If you’re considering visiting Jordan, this travel guide has you covered. This relatively small country in the middle east is brimming with history and beauty. At the same time, Jordan is an ever-growing and modern country, filled with fun activities for every age and interest.
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Jordan has everything from a natural phenomenon to impressive mosaic artworks and ancient Roman ruins. Its combination of ancient and modern make it the perfect introduction to first-time middle-east visitors.
Below, we take you through the top things to see and do in Jordan for an easy-going, memorable middle-eastern holiday.
How to Get to Jordan in the Middle East
There are two international airports in Jordan, the largest being Queen Alia International Airport — also known as Amman airport. This airport is a 30-minute drive from the capital city of Jordan, Amman. The smaller King Hussein International Airport is closer to the port city of Aqaba.
For UK-based travellers, there are direct flights from London Heathrow to Queen Alia Airport via Royal Jordanian. These flights last about 5 hours. Flights to Aqaba usually require a stop-over, which will extend travel time.
North American travellers travelling to Jordan can take direct flights to Amman airport from Chicago, Montreal, and New York. These flights last around 11-15 hours.
Best Time to Travel to Jordan
The best times to visit Jordan is during the spring (March-May) and autumn (September-November) months. During these seasons, the days are warm, and nights cold. Yet, temperatures do not reach the extremes, making it the most comfortable time to visit.
The summer months (June-August) can get quite hot, with temperatures reaching around 31°C. Winters (December-February) are cold, with chances of rain, snow, and even flash floods.
Although these seasons are less favourable, especially if you’re travelling with children, the off-season prices are often lower.
How to Get Around
Jordan doesn’t have an officially regulated public transport system, and locals get around by word of mouth. So you, as a tourist, are bound to feel lost trying to navigate this system.
The easiest option is to arrange private transport. Many guided tours include private pick-ups and drop-offs. Alternatively, you can take one of the yellow taxi cabs with the green stripes on the side. Taxi trips between Amman and Jerash are around 20 Jordanian Dinar (JD) (£20). A trip from Aqaba to Petra will cost around 50JD (£58).
Royal Jordanian also runs daily domestic flights between Amman and Aqaba, which only last about 30 minutes.
Best Places to Travel in Jordan
Situated 30 kilometres away from Queen Alia International Airport, this city of hills is brimming with life and adventure. Amman is built on seven hills, making it great for views but difficult to explore by foot or even car. So, before considering which sites to visit, be sure to secure yourself a private tour to help you get around.
This beaming city of 4 million inhabitants was once a simple farming village. But, the city found new life after former king Emir Abdullah declared it the new capital of Jordan in 1921.
Below are some of the top Jordan sites, both ancient and modern, worth visiting in this bustling city.
One of the best-known sites in Amman is The Citadel. This archaeological site sits on an L-shaped hill named Jabal Al Qala’a — the tallest hill in the city. It offers breathtaking views of Downtown Amman, or Il-balad as it’s locally known. You’ll want to tackle this steep hill with the help of a taxi for 1JD (£1.2).
The Citadel is surrounded by a 1700 m long fortified wall, which has been damaged and reconstructed through multiple ages and periods of occupation. These fortified walls surround some of the most noteworthy sights in Amman.
Temple of Hercules
Although very few elements of the Temple of Hercules remain, it is one of the top Amman attractions. You’ll find two complete and four damaged pillars forming a rough skeleton of what the temple would have resembled.
At the entrance of this dilapidated Roman temple, you’ll spot a large hand-carved from stone. This lonesome “Hand of Hercules” is said to have formed part of a larger statue of the Roman hero.
Dating back to around AD 720, the Ummayyad Palace is a pristinely preserved series of ancient buildings. The collection of residential and royal buildings was said to house the governor of Amman.
Though many of the constructions were damaged by a hefty earthquake around 749 AD, the site is still well worth visiting. Perhaps the most impressive building in this ancient complex is the domed audience hall. Once through the hall, you’ll come across a courtyard, a street lined with ruins, the former royal residence, and a cistern.
Built during the 2nd century AD, during the reign of Antoninus Pius, this theatre is a must-see on any Jordan trip. The restored amphitheatre, built into the side of a hill, has an estimated capacity of 6000.
A JD2 (£2.30) entry fee will give you access to the arena and two small heritage museums on either side of the stage.
Rainbow Street – Souk Jara
Lively during the day and night, this cobble-stoned street is abuzz with shops, quirky cafes, and art galleries.
