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Find a Natural Retreat in Dana Biosphere Reserve

Of all the places we visited during our 17-day tour of Jordan, Dana Biosphere Reserve was one of our two favorite places. Dana Biosphere is a wild, rugged and picturesque location that most people completely miss while visiting Jordan. This is a shame, as there are so many trekking, nature-watching and photographic opportunities jam-packed into one location.

We had to spend a night there, just to take it all in.

Dana Biosphere Reserve 4 photo collage for pinterest

Dana Biosphere

Located halfway between Amman and Aqaba, Jordan, Dana (pronounced dah-nah) is part of the Great Rift Valley. Its eastern plateau begins at about 4,000 feet, then the land descends through canyons and gorges down to the low-lying desert of Wadi Araba.

Such a variety of altitude means you will find all four of Jordan's four geographical zones in this one spot. Dana is probably the most biologically and historically rich areas in the country. Rare plants and animals, many of which are known to be endangered, exist here, in a protected environment.

Dana Biosphere, a UNESCO Reserve

Dana Wadi at Dana Biosphere

Sunrise at Dana Biosphere as shepherds herd out the flock

Dana Reserve vs. Wadi Rum

In our opinion, Dana Biosphere beats out Wadi Rum – at least if hiking and nature are your game. The system of mountains and wadis make this a mesmerizing world, so be sure to carry your camera. You will want to capture it all.

Rare plants at Dana Bioshpere

Flowering cactus in Dana Village

Endagered Lesser Kestrel

Sunset over Dana Wadi

Village of Dana, Jordan

‎The timeless tranquility of Dana Village is sure to draw your thoughts back into a less-complicated life. The grandeur of the red and white sandstone cliffs of Wadi Dana enhances the creamy white stones of this beautiful village. Its precarious perch atop a cliff's edge just adds to the drama.

Dana Village, Jordan

Dana Village is about 500 years old, and in many ways is representative of Jordanian life from the 19th century.  Preserving many aspects of Jordanian villages of the 19th century, a walk through town opens your eyes to the not too distant past. Its sun-weathered stone buildings are so close to the edge of the cliff, there's little room for expansion, let alone maintenance.

Children playing in Dana Village.

Walking around the town gave it a chance to reveal its charm and character. The townspeople have kept the exterior of their homes historically intact, though no doubt the insides have been refurbished with all the modern amenities. The quaint restaurants have maintained the atmosphere inside the courtyards, adding to the ambiance for diners.

 

What a great view this home in Dana Village will have when restored

Notice the thatched roof of this home in Dana Village.

Accommodation at Dana Nature Reserve

To be quite honest, there aren't a lot of lodging options at this nature reserve, but you do have a variety of styles:

  • Rummana Campsite: 20 tents equipped with mattresses, blankets and pillows, as well as bathrooms, and barbecue grills for visitor use. Traditional Arabic meals are also provided upon request. (Open from March 15 to October 31.)
  • Feynan Ecolodge: a 26-room, environmentally-friendly lodge that is completely off-the-grid. It is powered by solar energy and is lit by candles and stars at night.
  • Dana Guesthouse: about 20 rooms (9 in the old wing; more in the new wing) with ensuite bathrooms and balconies. These are the best equipped of the three and there is full-time electricity in the rooms, but that's not why we chose to stay here. It was the view. Every room at Dana Guest House has a balcony with jaw-dropping views of the wadi, down through the reserve's main canyon and the town of Dana. (Booking info here)

View from a room in Dana Guest House

Large balcony outside the restaurant at Dana Guest House

Okay, another reason we wanted to stay here is because we wanted to support the work of RSCN, and they run this eco-lodge. The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature is an independent national organization devoted to the conservation of Jordan's natural resources, and Dana Guest House began as a place to house researchers. As a result, there are also several educational facilities onsite, where they offer a series of presentations and exhibits on the biosphere's unique habitat.

Courtyard at Dana Guest House

The lodge's location is ideal, as it is only a short and scenic walk into the ancient town of Dana. We were glad our hotel wasn't in town when we saw how difficult parking seemed to be on the narrow street. (There are a few lodging options there as well.)

