Hiking the Jordan Trail: from Umm Qais to Ajloun | trail journal

Hiking the Jordan Trail: from Umm Qais to Ajloun | Trail Journal

I started with my hike on the Jordan Trail! In this trail journal, I’ll tell you all about my adventures in the first section from Umm Qais to Ajloun.

After a day of sightseeing in Amman, I arrived in the town of Umm Qais in northern Jordan. This is the starting point of the Jordan Trail, a long-distance hike of about 650 kilometers that ends in Aqaba in the south of Jordan. I was invited by Visit Jordan and the Jordan Trail Association to hike the first eight stages of the trail and I’ll be hiking these first few sections by myself. This is my trail journal.

Day 1: From Umm Qais to Ziglab

Unfortunately, I don’t sleep as much as I wanted the night before I start my hike. The bed in my pension Beit Al Baraka is very comfortable, but an irritating mosquito keeps me awake. And of course, I brought everything for this trip except mosquito spray. Fortunately, I feel fit and strong enough to start this hike. Especially after the huge and delicious breakfast!

Breakfast Beit Al Baraka

The Jordan Trail Association has arranged luggage transport for me, so I deliver the stuff I don’t need on the hike and hit the trail. Fortunately, I quickly find the start of the trail and then started looking for the markers. A white-and-red flag, which is the same marker as long-distance trails in the Netherlands. That should be easy to follow!

Of course, after I go the wrong way multiple times right at the beginning. Luckily it’s easy to find the trail again with GPS. Once I get the hang of it, I’m starting to enjoy the hike and the lush surroundings here in northern Jordan. Did you know that it is very green here? Everywhere I look, I see vegetables and fruits.

Jordan Trail at Umm Qais

At a lake, I miss the markers again. Fortunately, there is an old man who points me in the right direction in Arabic. I don’t understand any of it, but thanks to hand gestures, I sort of understand where I need to go to. He actually points me a marker that I missed (and to be honest, it is really hard to spot).

I climb a small hill and pause under a tree overlooking the lake (Wadi Arab Dam). I keep my break short, because I have wasted quite a lot of time due to a lot of hiking in the wrong direction, and I still have many kilometers to go.

Wadi Arab Dam

Fortunately, an easier stretch now follows and I mostly hike on (dirt) roads. Everyone I meet looks at me a little strangely (they rarely see women walking alone here), but they greet me kindly. Near a group of goats, I meet a couple of shepherds. They barely speak English, but do ask me some very personal questions. “Are you married?” “Do you have children?” “How old are you?” Later I find out that these questions are very common here, but it feels a bit weird.

Halfway through the trail, the markers send me into a wheat field. This can’t be right, can it? According to my GPS, it is indeed correct. It feels so crazy to walk right through the crops! My calves are also soon full of little spines from the thistles that are among the grain. Ouch! Very occasionally I spot a marker, so I am on the right track. I run into a group of men that give me a can of 7Up. Some sugar is just what I needed!

7Up in Jordan

Then follows a tremendously steep descent straight down. I’m sweating my ass off and being super careful; I really don’t want to slip. I am so happy when I get down to the dirt road. Although I knew that today’s hike is labeled “difficult”, I really didn’t expect it to be this hard.

A little further on, a couple of men are sitting at a farm asking if I will come and have tea. Since I am ready for a break, I agree. I am offered the nicest seat and one of the men turns out to speak a little English, so we can even have a conversation. After two cups of extremely sweet tea, I move on. These kind of interactions make hiking the Jordan Trail a very interesting experience.

Hospitable Jordanians

I encounter a huge herd of goats and see lots of bright pink flowers. Although I am so tired, I keep on moving and I’m still enjoying this amazing hiking trail. Almost everyone I meet is very friendly and welcoming.

Two kilometers before the end I pass through a tiny village where I meet a couple of guys who want to take selfies. I’m ok with that, but at some point, they get a little too close and a bit annoying (taking off my cap and such). I get a bit angry and although they don’t understand English, they get the message and keep their distance. Without further problems, I continue on my way.

