Thanks to the folded landscape of canyons, gorges, valleys and hills around Madaba, Mukawir and the Ma’in hot springs, there are some great opportunities for adventure trips and excursions. Although many of the Jordanian specialist tour operators will be able to help, check first with Terhaal (t 06 581 3061, w terhaal.com) and Tropical Desert (t 079 543 8708, w tropicaldeserttrips.com), excellent, professional adventure activity firms with intimate knowledge of Madaba’s mountains and countryside. As an added enticement, some of Terhaal’s day trips include a meal hosted by a local family – a unique opportunity to sample rural village life and authentic home cooking.

Walking and canyoning

Among the wide range of trips are relatively short, easy gorge-walking excursions down Wadi Wala or Wadi Karak, as well as long, difficult canyoning adventures in Wadi Manshala, Wadi Mukheiris and others. One popular route leads down Wadi Zarqa Ma’in, from the Six Senses hotel to the Dead Sea shore at ancient Callirhoë, while you may be lucky and find a guide for the hard-to-access routes into the stunning rainbow canyon of Wadi Qseib.

Most of these are full-day trips, involving anything from six to twelve hours of walking, canyoning, swimming through deep pools and, sometimes, abseiling down waterfalls. Expect to pay JD60–85 per person for the more straightforward trips; two or three times that for the tougher adventures. Bear in mind that the terrain is often difficult: within the sweltering, breezeless gorges temperatures can soar and dehydration can strike even the most experienced of walkers. You need to be at least moderately fit and carry lots of water.

The Evason Ma’in/Six Senses hotel also leads shorter hikes, up onto the cliffs around the hot springs valley; contact them for details. Another option is to talk to the Wild Jordan team at the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature about trekking from the hotel over the hills into the neighbouring Mujib Biosphere Reserve for a day of sightseeing, hiking, swimming and birdwatching.

These walks and others are described in more detail in Jordan: Walks, Treks, Caves, Climbs & Canyons by Tony Howard, and at w walkingjordan.com.

Cycling and mountain-biking

The hills around Madaba are also perfect for cycling and mountain-biking. Terhaal offers several trips – both on- and off-road – including routes from Madaba to Mount Nebo or Mukawir, as well as easy rides down to the Dead Sea and a half-day exploring dolmen fields. These run as scheduled trips (see website for dates; JD25–50/person) and also on request.

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