Where to visit in Jordan: A comprehensive guide

Jordan guide: Where to visit

For a small country, Jordan packs it in. What do I mean by “it?” Quite simply, everything. Jordan has it all. For nature lovers and outdoor adventurers, there are thru hiking opportunities and deserts so vast you won’t be able to wait to plant your footprints down. History and culture vultures have one of the 7 new wonders of the world in Petra, Roman ampitheatres, temples and ancient mosaics. In fact, Jordan is also calling all city lovers, food fiends and beach dwellers. Suitable for families, couples, friends and solo travellers. It really is that diverse. The hardest decision you’ll make when travelling to Jordan is deciding where to visit.

Grab a cup of coffee and climb into your best imagination pants and get ready to transport yourself with our comprehensive guide to what you should visit in Jordan.

Table of contents

  1. Where to visit in Jordan for hiking and outdoors
    1. Jordan Trail Dana to Petra
    2. Wadi Rum
    3. Jordan Trail Umm Qais to Ajloun
  2. Where to visit in Jordan for sunbathing and swimming
    1. Aqaba
    2. The Dead Sea
  3. Where to visit in South Jordan
    1. Petra
    2. Wadi Rum
    3. Aqaba
  4. Where to visit in North Jordan
    1. Ajloun
    2. Jerash
    3. Umm Qais
  5. Jordan itinerary for one week
  6. Jordan itinerary for two weeks
  7. Are you looking for more information on Jordan?

Where to visit in Jordan for hiking and outdoors

“If happiness is the goal – and it should be, then adventures should be top priority”

Richard Branson

Jordan Trail Dana to Petra

The Jordan Trail runs from the very North of the country in Umm Qais to the very South in Aqaba. If you’re a fan of thru hiking or looking for an out of this world adventure, then walking the Jordan Trail from Dana to Petra is something you really ought to consider. We did this recently and it was one of the greatest hiking experiences of our lives.

You would need to allow 3 to 5 days for this walk. This may seem like a big chunk of time, but the sights you’ll see will wow you so much, that it’s guaranteed to be worth it. If you’re interested and want to read more, our guide on how to walk the Dana to Petra Jordan Trail is available here.

Wadi Rum

The desert of Wadi Rum provides some wonderful hikes, whether you’re looking to do a self-guided walk or join a tour, Wadi Rum has many options. We would advise at least two full days in Wadi Rum if you plan to do some hiking. Perhaps one day to take a self-guided walk around and another to join a tour to conquer Jabal umm ad Dami (the highest mountain in Jordan), if you’re feeling brave. More information here.

Jordan Trail Umm Qais to Ajloun

If you’re keen to do a stretch of the Jordan Trail but don’t want to pay for a guided tour, or you want to experience something a little different, why not try the first four days of the Jordan Trail? This section is different to the other stretches of the trail as it is all waymarked. This means that you can self-guide on this walk, provided you have a decent GPS and enough water. There are homestays and accommodation options along the way, making this a very feasible option! We completed day four of the first stage and had a blast.

Where to visit in Jordan for sunbathing and swimming

“All I need is a good dose of Vitamin Sea”

Somebody At Some Point

Aqaba

If you’re after sun and sandy beaches, the Aqaba is the best destination for you in Jordan. Aqaba sits on the Red Sea, sharing the same stretch of Water with popular beach resorts in Israel (directly opposite Aqaba) and Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt. Famed for diving and snorkelling, the Red Sea is quite literally awash with exotic sea life.

Although westerners wishing to sunbathe will be confined to either hotel beaches or private beach clubs, it is still feasible to enjoy a trip to Aqaba without feeling too restricted. It is also possible to visit Aqaba on a budget – find out more here.

The Dead Sea

Further North than Aqaba, and therefore slightly cooler in temperature, is The Dead Sea. This stretch of water is most famous for the remarkably high salt content, which means that you can float unassisted on the water until your heart is content.

A visit to the dead sea is an opportunity to check in with your health, topping up on dead sea salt or a dead sea mud bath. Both of which, are sited as having significant benefits for your skin and wellbeing.

If you plan to visit the Dead Sea – our guide here explains how you can do so on various budgets.

Where to visit in South Jordan

If you plan to fly into Aqaba and visit the South of Jordan only, then these three destinations below should be on your hit list.

Petra

Visiting Petra on your trip to Jordan is pretty obvious! But you really ought to do it! Located in the South, you will want to ensure you carve out at least a day to explore.

We’ve written a guide on Petra here, which provides all you need to know.

Wadi Rum

Wadi Rum, a protected nature park near to both Aqaba and Petra is a must see if you want to get away from it all and camp under the stars. Wadi Rum was our favourite place in Jordan, it felt like total escapism. Gather around the campfire after a day of exploring and enjoy some Bedouin hospitality.

More information on Wadi Rum can be found in our detailed guide here.

Aqaba

As mentioned above, if you’re looking for some much-needed R&R on your holiday to Jordan, then Aqaba could be perfect for you. A bejewelled Red Sea and white sand awaits you!

