Take public transport along Jordan’s Desert Highway between the northern city of Amman and Petra, Wadi Musa and Aqaba in the south and you’ll miss one of Jordan’s most spectacular vistas.
The alternative, time-consuming route is the King’s Highway. It’s little used these days except by the Bedouin, tourists and vehicles that service the towns that run alongside it.
Public transport doesn’t dare tackle the road, which traverses two giant canyons, Wadi Mujib in the north and Wadi Hasa in the south, by a dangerous series of switchback turns that will have you sliding from one side of the car to the other (because of course there won’t be seatbelts). Apparently at one point there’s 18km of road to cover 4km!
The highway, in some shape or form, has been in use for the last 3,000 years by pilgrims, Nabateans, Christians, Muslims and crusaders. Chartering a taxi or a minibus from Amman is a must-do. It takes all day, but there are plenty of places to stop along the route, including the ruins of Karak and Shobak castles, Dana Nature Reserve, and lookouts (home to rabid dogs!) on the lip of both canyons.
On my RTW trip during the summer of 2010, I met my friend Alicia in Istanbul and we spent the next 46 days travelling overland through Turkey, Syria and Jordan before I headed to Egypt solo to join up with a quick organised tour through upper Egypt.
Read more about this leg of my trip on my Middle East roundup page.