All sweaty and full of scratches, I arrive at my first accommodation on the Jordan Trail, Ziglab Ecopark. I am so relieved, I made it! The Ecopark is a true oasis. Lots of trees and shade and I sleep in a small house. After a quick meal and a refreshing shower, I am ready to go to bed. It’s not even 8 ‘o clock yet, but I’m exhausted and I need my rest. Tomorrow will be another tough day.

  • Distance: 25.5 kilometers (I tracked my hike on Strava and that was 29.5 kilometers)
  • Difficulty: Difficult

Day 2: From Ziglab to Beit Idis

I slept like a log last night in my little forest house. After another delicious breakfast, I hit the road around 8.30. Even before I get out of the Ecopark, I have a couple of pesky dogs walking behind me, getting annoyingly close. My walking stick does not scare them away, but as soon as I bend to the ground to pick up a rock, they keep a distance immediately. I don’t want to harm any dogs, but it’s good to know that just the gesture of getting a rock keeps them away.

Near a couple of houses, I climb a mountain and hike through a section of tall grass. I cannot find any markings at all and have to check my GPS constantly. A bit irritating, but at least I don’t get lost. The path down is incredibly steep and I do my best not to slip. I’m relieved to arrive safely down in the valley.

Day 2 on the Jordan Trail

After a short break with a Snickers bar, my favorite trail snack, I have to go back up. Although the trail is not very steep, it is still tough because of the heat. There is no shade and the sun shines profusely. At the moment, it’s about 25 degrees Celcius. Yes, I definitely feel like I’m hiking in the desert again.

Underneath a tree sits a group of men eager to chat with me. Since I still have many kilometers to go, I don’t have time to take a break. As I continue walking, one of the men appears to be following. Usually they then want to give me something, but this one wants to talk (and he doesn’t speak English). He starts touching me and is even making kissing sounds.

Getting angry doesn’t help, so I slap him with my trekking pole. That startles him and he keeps his distance immediately. I quickly continue hiking and pass a large group of sheep and some friendly shepherds. Glad there is now some sort of buffer between me and the man.

I send the Jordan Trail Association and the Jordan Tourism Board a text message about what happened and they report the incident to the police. In Jordan, they are really proud of their hospitality and they immediately act on it if something like this happens. For me, this is a safe thought.

Despite this incident, I have rarely felt unsafe in Jordan when it comes to men. As a blonde woman who travels solo most of the time, I am harassed in almost every country by men. However, I think it’s important to mention because it can happen anywhere and it’s good to know what you can do. So my advice to all female solo travelers is to hike with trekking poles and have a working SIM card so you can call or text someone for help. In Jordan, you can always contact the Tourism Police for emergencies.

After this incident, fortunately, things go fairly smoothly. After a short stretch through tall grass (new scratches on my legs, yeah!), it’s mostly dirt roads. Near a farm there are some aggressive dogs, but I manage to keep them at a distance by pretending to throw a stone. I don’t like doing this at all, but apparently that’s the only thing that works here.

The views are getting more and more beautiful and I even pass a beautiful stone arch. Without any further incidents, I arrive at the town of Pella. Here I am pulled over by the Tourism Police who ask me some questions and want to see my passport (apparently this is quite normal). He shows me an alternate route so that I can get a closer look at the famous Roman ruins of Pella. That’s nice!

Ruins of Pella

After the ruïns, I have to follow a long road uphill. It’s really hot, so I hop from tree to tree to drink some water every time I’m in the shade. I’m glad I brought over 4 liters of water today, I absolutely need it! The last couple of kilometers are very nice. The trail goes through a dry riverbed, making it very easy to follow. I really enjoy this section. Not only because of the views, but it’s also kind of nice and quiet without men and angry dogs, haha!