Bird's-eye views of Dana Preserve

We stood on the balcony again and again, marveling at the changes in the environment with the changing light. But the most absorbing experienced was watching a shepherd and his dog herding goats. We heard the goats' bells before we saw them. They led them out for grazing, then brought them back in the evening.

Shades of life in the reserve.

Flock of goats heading out to pasture in Dana, Jordan

Experiencing Dana's wild side

Our bird's eye view from the balcony revealed another attractive feature of the reserve: we could see several trailheads nearby. Perfect for hiking, canyoning, and mountain biking, right? Many of the shorter trails can be explored unguided, but some of the longer trails require an experienced Bedouin guide.

Unfortunately, due to a knee injury we couldn't descend the bottom of the canyon and experience the nature and wild life up close. We couldn't visit Wadi Mujib for the same reason. Two huge disappointments.

Tip: You can find experienced guides through Dana Guest House.

Trails map at Dana Guest House

Have you visited Dana Biosphere Reserve? If so, please share your experience with us. If you have not been to Jordan, don’t forget to put Dana Biosphere on your itinerary.

Inspired?

Plan:

  • Learn more about Dana Biosphere Reserve on the Wild Jordan website.
  • Lodging: For sleeping options, we recommend HotelsCombined. From resorts to hostels to apartments, they compile the best deals from all over the web, including Booking, Expedia, Agoda, and more.
  • Transportation: This website shows how to get anywhere by plane, train, bus, ferry and car.

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Dana Biosphere is a wild, rugged and picturesque location that most people completely miss while visiting Jordan.

Dan

Written by Dan

Professional photographer specializing in street, food and travel shots at As We Saw It travel blog. Enjoys catching children at play, showing their innocence in every situation … we all can learn that, to be content with what our Father in heaven has provided. Photography is unique in that it captures light in all forms, and since the Bible says YHVH (God) is light, photography captures Him in many forms.

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4 thoughts on “Find a Natural Retreat in Dana Biosphere Reserve

  1. Hi Dan,

    I have not visited but it looks like an inspired place. Totally up my alley too.

    I would see Petra for its special nature but would spend a ton more time in this reserve because I vibe with nature and off the path spots. Checking both marks here, of course. I dig seeing wildlife too; especially in a remote and seemingly rugged, inhospitable area. Fascinates me how animals survive and thrive in such difficult terrain.

    Loving these snaps guys! Well done 🙂

    Ryan

    1. Thanks for the compliment, Ryan. Dana was so incredible that it was easy to find subject matter.

      If you are a nature fan (like we are), you really should check out the rest of Jordan too. Its terrain is so different from the U.S. and there are lots of places to hike. We really liked Dana but I preferred Wadi Mujib, which felt even more remote despite the luxury camps sprinkled here and there. Hiking is possible but they advise you to hire a guide because it’s easy to get lost and cell phone signal is spotty.

      Hope you have a great 2018.

      Dan

  2. Thanks for sharing your experiences in Jordan, Dan. My husband and I are seriously considering a visit to Jordan, but we were thinking more about sites like Petra, or Amman. But for your post, I would have never heard about Dana Biosphere Reserve. It looks very wild and barren, but after seeing the delicate and fragile plants that grow there, I realized why this is such an amazing place. Besides, the accommodations in the area look quite spectacular. Well, I’ll bookmark your post hoping that we’ll make it to Jordan sometimes soon. Wish you and Linda a great New Year!

    1. Hi Anda,

      Thank you for the kind words. Yes, Dana is a wonderful place with lots to see and even more if you don’t mind some hiking. We didn’t have time to get down the canyon but wished we’d stayed one more day. The hotel and its views were stunning and highly recommend it.

      As for the rest of Jordan, Petra is, of course, a beautiful destination, but the touts made the place almost unbearable. It is still worth the time but is n where near the top of a “must see” list anymore. I would recommend a luxury camp at Wadi Rum to spend some time. That place was beautiful and no one to try to sell you constantly.

      Amman is wonderful as is the Dead Sea/Bethany Beyond the Jordan. Aqaba is ok, but nothing spectacular. Hope you have a wonderful time in Jordan when you visit. Bring some clothes that are a size larger as the food is fantastic! 😉

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