From the Dead Sea to the Red Sea

Jordan may be best known for its desert landscapes at Petra and Wadi Rum, but it is also home to beautiful resorts where you can relax on a beach, float on top of the water or dive under it.

The beach at the Hilton Dead Sea Resort has plenty of lounge chairs and umbrellas

Luxury on the Dead Sea

Of Jordan’s many natural treasures, the Dead Sea has to be the most unique. It is the lowest spot on the planet and also one of the saltiest bodies of water on the globe. Its salinity is almost 10 times greater than ocean water which makes it difficult to swim in but very easy to float on top of.

I spent two nights at the Hilton Dead Sea Resort and Spa which was only a one-hour drive from the Queen Alia International Airport outside of the capital of Amman, Jordan. This large resort offers a diverse selection of room types to satisfy all needs and budgets. My single room was quite large and had a bathroom with shutters over the tub that opened up to the bedroom area.

My room and bath at the Hilton Dead Sea Resort

Of course, the big draw here is floating in the Dead Sea and lathering yourself with the Dead Sea mud. The Hilton made this very easy, providing beach access via a number of elevators that took me down to the sandy and salty shore. I didn’t even have to go digging for the mud – an attendant kept a large stone vat filled so that all I had to do was spread it liberally all over myself. Once the mud was dry, there were plenty of fresh water showers nearby to rinse off and leave my skin feeling silky soft.

For more freshwater distractions, there were also three large pools: one for families, one for couples, and an infinity pool for adults and families. There was also a dedicated play area for children.

Some of the pools at the Hilton Dead Sea Resort

The Hilton also had seven bars and restaurants on its property. The breakfast and lunch buffet at the Spectrum restaurant had many choices of local and international dishes. Dinner at the 1312 restaurant featured modern Middle Eastern flavors, but for variety, I really enjoyed the freshly made pasta at the Bacchus Italian Trattoria.

View from the lobby toward the Dead Sea at the Hilton Resort

At the top of my list of experiences at this resort was time at the spa. The health benefits of the Dead Sea salts have been purported since the time of Herod the Great over 2000 years ago. Whether you believe in these benefits or not, getting a spa treatment using Dead Sea products was a must – after all, I would not be able to do this any place else.

For a perfect end to my stay, a bright orange sunset over the Dead Sea capped off each day.

Watching the sun set over the Dead Sea

Luxury on the Red Sea

Located on the Gulf of Aqaba which is a finger extending north from the Red Sea, is Jordan’s only seawater port and city, Aqaba. This ancient, natural harbor has played an important role in the development of the Jordanian economy. Besides the many trade goods that pass through here, this location is also a big draw for the tourism industry.

Intercontinental Aqaba Resort – View from my room

Aqaba has become a popular cruise ship stop giving passengers the opportunity for day trips to nearby Wadi Rum and Petra. But for those that have more time, the crystal clear, sapphire blue waters also offer opportunities for longer stays in a wide selection of luxury resorts that line the sandy beaches along the gulf.

I was privileged to experience two of these resorts and am happy to recommend both. My first stay a few years ago was at the Intercontinental Resort Aqaba. The open-concept lobby was impressive, and my guest room was equally lovely – very spacious with a balcony overlooking the grounds and sea. But it was the resort’s long, private, sandy beach lined with its many lounge chairs that were the real draw for me. My plan was to spend the day relaxing on a lounge chair in the sand or by the undulating lagoon-style pool while my husband went scuba diving.

Intercontinental Aqaba Resort – The pool area

Sadly, my itinerary only had us staying at the Intercontinental for two nights which really did not give me enough time to try all the amenities and restaurants. The hotel has a large, modern fitness center, a full-service spa, a kids club, and 6 restaurants, bars, and cafes. I remember how impressed I was at the many choices available at the breakfast buffet in the Corniche Restaurant – certainly more options than I had room to try. My first ever taste of Lebanese cuisine was also at the hotel’s Burj al Hamam restaurant. It was an introduction to the many colors and flavors of the region’s mezze which I love to eat to this day.

Down the street from the Intercontinental is the Movenpick Aqaba Resort and Residences which is where I had my most recent short stay. This large and beautiful resort has a variety of accommodation types, from standard-size hotel rooms to multi-bedroom apartments with kitchens and living rooms, making it an ideal spot for families. Since it was just me, my standard room with the balcony looking out over the seas was quite adequate.

That this resort was popular with families became even more evident when I explored the pool areas. Moms, dads, and children of all ages were lounging or playing in the water. The hotel also offered beach access with lounge chairs (though it was smaller than the beach at the Intercontinental).

Again, due to my short stay, I only had time to try and savor two of the restaurant options at the Movenpick. Rather than a full dinner, I chose an early, lighter snack and a drink at the Al Nafoura Lobby Bar and Terrace (you can also get afternoon tea here). A huge breakfast buffet with plenty of international and middle eastern choices awaited me at the Palm Court Restaurant and Terrace the next morning.

Across the street from the Movenpick I explored the remains of the ancient city of Ayla, the first Islamic city that was founded outside of the Arabian Peninsula, and the precursor to the current city of Aqaba. History buffs may also be interested in a visit to the Aqaba Fort (also known as the Mamluk Castle) which was the site of one of the most famous victories of the Arab Revolt during World War I.

However, the biggest draw here are the clear gulf waters and the abundant natural wonders found under the waves. The Red Sea in this region has a reputation for outstanding scuba diving and snorkeling conditions. My husband did a walk-in dive at the Japanese Garden dive site and said it was like swimming in an aquarium filled with colorful fish. Similarly, the friends I was with who dove the Berenice reef from a boat were also quite enthusiastic about all the marine life they encountered during their dive.

So, whether it’s a resort on the Dead Sea or the Red Sea you will find plenty of luxury and relaxation options, regardless of which one you choose. Why not add both to your Jordan itinerary?

The ancient remains of the city of Ayla with the resort in the background
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