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An alluring, inviting enclave in the Middle East, Jordan is, in many ways, one of the world’s greatest hidden treasures. It’s a kingdom shaped like a bird in flight, almost entirely landlocked save a small frontage on the Dead Sea. Within this tiny country is hidden one of the world’s wonders, the rock-hewn ancient city of Petra. While Jordan is known for relics of the millennia, it boasts one of the most modern and accepting cultures in this part of the world. A wide range of geographic features also distinguishes Jordan, offering the visitor a wealth of different experiences. From fertile, green valleys to the inhospitable, craggy lunar expanse of the desert wadis, Jordan contains many worlds.
Thrill-seekers will get their kicks racing horses, taking rollicking 4x4 rides over the dunes, or rock-climbing. Desire a little more serenity in your travels? Head to the Dead Sea coastline, with its luxurious spa options, bathe in the high-saline waters, and drink up the dazzling sun. All of this is in addition to a fascinating assortment of ancient castles, fortresses, and other historic sites sure to spark your dreams of the past.
From the halls of stately castles to the humble peace of Bedouin desert camps, Jordan waits to astound and excite. Travelers often split their tours with the equally-intriguing and historic Israel, but Jordan offers plenty to spellbind all by itself.
Top Sights in Jordan
The Jordanian capital is a land of spice-scented air, veiled faces, and the noisy, bustling hecticness of humanity. Limestone buildings and ancient ruins crowds for space, making even the most mundane walk or drive a fascinating adventure. There are souks both ancient and modern, bursting with toothsome treats, clothes, shoes, and souvenirs! Don’t miss the ancient Citadel, which encompasses the Temple of Hercules, the Ummayad Palace, and the Byzantine Church, among others. A highlight of your time in Amman will be catching sunset from high atop the Citadel and listening to the phenomenal sound of the entire city being called to evening prayers.
The Dead Sea
Despite its morbid name, the Dead Sea makes for a lively and supremely fun day trip! It has the highest salinity of any water on earth, making it uninhabitable to marine creatures… hence the name. (Interesting point: it’s also the lowest point below sea level in the world!) Tourists flock to the Dead Sea for sunbathing and fantastical photos of reading the newspaper whilst floating effortlessly like a buoy on the surface! Jordan’s Dead Sea coastline is a popular spa destination, teeming with opportunities to pamper yourself with rejuvenating mud treatments and long, stimulating mineral soaks. Swim, soak up the sun, and watch the world go by.
The standout of any Jordan trip, the ancient city of Petra is one of those headliner, drop-dead, take-your-breath-away experiences that one never forgets. Petra is synonymous with Jordan, iconic in the same way that the Eiffel Tower is to France and the Coliseum is to Italy. John Burgan famously referred to the “rose red city, half as old as time,” and Petra is no less stunning today for being over two and a half millennia old. It is a city carved into stone, shaped into fantastic, majestic theaters, monasteries, and administrative buildings. Hikes around the area are popular, as are horseback or camel rides. Prepare to take loads of pictures!
A splendid example of an Ayyubid castle preserved, this eleventh-century marvel is a significant hotspot in Jordanian tourism. It was used as a fortress during the Crusades, and then for many other different things over the next hundreds of years. Visitors can explore almost all of the castle, in addition to a museum within the interior containing fascinating artifacts from Aljun’s long and storied history. Don’t forget to climb to the very top for gorgeous panoramic views all around you - many guides actually suggest you bring binoculars to make the view even better!
The best-known of Jordan’s many breathtaking desert valleys is Wadi Rum, a land of lunar landscapes and endlessly dry, barren landscapes. Make like Lawrence of Arabia and tour by 4x4, truck, or camelback! You’ll take in stunning sand dunes, rock bridges, ancient carvings and inscriptions, and learn about the true stories behind the legends. Some visitors do the wadi as a day trip, but the intrepid can bed down in an authentic Bedouin campsite and experience the inimitable wonder of a sky dotted by thousands of stars.
|Primary Airports: Queen Alia International Airport (AMM), King Hussein International Airport (AQJ)|
|Government: Constitutional monarchy / Multiparty democracy|
|Currency: Jordanian dinar (JOD)|
|Population: 6,318,000 (2012 est.)|
|Electricity: 220V/50Hz (Continental/UK plugs)|
|Time Zone: UTC +2|
Jordan Travel Reviews
Summer Excursion through Jordan
A couple of friends and I decided we wanted to check out a country in the Middle East, so we packed up our bags and flew overseas to Jordan. While there, we stayed in the capital city of Ammon, which was loaded with cool sights and plenty of shops. The hotel that we stayed at was called the Gondola Hotel. It was a small-scale place owned by a local Jordanian, but it was nice and we managed to save a good bit of money that we may have lost on hotel fees otherwise.
The best thing about Jordan was the food. Every meal is loaded with vegetables and spices, and we were glad to be healthy while we were there because everything tasted so fantastic. Our favorite food was shawerma, which is sort of like a small chicken burrito wrapped with chicken and cheese.
We also got to go swim in the Dead Sea while we were there, which is the lowest body of water on earth. If you want to float in water without even trying, go there! You could be in 40 feet deep water and not have to paddle at all! The mud that is near the beach of the Dead Sea can also be used as an exfoliant if you rub it on your skin. It feels great!
The only reason I wouldn't give Jordan 5 stars is because it didn't always feel safe. There are embassies everywhere throughout Ammon, and you see guards with assault rifles in many places, which is slightly unnerving. Still, the trip was awesome!
