An epic road trip through Jordan saw us fall in love with its stunning scenery, amazing historical sights, delicious food and chaotic cities and we wanted to share the best things to do in Jordan. Each day was filled to the brim with incredible bucket list sights: from floating in the Dead Sea to exploring the ancient rose-red city of Petra, Jordan stole our hearts. We’ve narrowed a million amazing moments down into 30 of the best things to do in Jordan which should be at the top of any bucketlist!
1 | Roman ruins of Jerash
The Roman ruins of Jerash are among the best preserved Roman ruins in the world. Highlights of Jerash include the hippodrome which once hosted chariot races watched by up to 15,000 spectators, cardio maximus, once the main thoroughfare through the city, and Hadrian’s Arch, built to commemorate a visit by Emperor Adrian. The site is so well preserved it’s easy to imagine the grandeur of this city that once was and the history of the site really comes alive. The ruins of Jerash were one of our favourite stops on our Jordan itinerary.
Renting a Car in Jordan
Renting a car in Jordan is the best way to explore the country plus driving is relatively easy in the country. The roads are very good quality and fuel is cheap. Having your own car gives you the flexibility to travel at your own pace and see places that are simply not possible on group tours or public transport.
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2 | The hilltop settlement of Umm Qais
On the border of Jordan, Israel, Palestine and Syria, the ancient city of Umm Qais has sweeping views over the Sea of Galilee and Golan Heights. Originally known as the Decapolis city of Gadara, the present day Umm Quais represents the ruins of a Roman town built on an old Ottoman village. The ruins, while much less well preserved than Jerash, include a theatre, the main street and buildings once occupied by shops, temples and houses. Umm Qais is also touted as the site of a miracle where, according to the Bible, Jesus cast demons from men to pigs.
Jordan things to do tip: Given its location on the borders of Palestine, Syria and Israel there may be a lot of police presence en route to Umm Qais. We went through a number of police checkpoints and had our passports checked. If you plan on taking a trip to Umm Qais we’d advise that you check that travel is permitted but don’t let the location deter you from visiting, Umm Qais is an incredible site.
3 | The 12th Century Ajloun Castle
The hilltop Ajloun Castle is an interesting stop between the two sites of Jerash and Umm Qais. The castle is well preserved with the interior very much intact and the incredible views over the Jordan Valley are worth the climb!
4 | Umm Ar-Rasas
Umm Ar-Rasas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with its spectacular, perfectly preserved mosaic (the largest in Jordan) is an unmissable stop along the way. The site hosts extensive Roman, Byzantine, and early Muslim ruins as well as the mosaic floor in the Church of Saint Stephen. The mosaic depicts the major cities of ancient Jordan as well as the hunting and fishing techniques of ancient times.
5 | Aqaba
Jordan’s only coastal city, Aqaba is the perfect access point to the diving and snorkelling of the Red Sea. We skipped Aqaba as we weren’t planning on indulging in any diving or snorkelling but it’s one to add to your itinerary if you’re a fan!
6 | Wadi Rum
The aptly named Valley of the Moon, otherwise known as the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Wadi Rum. Spending the night in a Wadi Rum desert camp is truly a once in lifetime experience and exploring the desert in a 4×4 during the daylight hours brings the magnificent landscape to life.
Jordan things to do tip: the rolling hills of Wadi Rum are akin to a different planet. If you book a 4×4 tour you can expect to be offered a camel trek in the desert for an additional fee. We booked our tour online and it was an interesting and fun experience: we had some mint tea in the family home before exploring Wadi Rum in a beat up 4×4 led by a teenage guide.
While at Wadi Rum:
7 | Lawrence’s Spring and the ruins of Lawrence’s House
Wadi Rum is well known from Lawrence of Arabia, a film depicting the life of the British Soldier T.E. Lawrence, who spent time in Wadi Rum while serving the rebel forces during the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Turks between 1916 and 1918. In his book, the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, he describes the spring and it is the spot where his troops watered their camels before the attack on Aqaba Fort. Some rock ruins are thought to be from Lawrence’s House and, although there is no certainty in this, the ruins are a must see on the Wadi Rum circuit.
8 | The Sand Dunes at Wadi Rum
Yellow and red sand dunes are located throughout Wadi Rum and launching oneself down a sand dune is a Wadi Rum must!
9 | The Rock Bridges
There are a few incredible rock bridges, free standing arches of rock stretching between the rocks, dotted throughout Wadi Rum. The most famous are Little Rock Bridge, Burdah and Umm Fruth.
10 | Khazali and Burrah Canyon
The deep and narrow Khazali and Burrah Canyon’s are among the most incredible sights in Wadi Rum.
11 | Ancient rock drawings
Wadi Rum has an incredible collection of rock drawings and inscriptions which documents the human habitation of the desert over thousands of years.
