Petra Jordan

Chuck and I had been planning a trip to Israel and Jordan for a few years now. We finally booked it and COVID hit so, of course, it got cancelled. Booked again and the COVID restrictions were so onomous in Israel that we cancelled a second time. So three’s the charm and we finally made it here in 2023. And it was definitely worth the wait!

Tour Company

Abercrombie & KentTurkey & Israel: Ancient Wonders Small Group Tour This is only the second time we have traveled with an organized tour (first was Africa) and really enjoyed it. The itinerary covered everything we had wanted to explore, the other members of the group were charming and we loved their company, and the guides were excellent. Highly recommend it. The only change I would have made was to stay two additional nights in Tel Aviv after the tour ended to do some sightseeing.


Jordan is a dry country and only Hotels are allowed to serve wine, beer or liquor. So stick to the hotel restaurants if you like wine with your meal (or a cocktail!).

Amman, Jerash, Ancient Roman Streets

Visited Jerash, a city founded by Alexander the Great, and got to see the marvelous Greco-Roman ruins called “the Pompeii of the Middle East”. Even though some of the ruins were decimated from invasions and earthquakes the existing ones still extend over a large area divided and crisscrossed by colonnaded streets, including the grooves made by ancient chariot wheels. In the hills of Gilead, remains from Neolithic times have been found, as well as Greek, Byzantine, Umayyad and others.


Explored the city of Amman, Jordan’s current and ancient capital, which is an interesting blend of the old and the new. Visited its Food Market, Citadel and saw Roman Theater. The Roman Theater has been restored and is the most obvious and impressive remnant of Roman Philadelphia. The theatre itself is cut into the northern side of a hill, and has a seating capacity of 600. We were also able to visit King Abdullah Mosque, with its iconic blue dome and it’s contemporary architecture, commemorating the first king of Jordan.

King Abdullah Mosque

Mount Nebo & Madaba

Following the footsteps of Moses, we journeyed to Mount Nebo for expansive views of the Holy Land. We visited Madaba, known as the “City of Mosaics” for its spectacular Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics.

Madaba Mosaic Map


Described by UNESCO as “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage” and has been inhabited since prehistoric times. This Nabataean caravan-city, situated between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, was an important crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Syria-Phoenicia. Petra is half-built, half-carved into the rock, and is surrounded by mountains riddled with passages and gorges. It is one of the world’s most famous archaeological sites. The major attractions are the Treasury (in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), the Temple of the Winged Lions, and the Palace Tomb.

Once a rich merchant city and a stop for caravans bringing spices, silk and slaves from Arabia to the Mediterranean, Petra was forgotten by the West for 1,000 years, emerging from antiquity in 1812, when it was visited by the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt.

Petra, Jordan

Wadi Rum

Wadi Rum, the Valley of the Moon, is 74,000 hectares, know for its immense size, color (rose tinted sandstone mountains and red sands) and awe-inspiring shapes. It creates an almost supernatural atmosphere.

Took Camel rides as we first entered and then off on Jeeps we went to our “Camp” located very deep into the desert. One note of caution, wear closed shoes as the red dye from the sand stains everything, including your feet!

Chuck was a pro!

Wadi Rum features a varied desert landscape consisting of a range of narrow gorges, natural arches, towering cliffs, ramps, massive landslides and caverns. Petroglyphs, inscriptions and archaeological remain in the site testify to 12,000 years of human occupation and interaction with the natural environment. The combination of 25,000 rock carvings with 20,000 inscriptions trace the evolution of human thought and the early development of the alphabet.

T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) lived here with is Bedouin friends and allies during WW1. And Baudouin camps / families still reside here.

Wadi Rum, Jordan

Dead Sea & Bethany Beyond the Jordan

We floated in the buoyant, mineral rich Dead Sea waters which is one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world (and it is extremely hard to stand back up as the heavily salted water really wants to keep you afloat!).

The Dead Sea is located at the lowest point on earth, which is thought to be the result of volcanic processes leading to a continuous dropping of land. The unique mineral content of the air, land, and water in the area is globally renowned for its therapeutic qualities, as is evident in that it has been a health resort for thousands of years.

Dead Sea

We headed to The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bethany Beyond the Jordan. Situated on the eastern bank of the River Jordan, nine kilometres north of the Dead Sea, the archaeological site consists of two distinct areas: Tell Al-Kharrar, also known as Jabal Mar-Elias (Elijah’s Hill) and the area of the churches of Saint John the Baptist near the river. The site is believed to be the location where Jesus of Nazareth was baptized by John the Baptist and people still come to be baptised in its waters (though they were so muddy I wouldn’t step foot in it).

