After a few very interesting and eye-opening days in Israel, we were ready to cross into neighboring Jordan. Prior to our trip, we wondered if this was even possible, but after some research, we realized that it was a relatively simple process. We flew down to Eilat -an Israeli resort town on the Red Sea- to spend the night before our border crossing into Aqaba.
Eilat reminded me a lot of Antalya or Fethiye – a bustling tourist town full of restaurants, cafes, and shops. Honestly, it was a little crowded for my taste, but since we were only there for one night, we did our best to take it easy and enjoy it. The mood was simultaneously upbeat and laid back and we were pleased by the variety of food options (Japanese, Mexican, American, you name it) in such a small space.
The next morning, we took a taxi to the border crossing, which involved a lot of stamping and signing, but only took about 20 minutes in total (we were the only ones there when we arrived). I was amazed by how completely different Aqaba was than Eilat, even though they are right next to each other. We hopped in a cab which drove us along the coast to our hotel near the beach. Along the way, wild camels grazed on the side of the road and desert mountains rose above the horizon. I already felt like I’d experienced so much adventure in Israel, but I realized in that moment that my adventure was just beginning.
We got to our hotel, dropped off our stuff, and immediately hit the beach for a stroll.
Much unlike Eilat, the beach was relatively peaceful and uncrowded, save for a few families barbecuing. It’s important to note that people dress much more conservatively in Jordan than in Israel as well, so plan accordingly. I definitely saw foreign tourists in bikinis, but I felt it was more respectful to cover up.
After our first night, I was ready to spend some time in the water. The Red Sea is known for its beautiful coral reefs, and after snorkeling in the Maldives last year, I was really excited to do it again. Our hotel let me rent a wetsuit, mask, and flippers for just 5JD per day (~$7) and even graciously drove us down to some of the best dive sites.
I don’t have an underwater camera (although I’m starting to wish I did), but the image below can give you an example of some of the aquatic life I was able to see in Aqaba – and right off of the free, public beach! Winter is not the most popular time to travel in Jordan and especially not in Aqaba. The weather is good (roughly in the 70s), but a bit cold for swimming. Still, it was warm enough for me and I happily spent several hours snorkeling both days we were there. As a bonus, I had the water to myself, thanks to the lack of crowds, and the cloudy skies prevented me from getting sunburnt!
Aqaba was a lovely and relaxing introduction to our Jordanian adventure!