Hiking the Wadi Dana Trail in Jordan
Hiking is not the first thing you think about in Jordan, but the Wadi Dana trail is proof that the country is more than just history and desert. There are spectacular landscapes with mountains and gorges that offer a number of exciting routes.
The Wadi Dana trail is one of the best treks for budget travellers that are looking for a relatively easy hike that is possible without a guide or tour.
Wadi Dana Trail
The 16 kilometer Wadi Dana trail is situated in the Dana Biosphere Reserve. It starts in the sleepy village of Dana and ends at the Feynan eco lodge.
Due to its central location on the Kings highway between Amman and Petra it is getting more popular. The traditional Ottoman village of Dana sees more travellers every year. They are attracted by the beautiful nature as well as the hiking opportunities.
The Dana Biosphere Reserve is one of the largest nature reserves in the country and has a very diverse ecosystem. There are more than 600 types of plants, 180 different birds and 45 species of mammals including the rare sand cats, wolves, foxes and ibex.
The Wadi Dana trail is not the only trek in this region. Dana village is the start of a number of hiking paths set up by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature. To protect its unique flora and fauna most trails require a mandatory guide and only allow a limited number of visitors per day.
The Royal Society’s Dana guesthouse and Feynan Eco Lodge offer excellent examples of sustainable ecotourism in Jordan. Unfortunately it doesn’t come cheap. Luckily, Dana also has some facilities for budget travellers. And there are enough hikes, like the Wadi Dana trail, that you can do on your own
Wadi Dana Trail without a guide
The Wadi Dana Trail is a 16 kilometer hike that runs from the Wadi Dana village to the Feynan eco lodge. The hike goes through the Wadi Dana gorge and I thought it was relatively easy. After a gentle descend from Dana towards the gorge, most of the trail is flat and there are no steep climbs.
The trail starts at the scenic traditional Ottoman village of Dana. Consider the short 2 kilometer Dana village trail the day before your hike. It offers nice views into the Nature reserve, especially at sun set. Furthermore, you get to see some Ottoman ruins and a chance to meet the local people.
Also don’t miss the Dana Guesthouse, even if you are not staying there. It has a small visitor centre and museum selling high quality handicrafts. They also offer good information about the geology and nature of the area as well as the hikes you can make.
The Wadi Dana trail
There is really no need for a guide. Although the trail from Dana is not marked, you can’t really get lost. There is just one path through the gorge. Basically it is a dry riverbed and as long as you follow this, you will reach the Feynan eco lodge at some point.
It’s a rocky desert landscape that is way more varied than expected. The Dana Biosphere Reserve is home to lots of animals and plants. I came across beautiful flowers, reed beds, tall grasses and strange plants. The green vegetation that contrasted sharply with the red rock formations is what made this hike so beautiful. In addition, the views around every corner are wonderful.
Feynan eco Lodge
It took me almost 7 hours to walk from Dana to the Feynan eco lodge, but I am a slow hiker and I took frequent breaks. For most it should be possible to reach Feynan in 6 hours.
The Wadi Dana trail is the most popular trek in Dana. Still, I pretty much had the path to myself. At the end of the trail as you come closer to Feynan, you will pass by several Bedouin tents with their herds of sheeps and goats. The people are very friendly and welcoming.
At that stage I started to be a bit worried about how to get back. Luckily, there were still enough hikers at Feynan to share a ride back to Dana village. Surprisingly, this still took us 3 hours of driving through winding mountain roads. The views were spectacular though. Apparently this is one of the most scenic routes in all of Jordan according to our Bedouin driver.
Wadi Dana trail Tips
The Wadi Dana trail is best done from Dana to Feynan, not the other way around. Not only is Feynan more difficult to reach by public transport and has no budget accommodation options, the trail will be more uphill with a rather steep climb to Dana village at the end.
There is not a lot of shade on the Wadi Dana trail so bring enough protection against the sun (sun screen, sun hat, sun glasses). Also bring enough food, snacks and water. You can’t buy anything on the trail.
Start your hike early, because the ride back from Feynan eco lodge to the village of Dana takes about 3 hours.
Try to find some other travellers planning to do the Wadi Dana trail so you can share the costs of travelling back from Feynan to Dana. I arranged it at Feynan eco lodge where I waited for about an hour till other hikers arrived to share the ride with. I found the prices at Feynan slightly lower and people more friendly. Do expect to pay between 45 to 55 JD per car.
You could possibly save money by hiking back to Dana rather than arranging a ride from Feynan. However, I would not recommend this unless you are really fit. It will be a very long day and although it looks like a gentle descent from Dana to the gorge, I am sure it is a difficult climb back up after more than 30 kilometers of hiking.
Wadi Dana Trail Travel tips
How to Get to Dana
Dana is about midway on the Kings highway between Amman and Petra. To truly appreciate the Kings highway I can recommend you take your time and enjoy the many interesting stops you can make along the way. In this case it’s best to have your own transport.
If you do prefer to keep things cheap and travel by public transport, the key is to start early. From Amman’s south bus station you can take a bus to Tafilah (3 – 4 hours). In Tafilah you probably need to walk 5 minutes to the other southern bus station and from there you can take a minibus to Qadsiyya. From Qadsiyya it is a 3 kilometer walk downhill to Dana village. If you missed the last bus to Qadsiyya (3 – 4 pm) You will need to take a taxi to Dana.
If you come from the South, you will also need a bus to Tafilah. From Aqaba there are direct buses to Tafilah and from Petra you might have to change in Ma’an. They will drive past the turnoff to Dana village so you can ask the driver to get out there.
Where to sleep
The best option in town is the Dana Guesthouse that offers sweeping views over the valley. Unfortunately, it comes with a price tag that is out of reach for most budget travellers. The same counts for the Feynan eco lodge, but considering its beautiful location in the desert and its green principles it might be worth the price.
In Dana there are enough budget alternatives. I stayed at the Dana Tower Hotel that is the most popular option in town. So popular, that the owner seemed no longer too concerned about customer service. Their breakfast and dinner buffet is wonderful and it is a great place to meet other travellers, but the staff just isn’t that friendly.
Where to eat
The restaurant options are quite limited in Dana and therefore you will have to depend on your hotel. The advantage of the Dana Tower Hotel is their excellent breakfast and dinner buffet. The breakfast was enough to make a small lunch packet for on the trail as well.
There are also not a lot of shops in Dana so if you can it might be a good idea to do some shopping. I recommend buying some snacks and water to bring along on the trail for lunch.
When to visit
The Dana Nature Reserve is a year round destination. That said, spring and autumn are best if it comes to weather and temperatures. Winter can be cold and some trails will be closed, because of the risk of flash floods. Summers are warm, but not as hot as elsewhere in Jordan.
What to bring
Hiking boots: the trail can be rocky and sturdy shoes are a must. They don’t need to be professional hiking boots, but something with ankle support will do.
Sun protection: there will be no shade on this trail and sun protection is very important when hiking the wadi dana trail. Don’t leave without sunscreen, a sun hat and sunglasses.
Water and snacks: On the trail there is no possibility to buy any food or snacks so bring them with you. There are also no possibilities to fill up your water bottle. It can be a long, warm and sunny walk in the sun and you dehydrate quickly. Bring more than enough water with you. Even at the end at Feynan lodge the possibilities to buy food and drinks is limited.
Money: There is no ATM in Dana so bring enough money for your expected expenses.
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