12 | Petra
Quseir Amra is an excellent stop about 70 minutes east of Amman. The well preserved 8th Century desert castle built as a royal desert oasis is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its incredible frescoes. We visited Petra on four occasions: two sunrise hikes, a daytime visit and our evening at Petra by night. If you plan on visiting Petra check out our guide to visiting Petra.
While at Petra:
13 | Petra by night
Petra at night, a candlelit visit to the Treasury of Petra, was one of our favourite nights out in Jordan. The ancient ruins of the rose red city are illuminated by candlelight and it’s incredible experience Petra after dark.
14 | Treasury at Petra
Carved out of a sandstone rock face, the Treasury is the most elaborate ruin at Petra. It’s the first sight to greet visitors as they emerge from the long and narrow gorge which marks the entrance to the city and it took our breath away.
Best things to do in Jordan tip: If you have time be sure to make the hike to the viewpoint above the Treasury which is accessed by following the path around the Royal Tombs. Keep left of the tea shop as you approach the later stages of the hike and ask the staff to point you in the right direction. The view and the pics are absolutely worth the hike!
15 | Monastery at Petra
The Monastery, Petra’s largest monument, dates from the 1st century BC. It’s a long hike from the entrance but seeing the Monastery in all its grandeur is ample reward!
16 | Little Petra
Little Petra, a much smaller and quieter version of the main Petra site, has buildings carved out of the sandstone rock. It’s a nice alternative to Petra when you want to explore somewhere quieter and off the beaten track.
17 | Ma’in
The Ma’in Hot Springs are a series of hot mineral springs and waterfalls located between Madaba and the Dead Sea and the waters are said to have healing properties for aches and pains.
18 | Amman
Jordan’s capital city is a heady mix of modern and ancient and is the perfect balance of chaotic and charming.
While in Amman:
19 | The Citadel and the Hand of Hercules
The ancient Roman ruins of the Citadel are one of the most famous sights in Amman. Discovered at the Tower of Hercules at the Amman Citadel, the hand of Hercules is a massive hand which formed part of an ancient statue, believed to be Hercules.
20 | The Duke’s Diwan
The Duke’s Diwan is one of the oldest, well-preserved stone buildings located in the heart of Amman.
21 | The King’s Highway
The 280km King’s Highway is one of the Middle East’s most scenic drives and the winding road takes visitors through the ancient trade route which once connected vast amounts of the Middle East. It’s known as the longer and more scenic route between Amman and Petra.
On the King’s Highway:
22 | Shobak Castle
Shobak Castle is a 12th Century Crusader Castle perched on the side of a rocky mountain in barren surroundings.
23 | Dana Biosphere Reserve
The Dana Biosphere Reserve is Jordan’s largest nature reserve sits along the face of the Great Rift Valley and boasts spectacular landscapes and hikes. Check out Dana Village, a stone village occupied since 4,000BC.
24 | Kerak Castle
Kerak Castle is the largest and most well preserved of the Crusader Castles. The 12th Century Castle is perched atop a hilltop in the town of Kerak.
25 | Wadi Mujib
Wadi Mujib is a spectacular river canyon known as Jordan’s Grand Canyon. The river enters the Dead Sea over 400 metres below sea level and Moses is believed to have once walked through.
26 | Madaba Map
The Madaba Map is an incredible mosaic map of the Middle East created in the 6th Century located in the early Byzantine church of Saint George in the town of Madaba.
27 | The Dead Sea
Swimming in the Dead Sea, Earth’s lowest elevation point, is a bucketlist moment in any Jordan itinerary. It’s aptly named the Dead Sea as the water is devoid of life and, with salt levels 4 times higher than the rest of the world’s oceans, it’s a case of floating rather than swimming! The water contains 35 minerals and these, together with the rich mud on its shoreline, make it a spa treat for the skin.
Jordan things to do tip: bring a newspaper to read as you float in the Dead Sea! It’s an awesome reminder of floating at the lowest point on Earth and it’s not every day you can comfortably read a newspaper in the sea! Remember not to shave the day you swim as the salt can really sting!
28 | Mount Nebo
Mount Nebo is, according to ancient tradition, the place from which Moses saw the Promised Land before he died and, at 700 metres above sea level, the views of the Holy Land and the Jordan Valley are spectacular. It’s the reported death and burial site of Moses and the church with the mosaic is a highlight of a visit.
29 | Baptism Site of Jordan
The Baptism Site, Bethany Beyond the Jordan, is a relatively recent addition to the UNESCO World Heritage List and is considered to be the original location of the Baptism of Jesus and the site where John the Baptist resided. It’s surreal being beside the narrow waters separating Jordan and Israel and it’s common to see baptisms taking place on the Israel side of the site.
30 | Quseir Amra
Quseir Amra is an excellent stop about 70 minutes east of Amman. The well preserved 8th Century desert castle built as a royal desert oasis is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its incredible frescoes.