Divided into eight regions, the Jordan Trail goes from Um Qais, by the ruins of Gadara (where Jesus threw the demons into the herd of pigs), to Petra, to the Red Sea.
The Jordan Trail is almost 700 kilometer hiking trail that connects Jordan, from north to south, the equivalent in the Holy Land, say, of a Camino de Santiago. It begins at Umm Qais, by the ruins of Gadara, the ancient Roman and Greek city overlooking Lake Tiberias (the Sea of Galilee). According to the Synoptic Gospels, this is where Jesus exorcised the demonic Gadarene – a passage known as the “miracle of the Gadarene pig” or “the Legion exorcism”.
Founded as a military settlement by the Macedonian Greeks of Alexander on the remains of a pre-existing military settlement, Gadara retains its original Roman streets and amphitheater, as well as the remains of an ancient Byzantine church. The local museum in Beit Rousan houses an impressive collection of Hellenistic (including Christian) and Islamic art.
This exceptional meeting of pre-Christian, Macedonian, Greek, Roman and Islamic cultures, traditions and treasures, is repeated again and again throughout the Path. Pilgrims can choose to travel through the eight different regions (a journey that would last at least 40 days, in typical biblical fashion), or the region (or regions) of their preference: from Umm Qais to Ajloun, from Ajloun to Salt, from Salt to Wadi Zarqa Ma’in (including the Roman Road and the Dead Sea Canyons), from Wadi Zarqa Ma’in to Karak (the Crusader Castle) , from Karak to Dana (an exceptionally green biosphere reserve), from Dana to legendary Petra, from Petra to the awesome desert sands of Wadi Rum, and from the desert, finally, to the Red Sea.
Pilgrims can also join an existing group of pilgrims or not, and get their JTPass: an official trail passport, hiking journal and achievement recorder that can also be presented to authorities when needed, not to mention a one-of-a-kind memento. Sure, there’s a six-day route anyone can ride (in fact, it’s the most popular), which covers the ancient Nabataean city of Petra, across some of Jordan’s sandstone ridges. Along its route, Roman, Nabataean, Byzantine and Umayyad buildings, traditions and stories come together, on a journey uniting the Old and New Testaments in a single itinerary.
Covering about 75 villages and towns on its (complete) way (not to mention all kinds of archaeological treasures, holy places, Byzantine remains, houses of pilgrims, ancient eremitic caves, basilicas and Nabataean cities) the Trail also offers the visitor the possibility of appreciating the diversity of the landscapes of the countryfrom the green hills of the north, through the wadis and cliffs around the Jordan Valley (and its famous thermal waters), through the impressive pink sandy rocks of Petra and the breathtaking sands and starry sky of Wadi Rum , all the way to the transparent waters of the Red Sea and its rich coral reefs – one of the main reasons tourists flock to stay at Aqaba’s many beach resorts.
Clearly, walking the Trail means discovering Jordan’s history, enjoying its diverse culture, its legendary biblical hospitality and tasting its cuisine. But it’s also a spiritual journey. Biblical tradition holds that Moses crossed the Jordan from the Red Sea in the south to the north, to Mount Nebo. In fact, the nearest town to the ancient Nabataean city of Petra is called “Wadi Mousa”, “the Valley of Moses”, very close to what tradition has also identified as the Well of Moses – where Moses drew water from the rock. This ancient path also passes through the birthplace of the Prophet Elijah, where pilgrims from all Abrahamic faiths pay homage to the prophet who also traveled this same route, all the way to Mount Carmel. Following in the footsteps of Moses and Elijah, the pilgrim finally takes the road to the Jordan and the place of baptism of Jesus Christ.
The Jordan Trail is far from new. It has existed for well over 20 centuries, surrounded by high cliffs where you can still see the caves where hermits lived, olive trees, streams and Nabataean, Moabite, Edomite, Roman, Greek and Neolithic ruins. Officially (re)launched in April 2017 by the Jordan Tourism Boardthe trail follows both the ancient biblical routes and the paths that Roman conquerors used to go from the fertile north of Jordan (Amman was then called “Philadelphia” and was one of the ten cities of Hadrian’s Decapolis) to the south, through the impressive Roman city of Jerash, to the rich ports of the Red Sea.
Magnus Manske CC BY-SA
The idea of crossing Jordan on foot is as old as the trail itself: Jordan was once the center of the King’s Highway, a trade route that stretched from Egypt to Aqaba and then to Damascus . This was the route used by the Moabites, Edomites and Ammonites, and later by Nabataean merchants who extended even further as Petra grew in importance as the center of the empire. It is no wonder that the Romans used these roads as the heart of their road network in the Middle East, and that the events and people depicted in the Gospels used them freely and daily.
Be sure to visit this link for more details and to plan your next visit.In the slideshow below, you can also check out ten of the most interesting stops on the Jordan Trail