Going back in time in Jordan
I went to Jordan with a program from my seminary. We started in Amman, where we visited the acropolis, several museums, and smoked hookah on the roof of a hotel overlooking the city. Everywhere in Jordan, but especially Amman, you can see the layers of Roman, Byzantine, Umayyad, Crusader, and Ottoman architecture, spanning 2,000 years of history in one glance.
We voyaged to Jerash, a sprawling Roman city that has been beautifully reconstructed. We strolled the colonnaded streets and it didn't take much imagination to go back in time. We also went to Bethany Beyond the Jordan, where you can wade into the Jordan River and look across at Israel, as well as back at centuries-worth of old churches and shrines. We stopped at several castles too, so many that I can't remember their names.
The highlights of our trip were the Dead Sea and Petra. The Dead Sea is so full of salt that you can't float upright; it kicks your legs out so you must float face-forward or -backward. The thick black mud is also good for your skin, and there was a "Free Mud" table full of it for people who didn't want to swim. Petra was mind-boggling as well. One of the wonders of the world, this desert kingdom was largely forgotten and is remarkably preserved. The tombs cut in the cliffs look like a city cut into the stone. Maybe you remember it from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
A day at Petra, Jordan
My husband and I visited Petra, Jordan in the spring as part of a Bible Lands tour with Compass International. We crossed into Jordan from Eilat, Israel at the tip of the Red Sea and took a two hour bus trip to the archaeological site. Jordanian guides and guards accompanied us on our trek, and we felt very safe in the country. On the way, we stopped at Wadi Musa, where Moses brought water from the Rock. To get into the ruins of Petra, we walked through a deep narrow ravine, or siq, that is about 100 feet high and 20 feet high. We entered the canyon at the Treasury, which is featured in one of the Indiana Jones movies. The canyon is spectacular with an amphitheater and tombs carved out of the sandstone hills. Those in our group who were able, hiked up one of the cliffs after lunch to see the ruins from above. This was a highlight of the day and provided a great panoramic view. The path was well-marked and steep at points but safe to navigate. Some of the members of our group rented a camel or horse to ride back to the entrance to Petra. We loved the opportunity to visit this site, which some believe will be a hiding place for Israel in the future. Spring was a good time of year to visit, as in the desert of Jordan temperatures were already hot.
Roadtrip through Jordan
This past summer I traveled with my husband and my parents through Jordan, renting a car to provide freedom of movement. Driving can be a harrowing experience in Jordan, but if you stay on the main roads and engage your inner race-car driver, it can also be quite fun. We started in Aqaba, a great place to recuperate after the long, international flight to Amman. There is superb snorkeling on the southern coasts, and the relaxed atmosphere of a beach town. The best parts of our trip, however, were Wadi Rum and Petra. Wadi Rum is a spectacular nature preserve. It overwhelmed me with awe at the endless stretch of red desert and sharp, sandstone cliff formations. Sunset and sunrise were unforgettable from our overnight camp, where we feasted with our bedouin guides. Petra is an archaeological wonder providing endless opportunities to hike and explore the ancient Nabatean landscape, or ride an irascible camel past Byzantine churches. We also visited Madaba to enjoy the best restaurant in Jordan - Haret Jadoudnah - and admire beautifully-preserved mosaics. We ended our trip in Amman with a luxurious morning at Al Pasha Turkish Bath, where we could pamper ourselves with olive oil scrubs and massages for a very reasonable price. Traveling in Jordan was a fantastic experience thanks to the warm hospitality of everyone we met, the wonderful food, and the rich variety of attractions.
My 2012 Trip to Jordan
In 2012, I visited the middle east for the first time. While my trip was primarily a visit to the Holy Land, it also included an excursion across the border into Jordan. We crossed the border from Israel and met our Jordanian guides in Al Aqabah. From here, our tour bus led us through the city and out into the beautiful mountains on the way to Petra. The mountains were very picturesque, divided into colorful strata at unusual diagonal lines.
Upon arriving at Petra, we disembarked from the bus and continued our journey to the Siq, the narrow gap in the looming stone walls, on foot. This twisty path is best remembered by most Americans as the route Indiana Jones took to find the Holy Grail in the third installment of the popular film franchise. In places, you could see the marble stones of the ancient roman road. Along the walls, you could see groves carved into the stone that led water down the Siq and to the ancient settlement of Petra itself. The walk pays off when the Siq opens up, exposing the visitor to the sight of the ancient Treasury. This magnificent building is carved directly from the stone walls.
But, while this is the most memorable building it is far from the grandest. Petra is riddled with carved buildings, most of which were used for tombs for the rich. There is much to see and the people were caring and enjoyable to be with. Fans of Bible history will learn much from a visit here.
I went on an escorted tour of Jordan for one week using what is now the Alexander & Roberts tour company. The tour included Amman, Jerash, Petra and the Dead Sea. Amman is a busy city with an interesting archaeological museum and a large Roman theater. Jerash is a Roman city considered to be one of the most well preserved places outside of Italy. Archaeologists have found ruins indicating humans inhabited the area 6,500 years ago. There are beautiful plazas, theaters, public squares and city walls to enjoy.
The most famous place to visit in Jordan is Petra. It is a historical city located in the southern part of the country. After walking through the Siq (passage through a mountain) you will see the rose pink building known as the treasury. There are many tombs and temples to explore. If you are there when they have the night tour of Petra, I highly recommend it. It was like walking on another planet - the mountain walls, the moonlight, the silence was truly memorable.
My tour also included a day trip to the Dead Sea. It's like no other body of water in the world. The high salt content enables you to float easily.
Jordanians are very hospitable and are happy you are visiting their beautiful country. Women should be careful to cover their arms and wear loose, comfortable pants or long skirts. Refrain from wearing tight or revealing clothing.
Jordan is a unique, fascinating country to visit and I highly recommend it.