Fenyan Ecolodge, Jordan
From $90 per person (including breakfast)
Courtesy of Feynan Ecolodge
GETTING THERE Arrange for a dusty old truck to fetch you from Petra. Skid 40 miles through the craggy Wadi Namalah, which means "valley of the ants," at full tilt, careening around hairpin turns and pausing only for your driver to smoke a cigarette and splash the engine with water. Or shuttle to Mansoura from the village of Dana and hike 11 miles down a riverbed that deposits you on a ruin-lined road near the lodge.
BEST MOMENT A tea stop on a hike. After hours of winding through the shady canyons of Wadi Ghwayr, the guide produced woody greens he'd picked, a battered aluminum teakettle, sugar, and cups for 10 from his daypack. While waiting for the river water to boil, he played melodies on a wooden flute.
FAVORITE CHARACTER Mohammed Daifallah, a Bedouin born in a mine shaft in Dana Biosphere Reserve who taught us about local flora, fauna, and history. Like his father, Mohammed herded goats. Unlike his father, he attended primary school at the lodge and then earned a university degree in Arabic literature. He has guided for Feynan since it opened in 2005.
Map by Peter and Maria Hoey
LOCAL LORE The region is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the world, with prehistoric ruins a 20-minute walk from the lodge. Feynan is one of the first places where copper was mined in West Asia. Early Romans brought Christian slaves here, severed their Achilles tendons, and worked them to death. When the Roman Empire adopted Christianity, many churches were constructed around Feynan, which became a pilgrimage site.
WHAT'S GREEN Before the lodge was built (on a campsite used by archaeologists), the natural resources authority was considering restarting mining in the area, but tourism's economic and environmental benefits have permanently ended talk of further mineral resource extraction. The 26-room, off-the-grid lodge is constructed from local gravel and mud, powered by solar, and lit with candles made on-site. Laundry is air-dried. Drinking water from a nearby stream is stored in locally made clay pots. Instead of burning wood in winter, the lodge burns jift—charcoal from olive pits.
WHAT'S NOT GREEN Jordanians litter. The community around Feynan recycles, but it feels like the only place in Jordan that does.
PLANET SAVING OPPORTUNITIES
Lodge revenue helps protect 800 flora and 449 fauna species, including three endemic plants, in the approximately 115-square-mile Dana Biosphere Reserve. —Berne Broudy