The 11 best places to visit in Jordan
Our selection of must-see places
Although it is often neglected by tourists, Amman is a fascinating and inviting city which combines antiquity with the modern. Built on a hill giving breathtaking views of the capital, the emblematic Citadel of Amman is a witness to the passing of several civilisations. The Roman Amphitheatre, which could seat 6,000, is an architectural gem in the heart of downtown Amman. It is downtown where you will find the traditional soul of Amman. Take time to wander through this neighbourhood with its souks and artisans stalls. The Abu Darwish Mosque which overlooks the city is a real find with its unique black and white design. Amman is filled with charm and deserves our attention.
Art & Culture | Architecture | Monuments | Viewpoints
Less than 20 miles from Amman, along the King’s Highway is the town of Madaba. It is the perfect place from which to set out to explore the area. The small town is worth visiting for its prestigious Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics. It is home to a Christian minority and a special atmosphere is created when the church bells answer the call to prayer from the muezzin. Saint George’s Church contains a treasure: the oldest mosaic representing a map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. In the church of John the Baptist, there is a small museum with photographs documenting the discovery of the incredible mosaic. From the steeple you can see a 360 degree panorama of Madaba and the surrounding area - lovely as the sun is setting.
Architecture | Craftsmanship | Cultural heritage
Classified as a UNESCO world heritage site since 1985, Petra is referred to as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and is without doubt the jewel in Jordan’s crown. It is an iconic location and the admiration begins as you enter the Siq Gorge, an impressive kilometre long canyon. The anticipation mounts as you think the famous Al Khazneh Treasury will be behind each successive bend, until it is finally revealed in all its splendour. But there is much more to Petra, and its wonders can be discovered on foot. This ancient Nabatean city, founded by the Edomites in the 7th century BCE, is crammed with breathtaking tombs carved into the rock. Its monuments and the natural splendour of its setting never cease to fascinate travellers.
Architecture | UNESCO World Heritage | Hiking | Archaeological site
The Dead Sea
Floating in the Dead Sea is without a doubt a highlight of a visit to Jordan. What a strange sensation to be floating in this ‘oily’ sea. Located 430 metres below sea level, it is the lowest point in the world. The Dead Sea route is lined with view points where you can admire the gentle contrast between the ochre rocks and blue sea. However, the Dead Sea’s beauty is fragile and doomed to disappear. It is losing 1.5 metres every year due to exploitation of the River Jordan which feeds it and to mineral extraction. A rescue project has long been under discussion between Jordan, Palestine and Israel, the three countries which share its shores.
Sea | Nature | Nature wonders | Archaeological site
The holy site of Mount Nebo rises to 817 metres and is one of several of Jordan’s biblical sites. It was here that Moses saw the promised land and where he died at the age of 120, although his burial place is conjectural. This is the site of the memorial church to Moses, a basilica containing beautifully preserved ancient mosaics. Mount Nebo is famed for its many pilgrims, but also attracts travellers for the exceptional view from its panoramic esplanade. From here you can see the Dead Sea, the West Bank and in the distance, Jerusalem on a clear day.
Monuments | Museums | Viewpoints
Mujib biosphere reserve
A few metres from the Dead Sea is a spectacular area which is one of the essentials of any visit to Jordan. The Mujib biosphere reserve rises to 900 metres above sea level and falls 400 metres below it. It is full of narrow gorges and arid mountains ascending to over 1,200 metres in places. Classed as a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 2011, it is the lowest on the planet. It contains over 400 species of plant, 180 species of bird (resident and migratory) and over 250 species of other animals. There are wonderful opportunities to explore the area, alone or with an experienced guide, on foot or by boat, to observe the rich flora and fauna that surrounds you.
Hiking | Natural wonders | Nature | Nature reserve
Thirty miles north of Jordan, Jerash is the second most visited location in Jordan (after Petra). It is a wonderful place, among the best preserved Greco-Roman cities in the Middle East. Known as Geresa in the ancient past, this city’s apogee came during the Roman occupation, and its ruins are a witness to its distinguished past. The ruins of this ancient city have been extraordinarily well preserved by being buried in sand for centuries. Archaeological digs in the 1920’s brought to light the beauty of these ruins. Visitors are dazzled by Jerash - its roads lined with columns, Hadrian’s Arch, the Temple of Zeus, the huge oval town square, the race course, the ancient market place and the immense theatre. A must-see if you want to immerse yourself in Jordan’s rich and fascinating history.
Architecture | Monuments | Cultural heritage | Archaeological site
Witnesses to a fascinating period of Jordanian history, the desert castles are a well kept secret, away from the major tourist sites. Mostly built during the reign of the Umayyads, these castles built in the open desert were the residences of the caliphs. The many uses of these castles are not completely understood. They may have served as offices for the caravanserai, holiday residences or hunting lodges. Several can be found east of Amman, between Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Qasr Amra is the best preserved and is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site for its mural frescoes.
Architecture | Monuments | Cultural heritage
Wadi Rum Desert
To the south of Jordan, close to Saudi Arabia, is the desert whose mythic status rivals the Dead Sea and Petra. The Wadi Rum Desert is an exceptional and fascinating place with much more than red tinted sand. In the heart of the desert valley are giant rock formations, the wind and rain sculpting them into surprising shapes and formations.
The desert was made famous be Lawrence of Arabia who stayed here during the Arab Revolt in 1917. His love of the place was described in The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. The warm Bedouin welcome awaits anyone travelling this desert, full of natural wonders: canyons and dunes, natural stone arches and even petroglyphs found in this place which has been inhabited since the dawn of time.
Hiking | Natural wonders | Mountain | Nature
A UNESCO biosphere reserve, Dana Reserve is one of Jordan’s natural parks, managed by the RSCN (Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature) which works to promote ecotourism.
The reserve is a true playground for walkers and hikers and is a great place to observe the wildlife and rich fauna. At least 40 animal species and 800 plant species can be found in this varied setting of sandstone cliffs, mountains and desert plateaus.
Dana village is a little jewel with a stunning view across the valley. It’s the ideal place to recharge your batteries before exploring the country’s largest reserve.
Hiking | Nice village | Nature reserve
Jordan is a land replete with fascinating history, inhabited by warm and smiling people. What marked me most were the spontaneous encounters with the locals which were always friendly.
I shared extraordinary moments among endearing people - to spend a night with a Bedouin family in the Wadi Rum Desert is something I recommend to everybody. A memory that will stay with you forever. I chose to explore Petra on foot. Sadly, you have to bear in mind animals are overexploited here and sometimes mistreated. Petra remains a highlight of the trip, but the country is full of wonders that you should take the time to discover.
I strongly advise hiring a car to discover the country, as the local bus service is not extensive.