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In theory, the tourist high seasons are April, May, September and October, but Western tourism to Jordan is still relatively low-key, and only the main path at Petra gets unpleasantly crowded at peak times. The weather should have more impact on your decision when to visit. Despite the small size of the country, you'll find wide variations in climate whenever you arrive -the same January day could have you throwing snow- balls in Ajloun or topping up your tan on Aqaba's beaches.

Far and away the best time to visit is spring (March-May), when temperatures are toasty but not scorching, wildflowers are out everywhere (even the desert is carpeted), and the hills and valleys running down the center of the country are lush and gorgeously colorful. The worst of the rain is over by March (it doesn't entirely peter out in Amman and the hills until late April), although Dana, at 1500m, stays blustery into May. Humidity is pleasant everywhere, and low; clear sunlight draws a spectacular kaleidoscope of color and texture from the desert rocks. There's only one drawback -a desert wind, loaded with dust and grit, which blows regularly each spring. It's known as the khamseen after the fifty days it traditionally persists (although it rarely lasts longer than a week), and can darken the sky and raise the temperature by 10°C, coating everyone and everything in a layer of sand.

In summer (roughly June-Sept), Amman can sizzle -even up to 45°C in Downtown -and you'll find little respite in the rest of the country, although the hills around Ajloun catch some cooler breezes. Temperatures at the Dead Sea and Aqaba have been known to top a sticky 50°C, with Aqabain particular suffering from an intolerable hot wind that makes you feel like you're basting in a fan-assisted oven. High, hazy light flattens the brown landscape and bleaches any beauty out of the desert, and you'll find it's too uncomfortably hot countrywide to do any walking or sightseeing between noon and 4pm. Typical autumn weather pretty much passes Jordan by, with only a few weeks marking the shift out of high summer -if you catch it, this can be a lovely time to visit. The first rains fall in early or mid-October, making the parched countryside briefly bloom again and the torrid temperatures drop to more manageable levels. In winter (roughly Dec-March), Amman can be desperately chilly, with biting winds sweeping through the valleys, annual falls of snow and plenty of cold rain, although the sun is still never far away. With short days and freezing nights, visits to Petra can be taxing; exceptional lows of -8°C have been recorded. Rum is more temperate, but Aqaba is the only retreat, with sunshine and warmth even in the depths of January.

Average Dead Sea and Red Sea water temperatures vary little either side of a balmy 24 ° C all year

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