Jordan // The King’s Highway //

Dana Biosphere Reserve

Dana village overlooks the Dana Biosphere Reserve, an immense tract of wilderness centred on the V-shaped Wadi Dana. It’s a spectacular place to go walking.

The reserve’s terrain drops from 1500m above sea level at Dana to below sea level west of Feynan. Its geology switches from limestone to sandstone to granite, ecosystems varying from lush, well-watered mountain slopes and open oak and juniper woodlands to scrubland and arid sandy desert. The list of flora and resident fauna is dizzying: a brief roundup includes various kinds of eagles, falcons, kestrels and vultures, cuckoos, owls, the Sinai rosefinch and Tristram’s serin; wildcats, caracals, hyenas, jackals, badgers, foxes, wolves, hares, bats, hedgehogs, porcupine and ibex; snakes, chameleons and lizards galore; freshwater crabs; and, so far, three plants new to science out of more than seven hundred plant species recorded.

Once you arrive in Dana, it’s worth stopping at the RSCN-run Guesthouse – whether you’re staying there or not – both for the views from their terrace (binoculars are available if you’d like to do a spot of birdwatching) and to get some firsthand information about the reserve’s walks and wildlife from the experts. Bear in mind you have to book everything with the RSCN well in advance; you can’t just turn up and do a walk with a guide. That said, there are some self-guided trails available – and if you ask around in Dana village you may be passed to a non-RSCN guide who can take you onto trails outside the reserve boundary.

You can also access the reserve from Feynan, at the far western end of Wadi Dana.

Walks from Dana village

The most obvious walking route in the reserve is the magnificent Wadi Dana Trail (14km; 5–6hr) from the village along the downward-sloping floor of the wadi, an easy walk passing from the lush green gardens of Dana through increasingly wild and desolate terrain to end at Feynan. This can be done alone or with a guide.

All other routes require a guide. The White Dome Trail (8km; 3hr; March–Oct only) is a beautiful one-way walk that follows a contour around the head of the valley, passing first through the spring-fed terraced gardens of Dana and then beneath the massive escarpment to Rummana.

Another highly explorable area is Al-Barra, a fifteen-minute drive south of the village, where lush woodlands give way to networks of canyons and gorges cutting into the mountainous landscape. This is the starting point for the superb Feathers Canyon Trail (3km; 3hr) to Shaq ar-Reesh (“Canyon of the Feathers”), a Nabatean mountain retreat. The walk begins in flower-filled meadows and quiet terraces, but involves a bit of scrambling and climbing through a narrow gorge to reach the spectacular summit, dotted with cisterns and water-channels. Al-Barra is also the start and finish for the Nawatef Trail (2km; 2hr), heading out to the springs and ruins at Nawatef and back on a different route.

The beautiful but difficult Wadi Dathneh Trail (16km; 8hr) also starts from Al-Barra, passing between the red cliffs of Wadi Hamra before reaching the verdant oasis of Hammam Adethni and following flowing water in Wadi Ghweir all the way down to end at Feynan.

Walks from Rummana campsite

A few kilometres northwest of Dana village, on the opposite flank of Wadi Dana, Rummana campsite is both an alternative entry point to the reserve (see The Dana–Petra trek) and an alternative place to stay. The White Dome Trail (8km; 3hr; guide compulsory) to Dana – the route is described in reverse under “Walks from Dana Village” – is highly recommended, or you could try the alternative Dana Village Trail (5km; 4hr; guide compulsory), following a rougher track.

All other trails can be walked without a guide. The easy Campsite Trail (2km; 1hr) leads on a circular route around the Rummana area, offering stunning views and birdwatching lookouts. The moderate Rummana Trail (2.5km; 2hr) follows a trail through the juniper trees up to the summit of Jabal Rummana (“Pomegranate Mountain”) for the views down into Wadi Araba: it’s also easy to spot raptors up here, and if you head up at dawn you may see ibex. Across from the campsite is the Cave Trail (1km; 1.5hr), a short, rough walk leading to a set of caves above Shaq al-Kalb (“Dog Canyon”), residence of hyenas, wildcats and wolves.

Near the Rummana campsite is a bird hide overlooking a small pool – ideal for early morning observation of birds and ibex – and should you fancy stretching your legs instead of sitting on the shuttle bus, the walk back up from the campsite to the “Tower” (the public access point for Rummana) takes about an hour.