In the last few years Jordan has become a very popular travel destination. In this travel guide you will find the top things to do in this beautiful country.
Of all the countries I have visited in the last few years Jordan has a special place for me. Maybe because before visiting it I didn’t know much it and therefore I didn’t have very high expectations or maybe because of the incredible people I met. Whatever it was that made me love Jordan, I’m still in love with this country and I would return there right away.
Jordan is a place with a rich history and with incredible landscapes. Despite its proximity to countries where the political situation is not exactly stable, the people are extremely kind and I have never felt unsafe.
After visiting Jordan I wrote two articles about this country but in this post I’ll talk specifically about how to organize a trip to Jordan and what to do and to see..
When is the best time to visit Jordan?
As I always advise, before planning a trip it would be better to keep in mind the best time to visit the destination. That said, unfortunately, most people do not have the freedom to take time off whenever they want. Summer is not a good time to travel to Jordan because it is extremely hot but if you have no other choice consider planning your itinerary optimizing as much as possible the early mornings and late afternoons.
In winter, on the other hand, it is colder than you would imagine keeping in mind that it’s a country in the Middle East. When I went there (at the beginning of March) it was snowing. The best time to visit Jordan is during Spring (between the end of March until the end of May) and in Autumn (from the end of September to end of November). In that period temperatures are usually pleasant.
The difference of temperature between day and night is quite high even during spring and autumn, so please remember to bring clothes suitable for both hot and cold weather.
Is Jordan a safe country?
This is the probably the most frequently asked question for those who are thinking about visiting Jordan. The short answer is symply: yes, Jordan is a very safe country. I dedicated a whole article about this topic where I explained why Jordan is a safe country to visit.
It’s a country with a very moderate Muslim majority (rather secularized compared to neighboring nations). In the article, however, I explain in more detail why there are not many security problems.
Useful info to organize your trip to Jordan
Most people start their trip in the capital, Amman, but there is also a Ryanair flight to Aqaba, in the south. You can visit almost all the places I mention in the article using public transport but it would be better to rent a car. It is clearly more expensive but you will save a lot of time and you will be able to see a lot more things.
The visa costs 40 JOD (single entry) and is valid for 60 days. If you enter Jordan from Aqaba the visa is free of charge for some nationalities (you’ll have to stay in Jordan for at least 3 days).
To access most of the more important place in the country you’ll have to pay an entrance fee and the total cost at the end of the holiday is quite high. To save money I recommend you to buy the Jordan Pass (here the official website) which gives you access to about 40 areas and greatly reduces the price you would have to pay by buying each ticket individually.
In addition when you buy the Jordan Pass the cost of the visa is halved. Once purchased, the pass is valid for 12 months, but from the moment you start using it is valid for 2 weeks. There are three versions of the pass and I recommend that you buy the 80 JOD pass, which gives you access to Petra for 3 days.
Top things to do and to see in Jordan
Here some ideas to organize your trip in Jordan.
Amman is the capital and the largest city of the country. The modern buildings blend perfectly with the older houses and it is worth spending a couple of days in this beautiful city.
Amman is one of the oldest constantly inhabited cities in the world. It is even mentioned in the Bible as Rabbat-Ammon, the city where according to the story Uriah (Bathsheba’s husband) was killed. So as you can imagine is a city full of historical sites to visit.
One of the most important historical sites is the Roman Theater.
Built between 138 and 161 A.D. it has about 6000 seats and is still used for various performances and concerts. Other places that you shouldn’t miss includes the Jordan Museum, the residential area of Abdun Al Shmali (if you are interested in nightlife) and Amman Citadel.
The Citadel is considered a very important archaeological site due to the different civilizations that have occupied it. Some of the buildings you’ll see were built by Roman, Byzantine and Umayyad civilitations.
In addition to the archaeological sites I suggest you take a tour of one (or more) of the Souk (local markets). There are several of them and they have different opening days and time. Among the most famous there are:
- Souk Jara: famous for local handicrafts. It is located in Rainbow Street and is open only on Fridays from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm.
- Souk El-Khodra: open every day, is the market where local people buy fresh fruit and vegetables. The address is: Al Hussein Bin Talal Mosque – King Talal St 1
- Farmers Market: in this market you can find organic fruits and vegetables. It is open only on Saturdays from 10:00 to 16:00 near The Winemaker (Arar St, Amman, Jordan).
- Souk El-Sagha: if you feel like buying some gold or jewels this market is for you. It’s located in Downtown, King Faysal Square.
- Nour al Barakah: another market where you can find organic fruits and vegetables (at least some of them). It is located at Al Ahwaz Street
Finally don’t forget to visit the King Abdullah Mosque.
