Although I had seen numerous photos of Petra before, I wasn’t too sure what to expect from the rest of Jordan. We planned our trip to Jordan last minute, to fill in the 6 days we had spare before beginning our Ugandan safari.
But Jordan really surprised us. It’s an amazing country and we never expected to see so much diversity in scenery in such a small country. You can cross Jordan in either direction in just under six hours. So you can easily see the highlights in just a few days. Of course, the longer you have the better because even though it’s small, there is no lack of places to visit in Jordan. But with only 6 days, here is our Jordan travel itinerary.
Day 1 Amman
We landed bright and early, arriving in Amman at 8.30 am from Abu Dhabi. Since it had been such a short flight, we started exploring the capital straight away. As we drove from the airport towards Amman we could see the obvious change in scenery. We were definitely not in Asia anymore!
The arid looking countryside, the white limestone buildings built on the top of the hills. It looked amazing and I was so happy to be discovering something totally different. The only other place in the Middle East we had been to was the UAE (and let’s face it, that’s not super authentic anymore!), so this felt really exciting.
Amman is Jordan’s capital, its largest city and nearly half the country’s population lives there. It’s a bustling city with a lovely, photogenic old town, along with a more modern part. There are plenty of ancient ruins to explore and some great cafes and restaurants where you can eat some really yummy Middle Eastern food. Be sure to eat at Hashem, a favourite with locals and tourists alike. They make the best Falafels in town.
Amman is built in a mountainous area so you can get some awesome views from many of the vantage points around the city. Make sure you check out the old city and explore the Citadel to see the ancient Roman ruins, as well as the well-preserved Roman amphitheatre. Both the Citadel and the amphitheatre offer some truly impressive views. Afterwards, head to Amman’s trendy, restaurant-filled Rainbow Street.
Day trips from Amman:
Hotels in Amman
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Day 2 Jerash and the Dead Sea
Leave Amman early to get to the Jerash ruins at opening time (8 am). It takes around 45 minutes to reach Jerash by car. We were the first ones there which gave us ample time to enjoy the site alone. The ruins of Jerash are amazingly well-preserved. It is one of the largest and best-preserved examples of Roman architecture.
The ruins date back to the 1st century AD and once there you’ll get a bit of a feel for what the Roman streets and markets used to be like. There are many columns, carvings, paved streets, and some really well-preserved theatres. The site covers a massive area and the city is still being excavated. So you’ll need at least 2 and a half hours if you want to see most of it.
The Dead Sea
After Jerash, head to the Dead Sea which is just 90 kilometres away. Depending on what time of the year you visit, you’ll quickly notice a change in temperature because it’s below sea level. When we visited in winter, Amman was cold (10-12 degree during the day) but the Dead Sea was warm (25 degrees).
While at the Dead Sea you just have to take a dip. You can’t swim in the Dead Sea but you can float! It is a feeling that is very strange, to say the least. Without any effort, our bodies just floated on the surface. The high concentration of salt is the reason for this; it pushes everything upwards, which makes us float on the surface without even trying. The Dead Sea’s name comes from the fact that it is so salty that even fish can’t live in it.
The high salt content in the Dead Sea will dry out your skin badly, so when you get out it’s best to take a mud bath to moisturise it. The Dead Sea mud is well known for its healing powers and it is recommended that you cover yourself in mud for twenty minutes after floating in the Dead Sea. You can plaster it all over your body and face. Our skin was so soft afterwards and it was also so much fun!
Day trips to Jerash and Dead Sea:
Hotels near the Dead Sea
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Day 3 Mount Nebo, Madaba, Kerak Castle and Petra
On our third day, we made our way from the Dead Sea to Petra. It was quite a drive as we didn’t take the direct route but instead took the King’s Highway, a scenic drive that links Amman with the south of the country. The King’s Highway is totally out of this world; check out these pictures!
Our first stop was Mount Nebo, which is where Moses supposedly first saw the Holy Land at the end of the Exodus. It is also the place where he died and was buried. On top of Mount Nebo stands a Byzantine church and from there you are treated to stunning views over the Jordan Valley. Inside the church, there are excavations that have revealed some amazing mosaics.
Madaba is a Christian town and home to many churches. The church most people visit is the Greek Orthodox church of St George, because of the fine mosaic work on display inside. Try and avoid getting there at the same time as a tourist bus because the church is tiny. As we were leaving a coach arrived and there were so many people that we could barely get out of the door!
We then continued on to Kerak, making a few stops along the way to take photos of the incredible highway scenery. The Crusader Castle of Kerak is one of the largest crusader castles in Jordan and is perched on top of a steep hill. We walked around the ruins of the fortress and explored its vast, dimly-lit, vaulted rooms and underground corridors. The castle also offers some spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.
We arrived in Wadi Musa around sunset, which left us the night to prepare for an early morning start and a full day of walking around Petra. To get our legs going we walked a couple of kilometres uphill to have dinner!
Day trip to Mount Nebo and Madaba:
Hotels in Petra
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Day 4 Petra and Aqaba
You can’t go to Jordan without going to Petra, so this was our next stop. Petra is by far the most visited attraction in the country! It became popular after the “Indiana Jones” movie was filmed there but it recently also became one of the new seven wonders of the world.
