Jordan is a playground of rugged landscapes, providing plenty of opportunities for trekking, mountain biking and canyoning. Combined with ancient history, including Petra, this action-packed itinerary is the ideal trip for those seeking adventure.
Our Top 10 Experiences in Jordan
Jordan is a stunning destination which really does offer something for everyone thanks to its diverse landscapes and rich history. However, with so much to see and do, it can be difficult to know where to start when planning a trip there. To help, our Arabia specialists Matt and Bjorn have put together their top 10 experiences in Jordan.
The Lost City of Petra
No trip to Jordan would be complete without visiting one of the world’s most iconic and recognisable archaeological sites, Petra. This hidden city was once the capital of the Nabatean Arabs’ Empire and dates back as far as the 1st century BC. Over the years, Bedouin, Roman and Byzantine influences have all helped to shape what the red rose city is today; and a few days in this area always proves to be the highlight of any visit to Jordan.
The site itself would need days or even weeks to see in its entirety, but local guides will walk you through the Siq which leads to the instantly recognisable Treasury, hewn in to the red rock. Petra is home to countless intricately carved royal tombs which line the impressive Street of Facades, along with various temples, colonnaded streets and of course, the amphitheatre. Longer hikes up to the monastery and High Place of Sacrifice are rewarded with fantastic views across the site.
For a truly remarkable experience, visit Petra at night, when 1,500 candles light up the Siq and the Treasury to create a magical and ethereal atmosphere which is accompanied by traditional music, tales and tea!
Exploring Wadi Rum
Wadi Rum is also known as the ‘Valley of the Moon’, and rightly so – it is arguably one of the world’s most spectacular deserts! Made famous by T.E. Lawrence and the 1962 film, Lawrence of Arabia, Wadi Rum is certainly one of Jordan’s most intriguing destinations to visit.
Sandstone and granite mountains tower sharply and steeply skywards from wide sandy valleys, which are best explored on a jeep drive with one of the local Bedouin people. Camel rides and hot air ballooning can also be organised, along with incredible stargazing.
Popular spots to visit include ancient rock paintings and engravings, the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, the site where the Hollywood film, The Martian, was filmed, and where T.E. Lawrence is thought to have lived.
Get off the beaten track in Ajloun Forest
Situated north of Amman and benefitting from a cooler climate, Ajloun Forest Nature Reserve is a wonderful area for walks. Whilst Ajloun doesn’t hit many visitors’ radar, you can expect peaceful walks through the olive groves and orchards, past old water mills and ancient olive presses and breathtaking views at every turn.
Ajloun is also home to the impressive Ajloun Castle which is a fine example of Islamic defensive architecture; and the evenings can be spent at Ajloun Houses where a terraced restaurant serves fresh and locally sourced ingredients.
Floating on the Dead Sea
For an experience quite unlike anything else you’re ever likely to encounter, we suggest heading to the Dead Sea where the high salinity of the lake makes swimming more akin to floating.
The Dead Sea has the lowest elevation on Earth and has become a spa retreat of global recognition. The high mineral content of the water, reduced ultraviolet solar radiation, and higher atmospheric pressure have made this the ideal location for various spa treatments and the health benefits are a big appeal for many visitors.
We suggest taking a dip in the Dead Sea as well as enjoying a spa treatment, along with of course some down time by the pool!
Hiking in Mujib
Although Mujib Nature Reserve sits right next to the Dead Sea, it is sadly often overlooked. For those with a taste for adventure, head to the Mujib Adventure Centre where guides can point you in the direction of guided or self-guided trails, including the popular Siq Trail.
The Siq Trail is a self-guided trail that follows the course of the river. The route heads upstream through the towering sandstone cliffs which make for stunning scenery before ending at the foot of a waterfall where you can turn around and float back downstream. This is an adventurous excursion where you can expect to scale ladders, drag yourself along ropes against the current and get soaked from head to toe!
Hiking in Dana Biosphere Reserve
Spread across three different biospheres, Dana is a fantastic place to explore on foot, offering a staggering variety of flora and fauna. Dana is home to 190 bird species, 37 mammal species and 36 reptile species, with species of particular note including the Bubian Ibex, Blan Ford foxes, Arabian wolves, Syrian serins and spiny tailed lizards.
The landscapes vary hugely from enormous sand dunes up to towering mountains and sandstone gorges. Head out on foot with a local guide to explore this wonderful natural habitat!
Jordanian cuisine and hospitality
Jordanians are rightfully proud of their world-renowned hospitality as well as their cuisine. Whilst you’re in Jordan, we highly recommend trying as much local cuisine as possible.
The national dish is called Mansaf, which is a lamb dish, cooked in a sauce of fermented dried yoghurt and served with rice or bulgur (a type of cereal).
As one of the world’s largest producers of olives, expect to find plenty of olive oil in Jordanian cuisine, along with fresh herbs, garlic, onion, tomatoes, and lemon.
Mezze, soups, sandwiches, bread, sweets, and beverages – Jordan presents a host of new dining experiences to be had!
Jerash is certainly one of the best preserved examples of an entire provincial Roman town found in the world. Jerash was formerly known as Gerasa, and dates back as far as 6,500 years.
We suggest taking a guided walk around Jerash to learn about the Graeco-Roman and Arab Orient influences in the architecture. You can stroll through the colonnaded streets and through ceremonial gates to discover the hippodrome, the temples of Zeus and Artemis, theatres, plazas, fountains and ancient markets across this extensive archaeological site.
Journey along the King's Highway
The King’s Highway runs 280 kilometres through some of Jordan’s most spectacular countryside and any trip will no doubt include some time spent travelling along this ancient road. Bide your time at some significant points of interest along the way; Madaba, Mount Nebo, Kerak and Shobak for a fascinating insight into the importance of this route.
At Madaba, you can see the famous mosaic of the Holy Land, harking from 560 AD. This remarkably accurate mosaic was only uncovered in 1897 and sits within the Church of St. George.
Mount Nebo is where Moses is said to have stood and viewed the Promised Land after 40 years of leading the Israelites through the desert. Moses is also believed to have died here, at the age of 120 years old, although the exact site is not known. On a clear day, the 820 metre elevation of Mount Nebo affords brilliant views out over the Dead Sea, the Jordan River, Jericho, Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
For some more contemporary history, Shobak and Kerak are both home to fantastic examples of Christian and Islamic crusader castles and architecture.
Wander the streets of Amman
The historic capital city of Jordan, Amman, is bound to feature on any Jordan itinerary. Modern sits side by side with tradition in Amman, making the city a fascinating place to explore.
Most people will rightly head for the ancient citadel or amphitheatre in downtown Amman, but it is well worth taking some time to explore Rainbow Street in the evenings for some incredible food and some vibrant coffee shops and artisan workshops.