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15 Things to Do in Jordan

Charlotte Boswell

The Middle East's gem of Jordan is awash with ancient treasures, striking landscapes and diverse cultures and is steeped in thousands of years of history. From the modern city of Amman and the timeless carved city of Petra, to the red dunes of Wadi Rum and the intense-blue Dead Sea, there is something for everyone. With so many things to see and do in Jordan, here are 15 of the best.

1. Discover the ancient city of Petra

The ‘Red Rose City’ of Petra is a myriad of hand-hewn temples, tombs and caves carved from dusky pink rock in the Jordanian desert. This ancient archaeological site was founded by the nomadic Arab tribe of the Nabateans and became an important part of the lucrative incense and spice trade from the 1st century BC. The arrival of the Romans in 63 BC saw mass expansion in the city , however after the large earthquake in 363 AD, Petra was abandoned. A visit to Jordan nowadays wouldn’t be complete without exploring Petra. Enter the city by foot through the dramatic Siq canyon, a 1km-long fissure through the towering cliffs, with a narrow winding path that dramatically opens up to expose the incredible facade of the Treasury. Discover the beautifully carved temples, theatres and houses and learn about the fascinating baths, reservoirs and cisterns of this iconic site.

Ancient temple Petra Jordan

2. Take a 4WD jeep tour at Wadi Rum 

Known as the ‘Valley of the Moon’ due to its other-worldly appearance, Wadi Rum is a protected desert wilderness in southern Jordan. It is the largest dry river valley in Jordan and features dramatic sandstone mountains, domed granite rocks and red arches. Once a playground of Lawrence of Arabia, Wadi Rum is now one of Jordan’s most popular and stunning sites. Take an exhilarating four-wheel drive across the dunes exploring the unusual geological formations and local fauna including ibex and Arabian desert cats. As the day draws to an end, be inspired as the sun sets and red and orange hues flood the sky over the dramatic landscapes.

Wadi Rum Desert Jordan

3. Visit Amman’s beautiful Blue Mosque

Capped by a spectacular blue mosaic dome, the King Abdullah I Mosque in Amman is the city’s most important mosque where thousands of Muslims offer prayer. The octagonal prayer hall is a beautiful place of worship. The mosque is also home to a small collection of photos of King Abdullah I and ancient relics such as pottery shards, coins and stone engravings are also on display. It is the only mosque in Amman that openly welcomes non-Muslim visitors and iswell worth the visit, especially if even just to view the stunning turquoise-tiled dome.

King Abudullah 1 Blue Mosque Amman

4. Float in the Dead Sea

400m below sea level and the lowest point on earth, the Dead Sea borders Israel, the West Bank and Jordan and is part of the Great Rift Valley that stretches from Ethiopia to Turkey. Famous for its intense blue water and having the highest salt content in the world, visitors are able to easily float and relax in the calm lapping waters. The Dead Sea is also noted for its curative powers and its mineral-rich black mud which is often used for therapeutic and cosmetictreatments. The Dead Sea is easily accessible from Amman or Madaba for day trip, or alternatively stay for a couple of nights in a spa resort.

Dead Sea Jordan

5. Drive the King’s Highway

One of the Middle East’s most ancient and scenic roads, the King’s Highway in Jordan stretches over 280km long and is steeped in ancient history. This long, meandering road was an integral part of the trade route and has been around since early civilisation. The King’s Highway connects modern Amman with the pink-carved city of Petra, and although the newer Desert Highway will get you there quicker, this route is far more picturesque and interesting. Duck and dive across the spine of the Great Rift Valley, passing barren land, rolling valleys and red sands and stop off at Madaba, Kerak and Dana Nature Reserve before arriving in Petra.

Kings Highway Jordan

6. Explore the Roman city of Jerash 

One of Jordan’s most significant historical sites, the ruined city of Jerash is one of the greatest examples of Roman architecture outside of Rome. Dating back some 6,500 years, Jerash was once a city of great importance and an integral part of the ancient trade route. Jerash epitomises the classical and grand architecture of the Romans and features colonnaded avenues, hilltop temples, spacious plazas, abandoned fountains and handsome theatres. Visit theimposing Hadrian's Triumphal Arch, the Corinthian columns of the Temple of Artemis, the Oval Plaza and the crumbling hippodrome.

Roman Ruins Jerash

7. Stay at a Bedouin camp in the desert

The Bedouin are a group of nomadic Arab-speaking people from the Middle Eastern and North African deserts, especially those of Jordan, Israel, Egypt and Syria. The term Bedouin originates from the Arabic word of Bedu which translates to ‘desert dwellers’ and today between 33-40% of Jordan’s population is made up of Bedouins. It is possible to stay at an authentic Bedouin camp whilst visiting Wadi Rum where you will experience traditional hospitality andcuisine. Enjoy spectacular views, get to know the local tribe and understand how the Bedouin people live on this memorable experience.

