Meet Carmen Scholten, In2Jordan’s Co-founder and General Manager. Or as the locals in Aqaba know her, the blonde with the bull.
At In2Jordan, Carmen Scholten is known as the boss. But in the small southern town of Aqaba where she lives with her husband, son and her British Bulldog, Carmen is simply known as ‘the blonde with the bull.’
It’s a rather unassuming profile for the woman who drove from Amsterdam to Jordan in a 500 Euro car just to complete a university assignment. This also being the woman who then identified a need for high quality tours in Jordan and launched In2Jordan as the ideal solution two years later.
But that’s the way Carmen likes it. “Always over deliver,” she says.
“Running your own business is fun, especially when you love and believe in what you do.”
From her home office – which also doubles as the reception area of her husband’s PADI dive center – Carmen juggles client service, team leadership, and business development with a smile.
“Running your own business is fun, especially when you love and believe in what you do,” says Carmen. “No two days are the same and I enjoy the diversity that comes with managing financial budgets, motivating the team, developing strategic planning, and translating these elements into practical outcomes for my team and clients.”
According to Carmen, her passion to offer clients high-quality customized experiences in Jordan stems from her own unforgettable first impressions. “I was meant to visit Jordan for a few days but I fell in love with the country. Within six months of graduating university I’d moved here,” she says.
“I studied cross cultural management and sustainable entrepreneurship at university. Pairing that with a passion for travel, a career in the tourism industry was the perfect fit.”
“I believe there is a place for responsible tourism in every destination across the world.”
Since the official launch of In2Jordan in January 2013, Carmen’s team has grown to include five local guides and drivers, and six travel consultants. Each with specialist knowledge in cultural sites, horse tours and yoga and meditation retreats. A partnership with Amani Tours in Amman and travel agents across the Middle East also offers clients a wide range of customized packages and experiences.
“One of my greatest achievements is knowing that I’ve surrounded myself with a team of dedicated and loyal experts at In2Jordan,” says Carmen.
“I’m also proud of how we have tapped into the expertise of local guides and drivers. Not only does their grassroots knowledge add value for our clients; the money they earn directly supports small entrepreneurs and local communities. I believe there is a place for this kind of responsible tourism in every destination across the world.”
It is this kind of thinking that earned Carmen and her off-sider, Gail Reid the title of 2017’s Best New Destination Expert Worldwide on Trip.me.
“I could roam the ancient architectures of As Salt and lush areas of Ajloun all day.”
Carmen also has the gift of the gab with her international clients thanks to her expertise as a destination expert in Jordan, and her ability to speak four languages. “I speak Dutch, English, German and Arabic,” says Carmen. She laughs before adding, “so I guess so does my dog, Hendrix.”
So how does the woman who organizes tours travel herself? “I love walking the numerous beautiful routes in Petra, and climbing the hills of Wadi Araba to enjoy the stillness of the desert,” she says. “Next to that, I could roam the ancient architectures of As Salt and lush areas of Ajloun all day.”
Is there anything the blonde with the bull can’t do? “Well, I’m trying to grow veggies in the desert. We’ll see how that goes,” she concludes.
The Rea Sea is truly an aquatic wonderland that is enjoyed by beginners and advanced divers of all ages. The best place to immerse yourself in the heart of the Red Sea is via the small coastal town of Aqaba. Identified by its expansive white, stony coastline and crystal clear waters; Aqaba is the gateway to a multitude of breathtaking dive spots and snorkel sites. You reach them right from the shore which leaves you with unforgettable memories of your time in Jordan.
What to expect in Aqaba?
Located in Jordan’s south, Aqaba is a 3,5hr drive from Amman. It is dotted with over 20 various resorts and dive centers that offer SCUBA and snorkelling services. Starting from downtown Aqaba and stretching to South Beach and Tala Bay, your opportunities for dive certifications, wreck, shore and boat dives, and discovery adventures are endless. The rule in Jordan however is simple: you get what you pay for. This means you pay a large sum for a 5 star PADI dive resort experience, or a lower price for a standard service. But be warned: not all dive centers in Aqaba operate according to international dive standards.
Signs of a reputable and safe dive center
An example of a good dive center is Sinai Divers, which you find in the 5 star Moevenpick Tala Bay. Or visit the Bait Al Aqaba Dive Center in South Beach which I launched with my partner a year ago. Key signs of a safe and reputable dive operation like these examples include:
Always providing an official dive instructor or divemaster to go in the water with you
Equipment is not less than two years old and is free of damage and holes
The dive package is inclusive off all essential gear, such as a wetsuit, boots, fins, a sealed mask, a regulator, ECD, and a full tank of oxygen
Investigation of your medical disclosure statement to insure that you are fit and safe to dive
Dive sites in Aqaba
Aqaba has only recently caught the attention of international tourists so the diving sites are relatively quiet and open to explore. With the position of Aqaba nestled in the north-east corner of the Red Sea, the waters are calm and shallow all year around. It makes of the dive sites accessible from the shore. This makes Aqaba an ideal haven for beginners and kids keen to take their first dive down under!