Read our guide to Aqaba here.

Where to visit in North Jordan

“In this village that wakes up to a view of Syria, Israel, Palestinian territories and Lebanon every day, a sense of peace prevails”

Anja Mutic for the Washington Post

North Jordan, oft unvisited by the average tourist, is the Mediterranean region of Jordan. Head North of Amman and you’ll exchange desert heat for dewier temperatures, palm trees for olive trees and crowded Petra for Roman ruins that feel like your own personal playground. In the North, prices are cheaper, local folk are friendlier and there’s an all round different feel. With views out to Syria and Lebanon, if you didn’t know better you’d assume you were in a different country compared to the South of Jordan.

Ajloun

Lesser known Ajloun to the North of Jordan, is a great base to explore the top end of the country. A buzzing town with a market, there are acomodation options in the town itself. Alternatively, there are some great options out of town in the countryside if you have access to a car. The top three sites to visit in Ajloun are:

  • The Castle: The Castle in Ajloun is an attraction that you can visit with your Jordan pass. An interesting site to explore, not least because (at least when we visited) you had to guide yourself around the castle by candlelight.
  • The Jordan Trail walk: If you’re not able to do an entire stretch of the Jordan trail, but are still keen to see what it’s about, Ajloun has a great option. You can walk from nearby Rasoun to Ajloun Castle – more information here. It’s a tough walk physically with a lot of climbing, but some stunning views of Olive groves and other enjoyable scenery. It’s very well sign posted, but it doesn’t hurt to download the GPS guide from the Jordan Trail website.
  • Ajloun Nature Reserve: For something a little more relaxing, you can take a self-guided 6km meander around the Ajloun Nature Reserve. More information can be found here.

Jerash

Jerash, 30km to the North of Amman, is the perfect stop off for history enthusiasts. The centrepiece of this city is the archaeological park within which you’ll find a whole heap of Roman ruins. Visiting the ruins is included in your Jordan pass and you can truly spend hours exploring. There is so much to see, with two Amphitheatres, a Roman Road, temples and even a Hippodrome.

We also visited Lebanese House, a bit of a stalwart of Jerash, this restaurant has been here since 1977 and has hosted numerous famous guests. We were slightly put off by the tourist coaches parked outside, but we found the atmosphere to be far from gimmicky and the food to be excellent. Despite only stopping by for a few bites, we were soon lulled into having a delicious but far too generous meal.

Umm Qais

What is unique about Umm Qais is the integration between community and tourist sites, it is clear that the guides are locals as are the staff working in the restaurants that surround the area. Locals take walks through the ruins, which gives the archaeological site a much more relaxed feeling than when visiting other sites in Jordan. There is nobody trying to sell you anything or get you to ride a horse, in stark contrast to Petra.

The other unique thing that we loved in Umm Qais, was lunch at The Rest House. Even if you have no interest in the history of Umm Qais, travel here just for the view overlooking the Sea of Galilee from this restaurant. If your wheels need greasing any more, take note – The Rest House sells wine and beer to accompany your meal. A rarity in Jordan. Make the trip to Umm Qais and you could enjoy an ice-cold glass of Jordan Valley chardonnay to wash down your mezze.

Although we did not have time to visit, we have heard very good things about Umm Qais guest house. Here you can also do a cooking class, which is part of a community development project in this aera.

Jordan itinerary for one week

Is one week long enough to see Jordan? Depending on your goals and appetite for travel, it can be. Jordan is truly an accessible destination even if you are limited to one week of travelling time. With a flight time of less than five hours, it’s classed as medium and not long-haul. The time difference is 3 hours ahead of the UK, whilst you may need to adjust your body clock slightly, you are not likely to suffer with Jet Lag.

Here are two great options for one-week itineraries in Jordan. We’ve made recommendations as to how long you should spend in each place, but this is of course flexible, based on your needs. The itineraries are both feasible, regardless of whether you have a car or are relying on public transport.

If you fly into Aqaba

This one week itinerary is an anti-clockwise loop around the South of Jordan, starting from Aqaba. It could be reversed, if this suits you and your flight times better.

Infographic: One week Jordan Travel itinerary
Day One to Two: Wadi Rum

We loved Wadi Rum and enjoyed four full days there, but in a one-week itinerary there is not likely to be time for this. However, you can get the “Wadi Rum” experience if you are able to spend one or two nights and at least one full day. If you have only one night, make sure you arrive by sunset, which is always stunning in Wadi Rum and that you have enough time to sit by the campfire drinking tea. If you want to take a tour in Wadi Rum, you can normally book these once you arrive at the campsite, but if you have your heart set on something unique, then you may want to contact the camp in advance.  

You’ll notice that this plan allows for two full days in Aqaba. If beaches aren’t your thing, you could easily spend an extra day in Wadi Rum and less time in Aqaba! There’s plenty to do and see and having two nights in the desert may just be what your weary soul needs when you first arrive.

