It’s been six years since I visited this incredible county but some friends planning a trip there recently asked me for information. As I got out my notes and looked through photos, it reminded me of our amazing experience. Jordan makes the perfect entrée to Middle East travel for those that are ready to move beyond trips in the US, Canada, Europe and the Caribbean. Come take a virtual tour of this infrequently traveled gem with me today!
I traveled to Jordan in 2013 with a girlfriend from high school that had been working in Saudi Arabia. We chose the destination for a number of reasons, all which still hold today. Jordan is:
- a bargain
- it’s easy to cover the highlights of Jordan in a week
- packed with both historical sites and natural wonders
- a safe and secular state that depends heavily upon tourism
Click HERE for our exact itinerary for visiting Jordan in a week.
Amman and the North
You will have typically landed in Amman later in the day (if coming from the US). Hopefully you enjoyed your first Jordanian meal and got a good night’s sleep. On your first full day, plan to explore Amman, the capital city. Notable sites include:
- Roman Theatre
- Roman Nymphaeum (fountain)
- King Abdullah Mosque
- Royal Auto Museum (King’s car collection)
- Shop Rainbow Street/Souk Jara
On day two, take a day trip to the North, where you’ll visit Umm Qais. On the way you’ll pass one of the large Syrian refugee camps and be just a few miles from the Syrian border. At Umm Qais (about 2 hours from Amman), you’ll encounter many military checkpoints as it sits at the convergence of Israel, Palestine and Syria. Keep your passport handy. You’ll see spectacular views of the Sea of Galilee and the Golan Heights while exploring the ruins.
Next grab lunch and make a quick stop at Aljoun before heading to the amazingly well preserved Greco-Roman site of Jerash. If you’re at Jerash around 11 or 2, the chariot race demonstration may be on. From Jerash, it’s about an hour drive back to Amman.
Petra and the South
Today, make your way South via a 4-hour journey to Petra stopping at the town of Madaba (famous for it’s detailed mosaics), Mount Nebo, Bethany beyond the Jordan (baptism site of Jesus) and either Kerak or Shoubak (castles) along the way. You’ll also see loads of sweeping vistas, scenic overlooks and Bedouin shepherds on this drive.
Get settled at your lodging in Petra and, if you’re feeling energetic, sign up for the candlelit Petra by Night show. Just be sure to get enough rest because you’ll want to start early tomorrow for a full-day exploration of Ancient Petra!
After hiking around Petra for a day or two, you are likely really ready for some beach or pool time. Continue South to Aqaba, the seaside resort of Jordan. Here you can swim, snorkel, take boat trips and relax. After a rest day, consider a visit to the the dunes of Wadi Rum (notable as a film site for Lawrence of Arabia). A jeep trip is loads of fun as is climbing around dunes, various rock formations and into hidden crevasses!
The Dead Sea & Home
The week has flown by but there is one must-see stop left on our list – the Dead Sea. On this drive you’ll likely be taking a route closer to the Jordanian-Israeli border where you’ll be able to see clusters of various Israeli and Palestinian settlements along the way. The salt left by the evaporating water makes for some stunning photos along the shore of the Dead Sea.
When you get into your hotel, head down to the water and take a float. Be careful if you have any nicks or cuts! Surprisingly, the water has an almost oily consistency to it. If you’re like me and need to do all the things, apply some of the healing mud from the nearby buckets, let it dry and rinse again!
Enjoy your last night! From the Dead Sea resort areas, it’s about an hour drive to the Amman airport and your flight back home.
Good to Know
- In Jordan, it is easiest to get around by car and most people typically hire a driver. Hotels in Amman can arrange a driver for you or you can email me for my recommendations. All tourism workers we met in Jordan were incredibly nice and I’m still in contact with several of them today!
- Airport security screening (and occasional other places) have segregated lines for males/females. Common in the Middle East.
- Security is taken MUCH more seriously than in the US. Expect to put your suitcase and handbag through a scanner at all hotels and expect that cars will be stopped and scanned outside the entries to both sites and hotels.
- Hopefully goes without saying but do NOT photograph security checkpoints or along the borders with Syria, Israel the Jordan River, etc.
- Alcohol is not common, especially at local mom/pop restaurants but IS available at major hotels and within the hotel dining facilities. I believe there’s a liquor store in Aqaba and several in Amman.
For more on travel to the Middle East, check out last year’s trip to Egypt in this series! Until next time,