In college I loved traveling with my girlfriends. Every summer we’d fly down to Florida for a week of cocktails, relaxing on the beach, and delicious dinners out. Sometimes we’d throw in a cultural or adventure activity too, just to balance things out. There were road trips full of inside jokes and nights spent gossiping over beers as we watched the sun set.
Yes, the idea of a girls getaway might sometimes seem to veer into that overly stereotypical “pink” place of what marketers think women like, but for me it just means a really nice vacation with your friends that happen to be women. It’s about getting closer and getting to relax and have fun while exploring a new place.
Miami, Barcelona, LA, Ibiza. These might be the kind of places you think of when you think girls getaway. They all have a big nightlife scene and tons of trendy restaurants right next to world renowned museums and shops. But what about Jordan? A Middle Eastern country probably doesn’t spring to mind when you’re thinking of a destination to visit with a bunch of women.
But it should! The week I spent there with my fellow #GirlsGoneJordan was basically the perfect girls getaway. It was a mix of adventure and culture and delicious food and late night laughs.
With that said, here are six reasons why you should consider Jordan for your next girls getaway along with some tips on how to make it a trip to remember.
Amman is full of culture
Amman, the capital of Jordan, is a great place to start your trip for a crash course in both historic and modern Jordanian culture. We began our trip on the ancient side of things with visits to the Citadel and the Roman theater learning about the many inhabitants of this city that was once called Philadelphia.
Another worthy stop if you’re interested in history is The Jordan Museum which details the history of the country form prehistoric to modern times through artifacts and interactive displays. For art lovers check out the National Gallery which includes an impressive display of 2,000 works mainly from Jordanian and other Islamic artists.
For a look at modern Jordanian culture, head on over to Rainbow Street, a public space on Jabal Amman that is home to many shops, restaurants, and shisha bars. First, stop at the Jordan River Foundation showroom for some shopping. This NGO was started by Queen Rania to help women in Jordan become employed through several socio-economic programs. Here you can buy their handicrafts which are a far cry from the shoddy tourist trinkets you’ll find in many places.
Have dinner at Sufra, a traditional Jordanian restaurant with a lovely outdoor terrace and rooftop, before grabbing cocktails at the nearby Books@Cafe, a cafe cum bar dedicated to creativity, peace, equality, and tolerance. End the night at one of the area’s many shisha bars. It’s customary to order one per person, but we often shared one between two of us. Try lemon and mint or double apple.
Amman is also a great place to get acquainted with the culinary culture of the country and there’s no better way to do this than through a cooking class. We spent an evening at Beit Sitti learning to cook a variety of Jordanian dishes in a family like setting. Maria and her sister bought their grandmother’s house when she died and decided to open a cooking school to share her favorite recipes and love of food.
On their beautiful terrace overlooking the city we made bread and chatted about Jordan’s significance in the region and favorite Jordanian dishes. A few days after the class was over Maria emailed us all the recipes so we can practice them at home.
If you don’t want hummus everyday all day, there are some international food options as well. (And you might be crazy because hummus is awesome.) Our first meal was actually at Bonita Restaurant, a Spanish tapas bar.
You can party in Aqaba…
As a Muslim majority country, alcohol can be hard to find or very expensive in much of Jordan. The exception to this is Aqaba, a resort town on the Red Sea in the south of the country. While it still might be hard to find in restaurants and very expensive at the many hotels, there are quite a few liquor stores in Aqaba that sell cans of beer for around 1.5 JD ($2US).
My tip would be to buy a few cans for each person and head out onto the Red Sea for a little beer cruise. We sailed around for a couple of hours and had a great time sipping on our beers, tanning on the boat with Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Egypt in view, and swimming in the clear sea when we got too hot.
Afternoons are best spent lazing around the beach or pool. As the swim up bar at our hotel wasn’t open for the season yet, we opted for the girliest cocktails we could possibly find on the beach instead. These ran around $10 but who can resist a little treat when you’re on vacation?
If you’re looking for some fun after the sun sets, there’s an Irish pub called Rovers Return in town that sells both beer and liquor and often has karaoke nights or live music.
