I’m rarely enticed to revisit a place, Ajloun in Jordan is one of the exceptions. And so last summer, I revisited it not once but twice. On the second trip, I coupled the Ajloun forest hike with a visit to the Ajloun Castle , a must if you haven’t been. If you set early from Amman , you should easily be able to do both in a day or less if you take the short ( no more than 3 hour) hikes .
In recent years , hiking has picked immensely up in Jordan. There are many trails that can be taken around its many tourist sites like Wadi Al Mujib, Petra and Dana. For the avid hikers ,check one of the Hiking in Jordan pages. For the more laid back like yours truly, a mini hike at Ajloun will allow you to boast that you took one without breaking a sweat or hearing complaints from the young ones.
Ajloun has the added bonus of being a short 90 minute drive away from Amman, depending when / where in Amman you head off. Weekends are optimal for lighter traffic but you might find the reserve to be busier. Starting early is best, The route opens no earlier than 9 ; however the small restaurant at the visitor center where you will get your entrances opens at 8. The breakfast is lovely with a great view and a very reasonable price.
Once there, a center setup by Wild Jordan has an information center , a restaurant, restrooms and a small gift shop. There are different hike trails you can chose from . The one hour hike does not need to be prebooked and is great if you’re going with little ones. The 3 and 5 hour ones need to be pre booked as a guide must be present ; usually a day or two prior to your hike should be enough if they’re not busy .
Once you head out, you will notice the cabins which are available for rent overnight. The scenery is beautiful and therefore it looks to be worth a try if you have time .
The terrain is typical of Jordan’s green areas , red fertile rocky earth. Beautiful evergreen oak trees are the feature , though you will see some Carob, Pine and Wild Pistachio trees. If you go in the spring, there will be many wild flowers. If you’re lucky, you might come across a Roe deer which the Royal Society of the Conservation of Nature have been releasing into the reserve. I felt quiet nostalgic during the walk, reminded of the trips we took growing up in Jordan. The children were delighted at the sight of lizards crossing the trail at random; so I skipped mentioning what we did to those when younger. They also immensely enjoyed scraping off the dry outer bark of a tree which after digging around, I found was called the strawberry tree, a native of the Mediterranean.
On the way back , we stopped at the adjacent soap, biscuit and calligraphy center also set up and run by Wild Jordan. There you can see , sample and purchase handmade items by the locals. Also available is a café/ restaurant with amazing views called Balloota.
The famous Ajloun Castle is a mere 20 minute drive from the reserve. I’ll start by saying, please do get a guide while taking the tour especially if you have little ones who might not have read about its history. It just makes the experience more memorable, with stories of what and how things were. Most are bilingual, veterans , ex army officers and locals who are passionate about the heritage. The Ajloun Castle or Al Rabad Castle was built in the Ayyubids era on the remains of a monastery said to be dated to the Byzantine era. It has been built to defend against the crusader incursions.
The minute I entered , my eyes were searching for those tiny slits in stone that the archers / guardsmen used for lookout. I had remembered hearing a recount of how they were used as a child, standing there imagining being that soldier waiting in anticipation. In no time, I see my girl, Tamara, crouching from one window to the other.
The Castle is complete with its moat , catapult, prisons, food storage and meeting room. The castle also has a museum exhibition with many interesting artifacts from the various time periods of the region. It still is in good shape, having withstood two earthquakes. Onnce you head to the roof you will be able to see just how strategic the location has been. There’s no wonder that it has been used to get words across between Jordan , Syria, Palestine and Iraq.
After an easy hike in nature, we found the trip to the castle and its history a perfect way to end the day.