Regarding the accommodation, in Amman there are options for all the budgets. If you want to indulge in some luxury I suggest you to stay here.
Here’s some ideas about what to see North of Amman.
Jerash is a surprisingly well-preserved ancient city. It was part of the Roman Decapolis. The area with the ruins is huge and it takes at least half a day to explore it.
The ideal starting point to explore Jerash is the Arch of Hadrian ,built in 129 AD. Among the ruins there is also a theater that is still used today for concerts. It has about 3000 seats.
You can organize an excursion while staying in Amman, as Jerash is only 55 km from the capital. Alternatively, you can take a bus from Amman North Terminal Bus Station. The price is around 2 JODs.
Ajlun is a small town (about 10,000 inhabitants) near Dibbin National Park, in a very fertile valley full of vineyards and forests. It is not a popular destination and is an option for those looking for places that are not very touristy.
Ajloun is famous for the castle that controlled the traffic along the road between Damascus and Egypt. The city is located about 71 km from Amman.
Gadara (Umm Qais)
Located in the far north of the country, Umm Qais is the only green region in this sterile country. It is also known as Gadara and in the past it was called Antioch, Antioch Semiramis and Seleucia. This city was also part of the Roman Decapolis and according to the Gospel of Matthew it’s where Jesus expelled the demon called Legion.
Today you can visit what remains of the ancient Roman ruins.
It takes about two hours to reach Umm Qais from Amman (about 125Km). It is possible to get there by bus, from the North Terminal Bus Station in Amman. From there take a bus to Irbid from where you can take a shared mini-van to Umm Qais. The bus ticket costs about 2 JOD each.
Here are some ideas on what to see South of Amman.
Mount Nebo is one of the most sacred places in Jordan and it’s where the memorial of Moses is located. It’s the mountain from where the Jewish prophet Moses saw the Promised Land. On a clear day you can even Jerusalem. It’s about 37 km from Amman and about 10 km from Madaba.
From Mount Nebo you can also see Machaerus (Mukawir), another place of historical interest. There is not much left of what was originally a fortified mountain where, according to Josephus Flavius, Herod the Great had John the Baptist executed.
If you stay in Madaba or Amman you can reach Mount Nebo or Mukawir by taxi. There are no regular buses from Amman to Mount Nebo.
The Dead Sea is located in the lowest point on earth and is without doubt one of the most interesting places to visit in Jordan. Swimming (or rather floating) in this hyper-saline waters is a unique experience, to try at least once in a lifetime. The Jordanian side of the Dead Sea is flatter than the Israeli side and that is why most resorts are located in Jordan. If you want to treat yourself with some luxury I recommend staying here. Believe me: it’s worth it.
A cheaper alternative to swimming in the Dead Sea is the Amman Beach. The entrance price is 20 JOD but honestly I haven’t read many positive reviews about this place.
The Dead Sea is located at -420 meters below sea level. This means that the oxygen concentration is three times higher than in other areas. In addition, UV rays cannot penetrate the atmosphere and this means that you won’t need the sunscreen!
Dead Sea mud has healing properties, and has been used for thousands of years.
The resort area is located about 60 km from Amman. Unfortunately there is no public transportation to get there so the only alternative, if you have not rented a car, is to get the by taxi.
Wadi Mujib Nature Reserve
It is the nature reserve with the lowest elevation in the world. Located about 90 km from Amman, it lies in the deep gorge of the Wadi Mujib, a river that ends in the Dead Sea.
The area occupied by the reserve covers about 212 square kilometers and was created in 1987. It is an important nesting area for birds. Among the various activities that can be done are climbing and rafting (when there is enough water).
I mentioned Feynan in my article Top 10 reasons to visit Jordan (don’t miss it if you’re still not convinced whether you should travel to this country or not). Feynan has one of the best Ecolodge in the world.
All luxury is eco-friendly: there is no electricity but you can use candles, there are no TVs but in the evening you can watch the stars with the telescope on the rooftop and during the day you can either stay with the local shepherds, trek for about 7/8 hours to Dana or relax drinking tea with the Bedouins. In the evening dinner under the stars awaits you.
All (or at least almost all) the products used in the resort are crafted by local women and part of the profits go to the Bedouins who live nearby.
Dana Biosphere Reserve
Dana is another off-the-beaten-path place in Jordan and quite surprisingly so. The landscapes are spectacular and there are no tourists. It is the largest nature reserve in the country (320 square kilometers) and offers spectacular views of the Great Rift Valley.
