Top Things To Do On A Trip To Jordan
Sunset over the Dead Sea Jordan
If you’re looking for an exciting destination which offers something for everyone, how about a trip to Jordan? It’s a fantastic country with beautiful beaches, dramatic rocks, breath-taking landscapes, desert scenery as well as an amazing insight into the past with its fascinating cultural and historic sites.
We went for a week, but to really do this destination justice you could easily stay for 10 days or longer and still want more. We began our trip in the capital Amman, which was an excellent base from which to explore the Citadel and Jerash. Next we went canyoning amongst the high rocks of Wadi Mujib before heading to the Dead Sea. We then went to Madaba and Mount Nebo and afterwards explored the ancient city of Petra before driving to the desert and Wadi Rum.
Petra UNESCO World Heritage Site
Our last stop was in Aqaba on the Red Sea before flying back to Zurich via Amman. Below you can see the great places we visited, along with some of my tips to get the best out of your trip!
Wadi Rum Desert Jordan
Jordan is a Middle Eastern gem, just 5 hours from Zurich and 4 hours from Geneva. Arriving at Amman Airport with Royal Jordanian Airlines in late September, we enjoyed a smooth flight with very friendly service and used the inflight wifi system to watch movies en route. We had taken an afternoon flight from a very rainy and grey Zurich airport, stopped briefly to pick up passengers in Geneva and arrived in Amman early evening.
Setting off from Zurich with Royal Jordanian Airlines
Jordan is one hour ahead, so it was already dark but you could feel the warm air greet you, as you stepped onto the airport tarmac with temperatures in the late thirties. After a short transfer we arrived at the luxury Fairmont Amman Hotel.
Fairmont Amman Hotel
Rooftop Pool at Farimont Amman Hotel
The hotel is a great base from which to explore the city as it is very central. Furthermore, this 5 star hotel and has everything you need for a relaxing stay, with large, modern rooms, a wonderful rooftop pool (check it out early morning or at sunset for great views and incredible light), a great gym, a spa and lots of restaurants and bars.
The next morning we headed out to the Amman Citadel. Formerly the capital of the Hashemite Kingdom, it was one of the first settlements in the world. Today you can visit the ruins of the former Temple of Hercules and the Roman temple.
The Roman Theatre of Amman dates back to the 2nd century and was capable of seating up to 6,000 people. From this great vantage point you also have wonderful views over the city of Amman. One one side you have the old town and on the other you can see the modern city with all its skyscrapers and shiny new buildings.
Fun fact: during Roman times the city was known as Philadelphia.
The Ancient City of Jerash
Next we went to Jerash, which is is 48 km (30 miles) north of Amman and 40 km (25 miles) south of Irbid. Inhabited since the Bronze Age, Jerash is one of the most popular attractions in Jordan and considered one of the largest and most well preserved sites of Roman and Byzantine architecture in the world. Its history goes back more than 6,500 years with ruins of the walled Greco-Roman settlement of Gerasa which include the 2nd-century Hadrian’s Arch, the Corinthian columns of the Temple of Artemis and the huge Forum oval colonnade.
Hadrian’s Arch was built during the winter of 129/130 to honour the Emperor Hadrian, who was visiting the city at that time. The arch was rebuilt in 2003 – 2008.
The next day we went canyoning in Wadi Mujib and it really was such fun! It takes at least 2 hours to complete the canyoning trail there and back but there were so many photo opportunities I took 2 hours without even completing the trail!
TIPS: You are provided with a lifejacket (it’s compulsory to wear it) and it is a good idea to buy a pair of wet shoes whilst you’re there (they just cost 5 Jordanian Dinar and are sold at the entrance). They definitely protect your feet as for the most part you’re walking along the stony river bed in water of varying depths, or sliding down rocks into the water. So it’s not a good idea to wear trainers (and definitely not flip flops!).
You will get TOTALLY soaked if you go through the waterfalls and complete the trail so it’s also a great idea to bring your own dry bag (or you can also hire one on site for about 10 Jordanian Dinar). Wear waterproof sun protection but don’t bother with a hat as it’s difficult to keep hold of it with all the gushing water – and for the most part you are in the shadow of the huge rocks.
