When I first visited Jordan, I didn’t know what to expect. However I quickly came to realize that this often overlooked Middle Eastern country was full of incredible sites, beautiful archeology, and stunning scenery.
Yes there’s Petra, and of course other beautiful and ancient sites such as Jerash, or Amman’s Old City, but what I found out was that many of Jordan’s little-known cities, towns, and regions had their own secrets and hidden gems ready to be explored and discovered. You just needed to be willing to go “off the beaten track” and see places that were not always in the guide books.
Tafilah is one of those places, and with the diverse array of things to do in the region, the city of Tafilah really is an amazing place to stay as you explore what this area of Jordan has to offer.
This town of just 30,000 people sits between Amman and Petra, and as such many people visiting Jordan pass by Tafilah but never stop. Very few even notice Tafilah on a map, never mind see what the town has to offer.
An olive growing region, these ancient trees are rooted throughout and around the town, and sprawled between them are fig trees and grape vines. It’s green and lush, and the people are friendly and welcoming.
However while this part of Jordan is pretty, it’s not the only thing it has on offer.
There are many things to do in Tafilah, and to convince you of why you should take a trip, here’s a rundown of my top picks:
Visit the hot springs
There aren’t just one or two hot springs here, but dozens in and around Tafilah. Set in the out-of-this-world Jordanian desert landscape, taking a dip in one is a once in a lifetime experience!
The hot springs have created several small waterfalls, and it’s in the areas at the bottom of these waterfalls – where natural swimming pools have been created – that people congregate.
The hot springs in Tafliah have been used since ancient times for the purpose of health treatment, and their use as healing water dates back to the time of the Romans. In the 21st century people still flock here to bathe in the mineral waters.
In particular the hot springs in the area are said to have unique therapeutic properties that can help in the treatment of infertility, arteriosclerosis, anemia, rheumatism and other chronic diseases. But be careful, they can be around 50 degrees Celsius!
Afra hot spring is the main one in the area, and if you want to make a whole day of it you can hike from Afra to Burbaitah hot spring. It’s about 7-8km but it’s a beautiful hike.
Afra is well signposted, or you can easily get a taxi from Tafilah city center.
To visit the breathtaking Wadi Dana
One of the most incredible, if not the most incredible, moments of my time in Jordan was staying in the tiny village of Dana, near Tafilah.
Why was this place so magical?
Well the village of Dana sits on the edge – and it really is the edge – of Wadi Dana, a HUGE valley and nature reserve.
Not only is the valley beautiful, unspoiled, and packed with incredible hikes and wildlife, the village of Dana is centuries old and is barely changed from what it looked like 500 years ago.
The winding roads have tightly packed houses flanking the sides of them, and at the edge of the village you can look down on the valley floor below as it stretches in front of you for miles.
Not only should you visit during the day, but you have to stay the night. If the sky is clear the night sky is a tapestry of stars. It has to be seen to be believed.
To explore the castles
The huge Kerek Castle to the north of Tafilah is a common day-trip for tourists to Jordan, but did you Tafilah is also castle country?
Sela’ Castle is one of them, a crumbling but atmospheric castle built into the dusty desert landscape. Take the stone steps up towards Sela’ and expect to see no one else. While this castle is definitely not grand like Kerek, you are almost guaranteed to have it completely by yourself when you visit.
There’s also the castle fortress of Hassa, an impressive and important architectural building that is virtually unknown to tourists.
However the beauty of both castles is not just in their design, the fact they remain standing, or their age. It’s in the fact you can visit them, walk inside them, and experience this incredible piece of Jordanian history and be one of very few people to do so. That’s special.
Go back to prehistoric times at Wadi Feynan
Part of Jordan’s largest nature reserve, Wadi Feynan near Tafilah, has been an important place for people living in this region for centuries.
The valley (wadi) is becoming popular for “wild” tourism, where tourists can camp and enjoy Jordan’s picturesque landscape up close and personal.
Within the last few decades archeological sites dating back to prehistoric times have also been discovered, many of which can be hiked to. In fact the oldest copper mine in the world was even discovered here!
To visit the biblical site of Bozrah, and the tomb of an Islamic figure
If you know your biblical history, then you will know of the Kingdom of Edom.
Well the capital of that ancient kingdom is in Tafilah itself.
The ruins of Bozrah, the capital of the Kingdom Of Edom, still stand to this day, and can be visited. Archeologists continue to carry out excavations on the site that dates to the seventh century BC.
Not only that, Bozrah is the home to an ancient tomb said to be that of Al-Harith Bin Umair Al-Azadi – a companion of the Prophet Muhammed.