There are over 700 species of plants, 190 species of birds, 37 species of mammals and 36 species of reptiles. Within the Biosphere there are several micro-climates that allow for all the variety of animal and plant species I mentioned. If you love hiking you can consider trekking from Feynan to Dana.
Petra is the main reason why many choose to visit Jordan. And quite rightly so! It’s one of the most beautiful archaeological sites in the world. It became famous after appearing in several movies including Indiana Jones and was chosen as one of the 7 new wonders of the world.
Carved into the rocks about 2000 years ago by the Nabateans, it was “forgotten” by the Western world until the early 1800s. On August 22, 1812 Johann Ludwig Burckhardt (a Swiss explorer disguised as a Bedouin) managed to visit Petra under the pretext of going to pay homage to the tomb of Aaron, which is located in the nearby mountains. He was the first westerner to see Petra after hundreds of years.
At the beginning of the article I recommended to buy the Jordan Pass that allows you to access Petra for 3 days. This is because Petra is a very huge place. Three days are probably too many but 2 days are ideal to explore the ruins. The ticket for a single entry (without the Jordan Pass) costs 90 JOD.
Ypu will access the city through a very narrow gorge, about 1 km long, called Siq. At the end of this amazing trail you will be in front of Al-Khazneh (also called El Khasneh al Faroun) or simply The Treasure: Petra’s most famous place, which is a mausoleum built by King Areta IV in the first century.
From here you can continue in the direction of the Monastery.
The Monastery, not to be confused with The Treasury
Hidden in the mountains, The Monastery (Ad Deir or Al Deir) is similar to The Treasury. It is, however, much larger (50m wide and 45m high) but with fewer decorations. It’s a tomb built in the third century BC by the Nabateans.
Little Petra (Siq al-Barid) is located about 14 km from Petra. Also here you’ll find buildings carved into the walls of the sandstone canyon. It is a much smaller site consisting of three larger open areas connected by a 450 meter canyon. It is part of the archaeological park of Petra but is accessed separately. Usually there are very few people.
One of the most beautiful things to see in Petra is Petra by Night. Three times a week the Siq and the Treasury are lit by over 1.500 candles. The show is held every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, so keep these days in mind when you are planning your itinerary.
Here you can find the official website. The show runs from 8:30 pm to 10:30 pm and you have to buy the ticket (17 JOD) from Petra’s visitor centre (available from 7:30 pm). You must have a valid ticket to visit Petra during the day to buy the Petra by Night ticket. There is no limit to the number of tickets sold and it’s not possible to reserve a specific place so the sooner you arrive the better. This is especially true if you are going to take some pictures with a tripod.
It is possible to get to Petra by bus from Amman (about 235Km) and the ticket costs 10 JOD. Unfortunately there is only one bus a day from Amman and it leaves at 6:30am. A good option for the accommodation in Petra is this hotel, only 2km from the visitor centre.
Excluding the Dead Sea, the only port in the country is in Aqaba, the nation’s only port city. The Gulf of Aqaba is one of the most interesting destinations to visit in Jordan. Besides being a popular destination among tourists, it is also very popular with Jordanians who come here to have fun and swim.
With its beautiful mountains and deep blue waters it’s the ideal place to relax. As I wrote at the beginning of the article there is a flight to Aqaba and can be the ideal place to start exploring Jordan.
Petra is about 120Km away and the Wadi Rum desert is only 70Km away. There are two bus companies (Jett and Trust) connecting Amman to Aqaba.
Aqaba is also becoming a popular destination for scuba diving in the Red Sea and as a connecting city to visit Israel.
Wadi Rum means “Valley of the Moon” in Arabic. It’s a desert valley, full of gorges, natural stone arches and steep rocks that are more reminiscent of Mars than the Moon. That’s why many movies set on the red planet are recorded here.
There aren’t many buses to get to the Wadi Rum and once you arrive there I suggest you to visit it with a private tour. This way you can enjoy the experience to the full and you can try things like a camel ride at sunset (although not exactly the most comfortable experience) or drinking tea with the Bedouins.
By booking a tour you can visit the most beautiful areas, which can only be accessed with a 4X4 vehicle, and they’ll take you to see the sunset in the best places. Usually over some small mountains from where you can have a panoramic view of the landscape.
The entrance to the protected area costs only 5 JOD. One thing I suggest to do is to sleep in one of the camps set up in the desert. There are options for all budgets.
These were the most interesting destinations in Jordan, an extraordinary country definitely worth a visit.
In this link you can find some pictures I took during the trip. If you’re looking for off-the-beaten-path destinations don’t miss this article about Kyrgyzstan and this one where talk about Almaty in Kazakhstan.