Baptism Site

The two borders, Jordan and Israel, meet at this small river and it is interesting to see both flags flying so close together. The areas has heavy security to prevent the easy crossing of the border from Jordan to Israel.


Jerusalem & The Garden of Gethsemane

After crossing the border into Israel, we drove to the Mount of Olives for a view over the Temple Mount. This important landmark, located next to the Old City of Jerusalem, refers to the ridge located east of the Old City. It gets its name from the olive groves that at one time covered the area. It’s viewpoint provides a panorama of the Old City of Jerusalem and its vicinity.

Visited the Garden of Gethsemane, at the foot of the Mount of Olives, where Jesus is said to have prayed with is disciples before his crucifixion.

Strolled Machane Yehuda, Jerusalem’s largest food market, which takes up an entire neighborhood between Yafo and Agripas. The lively market is the city’s go-to place to experience the breadth of Israeli cuisine. With more than 250 vendors, you’ll find everything from giant piles of colorful produce and pitas stuffed with falafel to expansive pans of baklava and kanafeh, and cakes of halvah in every flavor. A huge variety of restaurants and bars operate inside and around the market—or “the shuk” as the locals call it. We passed the time drinking local beer at one of the many bars.

Machane Yehuda Market

Jerusalem, built by King David in 1004 BC has Four Quarters; Christian, Muslim, Armenian and Jewish. We strolled the street starting at the Cardo, the center of the Jewish Quarter, where we saw the ancient Roman road and ancient marketplace lines with columns. Visited the beautifully simple St. Anne’s Church with the Pool of Bethesda where the water for the Temple rituals was stored. Waked along the Stations of the Way of the Cross, a route walked by Pilgrims for hundresd of years, to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site of the Crucifixion and the Tomb of Christ.

Visited the Israel Museum to see the Second Temple Model, the Shrine of the Book and a portion of the Dead Sea Scrolls.


Yad Vashem & Bethlehem

Began our day with a visit to the Yad Vashem, the Jewish people’s memorial to the six million lives lost in the Holocaust. It contains the world’s largest repository of information on the Holocaust. Yad Vashem is a leader in Shoah education, commemoration, research and documentation. We visited the museum and walked the Street of the Righteous, dedicated to the non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust. A heart wrenching experience.

Never Forget Those Who Perished

Continued on to Bethlehem, located in the West Bank, for lunch in the home of a local family. Our Israeli guide was not able to enter the West Bank so our local guide was also our host for lunch. It was a rich cultural experience as the mother of our guide, a Coptic Christian, told us the story of her life, the trials of living in Palestine, and asked for us to talk to our politicians to help bring peace to this area. She was a wonderful, brave women with an emotionally moving tale.

Our guide lead us through the Church of the Nativity, a sixth-century basilica that stands over a cave believed to be the birthplace of Jesus.

Masada / Zealot Stronghold

Masada, built by King Herod in 31 BC, is atop a rocky plateau, where you take a cable car up to the last stronghold of the Jewish Zealots. Some 2,000 years ago, Roman legions stormed one of the two paths to the top of this sandstone mountain to reach the Zealots headquarters. The brave Zealots tried to resist the Roman army but eventually took their own lives to avoid capture and enslavement. Many of their fortifications, originally built by King Herod, still stand today where you can explore them up close, envisioning the lives of these brave men and women.


Acre & Nazareth

Drove to Acre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to view the Crusader Halls, markets and the old town. Acre has one of the world’s oldest seaports and is considered the most important historical port town in Israel. Acre was mentioned as far back as 3,500 years by the Pharaoh Tuthmosis III. Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Ottoman Turks and a succession of Crusaders occupied the town, destroying, rebuilding and fortifying.


Journeyed to Jesus’ boyhood town of Nazareth to visit the Church of the Annunciation, built on the traditional site of May and Joseph’s home.

Sea of Galilee & Golan Heights

We explored the site associated with early Christianity and its shared roots with Judaism. Took a relaxing boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, a freshwater lake also called Lake Tiberias or Kinneret.  

Saw the Mount of Beatitudes, the site where Christ delivered the Sermon on the Mount. Stopped at Capernaum, where we saw the remains of the ancient synagogue where Jesus taught at St. Peter’s house, which was later converted into a church.