Day Two to Four: Petra

You will need at least one full day in Petra, more if you’re very interested in the history or intend to do any hiking. But, if you just plan to take one day in Petra, we recommend arriving the night or afternoon before, getting rested and enjoying dinner in town, before spending the next day in Petra. If you wanted to leave after this and drive onto The Dead Sea, you could do. Based on our experience, you’re likely to be quite tired after a day exploring Petra, so it may be prudent to plan for two nights acomodation in this area.

Day Four to Five: Dead Sea

From Petra, you can take the highway North towards the Dead Sea. You have a few choices at the Dead Sea, you can either stay in one of the hotels on the Dead Sea, which gives you access to the water and facilities. Or you could take a day trip to one to the sea by buying a pass from one of the hotels and stay elsewhere. The other option is to swim in the Dead Sea for free. If you want stay overnight away from the beachfront, Madaba may be a good option for you. Accommodation is reasonable and there are some interesting historic sites in and around the area to visit.  

Day Five to Seven: Aqaba

Finally, head back to Aqaba ahead of your flight. It’s a fairly big distance from the Dead Sea to Aqaba, so you may want to work this into your schedule. You will want to spend at least one day relaxing on the beach in Aqaba, before enjoying one of the many restaurants in the evening.

If you fly into Amman

Amman one week itinerary in Jordan
Day One: Amman to Petra

Depending on your flight time, you may need to factor in an overnight stay in Amman. This might work out well if you’re a city fan as there is lots to see. If you are not keen to stay in Amman, then we suggest heading straight to Petra. For advice on hiring a car particularly where to collect in Amman, we’ve written an overview about driving in Jordan.

Day One to Three: Petra

We would recommend spending your second full day in Petra and then your second night in Petra too, before leaving early on the morning of your third day. A few hours in Petra is not enough, so try to avoid splitting your day up when you visit Petra.

Day Three to Four: Wadi Rum

The distance between Petra and Wadi Rum is around 70 miles, so you can easily arrive into the desert with enough time to catch sunset and arrange your tours for the next day. Enjoy a full day on our fourth day and then take the short trip to Aqaba.

Day Four to Six: Aqaba

We suggest two nights in Aqaba to fully relax after Petra and Wadi Rum. You can spend your fifth day relaxing on the beach by your hotel or at a private beach club, as you choose. Boat trips and diving or snorkelling area also easy to arrange here. In the evening, head to the waterfront for some supper.

Day Six: The Dead Sea

On day six, take a leisurely trip to the Dead Sea. Depending on your flight times from Amman, you could enjoy a night in the Dead Sea resorts. If you have an early flight in Amman the next day, you may be best to head back to the capital on your sixth night, or to nearby Madaba (around a 30-minute drive to the airport.)

Day Seven: Travel back to Amman

Jordan itinerary for two weeks

If you have longer in Jordan, we would recommend extending your stay in the main sites of Wadi Rum, Petra and Aqaba to get the most from your trip. Within Wadi Rum, there are many different camps that you can choose as well as different tours, so you could easily enjoy three nights in the desert. We’ve written a detailed guide about where to stay and what to do in Wadi Rum, this can be found here.

Personally, we would not choose to stay longer than one day in the Dead Sea resort, but we would potentially recommend Madaba (more on that below.) In addition, there are some great options to the North of Jordan, if you would like to travel a bit more off the beaten track.

Our top recommendations are:

Amman: Spend at least two nights in Amman if possible. There’s lots to see, including the impressive Citadel. We’ve written a guide on what to do in Amman in 48 hours, which includes recommendations on where to stay.

Jerash: One night in Jerash and a full day, or if you’re staying in Amman, you could extend your stay there and take a day trip to Jerash

Madaba: Two nights in Madaba would allow you to spend one day visiting the Dead Sea and one day seeing both the mosaics in Madaba and Mount Nebo. We enjoyed Madaba, but found the Mosaic visits did not take long and we found Mount Nebo a little underwhelming. If both sites are not of interest to you, then we wouldn’t recommend staying in Madaba.

Ajloun and Umm Qais: Two or Three nights in Ajloun and the surrounding areas is a pleasant addition to any trip to Jordan. Personally, we love hiking and very much enjoyed the hiking in this area. That alone, was enough to fill our time. If you’re not a fan of hiking, we would suggest sticking to one night in either Umm Qais or Ajloun.

Are you looking for more information on Jordan?

For information and guidance about travelling in Jordan, try these:

For detailed information and guidance about the destinations referenced above, check out the below links:

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3 responses to “Where to visit in Jordan: A comprehensive guide”

  1. graham mcquade avatar

    Is your header, attributed to Mark Twain incorrect? Should it read the LACK of travel?

    1. lotuseaters.travel avatar

      Graham, i think in modern speak we would say it with lack of, but the original quote was written like this.

      1. graham mcquade avatar

        Yeah, reading it again, a few times, it does make sense. It just doesnt carry the pithiness of : The report of my death was an exaggeration. Maybe even Sam had a bad day.

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