The Jordan Trail, The Jordan Bike Trail, The Jordan Valley Triathlon
The Jordan Trail
The Jordan Trail is a massive project that came to be with many people’s efforts and was slowly but increasingly built up over 20 years. Our interest in the idea of the Jordan Trail came naturally from our outdoor pursuits.
A vast number of trails crossing the country existed already, and we started with joining our friends Tony Howard and Diane Taylor, long-time explorers, and adventurers, in trying to join up all the pieces. We also hired a young adventurer to work full-time on the project from 2013 to 2015.
Mapping the Trail Together
Together with other Jordanian and Expat hikers, we researched hiking routes on Google Earth, Google Maps, and other mapping software. Then we drove around endlessly scouting for the best paths because only so much can be done from an office. Often you have to see it for yourself. After first mapping online and secondly, scouting by vehicle, the third step was finally walking and GPS-ing the routes.
Local communities were often invaluable in pointing out and showing old walking and shepherding trails. While we were scouting in rural areas, we greatly appreciated the hospitality of locals who often provided limitless qualities of sweet tea.
After coming up with a route, next was map-making and incorporating all the information in a website. By 2015, the project was getting big, so we helped set up an association to continue the development of the Jordan Trail. Since its inception, the Jordan Trail Association has taken the lead in promoting and further developing the Jordan Trail. We remain supportive and active in any way we can.
Today the Jordan Trail is a long-distance hiking trail that passes through 52 villages and towns, including some of Jordan’s poorest communities. The Trail is helping to create new adventures and generate income across Jordan through new opportunities.
The Jordan Bike Trail
The expertise and knowledge our team gained during the development of the Jordan Trail massively helped us realize the Jordan Bike Trail – a 730km, mixed-surface bike route that travels the length of Jordan from North to South.
We are proud to have developed this trail in-house at Experience Jordan Adventures. Like the Jordan Trail, the mapping process was similar; first online route finding, second scouting by vehicle, third cycling a route, then editing, revising, and iterating.
The trail runs through the main historical and natural wonders of Jordan. It starts in the rolling hills, olive groves, and farms of the north; continues across the dramatic canyons of the Dead Sea region; and passes the remarkable landscapes of Dana, Petra, and Wadi Rum, before finishing by the Red Sea in Aqaba.
The trail’s surface is roughly 60% paved, while the remaining 40% follows mostly dirt roads. We specifically designed the trail to be ridden from north to south and for most of the significant climbs to be on-road.
In some sections, the bike trail follows the Jordan Trail. However, a hiking trail has different design constraints to a biking trail, so in many parts, our team spent its time and expertise scouting to choose better alternative routes for cycling.
As part of our commitment to create income opportunities for Jordan’s communities and to help facilitate encounters between locals and tourists, we supported families along the newly created Jordan Bike Trail.
USAID recognized the ability of the Jordan Bike Trail to do good and create opportunities. They were particularly excited about the mutual benefit of the Jordan Trail combined with the Jordan Bike Trail. Together, the two trails put Jordan on the adventure map. An investment in one of the trails boosts the other as well. The projects in that way are intertwined.
Likewise, as the trails cross through many of the same communities, the Jordan Bike Trail provides more opportunities to local service providers. By generating increased trail traffic to these communities, The Jordan Bike Trail enables local service efforts like homestays to be more economically beneficial and sustainable.
The second thing USAID was particularly excited about was our desire to make the project fully transparent and to share its benefits with the country. While we initially developed the trail, the route is now online and open to anyone: tourists, locals, and tour operators alike. Today, we continue as the focal point and maintainer of the Jorda Bike Trail’s website, maps, emails, and other activities. However, we have invited others to join us. The Jordan Bike Trail is now officially a private-sector collaboration as the website now equally promotes affiliated local tour operators and bike shops.
The Jordan Triathlon
Starting in 2013, Experience Jordan Adventures played a leading role in establishing and promoting Triathlon competitions in Jordan. In 2013 and 2014 we arranged the Jordan Valley Triathlon, at the Jordan Ecopark in the north of Jordan. In 2015, in partnership with the Jordan Triathlon Federation, we started the Dead Sea Triathlon, which has continued to run under the management of the Federation.
Impressions of the Jordan Valley Triathlon (2014)
To have some fun and to support local communities, we came up with a “Weekly Walks” program in 2014. Each weekend we would offer at least one day trip of hiking and/or authentic local events in Jordan. We advertised these trips as “the best way for expats, tourists, & locals alike to experience the real Jordan.”
On these trips, we almost always hired a local guide and we frequently finished the hikes with a delicious meal in a local family’s home. Thus we provided at least 1-2 opportunities for local suppliers in rural communities per week from our trips.
Further, these trips helped us train the local suppliers, give them year-round business, as well as experiment with new trip ideas, locations, and suppliers. These trips were instrumental in us finding, developing, and supporting local suppliers in creating sustainable operations. As you can probably now guess, many of these local suppliers