The Seven Sisters and Japanese Gardens sites are two shore dives that comprise of beautiful reefs where coral and fish are in abundance. For experienced divers, the Cedar Pride Wreck is one of the most popular sites in Aqaba. Resting 26 meters below the surface, the old 78 meter long Lebanese freighter is still largely intact. Its deck is now colonised by various hard and soft corals and smothered by urchins, shrimps, crabs and fish. For a drop off, the Power Station has a very lively coral plateau sloping from 12 to 20 meters. Here you see moray eels and coral pinnacles.
Because of the geographic location in the Gulf of Aqaba and the shallow waters, coral reefs tend to grow fast in Jordan. A great place to visit is the Marine Park for a different ‘underwater garden’ experience. Corals from the harbor are relocated in the Japanese Gardens. Here you recognize the pieces on the tags that are still on there.
A place to relax and rejuvenate
So what if Aqaba’s 20 underwater sites appeal to your family but diving is not your thing? Next to relaxing at the beach or swimming pool, there is a good amount of excursions to make from Aqaba, including sites like the World Wonder Petra, and UNESCO heritage Wadi Rum desert.
In 2017, In2Jordan was thrilled to host National Geographic Traveller writer, Emma Thomson, at our Horse Wisdom Retreat in Little Petra. Now, Emma has shared her experience, led by In2Jordan’s resident equine coach, Sandra Jelly.
Enjoy her article, which was originally published on National Geographic Traveller: http://www.natgeotraveller.co.uk/destinations/middle-east/jordan/petra-horse-meditation/
Petra: Horse meditation Horse wisdom
Getting up close and personal with horses proves emotional in Little Petra, as they deliver a dose of equine enlightenment
When I was told we’d be trying horse meditation, I immediately thought of the film, The Horse Whisperer, and conjured up images of me cantering across the desert, hair flowing in the breeze, accompanied by a denim-shirted Robert Redford. Luckily for us, Sandra Jelly — described as ‘the horse whisperer of Petra’ — is far prettier, with a pair of cobalt-blue eyes, wide white smile and the jangle of rings and bracelets. Horse Wisdom
She gave up her advertising career in Amsterdam after she saw an advert in a magazine about horseback riding in Petra, Jordan. “I thought — that’s my call! So, I took a sabbatical and, with the last of my money, I bought Gamar (a brown mare), some riding boots and a set of paintbrushes.” Eight years on and Sandra now resides here, offering yoga and horse meditation classes to travellers to help them reconnect with nature and themselves.
A small group of us sit cross-legged on the floor of a Bedouin tent, nestled near the Wadi Baad’ja mountain range, behind Little Petra. We’re in a rich farming valley, surrounded by fields of alfalfa, barley and olive trees. The gentle wind flaps the fabric walls, as flies dance around the rim of the teapot. Three horses are corralled in a simple sandy paddock in front of us. “The grey gelding is Nour, he’s a bossy little man,” remarks Sandra, rather proudly. “Then there are the two mares, Gamar and Remaz, and the foal Zahir over in the corner.”
“Pick a horse you feel you resonate with and approach it without the purpose of interacting — just sense their energy.” We all look a bit confused. “It’s just like observing a candle, you focus the mind but don’t touch it,” she explains. So, I hop over the simple fence and stand with my eyes closed. Nour moseys over and starts nipping at my sleeve and arm. “Ah, that’s a sign you’re emanating masculine energy,” comments Sandra. “The horses reflect your inner feelings. For example, they’ll rear if we’re holding anger.” It’s starting to make sense: I always wear my ‘in charge’ hat when travelling on my own.
About 10 minutes later, we form a meditation circle in the paddock. “Leave room so the horses can weave in and out,” instructs Sandra. Immediately, Nour comes over and starts nibbling my trousers and playfully chomping my arm. I close my eyes and try to let go of my ‘masculine’ feelings and embrace my nurturing side. I feel something unlock inside me and the minute I do, Remaz — one of the mares — wanders straight up and starts nuzzling me affectionately. I’m so shocked by the immediacy of her reaction and sense of sisterly caring that, quite out of the blue, my eyes brim with tears.
“Horses are in their true nature, whereas we get separated from it. They guide us back to our authentic bodies and help us to become fully present,” whispers Sandra. She’s taught me more than Robert Redford ever could.