…and then pamper yourself at the Dead Sea
If there’s one place in Jordan to come and completely relax it’s the Dead Sea. With resorts and spas lining the shore of this salt lake, this is the place to shell out a little extra cash and have a luxurious time. Most of the resorts are huge complexes that include spas, pools, an assortment of restaurants, and their own beach front.
We started our day down at the beach for a mud treatment. Mud from the Dead Sea is said to have therapeutic qualities that can cure skin problems and relieve arthritic pain and muscle soreness, among other things. Most resorts will have buckets of mud for you to lather on after you’ve soaked in the salty water for about 10 minutes.
We were there on an unfortunately windy day which made relaxing in the water reading a newspaper like you see in photos impossible. I got in for about three minutes and after I saw Ashley get rescued by two lifeguards I hobbled out of the water and began slathering the black mud all over my body. After waiting the requisite 20 minutes (and taking about 300 photos) I began the arduous task of rinsing myself off. I don’t know if Dead Sea mud will cure your rheumatoid arthritis, but I can say that my skin was the softest it has ever been.
As more clouds began to roll in we decided to head indoors to the spa. While you can book a variety of treatments including a massage I really would’ve loved, we were short on time so we stuck to the different pools and hot tubs. Make sure you spend a few days at the Dead Sea so you can take full advantage of the relaxation opportunities available.
Our day ended with sundowners and shisha at a pool overlooking the water, which for me is the perfect relaxing ending to a day on a girls getaway.
It’s small enough to travel around easily
Jordan is a fairly small country in terms on land, about the same size as the state of Indiana, making it easy to see a lot of places even if you’re limited on time. For example, from Amman in the north to Aqaba, the most southern city, is only about a four hour drive.
Public transportation between cities in Jordan isn’t always timely and can be difficult to navigate if you don’t read Arabic, but long distance taxis can be found for relatively cheap as long as you haggle.
If you’re with a group of girlfriends, though, try renting a car. The main roads are well maintained and outside of Amman the driving was too crazy. Some of my favorite moments in Jordan was sitting in the van with the rest of the girls recapping our days, coming up with puns to use as Instagram captions, and taking stupid selfies. What’s better than a little road trip girls trip?
It’s not that conservative
Traveling with a group of women, or even as a solo woman, is fine in Jordan. Women can travel without a male escort and Jordanian women often go out in groups without men. As noted above, alcohol, though harder to find and sometimes more expensive, is sold in the country. At some hotel breakfasts you could even ask for pork sausage if you really felt like you couldn’t go one more day without it.
Women in Jordan are not required to cover their head and you’ll see many women, especially in Amman, with their hair uncovered. Dress is more conservative in the west, but you won’t be expected to don a baggy floor length dress everywhere you go. The most basic rule is to make sure your chest, shoulders, and knees are covered at all times. In Amman you can get away with a little but more, but in smaller towns and more conservative areas it may be better to err on the side of caution. I chose maxi skirts or loose patterned pants and light long sleeved cardigans or button downs on those days.
In resort areas like Aqaba or the Dead Sea it’s fine to wear a tank top or even a bikini! I still covered my shoulders and knees if we left the hotel, but in the resorts I was comfortable walking around wearing a little less.
Jordan is safe. It really is. I wouldn’t keep repeating myself, but the undoubtedly the first question I’m asked when I tell people I was in Jordan earlier this year is about safety. So yes, once again, Jordan is safe. Was I stared at a few times in the street? Yes. Did it make me feel unsafe? Not at all. In fact, the street harassment in southern Italy was about three hundred times worse.
There are metal detectors at every hotel entrance and we were stopped at roadside checks a couple of times, but these are just precautions and never made me feel unsafe. Hell, you have to go through metal detectors in the US to enter any major sporting event and I had to scan my bags to enter a shopping mall in Manila.
When planning a trip to Jordan safety should be one of your last concerns. Spend most of your time worrying about how you’re going to fit in all the amazing sites.
Would you go to Jordan on a girls getaway?
Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Jordan Tourism Board, but all opinions are my own.