For an authentic Jordanian meal, reserve a table at the elegant yet homely Sufra restaurant. If the weather is in your favour, you’ll definitely want to enjoy your meals in the verdant courtyard. Enjoy options like Fatteh Betinjan, Mansaf, and clay pot kofta with tahini.
If you’re seeking a more budget-friendly, on-the-go meal, stop by the Al-Quds falafel restaurant. This walk-up restaurant has been running since 1966 and has served its famous falafel sandwiches to royals like King Abdullah and King Hussein.
The Al Hussein Public Park
While this park is an ongoing project, there are already notable attractions worth adding to your Amman itinerary. These include:
- Children’s Museum: The Children’s Museum is an interactive science museum suitable for both young and old. The modern museum features eye-catching indoor and outdoor displays focused on science, creativity, and history.
- The Royal Automobile Museum: Situated next to the park, this museum houses an impressive collection of vintage cars from 1886 to the 1940s. The museum was erected to commemorate king Hussein’s love for automobiles.
It is also home to the rover used in the iconic film, The Martian. After filming in Wadi Rum, the rover was gifted to Jordan to show thanks for the Jordanian people’s hospitality.
Where to Stay in Amman: Grand Hyatt Amman Hotel
Featuring modern and spacious rooms, post-card-worthy views, and top-tier service, the Grand Hyatt Amman is the perfect accommodation choice. It is centrally located near even more of Amman’s top attractions, like the King Abdullah Mosque and The Jordan Museum.
Read reviews on Tripadvisor
Known as “The city of 1000 columns”, Jerash has one of the best-preserved Roman sites after Italy. This northern Jordan city sits only an hour from the capital, making it the perfect location for a day trip from Amman.
Gerasa (as known in ancient times) has been inhabited since the Neolithic and Bronze ages. It was prosperous due to its location in the fertile hills of Gilead and trade connections with the Nabateans from Petra. But its most successful period was during the Roman occupation from 63 BC.
During this Roman rule, between the 1st and 7th centuries, many impressive architectural masterpieces were constructed. These buildings, however, were left deserted after the fall of the Roman empire and a massive earthquake in 749 AD.
Access to this site, rediscovered in 1806, is around JD12 (£14) or free with a Jordan Pass. Here, you’ll come across magnificent ruins of temples, plazas, theatres, multiple columns and arches, and water fountains.
Some of the most impressive sites include Hadrian’s Arch, the Oval Plaza, and the Temples of Artemis and Zeus. You’ll also enjoy the beautifully preserved Hippodrome, where the Roman Army and Chariot Experience (RACE) displays regular Roman battle reenactments.
Keeping with the trend of nicknaming cities, Madaba is known as the city of mosaics. It is filled with Byzantine and Umayyad-era mosaics, mosques, and churches.
Madaba sits just 30 minutes from Queen Alia International Airport and less than an hour from Amman. This makes it a great, quieter alternative for a home base near Jordan’s top attractions.
The most notable mosaic in Madaba is that of the Holy Land, which was uncovered in 1884. It can be found in St. George’s Church. The church houses the oldest known mosaic map of the Holy Land and is beautifully restored and decorated.
This charming city has many other mosaic artworks scattered throughout its homes and churches. In The Church of the Apostles, you’ll find mosaic masterpieces depicting scenes from Greek and Roman mythology. There are also two archaeological parks, the Church of the Virgin Mary, and the Church of the Holy Martyrs, worth visiting.
Mount Nebo is a significant religious pilgrimage site located a short 15-minute drive from Madaba. Sitting at 710 metres above sea level, it is the highest mountain in the Abarim mountain range in Madaba.
It is said to be the hill from which Moses saw the Promised Land. There’s a viewing platform indicating distant sights like the Dead Sea, Jericho, Bethlehem, and the valley of the River Jordan. If the air is particularly clear, you may also spot Jerusalem in Israel.
You’ll also spot some 6th-century mosaic artworks and a bronze sculpture of the Serpentine Cross. The Brazen Serpent monument was created by Gian Paolo Fantoni. It depicts the brass serpent Moses used to protect his followers from a snake God sent as punishment.
The site also houses the Moses Memorial Chruch and the Byzantine Chapel for peace. You’ll spot an olive tree next to the Chapel, which Pope John Paul II planted during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2000.