From skydiving to SCUBA diving, horse-back riding to walking and 4×4 driving; this country caters for all types of adventures. Find out which adventures in Jordan you can experience.
Writer: Carmen Scholten
Are you the type of person who enjoys a two-day break on the beach before starting to grow restless for an adventure? Or perhaps you’re the type who seeks out exciting travel destinations to pursue activities that offer a challenge in new environments and terrains? Whatever your travel style, Jordan offers adventures for everyone with an adventurous spirit and a daring soul.
At In2Jordan, we know that the sky is (literally) the limit for some of our guests. So here are seven different adventures to help build the foundations of your next Jordan holiday. And the best thing is: for every adventure we have a dedicated travel consultant who helps you to plan your trip!
Adventure one: Horseback riding from Petra to Wadi Rum
When one thinks of crossing the desert on horse-back, a mental image of Lawrence of Arabia is usually close to follow. However this nomadic style of transport has been favoured by the Bedouin tribes for centuries. Now it is still a viable and fun way for visitors to explore the vast desert landscapes.
For horse-lovers and explorers alike, a classic trek from the ancient city of Petra to the desolate environment of Wadi Rum is a must. Previously this journey was selected as best horseback riding holiday around the world! Discover the south of Jordan on horse-back where the natural environment is breathtakingly beautiful and rugged. From Petra you will ride with local experienced Bedouin guides on active horses – AKA, horses who carry the blood Arabic stallions – in the direction of the desert. Throughout the tour you will see the landscape transform as you journey through mountains and valleys along the way to the red desert of Wadi Rum. A Bedouin chef joins you for a traditional lunch on location, which is synonymous with famous Bedouin hospitality. A journey through these vast, echoing and colorful deserts is a true paradise making a horse-back riding holiday an adventure of a lifetime.
Adventure two: Skydiving above Wadi Rum or the Dead Sea
SkyDiveJordan – part of the The Royal Aero Sports Club of Jordan – offers a couple of skydiving experience each year for those who seek the adrenaline that comes with jumping out of aeroplanes. There is no standard schedule, but previous tours offered sky-dives above the Dead Sea and the Wadi Rum desert.
Adventure three: Camping and canyoning in Wadi Araba
The Siq in Petra is not the only canyon in Jordan. Deeper in the desert, revealing expansions lead to the lowest point on earth: The Dead Sea. The flow of nature water from the desert wadi’s results in incredible oasis’ and canyons that become an awesome playground for thrill seekers. From a walk through streaming water to abseiling with a professional team of guides: all is possible. Wadi Al Hasa is one location where you can spend the night under the stars from a tent, and spend the days hiking through the Wadi Araba desert.
Adventure four: Walk the Jordan Trail
Also known as the Abraham Path, The Jordan Trail is a walking route that runs from Um Qais in the most northern part in Jordan, all the way to Aqaba in the south. A few fanatic walkers have walked the full 650 kilometre trail over 40 days. However hiking shorter day or multi day options is also possible. Along the path, hikers will come across small villages where traditional hospitality will keep you well rested and fed. Ancient olive trees as old as Roman times will often line the path while leading you to natural springs as you journey through arid desert and sprawling grassland terrains. Walk through the Great Rift Valley. Or walk straight through the desert combined with the main highlights of Jordan such as Petra and the Dead Sea. It will have every box on your must-see list ticked before heading home.
For real Petra fans there is a wide range of possibilities to discover the ancient city and its surrounds. Walk various routes to enter the site. Like walking the backroad with expansive views over Wadi Araba. Walk through the Sig to reveal the great Treasury, you are guaranteed amazed at every turn. Climb to the Monastery, Petra’s biggest monument; venture up to Jabal Haroon where you’ll find a tomb in honour of Aaron, the brother of Moses; scramble up the Um al Biyara or Jabal Khubta mountains for a birds-eye view of the desert landscape. Or walk via the Nabatean inscriptions to the place where ancient springs, water and orchids still grow inside Petra. Leave no stone unturned before leaving this wonder of the world.
Why just skirt the edges of the Wadi Rum desert when you can experience a 4×4 jeep safari? This adventure will take you along the best places of this UNESCO heritage. Or get dropped off at the foot of the highest mountains in Jordan. Scramble up for views of surrounding countries including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel and Palestine. A stay in the unique desert white spots which cut you off from the interest and mobile reception will give you a true sense of peace and relaxation as you enjoy the array of stars in the unlit sky.