Bedouin camp in Wadi Rum Jordan

8. See the frescoes at Qasr Amra

Built in the 8th century, sometime between 723 and 743, Qasr Amra is Jordan’s most renowned and best-preserved desert castle. Rising from the sandy, flat landscape, this ancient royal desert oasis with its remaining arches and domes, gives a picture of the short-lived Umayyad civilisation. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the main attraction to visitors are the breathtaking and remarkably preserved frescoes that bring emotion and colour to the mustard-plaster walls and ceiling. Depicting bathers, women, hunters, musicians and animals, the somewhat risqué murals mirror medieval reverie and classic Byzantine artwork.

Qasr Amra Desert Castle Jordan

Photo credit: Paul Mannix

9. Explore the Dana Biosphere Reserve by foot

Home to breathtaking scenery and wildlife, the Dana Biosphere Reserve is home to a series of wadis and mountains extending from the top of the Rift Valley to the desert lowlands of Wadi Arabah. Offering stunning natural beauty, scenic views and numerous sites of archaeological interest, visitors are able to explore this region by foot following one of the many walking trails. The regions is also home to over 700 plant species, 200 bird species and many mammals including the endangered Nubian ibex and caracal. The 15th century stone village of Dana overlooks the great valley and is now a bustling artist and farming community which is worth a visit. 

Dana Biosphere Reserve Jordan

Photo credit: 3adwan

10. Dive on the Red Sea coast

Jordan has just 27km of coastline which is wedged between Israel and Saudi Arabia and faces Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Sitting on the Red Sea, the most well-known part of the country’s coastline is the small city of Aqaba which features a sandy beach and warm, inviting sea and is dotted with resorts, diving centres and palm groves. The area also has some of the best-preserved and colourful coral reefs in the Red Sea, subsequently offering superb diving opportunities for visitors. The Gulf of Aqaba has minimal tides and the water is more saline than the open ocean which results in warm and crystal-clear water to explore the incredible underwater world.

Aqaba Coastline Red Sea Jordan

11. Wander through the Amman Citadel

Located in Jordan’s capital Amman on the highest hill of Jebel Al Qala’a, the famous Citadel is thought to have dated back as early as the pottery Neolithic period. This historical archaeological site displays remnants of other past civilisations including Roman, Byzantine and Umayyad. The main things to see at the Amman Citadel include the Temple of Hercules, the most significant Roman structure at the site, the royal Umayyad Palace and a 6th centuryByzantine church. It also is home to the Jordan Archaeological Museum which displays a collection of artefacts dating back to the Bronze Age.

Amman Citadel Jordan

12. Enjoy the views from spiritual Mount Nebo

A very important biblical site, Mount Nebo is considered the mountain where Moses first saw the Promised Land before he died. Overlooking the ‘Holy Land’, the summit also offers panoramic views of the Jordan Valley, Dead Sea and on clear days, the hills of Jerusalem. Located very close to the city of Madaba, Mount Nebo is home to an active monastery, a Byzantium church that is popular with pilgrims and preserved mosaics uncovered from archaeological digs dating back to the 6th century. There is also a Serpentine Cross sculpture at Nebo which symbolises the bronze serpent created by Moses and Jesus’s cross.

Mount Nebo Jordan

Photo credit: Maya-Anaïs Yataghène

13. Watch a performance at the Roman Theatre 

Amman’s 2nd century Roman Theatre is one of the city’s most famous and best-restored landmarks. Cut into the hillside it sits on, the magnificent amphitheatre seats up to 6,000 people and now plays host to a number of musical and cultural events. It is recommended to attend one of these performances or celebrations such as the Al-Balad Music Festival, the Amman International Book Fair or the Amman Marathon prize ceremony. The theatre is also home to twointeresting museums; the Jordan Museum of Popular Traditions, and the Jordan Folklore Museum – both worth a visit.

Roman Theater Amman Jordan

14. Visit the commanding Kerak Castle

Perched atop a large hill, the majestic Crusader castle and stronghold of Kerak was built in the 12th century and remains one of the largest and best-preserved Crusader fortresses. Kerak's location has held strategic importance over the years, guarding the arterial route of the ancient King's Highway and now offering fantastic views over the Dead Sea. The complex includes crumbling gates, stairways and galleries, secret tunnels and a large important moat.

Castle in Kerak Town Jordan

15. Soak in the Ma’in Hot Springs

Situated between the city of Madaba and the Dead Sea, the Ma’in Hot Springs are a series of thermal waterfalls and hot mineral springs hidden in the mountains. Sitting at 120m below sea level, the picturesque Ma’in region consists of over 60 different natural springs all at varying temperatures, with some reaching up to 63 degrees Celsius. Not only are the Ma’in Springs a great place to soak and relax, the water is also known for its healing properties and is said to help with medical issues such as circulatory diseases, bone and joint and muscular pains and skin diseases.

Mai'n Hot Springs Jordan

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