10 Must-See Destinations in Jordan
Jordan is an often overlooked travel destination. Those who venture there discover a peaceful, hospitable country that is overflowing with history, tradition, and wonder.
Whether you’re looking to explore history, walk the ancient religious routes of pilgrims, or experience the out-of-this-world landscapes, be sure to check out these 10 must-see destinations in Jordan.
Amman is the capital of Jordan and its largest city. The hilly, monochrome city is home to Jordan’s monarchy, as well as its commercial, financial, and trade centers. Amman is divided up into a number of districts. The Downtown district (also known as Wast al-Balad) contains the Old City, complete with ancient ruins, shopping souks, traditional dining. Other popular districts include Jabal Amman with its charming Rainbow Street, and Abdali with its revitalized city center and modern shopping.
Most visitors to Jordan are likely to arrive in Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport.
Petra is, by far, the most visited tourist destination in Jordan. Recently named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, Petra is an ancient city carved out of solid sandstone cliffs. Petra was once the capital of the Nabatean empire and a thriving center of regional trade. The massive rose-red city was later lost to the world for hundreds of years, only to be rediscovered in the early 19th century. Petra was introduced to an international audience in 1989 when it was featured as the location of the Holy Grail in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
If you ask most people if they’ve heard of Wadi Rum, they will answer in the negative. Chances are, however, they’ve seen it in movies. Due to its distinctive, other-worldly environment, this beautiful desert in southern Jordan has been used as a background setting in movies such as Lawrence of Arabia, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, The Martian, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Visitors to Wadi Rum can stay overnight in a Bedouin camp and tour the stunning rock formations by Jeep or on foot.
Jerash is considered to be one of the best-preserved Roman provincial towns in the world. Originally known as Gerasa, the city was a member of the Decapolis League – a group of ten cities on the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire. Jerash rose to prominence until a devastating earthquake destroyed much of the city in AD 749. The former opulence of Jerash was hidden in the sand until excavation and restoration began in the 20th century.
Jerash is the second-most popular tourist attraction in Jordan, closely behind the ruins of Petra.
There are bragging rights for those who swim in the Dead Sea. At 430 meters (1,412 feet) below sea level, it is the lowest point on earth. It’s also one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water with a salinity 9.6 times greater than the ocean. All the salt and minerals makes the water ultra-dense, so swimming in the Dead Sea is akin to floating. Basically you bob like a cork on top of the water. I dare you to try to sink!
Dead Sea mud possesses minerals that reportedly have medicinal benefits. Visitors to the Dead Sea take advantage of the skin-friendly by rubbing the black mud all over their bodies.
06Castles of Jordan
This one is cheating a bit because it isn’t a single destination. Jordan has a number of great castles to explore, from Crusader-era castles to desert palaces. Some of the more prominent castles hold militaristic importance, and are located on main travel routes throughout Jordan. Others are fairly obscure, but are classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites due to their cultural significance.
07Madaba and Mount Nebo
Madaba is a small city located 20 miles south of Amman. The city is known for its ancient mosaics. The Greek Orthodox Church of St. George has an intriguing mosaic floor that contains a map of the Holy Land – one of the earliest representations of the area from Byzantine times. The Archeological Park of Madaba has ruins that feature elaborate mosaic floors.
Just northwest of Madaba is Mount Nebo, the biblical location where God revealed the Promised Land to Moses before died. An ancient church and other pilgrimage ruins available for exploration. If the weather is clear, the peak offers great panoramic views of the Jordan River Valley and the Dead Sea.
The Jordan River will most likely appeal to history or religious buffs. It is the location of a number of significant biblical events, including the site where the Israelites crossed into the Promised Land and where Jesus Christ was baptized by John the Baptist. The location of Jesus’ baptism – otherwise known as Al-Maghtas (“baptism” in Arabic) – is marked by a series of ruins which includes an ancient pilgrim church. The area around the ruins are dry most of the year due to the reduction of flow of the Jordan River.
There are a number of churches located closer to the Jordan River bank. The Greek Orthodox Church of John the Baptist is open to guests and contains some striking murals within. Visitors can also go down to the water of the Jordan River, despite it being fairly underwhelming.
09Pella and Umm Qais
Pella and Umm Qais (ancient Gadara) are both ancient Roman towns that were part of the Decapolis League. The archeological ruins offer insight into life in the 1st century AD. Pella is located in the Jordan Valley about 129 km (80 miles) north of Amman. Umm Qais is located in northwestern Jordan on a hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Visit these sites from March through May to fully enjoy the lush greenery that appears in Spring.
Aqaba, on the Red Sea, is Jordan’s only coastal town. Aqaba is a popular destination for Jordanians due to its excellent weather and the existence of many beach-side resorts. The beaches in Aqaba (both public and private) are mediocre at best, but the scuba diving is world-class. The Gulf of Aqaba is rich in marine life, and there are plenty of dive shops offering scuba excursions and water sport activities.
Further down the coast is Tala Bay, a new resort area designed as a luxury seaside destination.
Do you agree with our list? What are your top 10 must-see destinations in Jordan?