostel in Jerusalem.
This morning check out of your hostel and head to the Mount of Olives for a panoramic view of the Old City. From there, drive to Bethlehem – no doubt you're familiar with it from all the Christmas carols and nativity plays. Drop by the Church of the Nativity (on top of the cave where Mary popped out Jesus) and the Shepherds’ Fields (where the angels appeared and told them to get their gold, frankincense and myrrh out). On a walking tour with your leader, check out this slow-paced town in the West Bank, one of the world’s longest continually inhabited cities, and just try and wrap you head the fact that people have lived here for 11,000 years. Here Graffiti has filled the walls by many artists over the years, including British Artist; Banksy. Learn the personal stories behind some of the more prominent pieces. The walk will also take you past one of the largest refugee camps in the West Bank and previous conflict hotspots. Continue on to Tel Aviv. Check out the ancient port city of Jaffa, the basis of modern Tel Aviv. Your guide will then check you in at your hostel before bidding you farewell. Perhaps check out what else the cosmopolitan city has to offer on an optional 3-hour orientation bike tour. If that's not your cup of tea then we recommend a stroll to the Sarona Market. One of Israel's largest indoor culinary offerings, Sarona Market features premium imported goods, alongside the best local fare. Tel Aviv is known for its nightlife, so maybe get amongst it tonight.
Your adventure in Israel & The Palestinian Territories will come to an end today after breakfast.