Drove to the Golan Heights to lean about the rich history and strategic importance of this rugged landscape. The area was captured by Israel from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War to create a buffer zone against Syria During our walk we could hear bombs exploding in the Syrian territory; an eerie feeling.


Caesarea is a 2,000 year old city built to honor Augustus Caesar. It was once the capital of the Roman province and was later occupied by the Crusaders. Originally an ancient Phoenician settlement it was rebuilt and enlarged in 22–10 BCE by Herod the Great, king of Judea under the Romans, and renamed for his patron, the emperor Caesar Augustus. It served as a port for Herod’s newly built city. Today, you find a wealth of Roman, Byzantine, Arab and Crusader ruins in the area, as well as the harbor from which St. Paul was taken prisoner to Rome (with cafes and restaurants as well, quite the local tourist area!).


Tel Aviv & Jaffa

The largest city in Israel, is located along a beautiful stretch of beach on the Mediterranean. It is Israel’s commercial center, with a busy metropolis that has a energetic atmosphere. We did a walking tour of Jaffa, and ancient port town that has become a noted artists colony, located just south of Tel Aviv. We only had one day in Tel Aviv, definitely not enough time to explore this lovely, modern city.

Tel Aviv


Four Seasons Hotel Amman – Lovely hotel with a excellent bar and restaurant.

Movenpick Resort Petra – Supposedly the best hotel in Petra but was the worst hotel we stayed in. Restaurant/bar service was a disaster, food mediocre, lack of running water in the rooms…overall a disappointing experience.

Saraya Rum Camp– Located inside the desert, away from tourist activities and off the beaten track. Cars cannot access so we had a long, bumpy jeep ride to the luxury camp (beautiful even though bumpy). They don’t serve liquor so have your guide bring a few bottles as ours did!

Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea – Our favorite hotel, where we stayed four nights and wished we could have stayed another four. You must watch the sunset from one of their bars overlooking the sea and get a treatment in their Spa.

Sunset at the Kempinski Hotel

The King David, Jerusalem– Stately, 90 year old hotel, is one of the “Leading Hotels of the World”. It truly blends the splendor of a bygone era with modern luxury. Great bar!

Scots Hotel, Tiberias – A former hospital, it is now a luxury hotel on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Enjoyed our stay.

Dan Tel Aviv Hotel – Nice enought hotel, but would recommend The Setai Tel Aviv instead.


In Jordan we mostly ate in the hotels as they are the only ones that can serve alcohol. The food was generally good with lots of middle eastern appetizers and slow cooked meats.

Israel has many wonderful restaurants. In Jerusalem we dined at Mona and loved it. Other people went to different restaurants that they totally enjoyed. List below of Mona and the restaurants we got feedback on, with reviews from Time Out.

Mona – Located in the old stone Artist’s House, it is casual and lively. The food was excellent with seasonal, farm-to-table dishes. Must haves are the Tuna Tartare, Grilled Octopus, and Lemon Pasta with Grilled Fish. All the desserts were delicious and creative.

Machneyuda – With three Jerusalem chefs running the show, this rustic haven for foodies offers a changing market-to-table menu with all ingredients sourced from the nearby Machne Yehuda Market. The open kitchen gives you a front seat to the action, with a lively, spirited vibe. This restaurant was the inspiration for two of the most-talked about restaurants in London, The Palomar and The Barbary. Both are known for bringing this ‘Machneyuda’ genre of energetic Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine to the city.

Satya – There’s much to love about Satya, but it can be summed up in a combination of fresh seasonal ingredients and the attention to detail in each dish. Opened by Ilan Garussi, former head chef and owner of popular restaurant Chakra, this hotspot serves up Mediterranean food inspired from all over with a focus on fresh seafood along with specials like the hand-made pappardelle pasta with tomato butter, the colorful seafood risotto and 8-hour slow-cooked Japanese barbecue short ribs.

Chakra – This well-loved restaurant attracts locals in the know. Chakra showcases an Italian-inspired menu with a global influence and an extensive seafood selection. The menu boasts handmade pastas, fresh-baked focaccia, and an extensive wine list.

Adom – This spacious restaurant and wine bar presents an eclectic French/Italian menu with many options from meat to seafood. The vino here takes center stage with an extensive wine list featuring great international picks as well as a huge selection of Israeli boutique wineries.

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