The trek up from the riverbed is tough. The grass I have to go through comes halfway to my belly. My leggings and my socks are dotted with spines again. When I am finally back on a road, I am so incredibly happy! The owner (Fadi) of tonight’s homestay picks me up from the trail which is nice since I really can’t walk the extra two kilometers to his house. I sleep in a private house on a mattress on the floor. On the left is his brother’s house and he himself lives in the house on the right with his parents.

They barely speak English, so we talk through Google Translate, and that’s fine. Some of the children come over to chat with me and they give drawings. They also offer to give me a tour of the town, but I really can’t move anymore after two incredibly hard days on the trail. I just want to shower, eat and sleep. Thankfully, they understand and after the delicious dinner, I get to bed very early.

  • Distance: 22.4 kilometers (25 kilometers according to Strava)
  • Difficulty: Difficult

Day 3: From Beit Idis to Rasoun

Around four o’clock I wake up thanks to the mosque next door, I had forgotten for a moment that they have those here. Fortunately, I fall asleep again after the praying is over. For breakfast, I get to go inside the family house. Here I take a look around the richly decorated reception room. This is where they greet their guests. Fadi’s father used to be an important poet and is frequently pictured with Jordanian royals. Very interesting!

We have breakfast with the family, which is an interesting experience. Everything is spread out on a plastic sheet on the ground and we eat with our hands. I don’t understand any of the conversations, but I just feel that they are lovely people and I feel so grateful to be here. So far, this trail is nothing like I’ve ever experienced before, and it’s incredible.

A little after nine o’clock I am back on the trail. I’m really looking forward to the hike today. After two very tough days, today seems much easier. It’s shorter and the difficulty is “medium”. For the first time, I actually think it’s easy!

The trail is incredibly well marked, I see markings everywhere. In addition, the trail is not that hard. There are some climbs in it, but they are short and as a reward I get fantastic views. I also run into a group of stray dogs, but as soon as they see me they leave. Now that’s convenient.

Clear marking at Beit Idis

Although it’s over 30 degrees Celcius, it doesn’t bother me much, as I hike most of the day through a dry riverbed under the trees in the shade. The only thing that does bother me is the mosquitoes. I really need to bring mosquito spray next time. I’m glad I’m wearing my Craghoppers Nosilife shirt though, that keeps mosquitos away from my arms and torso.

After those tough first days, this day feels like a breath of fresh air and I really needed that. I enjoy today’s hike so much! It’s also the first time that I meet a couple of other hikers on the trail. Two women are hiking this stage with a guide. One of the women is Dutch, and it’s nice to chat and exchange experiences.

In consultation with Mohammad, the host of my next homestay, I even walk a few extra kilometers more than I’m supposed to. Which means tomorrow will be an even shorter day. It’s downhill, so nice and easy. He picks me up and we are at his house on the mountain in 10 minutes. The view is phenomenal! There is also a washing machine, so I can do laundry. Besides me, a French girl is also sleeping in the homestay. We each have our own room and share the bathroom.

Cozy dinner together in the homestay with Orjan

Dinner was absolutely delicious and very enjoyable. It’s really nice not to be completely exhausted after a day of hiking. Bring on Day 4!

  • Distance: 15.2 kilometers (I walked on to the next village and ended up with 18.7 kilometers)
  • Difficulty: Medium

Day 4: From Rasoun to Ajloun

After a super delicious breakfast, Mohammad drops me back at the trailhead. The first stretch is mostly on a narrow asphalt road. After a few hundred meters I am startled; I walk past a cave full of barking dogs. I am almost too scared to go on, but then see that they are all on a leash. Still, I keep a close eye on them as I walk by. Meanwhile, I put a stone in my bag just in case.

I arrive in a town called Orjan, where everyone seems to stare at me. A hiker (especially a female one with blond hair) is quite the attraction, haha! A lot of people say “Welcome to Jordan!” which I think is really nice. The trail is well-marked again today and the kilometers fly by. Around 10:30 in the morning, I’m already halfway to Ajloun.

