Dana Biosphere Reserve (note that "Dana" is pronounced in Arabic as "thana" with the "th" as in "the") is the largest nature reserve in Jordan, covering over 300 km² and all four different bio-geographical zones of the Kingdom. In the east, elevations reach 1,500 m before descending through canyons and gorges to the low elevations of Wadi Araba (Wadi Dana).
The reserve has been managed by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) since 1989.
The village of Dana lies on the eastern edge of the reserve at a height of 1400 m, making it cold and foggy in winter sometimes. It is perched spectacularly on a cliff overlooking the reserve. The village is partly in ruin and is being rebuilt in part with USAID funds. There are several small hotels and the big government (RSCN) run Dana Hotel in town, and a few options inside the reserve.
Built in Ottoman times, the village has been abandoned until relatively recently. Two families remain nowadays and the rest has been converted to housing for tourists. Also many police men live in Dana Village, making it very safe.
Fees and permits
Access to the hiking trail of Wadi Araba and the village is free of charge. Some visitors have paid a conservation fee of 8.50 JD for trips into Dana Nature Reserve, but this cannot be verified from the associated website.
The nature reserve track down to Feynan Ecolodge can be done without a guide, but for anything else it is required to use one. Your hotel and host will most likely be very happy to organise a trek for you.
Care should be taken on walks. Ask the locals for advice or acquire a guide.
Also, dogs can be a problem in this area. If they get too close, (pretend to) pick up a stone. They will remember this gesture from the last painful "experience".
If driving, 1 Dana Village is well-signposted from the Kings Highway just north of Al-Qadisiyah. It is down a short, steep road and there is parking at various points around the village.
The village is about 3 km from the highway junction in Qadisiyyeh and can be difficult to get to by public transport. However, either you just walk, hope for someone to pick you up on the way down/up, or you could contact the hotels to see if you can get a pick up.
Hitchhiking to Dana is easy when the weather is fine.
You can walk to a few places from Dana Village - down the main track for a bit (but then you have to get back up), or over to the springs and some rocks with good vantage points. Hotels can drive you to the start of other hikes, and provide guides.
Hiking is the best thing to do in the reserve. There are half day to even two day treks. Some treks involve the use of 4x4 to get there or away. Most of the treks can only be done with a guide.
A good description can be found here: http://www.wildjordan.com/eco-tourism-section/dana-biosphere-reserve
If you want skip the guide but still want a challenging track, try Dana Village to Feynan Ecolodge. You either walk back from there or continue on to the highway. Allow 3-5 hr to the lodge and 2-3 hr to the villages and 1 hr more to the highway – double check with other websites. Make sure to have a good map and even GPS with you, and also know how to get on from the highway - hitchhiking can be an option.
Since not many of the original inhabitants are left, most of the things for sale are not from the village, even though it is communicated that it does support Jordanian handicraft.
Each of the hotels offer meals and you can visit other hotels. There is also the Feynan Ecolodge restaurant offering similar fare. In low season, restaurants may often be closed in the middle of the day and should be prepared with snacks (hotels can do lunch packs). However, if the owner is around, he might just open his restaurant for you, so ask.
It is a good idea to eat and stay at different places, to spread what you spend more fairly in the village. You might not want to stay with a hotel of a lower comfort, but that doesn't prevent you to enjoy their food, which is similar in most places in Dana Village. This way you can support everyone in the village and not just the bigger hotels.
Dinner is about 5-8 JD and includes vegetarian and mutton options.
The supply of tea is unlimited, and you do not need to go looking for it, as it will be offered frequently by anyone you're doing business with. Alcohol is prohibited in the reserve.
In the village
Try Dana Moon Hotel or Dana Tower Hotel, which are not run by RSCN, and thus supposedly do more to the local people than the other hotels claim.
- 1 Dana Tower Hotel (at the right end going down the village road), ☏ , , ✉ email@example.com. Offers exceptional service, wonderful buffet meals. It's a comfortable atmosphere, with plenty of sitting space up on the roof, with meals served inside a bedouin-style common area, which is great in cold winter. The hotel is a grouping of mud-built houses, typical of the town. 8/12/22 JD simple/single/double +3 JD breakfast, also have dorm beds and mattresses outside for 2 or 1 JD, respectively.
- 2 Dana Moon Hotel (right where the village road splits at the beginning). Very nice and friendly host. The rooms are basic but probably a good bargain. From 10 JD for a double in low-season.
- 3 Dana Hotel, ☏ , , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Run by the local collective supported by the RSCN, has a mix of rooms, a rooftop and good food (6 JD for dinner). From 10-15 JD.
- 4 [dead link] Dana Guest House (going down to the left end of the village), ✉ email@example.com. The higher end option in town. Most rooms have balconies with spectacular views over the reserve and canyon. From 55-85 JD.
- 5 Al-Nawatef Bedouin Camp (free shuttle to Dana), ☏ , , , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Located 3 km from town with views into the canyon. Beds from 15 JD with dinner & breakfast. Campsite from 10 JD.
In the reserve
- 6 Rummana Campsite. The location of the campsite used to be a favored Bedouin camping area, occupied every summer season for goat grazing. The campsite has 20 large tents that can house up to 60 people, bathrooms, and barbecue grills for visitor use. Each tent comes equipped with mattresses, blankets and pillows. Traditional Arabic meals are also provided upon request. Open from 15 March to 31 October. However, there have been complaints about the management, price and authenticity of this site. From 100 JD.
- 7 Feynan Ecolodge, ☏ . From 133/160 JD single/double.
From north to south:
- Madaba — known as the 'City of Mosaics' for its Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics, especially a large Byzantine-era mosaic map of Palestine and the Nile delta at St. George Church.
- 2 Wadi Mujib — great nature reserve famous for its impressive canyons. Read more here. Limited access in winter.
- Kerak — site of a once-mighty Crusader castle.
- 1 Tafila — a village on the way to Dana Reserve or Petra, respective, might be worth a visit for its authenticity.
- 3 Shoubak Castle (Al-Shobak / Shawbak) (south of Kerek and Dana Reserve, from the highway (fuel station) it is a 20 min direct hike (not along the road)). It is on a hill with spectacular views and a great for a stop when going south to Petra. Most of the castle is a pile of rubble but there are underground rooms to explore, including the staircase (through a metal door that should be open) that goes down 375 steps to the old wells. Take a torch; at the bottom, you can climb up metal rungs to a hatch next to the road below the castle, then walk back up the road. Along a side road to the castle, you can also find 8 The smallest hotel in the world with a steep price of 25 JD, but maybe it can be get down to 15 JD, considering there is only space for one. Nearby, the owner of it has regular rooms with dinner and breakfast. 1 JD.
- Petra — The most famous site in Jordan.