The rock formations are simply stunning. Initially I was a bit nervous about doing it – but I was so glad I did. It was an unforgettable experience and the views were simply amazing.
We continued our trip to Madaba, an ancient town southwest of Amman and Mount Nebo. We visited the “Maps Church”, the nickname for the famous Greek Orthodox Church of St. George, which has a unique 6th-century mosaic map of the Holy Land on its floor.
Situated at 808 metres above sea level, the biblical hill of Mount Nebo enjoys views over the Jordan, Palestine and Israel. It was from here that Moses was able to see the Holy Land.
Inside the Church of Moses you can admire some beautiful mosaics dating back to 530 AD.
The Dead Sea
Jordan shares the Dead Sea with its neighbouring Middle Eastern countries and what I didn’t realise, is that is is actually a lake rather than a sea. With a salt content of up to 33% it is around 10 times saltier than ordinary seawater! It is great fun floating in the Dead Sea – such a unique experience. You don’t need to swim – in fact swimming is quite difficult – you just walk in and then lie back and relax!
As you walk in to the Dead Sea there were vats of Dead Sea Mud that you are encouraged to apply to your face and body to enjoy a natural “spa treatment”. However, even just entering the salt water, you come out with your skin feeling as soft as a baby’s. It really is amazing. Afterwards it was time to relax in the Mövenpick Dead Sea Resort hotel pool and watch the sunset over the Dead Sea.
A couple of tips:
- wear your boat shoes (or sandals) on your feet as the salt crystals on sea bed are quite crusty and sharp
- do wear sunglasses as you don’t want to accidentally get the salt water in your eyes – it stings!
- wear sufficient sun protection as you will probably stay in much longer than you anticipate!
The other notable thing about the Dead Sea is that it is around 420 metres below sea level, making it the lowest point on earth. All in all, a truly amazing experience.
Petra UNESCO World Heritage Site
Petra UNESCO World Heritage Site is over 2,300 years old and classified as one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World”. This famous landmark is Jordan’s top sightseeing location and in 1985 it was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. UNESCO has described Petra as “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage”. Interestingly, it was a Swiss explorer, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, who discovered the city in 1812, after it had been lost for over 1,000 years.
Founded in the year 312 BC as the capital of the Nabatean Empire, Petra is one of the oldest cities in the world. Due to the amazing colour of the rock, which changes wit the light, it is also known as the “Rose City”. The most photographed building in Petra is the Treasury, thanks in part, to the Indiana Jones film. You will find people flocking to take photos of it or selfies in front of it.
However, there’s so much more to see. I would highly recommend visiting Petra over at least 2 full days so that you are able to take everything in and see it all without rushing.
I would also recommend, doing as we did, and get to the entrance for 6am so that you can enjoy seeing the area before most of the tourists arrive. If possible, try to buy your tickets the night before.
Even as you walk from the entrance ( or see my tip on taking the golf cart, especially for the journey back!) to the Treasury you are bowled over by the sheer scale of the rocks surrounding you.
If you carry on beyond the Treasury you see so many more more buildings carved into the rocks and about one hour’s walk away you get to the building known as the Monastery. However, en route there are so many building and caves to explore like this one below.
I met another visitor there who recommended visiting late afternoon as that is also a quiet time. It’s great idea to stay at the The Mövenpick Hotel & Resort Petra as it is literally next door to the main entrance gate to Petra.
The city was hewn out of the rocks and as well as the incredible buildings there are many amazing rock formations to admire.
Tips When Visiting Petra
- buy your tickets the night before
- arrive at the entrance when the gates open at 6am before most of the tour groups (or in the late afternoon)
- consider paying for the golf buggy to get you to the main area as soon as you arrive & to take you back at the end
- pack some comfy trainers as there is lots of walking ( I packed Havaiana sandals and trainers and wore both)
- check the map of Petra the day before and plan your trip so you don’t miss anything out
- take a light rucksack with water as it gets hot
- make sure to have plenty of sun protection and ideally a hat as you are in full sun most of the time
If you get the possibility to visit in the evening, the site is illuminated on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Jeep Tours in Wadi Rum
For the true desert experience, you really should visit Wadi Rum. A jeep tour is the perfect way to explore and you can admire the impressive rock formations, the deep red sand dunes and the rugged rocks. This stunning landscape has featured in many films such as Starwars, Transformer and The Martian.
