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August 25, 2012


Golan Heights, Sea of Galilee, Yarmouk Gorge road

by swebackpacker
Golan Height 1

I tried to book a hotel room for the night in Umm Qais, in the far north of Jordan. Not possible, said Charl al-Twai manger of Miriam hotel in Madaba. They say Umm Qais hotel is closed, but do stay overnight in Irbid instead. I was not interested in staying in Irbid since the Rough Guide said “If time is short, give it a miss”. I strolled away to an internet café and search for hotel rooms in Umm Qais. On a hotel booking site I found Umm Qais hotel. The hotel had nice reviews and it was very cheap only 15 JD for a room. The message was book now only two rooms left.

. I booked one night in Umm Qais hotel. The booking site said; pay the hotel when arriving at the hotel.

Golan Height 2

Next morning my rental car arrived from Amman at Mariam hotel. I thought it was best to avoid driving in Amman and start my Jordanian tour from the mosaic city of Madaba. For unknown reason the car should be left with an empty tank when returning the car. I discovered why then I saw the empty tank symbol in the car and the closed petrol station in Madaba. It was time to use my Arabic phrase-book for the first time.  I show the sentence about petrol stations. One man said drive to Dead Sea. Dead Sea was about 30 km away luckily it´s downhill almost all the way since Madaba is on 800 to 900 m while Dead Sea is minus 402 meter. On the way is the famous Mount Nebo there the prophet Moses died. At the petrol station at Dead Sea I filled 48 liter into a Skoda Fabia and paid 33 JD so the tank was almost empty.

Yarmouk Gorge

I followed the Jordan valley north to the baptism place of Jesus. They asked for 29 JD in entrance fee to see the place so I was back on the road immediately. I followed the river Jordan but did never see the river on the way up to Umm Qais. Jordan flows out of Sea of Galilee at -200 meter and into Dead Sea at -402 meter. On both sides of river Jordan are the West bank and East bank with heights up to 800 to 900 meters. This is a narrow corridor which brings food to millions of people in Middle East. The bottom of the valley is all green while the sides up to the mountains are rust brown. Jordan River valley has three growing season annually since it still 20 to 25°C in the middle of winter. The Jordan valley becomes narrower and mountains steeper when travelling north.

Yarmouk Gorge 2

The spectacular Yarmouk Gorge road begins in Shuneh ash Shamaliyyeh (North Shuneh) and continues up to Umm Qais. On the right hand side one has the famous King Abdullah Canal, a border fence and the road more or less on the border with Israel. There is a military check point to pass each 300 to 500 meters traveling north up to Umm Qais. The road climbs up from the valley floor up into the mountains while one can look across the steep Yarmouk Gorge into Israel and Golan heights on the other side. After a couple of kilometers one can see a bombed bridge from the 6 days war 1967 down in Yarmouk Gorge. It’s possible to take photos here since the area is in between military check points. Further up there is a nice view to the Sea of Galilee. From the last military check point the road climb steeply up into Umm Qais.

Sea of Galilee

On top of the mountain is the ruin of Gadara. There is a road continuing past the ruin up to a military post. If one shows the passport here it’s possible to drive to an area with a nice view over Golan Height one can see as far as Syria into Israel and have a fantastic view of the Sea of Galilee. In the summer floods of Arabic people are coming from Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Bahrain for picnics on the slopes towards the Sea of Galilee. After all it’s the only fresh water lake in the whole Middle East.

Golan Heigt 4

I returned to Umm Qais to find my hotel for the night. Suddenly I did see the sign Umm Qais hotel on a very run down building. I have to walk into a small back yard to find the entrance to the hotel. I opened the door and walked into extremely dirty stairway it almost looked like someone was doing a rebuilding project. I have seen many bad hotels traveling around the world and I expected the worst possible scenario. Walked up to the first floor to see if I could find anyone in the hotel it looked completely empty. I walked back down again and come into big room there one man was sitting in front of a TV set. He was about 25 years old and looked very surprised. I told him I had a booking for the night at the hotel. The man took a couple of keys and we went upstairs to have a look at the rooms on first floor. I could have any room I wanted since where were no other guests. The room and beddings was clean, shower and toilet working so for 15 JD the room was good.

Golan Heigt 5

It turned out I was the only western tourist in town although it were al lot of Arabic people from other countries at the Gadara ruin. People were friendly and very interested in talking with me. I followed a street to the highest point of the town and turned left continuing on a small road until it finishes in a small path. This path was on a mountain ridge which finished at a small hut overlooking the Golan Height on the other side in Israel. The hut was used as a military viewpoint. One has a fantastic view over Golan Height and the Sea of Galilee.

Golan Heigt 6

I returned at sex a clock in the morning for some nice photographs from the mountain ridge. Back again at the hotel a nine a clock I had a nice breakfast. The manager at the hotel went into a bakery next door and bought new bread from the oven for breakfast.

King Abdullah Canal

© SWEBackpacker, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material including pictures without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to SWEBackpacker with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Stephanie Roberts
    Oct 21 2018

    Hi there – I’m off to Jordan next week and trying to find out how to get to the Yarmouk Gorge Road following your instructions. I’ll be leaving Ajloun so where would I go to get on to the road “The spectacular Yarmouk Gorge road begins in Shuneh ash Shamaliyyeh (North Shuneh) and continues up to Umm Qais.”.

    Hope you can reply! Many thanks,


  2. Oct 23 2018

    Hi Stephanie!
    Ask about the condition in the region before going I did my journey 2012 and a lot has happened since then? I recommend driving Jordan Highway (road 65) up into North Shuneh. When in North Shuneh center ask someone for direction? I did this myself, I didn´t have a clue there the road was going? As I remember it, I drove straight through the center of the town. There are not too many roads in this region but some local roads go into Israel so take care. You will understand that you are on Yarmouk Gorge Road then you see all watch towers and military posts. This is a very interesting journey. Be very careful, with your camera there is watch towers and guards every 300 to 500 meter! You will run into problems, if the guard is discovering that you are taking pictures.
    Best Regards from

  3. Oct 24 2018

    Hi Jan-Olaf,

    Many thanks for your response!

    I think we’ll go from Ajloun to Umm Qais via route 55, and cross west on route 10 and up that way, unless we use the northwest road up from Irbid to Umm Qais that goes underneath Yarmouk Nature Reserve. We’ll then come back down route 65 the next day. (We’re staying overnight in Al Himmeh.)

    There must be plenty of tourists that go up to Umm Qais, and on these roads, especially if there aren’t many in and out of Umm Qais and those that drive, I expect some do get lost. One would imagine if such a scenic journey then the military would be used to people taking photos?

    Best wishes,


    • Oct 24 2018

      Personally I don´t think many tourists go; I was almost alone on the road up to Umm Qais. This is a border zone with Israel so photography is strictly forbidden. You must be very careful with your camera on Yarmouk Gorge Road. However I wish you a nice journey in this scenic area!


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