Ajloun Forest Reserve is one of Jordan’s Nature Reserve under control and protection from the RSCN Jordan. It is about 1.5 hours drive north of Amman and a large area that offers a vast landscape of trees and hills. If you like the outdoors there are plenty of hikes to see apart from Ajloun Castle and the RSCN Vistor Center.
We decided to spend 1.5 days in Ajloun Forest Reserve and stay overnight in the cabins. You can learn and read about all Jordanian Nature Reserves on Wild Jordan and also book accommodation and experiences on their site. On the first day we visited Ajloun Castle in the afternoon. It is located on a hill overlooking Ajloun, the Ajloun Forest Reserve and you can see up to Salt, the Jordan Valley and further. While the 12th century built castle itself is not extremely huge, it is well preserved and offers some interesting views of the inside and from top over the surrounding area. After the Castle we had a coffee break at the (newly) established visitor center near the castle. You can buy your tickets there and also some souvenirs beside a nice view onto the castle on top of the hill.
For more pictures of the from my last visit, see my previous post on Ajloun Castle.
After the visit we drove to Ajloun Forest Reserve to check-in into our Cabins for the night. The location is really beautiful and feels good to be out of Amman and just see trees wherever you look. We had deluxe cabin for one night, since we are a family of four. For the price of the accommodation, I have to say it did not meet our expectations with respect to cleanliness. I know it is a remote area and the ecological aspect is important but they really have to improve this, if they want the lodges to be attractive for international tourists and expats living in Amman. However, after we mentioned it to the reception, immediately somebody took care. The cabins are very basic, which is OK, since we also only wanted to stay one night. There is a bed room, a small living area, a separate bathroom with a shower and a toilet and also a balcony with a table and chairs. There is not a single picture or other decoration item, which is a bit strange but then OK again, since it is supposed to be basic I assume. All in all, I found the lodge and rooms in Dana a bit more welcoming. After putting down our stuff, we went for a little walk around the lodge. There is a trail that leaves right from the cabins and takes between 30-60 minutes depending which route you take. Since we have small children, we didn’t do any of the longer guided hikes. But this short hike showed already how much the reserve has to offer. I am sure I will come back at some point to explore it deeper.
Interestingly enough, it seemed that we were one of the few if not the only Non-Arab/Non-local visitors and also it seemed we were the only ones who ordered dinner. We were told dinner will be served from 7 pm. We went around 7 to the restaurant area and staff was cleaning. To our disappointment dinner was not ready before 8. I took the opportunity to take some pictures of the sunset. (Our visit was after Ramadan). The quality of the food was average I have to say. Meet was good, however the Mezze was either boring or way to spicy and too much for the amount of people. Less with better taste would have been better.
The night was good and quiet and the best was the view that was offered early in the morning. Clouds were hanging deep in over the forest and covering the trees in the valley. An awesome view which I haven’t experienced since I have been in Jordan, so far. For the sunrise I got out of the bed and walked a bit around the area to take some pictures. They turned out really great, I think.
Breakfast was good and soon we check out and head towards the RSCN visitor center which is 5 minutes drive away from the cabins. The building itself looks really cool. It is built into the stone from material that was taken out of mountain next to it. The building hosts the soap house, the biscuit house, the nature shop and the house of calligraphy. We tried it all and it was actually nice. We practiced writing our names in some of the famous Arabic fonts and let our sons’ names be written by the lady who masters the fonts. We bought some delightful power bars and zataar cookies made in the biscuits house and took home some soap as a gift from the soap house. We had some coffee at the restaurant, enjoyed the view and made our way back to Amman after that.
All in all it was a welcoming change to the city life in Amman. It is a great refreshing outdoor experience, offering some hikes, the Ajloun castle and also providing some local goods in the visitor center. However, service, food and cleanliness at the cabins is still to be improved.