Spaning 50 kilometres in length, and 15 kilometres in width, the Dead Sea borders Israel and the West Bank. Due to its 34% salt level, the waters are uninhabitable to animals — hence the name; Dead Sea. It is this high salt content, which increases the water density, that allows your body to float.
It’s also the lowest point on Earth, at 434 metres below sea level. Due to this, the atmospheric pressure around the lake is higher. This makes the air up to 8 per cent richer in oxygen than at sea level.
This may come as a surprise, but the Dead Sea is actually a lake. And with its higher oxygen concentration and mineral-rich mud and water, your visit will be more of a spa experience than a beach day.
If you only have a day to spare book a JETT coach from Amman for around JD21 (£25), which will drop you at the Amman Touristic Beach for the day or a private tour.
Where to Stay At the Dead Sea: Dead Sea Marriott Resort & Spa
Book a few days at the Dead Sea Marriott Resort & Spa to enjoy easy access to the lake and luxury treatment. It’s the perfect place to rejuvenate and enjoy the therapeutic benefits of the Dead Sea water and mud.
Read reviews on Tripadvisor
Referred to as The Lost City or The Rose City, Petra is one of the most popular attractions in Jordan. And with its impressive structures carved out of sandstone, it’s no surprise that it’s one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
The UNESCO World Heritage site dates back to the 3rd century BC and served. During this time, it served as the capital city of the Arab Nabateans.
Petra was once a prosperous commerce city with around 20 000 inhabitants, trading in myrrh, frankincense and spices. But, after a significant earthquake and the introduction of ocean-based trade routes, the city was eventually left deserted.
After more than 500 years of the city being “Lost”, it was “rediscovered” by Swiss explorer Johann Burckhardt. The discovery attracted archaeologists from all over. To date, archaeologists have only uncovered about 15 per cent of Petra, with the rest still said to be hidden underground. This 15 per cent includes over 800 documented monuments.
Petra is a massive 60 km² site, and it can take a few days to explore all its wonders fully. But, if you’re on a tight schedule, you can visit the top attractions in Petra in under 4 hours. These include:
- Al Khazna (The Treasury): The Treasury is the most famous and photographed of all the sites in Petra. It is the first site you’ll come across as you enter the city. The local Bedouins believe that an urn on the top of the facade hides treasure from an Egyptian Pharoah.
- Ad Deir (The Monastery): This second most popular attraction in Petra was named for the carved crosses found on the walls inside. You can reach its intricate and dominating facade via an 800-stair climb.
- The Royal Tombs: This series of 4 mausoleums is said to have been the tombs of Petra royalty. Each tomb nestled into the rock mountain has a unique facade, interior, and history.
- The Theatre: The massive auditorium carved out of rock sits at the end of the Street of Facades. It is said to seat around 8000 spectators and dates back to around the first century AD.
A one-day pass will cost you 50JD (£58) without a Jordan Pass, while children under 15 years have free entry. It is worth taking a guided tour from Amman, with transport arranged, for a seamless experience. There are also Petra by night tours, where you’ll get to explore the candlelit site from 08:30-10:00 pm.
Given its size and intense heat, it’s best to arrive early before the temperatures and crowds pick up. This is especially important if you’re travelling with children. You’ll also want to bring sunscreen and a hat, as there’s minimal shade after The Treasury.
If you have the time in your itinerary it’s highly recommended to stay at least 2 nights in Petra to ensure you see all the sights in Petra.
Where to Stay in Petra: Hayat Zaman Hotel And Resort Petra
A 15-minute drive from Petra, the Hayat Zaman Hotel offers a luxury stay in the old village of Taybeh. Enjoy the luxuries of a swimming pool, a traditional hammam, and multiple restaurants serving authentic Arab cuisine.
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Although smaller than Petra, as the name suggests, Little Petra is an equally intriguing site worth visiting. Situated north of Petra, you can explore this site in under 1.5 hours. It is thought to have been a suburb of Petra, where merchants and visitors would have stopped over.
Though there are fewer sites to see, the temples, houses, and triclinia are wondrous sights. One of the top attractions in Little Petra is the Painted House. This carved house features intricate paintings of grapes and vines on its roof.
Little Petra doesn’t attract as many crowds, so you’ll get to enjoy the area in peace. The ancient little city is also known as Siq al-Barid, which translates to cold canyon. The site is mostly shaded, offering a break from the sun but making it quite chilly. So be sure to bring a jacket in case.
