Top 10 things to do in Jordan
Georgina Willcox | 17 February 2023
Although a small country in the Middle East, a Jordan holiday offers a variety of sights and activities. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is rich in monuments from every age of humanity, where you can visit some of the oldest and most breathtaking sites in the world. Despite conflicts affecting its surrounding countries, Jordan is known as the ‘Switzerland of the Middle East’ as it’s a safe place to visit. Let’s discover the top things to do in Jordan.
Many people may recognise Petra, as the facade of its Treasury building was used in the climactic scenes of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, but there is so much more to see than this famous film location; the whole rock-carved city and its natural surroundings are incredible. You’ll walk through a narrow gorge to come to the hidden town of Petra, also known as the “pink city” and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where you can admire the stunning temples, royal tombs and theatres in an ancient village carved out of red rock. You can get a horse ride to the Treasury and other parts in Petra, but we suggest only experienced horse riders should do this! To see the second most famous building in Petra, the Monastery, you will have to walk up a flight of 800 steps. If you are unfit or have trouble walking, you can ride a donkey to the top. The Monastery is just as impressive as the Treasury and if you walk a little further you will be rewarded with a fantastic view of the landscape. Although there is a lot of walking involved on a tour of Petra, with all the spectacular scenery and sites to take in you really don’t notice! An unforgettable experience. It's best to explore Petra when it’s less crowded and before it gets very hot.
2. Wadi Rum Desert
Take a Wadi Rum jeep tour to experience the spectacular red desert landscape, which was described by T.E Lawrence, who was also known as Lawrence of Arabia as ‘Vast, echoing, and God-like’. For thousands of years Bedouins have lived in the desert, today they lead a semi-nomadic lifestyle by caring for their livestock and sharing their culture with tourists. When you visit Wadi Rum, which is also known as the ‘Valley of the Moon’, you may feel like you’re on a different planet. In fact, it’s actually been used as a location for films set on Mars, such as The Martian and Red Planet.
3. Float in Dead Sea
The Dead Sea, which is actually a salt lake, is 400m below sea level and is the lowest point on Earth. One of the most relaxing activities in Jordan is floating in the Dead Sea, which you are able to do due the natural buoyancy caused by the unusually high salt concentration! We would definitely recommend to cover yourself in the Dead Sea mud afterwards, not only does it make a great photo opportunity, your skin feels very smooth and you feel very pampered.
The capital of Jordan is Amman and this city is one of the most liberal in the Middle East. Amman is a fairly big city, but taxis are incredibly cheap and probably easier to use than the public transport. The Citadel offers a fantastic view of Amman and we recommend going there in the early evening to see the sunset over the capital and you will also see some Roman ruins such as the Temple of Hercules. Afterwards, take a walk through Downtown Amman, where you will find plenty of markets offering all sorts and make your way to Rainbow Street, which is a popular district with restaurants and shops.
Not far from Amman is Madaba, where you can see the oldest mosaic map of the Middle East in the Church of St George. Madaba is also a great place to buy souvenirs and you can buy high quality carpets at a very good price. You will also find plenty of Dead Sea beauty products, stunning mosaic items and a variety of Middle Eastern goodies.
6. Jerash Roman Ruins
After Petra, Jerash is the most popular tourist site in Jordan and i’ts often referred to as the ‘Pompeii of the East’, as it’s considered to be the best preserved Roman city outside of Italy due to the dry climate. The history of Jerash goes back more than 6,000 years, originally called Garshi, it grew from a small village to a prosperous city during the rule of Alexander the Great and in 63 BC it was conquered by General Pompey, becoming part of the Roman empire. Highlights of this ancient roman site include, Hadrian's Arch which was built to commemorate Emperor Hadrian's visit to Jerash, the Hippodrome, oval forum with its impressive ionic columns, Temple of Artemis, north and south theatres. Running through the centre is the main street, the Cardo, where you can see chariot markings and its underground drainage system.
7. Umm Qais
Umm Qais, where the borders of Syria, Israel and Jordan meet. Umm Qais is a Roman City which offers views over the Sea of Galilee and the Golan Heights. It's also mentioned in the Bible as being the location of where Jesus performed the exorcism of the Gersaene demoniac.
8. Mount Nebo
Mount Nebo is another iconic location featured in the Bible, it's from here that Moses saw The Promised Land. It's where you can get a lovely view of the Dead Sea and on a clear day you can see Jerusalem.
9. Karak Castle
Karak Castle is one of the biggest crusader castles in the Levant. Since it was built in the 1140s, it has had a colourful history and been ruled by various dynasties like Ayyubid, Baybars and the Ottomans.
10. Experience Jordan food
You will never go hungry in Jordan, as the portion sizes are very generous! We suggest trying Mansaf, the national dish of Jordan, it’s slow cooked lamb with yoghurt and rice. If you are on a budget in Jordan, you can easily find affordable restaurants that still deliver on taste and flavour. Try Shawarma, a cheap and tasty wrap! As Jordan is a Muslim country, some restaurants and even hotels do not serve alcohol, but the delicious food can compensate for it! They’ll often serve Jordan mint lemonade, which tastes like a Mojito but contains no alcohol and is very refreshing. If you visit Amman, make sure to try the local craft beer Carakale which is very refreshing. There are three varieties available; a Blonde Ale, a Whiskey Ale and a Mocha Stout.
On any excursions in Jordan, make sure to wear plenty of sunscreen as it gets very hot and it’s sometimes hard to find shade. We would recommend packing items like long linen trousers, long sleeve kaftans and a hat, as they will protect you from the sun. Also, Jordan is a fairly liberal Muslim country and women do need to be overly concerned about what clothes to wear. You can wear clothes that you would normally wear at home, but make sure to dress appropriately when visiting religious sites.
Now you know the top things to do in Jordan, take a trip of a lifetime here with us to this incredible part of the Middle East. On our Jordan holidays, we’ll also cross the border into Israel to discover the historical cities of Bethlehem and Jerusalem.