Adventure seven: Diving in the Red Sea
In the very south of Jordan, close to the border of Saudi Arabia, lies the small town of Aqaba. Boasting 25 kilometers of expansive white, stony coastline and crystal clear waters, Aqaba is the gateway to the ultimate underwater experience in the Red Sea. With a whopping 22 dive and snorkel sites, many of which are accessible from the shallow shore; Aqaba is the ultimate destination for both beginner and experienced divers. For beginners exploring the shallow reefs offer abundant sights of fish, coral and marine critters. Such as crabs, sea urchins and shrimp. For more experienced divers, deep dive wrecks such as the Cedar Pride provide views of rare fan-corals, eels and larger fish in deeper seas.
The great thing for you is that all of our travel consultants have first hand experience in these adventures! What else would you expect from these bunch of girls that are living and working inside Jordan? For more information, send your inquiry to email@example.com and we will get in touch with you.
Vamoos, In2Jordan’s travel app is now available for customers via the app store, and compatible with Android and iPhone tablets and mobile devices.
Writer: Carmen Scholten
Ready, steady, click, and complete! That’s how easy it is to immerse yourself in your Jordanian adventure, before and during your visit, with the new In2Jordan travel app, Vamoos.
Developed by a UK company, Vamoos is designed to let you access all your travel information on your mobile device even without having a data signal. In2Jordan is proud to be the first company to take advantage of the app’s specialist travel services across the Middle East. All in the pursuit of making your holiday as seamless as possible.
We couldn’t be more excited to help you and your travel mates count down the days until your holiday. Easily check the weather so you know which clothes to pack; and, place all your essential travel documents in one convenient place so you’re ready to go.
Responsible traveling is high on our priority list. As part of this, we build itineraries that allow you to spend as much time with local communities as possible so you can learn their ancient culture from the grassroots. We also aim to reduce our environmental footprint by digitising many tourism paper-based processes, making them accessible and available 24/7. Enter the new Vamoos app that houses all your travel essentials on your phone.
How it works
First things first, our In2Jordan destination experts work closely with you to create a customised itinerary to develop a holiday that fits all your needs. Then we invite you to download Vamoos via the App store on your phone, which is compatible with Android and iOS mobile devices. In2Jordan will provide you with a unique code to enter. This code transports you to a wholly personalized experience where you will find all the necessary information about your holiday, already conveniently entered by your In2Jordan expert.
Key information that you will find on the app, includes:
Your itinerary and a count-down to your departure date
A map with all the locations you will visit
A general overview of local customs, language tips, and additional excursions that might be useful during your visit
Your transport and accommodation vouchers
A weather tab that displays the temperature of the locations you will visit
A tab that allows you to share pictures and messages within the group you travel with
The only thing we would advise you to do is to keep the contact information of your travel consultant somewhere else, in case you lose your phone!
Are you someone who likes to go away from the mass or off the beaten track? With overnight stays at the following accommodations, you will not only get to beautiful places, you might even stay the night with people from your own country!
Already have in mind what you want to do during your trip in Jordan? Send us an email and we’ll work out a price for your itinerary!
Boutique hotel in Amman
The La Locanda Boutique hotel in Amman is located in Jabal al Weibdeh, the new place to be with the hipsters of Amman. The hotel has a modern set up and the design of every room is inspired by important musicians from the Arabic World. It’s centrally located and with a walk you’ll be right at the amphi theater and Jabal Amman with the temple of Hercules.
In between Pilgrims
Something completely different is the Russian Pelgrimage house. This resthouse is built on the border between Jordan and Israel, where you stay the night in the middle of Pelgrims from all over the world. It’s located in the area of Bethany beyond the Jordan, close to the place where John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan river. From here it’s just a small drive towards the Dead Sea or to the border when you make a combination tour between Israel/ Palestine and Jordan.
For nature lovers
For the fans of nature the Sherhabil Ecpark is a good idea. This park has different kinds of bungalows and even the possibility to camp with your own tent. In the park you can make nice walks, hang around the Ziglab Dam or use the Zipline to get from one side to the other. Last time I was there, I saw chameleons in the bushes, local women cooked our meal and we spoke with the mayor who came to explain to us about the park.
Overnight stays with locals in the North of Jordan
By staying the night in a home stay, you always have a nice chat, you get to know the culture and the locals can show you beautiful places. For example you can stay at a farm in the Ajloun area North of Jordan. From here you can walk beautifully along the Jordan Trail, visit local initiatives such as the Soap or Biscuit house or even climb and abseil from the steep rocks in the area.
Bed and Breakfasts
And last but not least: if you’d like to hang around with one of our travel consultants, you can also stay at their B&B’s! Stay with Jolanda from Holland in her Petra Fig Tree villa or with Patricia from Belgium in Petra Bed and Breakfast.