It may be a small country, but sand-strewn Jordan is big on appeal.
It may be a small country, but Jordan is big on appeal. Relics of bygone civilisations and the stark beauty of the desert landscapes combine to make a truly awe-inspiring destination. This is a country where a true sense of biblical history and traditional customs mingle with an enticing and welcoming contemporary culture. The breathtaking natural scenery is also a major draw. From the russet cliffs of Wadi Rum and the white salt deposits of the Dead Sea, to the green hills of Ajloun forest and the sparkling turquoise of the Red Sea, there’s natural drama at every turn. The rosy jewel in Jordan’s crown is undoubtedly Petra, the ancient Nabatean capital of astonishing grace, hewn from the rippled reddish rock so long ago and still possessing a haunting beauty rarely matched anywhere.
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Top things to do in Jordan
There are countless wonderful experiences to be had in this desert gem. For further inspiration take a look at the trip ideas put together by our trusted local experts at the foot of this page, but in the meantime here are our top things to do in Jordan.
Discover the magic of Petra
No trip to Jordan would be complete without seeing the intricate rose red remains of the ancient city of Petra, carved out of the sandstone cliffs over 2,000 years ago. The anticipation mounts as you approach through the Siq, a narrow cleft in the rocks which suddenly opens out opposite the breathtaking facade of the Treasury. Being such a famous attraction, Petra is naturally very busy, but our local experts know the ins and outs and how to see the fabulous ruins whilst avoiding the worst of the crowds.
Immerse yourself in Amman
Dive in to Amman's heady mix of ancient monuments and modern cafe society, taking in its fragrant souks, convivial restaurants and tempting boutiques. Meeting Jordanian people is often a highlight of any trip, as they are known for their open and hospitable character. For a bird's eye view of the city, head for the ancient ruins of the hilltop Citadel, where a museum outlines the history of this undulating capital.
Have a float in the Dead Sea
Experience the uncanny sensation of floating on the salty waters of the Dead Sea, so buoyant that you can't actually swim. A combination of the rich mix of minerals in the water and the air, coupled with the unique atmosphere at the lowest point on earth promote health and general wellbeing, and have an especially beneficial effect on the skin and the rheumatic system. The colours also make for some spectacular photo opportunities.
Explore the Roman city of Jerash
A short hop from Amman, the ruined Roman city of Jerash is evocative and impressive, and you can get a sense of the grandeur that was once so evident here. Built around 2,000 years ago, some elements of the city remain intact. Every summer, various arts events take place in the ancient amphitheatres of Jerash.
Venture into the Wadi Rum desert
Like stony ships in a sandy sea, the looming crags of Wadi Rum would make an evocative desert experience even without the nomadic Bedouin to add a human dimension to the arid landscape. For the most immersive experience, spend some time hiking or riding through the silent wadi, and spend a night or two in a Bedouin camp, perfect for a cultural experience and some fantastic stargazing.
Lesser-known things to do in Jordan
While there are many well-known things to do in Jordan, what about the lesser-known highlights? Our local experts have shared some of their top tips for where to go and what to do if you fancy a bit of an alternative Jordanian adventure.
Seek out wildlife in Dana Nature Reserve
Lose yourself in the Dana Nature Reserve, a sweeping region of lofty hilltops, ancient stone dwellings, wonderfully scenic hiking through the valley and some interesting wildlife. As well as some of Jordan's most diverse plant life, the reserve is great for birdwatching as there are 180 species of birds and some excellent lookout points.
Wander through Madaba
Madaba is a town not far from Amman which is best known for its Byzantine mosaics, and the star attraction is a mosaic map of the Holy Land from the 6th century which is located in St Georges Cathedral, and has been used by historians to learn more about the region at that point in history.
Explore the Red Sea coast
The perennially warm waters of the Red Sea host thriving coral reefs and lots of unusual dive sites. The short Jordanian stretch of Red Sea coast centres on Aqaba, a working port with year round sunshine and a string of beaches south of town which make the perfect jumping off point for snorkellers and divers to explore the marine life.
Discover castles in the desert
A clutch of 8th century castles are oases of past splendour dotted along ancient desert trade routes where weary caravans of merchants would have stopped to rest and refresh. Today the castles are abandoned but the stonework and the setting gives an impression of the scene that would have greeted travellers one thousand years ago.
Scale Mount Nebo for views on an epic scale
From Mount Nebo, Moses is said to have been shown the promised land, and he is believed to be buried there. The panorama visible from Mount Nebo takes in the whole of the Jordan Valley and the Holy Land. Clear weather allows a view as far as Jerusalem.
When is the best time to visit Jordan?
Jordan is enjoyable at any time of year, although perhaps the best times to visit are between March and May, and between September and November, when temperatures hover around 25 degrees Celsius. Summertime, from June to August, can be roasting hot, nudging 40 degrees, so follow the lead of the locals and take a nap after lunch to avoid the worst of the heat. Wintertime can get chilly, and can even see snowfall, although this does mean that you can enjoy more solitude at the sites. Even in winter Aqaba on the Red Sea enjoys beautifully warm weather and bright sunshine.
Interesting facts about Jordan
Jordan is a fascinating country with a lengthy history. But did you know any of our top facts about it?
- Petra is thought to be around 2,000 years old, but it was only brought into the modern consciousness in 1812 upon its ‘discovery’ by the western world.
- It is considered polite to refuse a meal three times before finally accepting the offer.
- The Dead Sea sits at 425 metres below sea level, and its water is almost ten times saltier than the ocean.
- Jordanian people believe that giving children too much praise is bad luck.
Insider tips from our local experts
Being local, our experts have an extensive knowledge of the secrets to experiencing the 'real' Jordan. Here are a few of their top tips about travelling around their country - don't hesitate to ask any questions you may have about going there when you enquire.
Making the most of your visit to Petra
"Try and plan your Petra visit for a Monday, Wednesday or Thursday when the candlelit 'Petra by Night' takes place. You need a valid day ticket in order to take part. The Siq and the treasury are lit by thousands of candles and the atmosphere and glowing colours are incredible. The experience lasts for 2 hours and would be hard work on top of a full day exploring Petra, so get a two or three day ticket and spread out your visits. "
"Try and get off the beaten track a little in Petra, it makes the whole experience far more memorable. The site sprawls across a large area so use the map or a guide to find your own peaceful corner. The High Place of Sacrifice is a stiff climb but the views from the top are fabulous and it is rarely busy."
The Jordan Pass
"When you are organising your trip, look into the Jordan Pass, which includes entry to almost all the attractions and places of interest in the country. Even if you only plan to visit a couple of the major sites it will usually work out to be excellent value."
Best places to go shopping...
"Souks and shopping districts can turn up some wonderful treasures to take home. Look for silver jewellery, coffee sets, precious stones, leather products and mosaic work. Dana, Aqaba, Madaba and Amman are good places to browse."
Try the Jordanian cuisine!
"Jordanian food is delicious, with plenty of variety. Pulses, grilled meats and rice are staples. Ordering lots of small dishes in the style of a mezze is a good way to work out what you like best, then you can always double up on the tastiest ones. When you are on the move, look for shawarma or nuts for an authentic local snack."
What to read before you go to Jordan
If you're looking for something to get you in the mood before you set off on your travels to Jordan, we've gathered a list of our favourite books to inspire you.
'Married To A Bedouin' by Marguerite van Geldermalsen
'Travel In Syria And The Holy Land' by Jean Louis Burckhardt
'The Seven Pillars Of Wisdom' by T.E. Lawrence
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