Having spent the previous night in Wadi Musa, a stone’s throw from Petra’s visitor centre, we woke up bright and early to start exploring the site at 6 am when it opened. We had plenty of time to enjoy the Treasury before the tourist’s buses arrived and it was amazing to be there and almost have the place to ourselves.
We spent part of the day just exploring the site and hiking all the way to the Monastery and a few viewpoints nearby. It was the highlight of Jordan for sure and I totally understand why it’s so popular.
Mid-afternoon we headed to Aqaba for an overnight stay. Aqaba is a beach town on the shores of the Red Sea. It’s a great place for windsurfing and diving and a good base for your visit to Wadi Rum. We arrived late afternoon and therefore didn’t have a chance to see much of it but we did walk along the waterfront at sunset which was an excellent opportunity for people watching.
Read more about Petra here.
Day trips to Petra:
Hotels in Aqaba
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Day 5 Wadi Rum
Wadi Rum or “the Valley of the Moon” in Arabic, is a desert valley filled with narrow gorges, natural stone arches and towering cliffs and red sand dunes. To see Wadi Rum you have to hire a 4WD driver to take you on a safari around the desert. It was a lot of fun and so awe-inspiring to see all the emptiness. We stopped in a few places for photos and our driver made us some sweet Arabic tea which we drank beneath a beautiful sandstone arch. It was magical.
Wadi Rum has been used in a few movies such as The Martian and Lawrence of Arabia.
After our safari in Wadi Rum, we headed back to Amman, a 4-hour drive away.
Day 6 Amman flying home
Depending on what time your flight is at, you could spend some of your last day visiting the Jordan Museum, spending more time in the old town or doing some shopping.
If you have more time in Jordan
With a 7-day itinerary or an 8-day itinerary, there are more Jordan attractions you can visit. The Dana Biosphere Reserve and Wadi Mujib are supposedly very nice too but unfortunately for us, we missed out on visiting them.
Another thing we wish we’d done is to stay overnight in Wadi Rum in a Bedouin tent. January was not the best time for this but if you’re visiting in the warmer months you should definitely look into doing it. It really sounds amazing (and I don’t even like camping!).
How to get around Jordan?
Now that you have your itinerary, let’s talk about how to get around. Jordan’s roads are very good and very drivable. It is also very safe to drive and the roads are well indicated. So you can either rent your own car or you can hire a driver.
We thought of self-driving at first but decided that with such a short period of time it might be best if someone else did the driving. We hired a driver through a company called Sherazade Travel and they were affordable, professional and provided us with an excellent driver.
You also have the option of joining an organised group tour but this is always our least favourite option and I don’t believe it is necessary for Jordan.
Some travel tips for an amazing visit to Jordan?
The Jordan pass
If you are travelling on your own and not part of an organised tour or a group tour, you should get the Jordan Pass. This pass starts from 70JOD and includes visits to over 40 Jordan attractions including Petra. It’s definitely worth it, especially since Petra costs 50 JOD just on its own. There are three different packages depending on the number of days you want to explore Petra. You can read more about it or purchase the pass online here. https://www.jordanpass.jo/
What to wear?
There are no restrictions on what to wear in Jordan but you should still dress modestly, the locals will appreciate it. As a woman, do not wear short skirts and try and cover your arms. You don’t need to wear a headscarf unless you are entering a mosque.
Is Jordan safe?
Because of its neighbouring countries, you might think that going to Jordan is insane. However, Jordan is really safe. We never had any issues there or felt worried at any time. We also always felt welcome, thanks to the lovely locals who always say “welcome” whenever you enter their premises.
Jordanians are working hard to show a positive image of their country but because of the current climate, Jordan has lost a lot of tourism. That’s really sad as they are fantastic hosts.
What about the language?
The official language of Jordan is Arabic. However, we felt that a lot of people spoke decent English, including Uber drivers in Amman, shop attendants and housekeeping staff in hotels. Maybe it is just the newer generations but we never struggled with communication.
The local currency in Jordan is the Jordanian Dinar (JOD). Credit cards are widely accepted but you should still carry cash with you at all times, just in case. Smaller restaurants and shops don’t always accept them.
What’s the best time to visit Jordan?
This really depends on what you are looking for. The high season is from March through till May when you’ll find perfect weather throughout the country with warm days and cool nights.
The low season is from June to August because of the extremely hot temperatures.
We visited in January which is winter (shoulder season) and although it was quite cold in Amman and in the desert, there were barely any tourists which meant we had most attractions almost to ourselves. We still had blue skies most of the time and we still managed a dip in the Dead Sea which was quite warm.
What about the Jordan Visa?
Depending on where you come from, you might be able to receive a visa on arrival. A one-month single entry visa is 40JOD. If you hire a driver from one of the local agencies or come as part of a tour, the visa fee will be waived, which was the case for us. A representative from our tour company was waiting for us before immigration and organised the visa for us within a couple of minutes. It was very easy and we didn’t even have to queue.
If you purchase the Jordan pass online before arrival and stay for more than 3 nights, the visa fee is also waived.
To find out more about visa to Jordan click here.
Petra Through My Lens: A Photo Essay
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