I take a break on a rock under a tree and hear barking in the distance. There is a farm, so there are dogs. However, I see them running towards me and they are getting closer and closer. And it’s not two or three, I count at least six or seven. That’s a bit scary! It is not a path where it is easy to go around them, so I pack up my things again and walk back to the houses I just passed. Dogs get even more aggressive when you run, so I try to keep it cool.

Path full of aggressive dogs

As I walk back, I suddenly see two large black dogs sitting right next to the trail. They show their teeth and also start barking and coming at me. Fear creeps up to my throat. I can handle a few dogs, but this is just too many. Fortunately, the trick with the stone works again and they keep their distance.

When I get back to the houses, I no longer see the dogs and ask the Jordan Trail Association for an alternate route. There’s no way I’m hiking on this road with all these dogs.

There are two options, either I continue via the asphalt road and thus skip a large section of today’s trail, or someone gives me a ride to a point a little further on. Help is on the way, and after a few minutes, I am picked up by a friend of Mohammad’s, who drops me off at Tel Mar Elias, a monastery and pilgrimage site. Glad this was possible and that they could arrange it so quickly!

At the monastery, I am immediately invited to have a cup of tea. I am not the only tourist, there is also an Australian couple with a baby and they are out with their guide. I get to join their tour, so that’s kind of fun. That way I learn something about this interesting place too. Two important churches stood on this site long ago; now only ruins remain. Parts of the old mosaic floors can still be seen, very special! The guide warns me about dogs on the trail. He himself was bitten a few months ago and then had to go straight to the hospital. I’m so glad I skipped that section!

After a group photo, I continue the trail; it’s only a few more kilometers to Ajloun and I have plenty of time. I first follow the asphalt road down and soon find myself in a field to cross. Fortunately, there are occasionally clear markings on the stones, so I don’t have to look too much at my GPS.

In the valley I hear clinking; there is a herd of goats nearby. I immediately notice my fear, usually, there are dogs around. I loudly say Marhaba (hello in Arabic), so the shepherds know I am there. There appear to be no dogs and the shepherds invite me to tea and a falafel sandwich. It’s delicious! Next to me, a newborn goat is trying to stand up (the umbilical cord is still attached), so cute!

I say goodbye and continue on my way to Ajloun. There are still some steep climbs in there, so I take frequent breaks. I arrive very early at my accommodation for the night which is the Ajloun hotel. The hotel can use an update (I don’t think anything has been done to it for 30 years), but the owners are very friendly and I have a wonderful view from my room of the green hills and the castle. Amazing!

Ajloun hotel
  • Distance: 16.9 kilometers (because of the extra kilometers the day before and the section I skipped, I ended up hiking 13 kilometers)
  • Difficulty: Medium

The castle of Ajloun

After a quick nap in my room, I walk up the hill to Ajloun Castle which is about 15 minutes away from the hotel. The castle was built in the 12th century and expanded many times. Long ago it had about 7 floors, now there are only 2 or 3 left. It is still a huge landmark and I spent at least an hour exploring all the corridors, stairs, large rooms, and viewpoints. It’s really nice to visit some of these historical sights during a long-distance hike!

Back at the hotel, I get another big meal and after a cup of tea with the grandparents of the owner, I get back to my room. Despite the aggressive dogs, I had a wonderful day hiking the Jordan Trail!

This was the trail journal of my hike on the first section of the Jordan Trail, from Umm Qais to Ajloun. Check out the next trail journal now: Hiking the Jordan Trail: from Ajloun to Salt.

Want to see more from my trip to Jordan? Check out my Instagram for fun videos and a series of highlights from my stories.

Read more about Jordan

Would you like to travel to Jordan? These travel guides are very helpful to prepare for an unforgettable trip to Jordan.

Lonely Planet Jordan

The Rough Guide to Jordan (Travel Guide with free eBook)

On this website, you can also read more about traveling to Jordan. Read more:

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As a girl from a small town in the Netherlands, I always dreamed of traveling. I thought it would always be a dream, but nowadays, I travel 6 to 8 months a year and I hike thousands of miles on the most beautiful hiking trails. On this website you can read all about my favorite destinations.

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