From the Dead Sea and Wadi Rum to the poetic candlelight at night at Petra, Jordan dazzles with big name sights and great natural beauty. But its real richness comes from its people, from sharing hummus, tabbouleh and pitta bread together and from discovering layers and layers of history that have remarkably resulted in peace in this otherwise tumultuous part of the world.
It’s a country that brings me great joy every time I visit – and one that gives me hope for the future.
Here’s a guide to the best places to visit in Jordan, with more information about the country below and more on each place if you click on the section. Happy travels!
Related: The Best Things to do in Jordan
1 – Petra
This is one of those iconic places that more than lives up to the hype. Visit Petra first by day to catch raspberry rock swirls, donkeys and the famous Treasury. Then come back for a quieter experience called Petra by Night.
2 – The Dead Sea
Saltier than a salty sea dog, the Dead Sea is also the lowest point of earth. It reaches between Jordan and Israel and it just so happens to be achingly beautiful.
Go ahead, try swimming in the Dead Sea.
If nothing else, you’ll have a good time!
3 – Wadi Rum
There are deserts and then there are deserts. Wadi Rum is the ruby-red, dust spinning, camel swashbuckling kind of desert with rock formations several storeys high. Camp beneath the stars in a (tailored for visitors) Bedouin tent, ride on camels, dune bash and take to the skies in a hot air balloon.
Despite that long list of heady activities, Wadi Rum feels surprisingly quiet when you visit. As if the whole world has turned to red sand and is waiting for you.
4 – The Red Sea
Bright skies, pleasure boats and snorkelling await in Aqaba, Jordan’s playground. It’s also a good dive site and has easily accessible markets for spice pyramids, incense and perfume.
5 – Amman
Jordan’s capital vies for the title of oldest city in the world and when standing on the citadel at sunset, that seems easy to believe. Yet it’s a modern city, too, with luxurious five star hotels, shops, an amphitheatre and (indulge me here) one of the greatest places to learn about traditional Jordanian food.
6 – Madaba
Somewhat off the standard tourist radar, Madaba makes for a fascinating city to visit for a number of reasons. It’s home to one of the oldest maps in the world and is trying to build the largest mosaic in the world as a peace effort. Visitors of all race, religion, gender and creed are invited to sign their name on a piece. It’s beautiful and surprisingly moving.
7 – Dana Nature Reserve
The Dana Biosphere Reserve is the largest nature reserve in Jordan and comes with a handy addition: a luxurious ecolodge right in the centre that allows you make the most of the empty space and the stars. The Feynan Ecolodge helps organise hiking, drives and cooking lessons from their hub, working with the community in a sustainable, responsible way.
8 – Jerash
While the Romans may not have the sex appeal of the Nabateans of Petra, this still-standing city is still pretty impressive with road after road of tumbling columns and pathways that have survived thousands of years. It’s also a lot more accessible than Petra, which is worth bearing in mind if you’re short on time (or mobility.)
Currency: Jordanian dinar (JOD)
Best way of getting around: by car with a local driver or guide
Highlight: Petra, without a doubt
Travel tip: Wrap a scarf around your head to protect from the wind, sun and sand in the desert, Bedouin style.
Dress Code: modest but not excessive. Cover shoulders, knees and cleavage and wear layers because it’s hot in the day and cool at night.
Unusual highlight: Floating in the Dead Sea
I boarded the plane to Amman in Madrid, feeling slightly self-conscious. Aside from a young man in a leather jacket in first class, where sadly, I was not, everyone else wore white. Was over 50. And began boisterously praying as the aeroplane began took off.
I’d made an effort to dress conservatively but tugged at the edges of my sleeves, willing them to grow longer. I checked for a gap between sock and trouser and became aware of something I usually never notice: my free flowing hair. I’d brought a scarf to cover up, just in case, but had made the mistake of leaving that in my suitcase. So, I slumped into my chair, focused on becoming invisible and watched the minutes crawl by.
In Amman, only the man in the leather jacket waited by the luggage carousel, and forty minutes after that I met up with two women, Reine and Halla. They burst out laughing.
Reine and Halla, I should probably mention, were dressed in skintight clothes, with full make-up, free glossy hair and they looked absolutely wonderful. I, by this stage, was red-faced from keeping my fleece on, with hair in disarray and not so much as a dash of lipstick in sight.
It reminded me of two, oh go on make that three, important things.
Jordan has sand, yes. It also has plenty of camels. It’s been at the centre of the world’s three main religions since each of them began and has played both hero and villain depending upon your point of view. For all the weight of history, however, Jordan, currently has good ties with Israel. It remains an Islamic nation and its newspapers use the term “occupied Jerusalem.” Yet those who feared my visit because of the sound of my name really needn’t have worried.
While violent revolts and bloody reprisals have swept through many of its neighbours this year, Jordan itself has stayed peaceful and stable. The population has pressed for reforms and King Abdullah has responded, with varying degrees of success. A different person asked, a different answer received.
Disclosure – I visited Jordan as a guest of Visit Jordan and have worked with iAmbassador on several different projects relating to Jordan.
Please log in again. The login page will open in a new window. After logging in you can close it and return to this page.