The sun had already set when we arrived at Feynan Ecolodge, after a long, winding drive into this remote corner of Jordan. We’d gotten off our bus at the “Feynan Reception Centre,” where we transferred to smaller four-wheel-drive vehicles, owned and driven by local Bedouin. For the last half hour of the trip, we rattled along an even narrower eight-kilometer (five-mile) dirt track to the lodge.
It takes some effort to reach this 26-room off-the-grid accommodation in Jordan’s Dana Biosphere Reserve, the country’s largest nature preserve. But for a unique experience that also benefits the local community, it’s worth the effort.
Here’s the scoop:
The country’s first “ecolodge,” Feynan Ecolodge opened in 2005, owned by the Royal Society for The Conservation of Nature (RSCN), the Jordanian non-governmental organization that currently manages ten of the country’s nature reserves. Since 2009, EcoHotels, a private Jordanian company, has operated the lodge for the RSCN, with the goal of creating an enterprise that’s socially responsible and environmentally sustainable, while also helping support the surrounding communities.
In addition to the drivers who shuttle passages to the lodge, the property hires all its employees from the local area.
A women’s cooperative crafts the clay jugs that hold drinking water in each guest room, avoiding the plastic bottles that are ubiquitous elsewhere in the country. The lodge is solar powered, with candles crafted in a community workshop illuminating the guest rooms. A local woman bakes the delicious fresh bread that accompanies the ample breakfast buffet each morning.
Guest Rooms and Amenities
Built around a central courtyard, the guest rooms at Feynan Ecolodge are simple but comfortable, the beds topped with warm quilts and local textiles, draped with mosquito netting.
Only the bathrooms, all private and en-suite with solar-heated showers, have electric lighting. The rest of the room is lit by candles, built into reflective nooks in the stucco walls that cast a warm glow.
If you have devices you have to charge, you can plug them in by the front desk, where there’s also limited internet service. But Feynan is really a place to disconnect.
Rooms are priced in three tiers. The entry-level economy rooms are the smallest, with twin beds, while at the middle tier, the standard rooms have either a king bed or wider single beds.
The deluxe rooms add a balcony with a small seating area and views across the desert landscape.
Food and Drink
Vegetarians meals are included in your stay at Feynan, typically served in the outdoor courtyard.
In the morning, you can select from a buffet lined with cheeses, bread, yogurt, labneh, hummus, falafel, fruits, and homemade jams, along with coffee, tea, and fruit juice. The meat-free buffet dinners offer a range of salads, stews, and other local dishes. If you’re at the lodge midday, you can have a light lunch; if you’re heading out on an excursion, the kitchen will pack you a lunch box for the trail.
The lodge doesn’t serve alcohol. Guests are permitted to bring their own but asked to consume it “discretely,” out of respect for local customs.
Activities and More
So what can you do at this remote lodge?
Feynan staff offer a variety of guided hikes, from two-hour sunrise walks to more challenging all-day excursions exploring the surrounding terrain. You can take a vegetarian cooking class, or choose from different activities in the local community, including a lesson in the preparation and etiquette of Arabic coffee, learning to bake Arbood (a traditional Bedouin bread), or spending a day with a local shepherd.
Since we arrived in the late evening, we went up to the property’s roof deck for a star-gazing session with one of the staff. We lay on cushions on the rooftop, scanning the dark sky. Our guide was able to point out several constellations as well as the planet Jupiter that glowed brightly in the distance. A bank of clouds soon rolled in, though, sending us all downstairs to our candlelit rooms and to bed.
Double rooms rates at Feynan Ecolodge start at JD152 (~USD$215) during the quieter winter and summer months and at JD222 (~USD$312) during the more temperate spring and fall seasons. Rates are all-inclusive, covering accommodations, vegetarian breakfast and dinner buffets, a light lunch, and most activities. Experiences in the local community have small supplemental fees, which are paid directly to the people who provide them — another way that Feynan Ecolodge gives back to its neighbors.
Hotel feature by Vancouver-based travel, food, and feature writer Carolyn B. Heller. Top photo ©Feynan Ecolodge. Other photos © Carolyn B. Heller. Organized as part of the Adventure Travel Trade Association‘s Elevate Near East event, my stay at Feynan Ecolodge was arranged by Magic Travels, with support from the Jordan Tourism Board.