A 40-minute drive away from Petra, Shobak Castle is the perfect stop on the way to or from The Lost City. The castle sits in the middle of the Jordan desert, along the scenic King’s Highway.
The ruins of this castle are stooped on a mountain, formerly called Mons Realis. It was strategically built by the Crusader king Baldwin I in 1115 and withstood many attacks from Saladin.
Salahuddin Al-Ayyoubi, the first sultan of Egypt and Syria, overtook the castle in 1189 after an 18-month siege. The castle was later inhabited by Mamluk Soldiers.
The site features ruins of two churches, one of which has a baptistry, Islamic tablets, and Saladin’s throne. You’ll also find a prison, watchtowers, a royal court, and a secret passageway with 375 stairs leading to an underground spring.
Known as the Valley of the Moon for its red sand, the Wadi Rum desert is most famous for its features in movies. The film, Lawrence of Arabia, shot in 1962, was the Western world’s first significant introduction to Wadi Rum.
Besides its modern popularity, this desert has been the homeland of nomadic Bedouin tribes for centuries. There are also traces of Nabatean civilisation, seen in drawings, carvings, and a temple.
There are countless attractions in this almost 800 km² dessert, like Lawrence’s Spring, Khazali Canyon, and Um Frouth Arch. But the smaller details, like inscriptions and odd remains, are best found with the help of a local Jordan guide. Book a jeep tour for an informative, action-packed experience of Wadi Rum.
Where to Stay in Wadi Rum: Sultana Wadi Rum Camp
Al Sultana Luxury Camp in Wadi Rum has a large swimming pool for cooling off in, surrounded by modern tents. The camp offers a deliciously varied menu, live entertainment at night, and a shuttle service to and from Aqaba Airport. The hotel can also arrange horse-riding and Jeep tours on request.
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Situated only 20 minutes from Aqaba Airport, this beautiful city is located near top attractions like Petra and Wadi Rum. But the city is an attraction in itself, offering a range of activities, sights, and shopping opportunities.
There are plenty of exciting souqs (markets) selling fresh produce, essential oils, spices, and souvenirs. The most exciting of these markets, Souq by the Sea, takes place every Friday from 6 pm-11 pm. This market features stalls serving traditional cuisines, artisanal creations, and live music.
One of the top sights in Aqaba is the Aqaba Castle, also known as Mamluk castle. The 12th-century structure has served as a military fort, a resting place for pilgrims heading to Mecca, and a residence.
You can find ancient artefacts from this fort housed in the adjacent Archaeological Museum. The museum also houses items collected in other parts of Aqaba and the surrounding areas. Entry to both buildings is 1JD (£1.20), and you can purchase tickets at the museum.
Aqaba Bird Observatory
Aqaba is located along major bird migration routes between Africa, Asia and Europe. The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature created a wetland to serve as a welcoming stop-over for migrating birds. The observatory is a bird watcher’s dream, with over 250 bird species making their way through Aqaba.
Gulf of Aqaba Water Activities
The Gulf of Aqaba boasts a diverse range of aquatic wildlife, with turtles, dolphins, and even Whale Sharks roaming its waters. It also has some resilient coral reefs, as well as sunken ships, aeroplanes, and military tanks.
Seaguard & Yasmena Boat is run by a passionate diving instructor, Yazan. You’ll be taken straight to the best diving and snorkelling sites in the Red Sea. A trip includes all the gear and a freshly prepared lunch on the grill.
Alternatively, you can take a glass-bottom boat cruise to view the colourful aquatic underworld without getting wet.
Where to Stay in Aqaba: Mövenpick Tala Bay Hotel
The spectacular Mövenpick Resort is a mere six minutes away from the beach. The resort’s highlight is its lagoon-like pool, featuring water fountains and a water slide. With the addition of a children’s club and spacious rooms, this resort is the perfect option if you’re bringing little ones.
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Final Tips Before You Visit Jordan
Hopefully, this guide has inspired you to travel to Jordan for your next holiday. It’s a truly unique experience to make your way through the sites of long-gone civilisations. It’s even more wondrous to see how advanced, creative, and influential these ancient civilisations were.
As with most middle-eastern countries, it is advised that you dress modestly out of respect for the local norms. Be sure to keep your shoulders and legs covered, and wear loose-fitting clothes — which are also great for the heat.
If you’re looking for even more adventures in the middle east, be sure to have a look at this guide to Abu Dhabi.
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