Tip: Do wear a hat or even better buy one of the traditional scarves to cover your face and head, as when you’re travelling for a number of hours in the back of a jeep you get sand everywhere. The scarfs also protect you from the strong rays of the sun!
Camel Rides in Wadi Rum
Everywhere in the desert you will see camels as they are inextricably linked to Bedouin life.
A guide explained to me that selling camel rides to tourists is a way of helping the Bedouins feed and take care of their livestock which they use on a daily basis in the desert. So if you wish to travel through the desert landscape on the back of a camel, it is certainly a unique experience.
Sitting on a camel certainly gives you a bird’s eve view of the desert landscape.
For me, however, I think I prefer the jeep!
Rum Sky Observatory In The Desert
The desert skies are incredibly clear in Jordan. We were lucky enough to visit the Rum Sky Observatory to learn all about the stars and view the night skies through special telescopes the desert. We had a very entertaining guide called Gazzan who also gave a talk explaining all about planetary system, which was very interesting.
A Boat Trip and Snorkelling In the Red Sea
On our last day we arrived in Aqaba which is the only seaport in Jordan located on the Red Sea. We went for a boat ride from Aqaba.
After heading out for about 20 minutes, we dropped anchor close to a coral reef and went snorkelling. The colour of the sea was incredible. We were able to see a large number of fish as well as a turtle swimming and some beautiful corals.
Before heading back to port we had time to enjoy a delicious lunch of grilled fresh sea food – along with a wonderful selection of hummus, baba ghanoush and salads.
I really enjoyed the hummus, olives and mezze such as baba ghanoush and smoked aubergine which we enjoyed throughout our stay. Some of my favourite dishes were the freshly grilled sea food on the boat and at the Royal Yacht Club Restaurant in Aquaba.
Another traditional dish I enjoyed in the desert is Makloubeh which means “upside down”. The dish consists of layers of chicken or lamb, with rice and fried vegetables placed in a large dish which is flipped upside down to serve. We did a cookery course at the Restaurant in Petra seeing how this was made.
Chef making “Makloubeh” at The Alqantara Restaurant in Petra, Jordan
Another dish you are bound to encounter is Mansaf. It is considered the national dish of Jordan and is a traditional Bedouin dish made of lamb or chicken cooked in a sauce of fermented dried yogurt and served with rice or bulgur.
As Jordan is a Muslim country there is not much alcohol available (many places simply do not stock it, especially in the desert etc). You cannot drink the tap water in Jordan, however, bottled water and all the well known brands of soft drinks are readily available everywhere you travel, including in the desert.
Hopefully you can get an idea from this article how incredibly diverse Jordan is. There are so many aspects to the country and so many once in a lifetime experiences to be had. I was amazed at how fascinating it all was and would love to go back again! So why not plan a trip to Jordan and discover this fantastic country for yourself?
The Fairmont Amman
Address: 6 Beirut Street 5th Circle Abdoun, Amman 11183, Jordan
Tel: +962 6 510 6000
The Mövenpick Petra
Address: PO Box 2140, Petra Jordan
The Mövenpick Petra occupies a fantastic location right next to the entrance to the Petra Visitor centre – so for this reason alone it is makes sense to book a room here. See above for top tips on visiting Petra.
The Mövenpick Aqaba
Address: K. Hussein St., Aqaba 77110, Jordan
Tel: +962 3 203 4020
Glamping in Wadi Rum
In the desert we went glamping and there are a wide range of luxury camping places to choose from. Most of the very popular ones get booked up quite far in advance, so it pays to book as soon as you can.
Rum Sky Observatory In the desert at Wadi Rum
We enjoyed an interesting trip to view the night skies at Rum Sky Observatory in Wadi Rum.
How To Get There
Royal Jordanian Airlines flies twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays from Zurich and Geneva to Amman and the flight is only 4 hour or 5 hours outward and slightly longer on the return due to the wind direction. On the return leg of our trip we flew from Aqaba to Amman and were lucky enough to enjoy the facilities of the modern and very lovely Royal Jordanian lounge.
I was a guest of Royal Jordanian Airways and the hotels listed, but all opinions are 100% my own.