5 places not to miss in Jordan

Colorful rocks at the Dead Sea

Every time I think back on my few weeks spent in Jordan, I wish I had had more time to discover this ancient land. In any of the recommended destinations below you could easily spend a week and not get bored of it. Anyways, Jordan is a fascinating country with loads of culture, history, friendly people, great food and sunshine. If you are not sure what is a must and what not to miss during your stay, just follow my advice and book your trip to these five amazing places.

1 Of course, the ancient city of Petra is on top of my list. Although this UNESCO World Heritage site is around 3 hours away from Amman, and the easiest way to get there is to pay for an organized tour, I recommend arranging your trip by yourself. One thing that can destroy the magical feeling this place oozes is 50 noisy tourists walking by your side. My advice is to rent a car and drive down to Petra in the evening. The best way to avoid the crowd is to stay for the night and start your day really early.

Petra Treasury
The famous Treasury at Petra

To get to the main site, the well-known Treasury, you can walk, or take either a horse or a carriage. Before the famous carved out façade appears between the steep red rock walls, you will pass through a long and narrow passage. It just adds to the suspense. There is not much to see inside the buildings carved out of the rock. It’s just the monumentality of these hidden Nabataean remains that will take your breath away. Of course the Treasury is just the beginning of your trip. Further into this old town you will find the royal tombs, ruins of the Great Temple and if you don’t mind walking (at least 10 km in total) the Monastery on top of a mountain. The place offers great views along the way. As you will be there for several hours, a good sun cream is a must have!

Palm trees by the sea at Aqaba,
Aqaba is the best place to chill in Jordan.

2 Once you are on the road to the south, you might as well drive down to Aqaba. After buying a short strip of land from the Saudis, Jordan got itself the favorite vacation spot of the locals. The short coastline is the number one option of Jordanians for some relax time. With its access to the Yamanieh coral reef, this area offers great fun for the divers, snorkelers and nature lovers also.

Rock arch in Wadi Rum
A spectacular rock arch in Wadi Rum.

3 Your next stop has to be Wadi Rum. Not so far from Aqaba and Petra is a simply breathtaking valley of the Bedouin people. Imagine a remote desert area with impressive monoliths around it. It all looks like a setting to a movie. Your best bet is to take part in an organized Bedouin night in one of their camps. They offer accomodation in pretty comfy tents, serve food and offer to take you on a camel ride by the sunrise. The best feeling, though is just sitting by the campfire stargazing, miles away from any form of civilization.

Temple of Hercules in Amman
The ruins of the Temple of Hercules in Amman.

4 Heading back to the capital will probably sound like a good option after embracing the desert and rocky landscapes of the south. Amman is a bustling city that offers a mix of old and modern, Middle Eastern and European. Start off in the Souk, and breathe in the smell of the city in the spice market. Arab markets can be overwhelming with merchants competing for your attention, but this is part of the deal, so don’t get shy. It is worth walking up the Citadel and checking out the Roman ruins of the Temple of Hercules and the view of the city. Nearby you will find the remains of the Roman Theatre of old Philadelphia. When you get hungry, make sure to also enjoy plenty of tasty arab specialties. There is no doubt about it: I had the best tabboulehs, shish kebabs and koftas in Amman. Find out more about Jordanian cuisine here.

5 No visit to Jordan can end without a trip to the Dead Sea. Just half an hour from Amman you can experience the unique feeling of floating atop the extremely salty water. A Dead Sea mud bath is also fun and refreshing. A personal advice: if you put some of it on your face make sure not to follow your instincts and wash it off with the sea water – your eyes will be killing you afterwards.

A coastline with salt at the Dead Sea
Salty coastline by the Dead Sea.

Some nearby destinations are also worth your time. The Baptism Site is said to be near the Jordan river by the Dead Sea. A 20 minute ride away is Mount Nebo. On top of the mountain you will not only find the Memorial Church, the supposed burial place of Moses, but you will also enjoy a great view of the Holy Land. Needless to say, I can not imagine a better end to your trip to Jordan.

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Wadi rum view with a tree in the desert