A gem of the Middle East, Jordan is a peace-loving land of unfathomably ancient heritage sites and breathtaking desert landscapes, of warm welcomes, delicious cuisine and truly rewarding experiences.
From the Dead Sea to the Wadi Rum desert, Petra to Amman, you will be greeted by locals who are immensely passionate and genuinely excited to share their culture with you.
With advice on the most essential things to see and do, this is your guide to discovering the treasures of Jordan.
Built over a tumble of dusty hills, Amman is celebrated as one of the most progressive and liberal cities in the Middle East.
The city’s foundations were laid on the Iron Age site of Rabbath Ammon, but it has passed hands numerous times over the centuries.
It was ruled by both the Greeks and Romans, who named it Philadelphia, before becoming ‘Amman, capital of Jordan’ in the 19th century.
Downtown Amman is a hive of activity and is where you’ll find the city’s souks (markets) and museums, as well as the famous Rainbow Street which is lined with cafes, restaurants and shops.
But for total immersion, head straight to Amman’s Citadel. Built around 800 AD, it provides sweeping views over the numerous hills that make up the city, as well as its 6,000-seater Roman amphitheatre.
The Citadel also harbours the spectacular Temple of Hercules and the remains of the 8th century Umayyad Palace. Simply awe-inspiring.
Tips: For a glimpse of contemporary Jordanian life and panoramic views of the city, book a room at the iconic Le Royal Hotel. Taxis are great for getting around Amman and Uber is also available.
Situated within a 20-minute drive from Queen Alia International Airport, the market town of Madaba is a popular stop off point for travellers flying in and out of Jordan.
It is home to one of Jordan's largest Christian communities and is renowned for its stunning collection of Byzantine-era mosaics, the most famous of which being the Madaba Map of the Middle East.
Sheltered inside the Greek Orthodox church of Saint George, it dates back to the 6th century AD and is the oldest surviving depiction of the Holy Land. A fascinating experience, regardless of your religious beliefs.
Jordan’s most emblematic destination, Petra is a historic city carved into a series of canyons. The entrance follows an ancient river that snaked and carved its way through the rock, polishing it smooth in the process.
As you wend your way through these cavernous corridors, the stone blushes from a golden yellow tone to a rich martian-red that makes you feel like you’re exploring a new planet.
After a 1 km walk, visitors arrive at the iconic Treasury. Chiselled directly into the rock from the top down, this majestic 40 metre tall structure is over 2,000 years old, but remains in spectacularly pristine condition.
Surprisingly, this city of boulders was inhabited by some 2,000 people until 2006, when it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, it is one of the ‘New Seven Wonders of the World’, although you may recognise it as the temple in the Indiana Jones movie, The Last Crusade.
Tips: You’ll want a full day to do Petra’s treasury, monastery, caves and tombs justice, so be sure to stay in the area overnight. The Petra Marriott Hotel is a fantastic place to stay nearby and, impressively, is run entirely on renewable energy. The “Petra by Night” experience is a joy if you have time, but this is something you’ll definitely want to see and experience during the day.
With its blood-orange rock formations and burnt scarlet sands, the Wadi Rum desert looks very much like the surface of Mars. It’s no surprise that its otherworldly landscapes have been used as film sets for blockbusters such as The Martian, Star Wars, and Transformers. Most famously, it was the main setting of the classic movie Laurence of Arabia, which won no less than seven Academy Awards.
This martian expanse of sunbaked land sits on an ancient trading route and has been inhabited by the nomadic Bedouin people for hundreds of years. Camel caravans have long passed through on the famous King’s Highway, trading frankincense and spices, while armies and crusaders have also sought solace here on their way to or from war.
Over the centuries, the transient nature of the area has seen the Bedouins become skilled hosts. They pride themselves on being generous and hospitable, always going the extra mile to make new arrivals feel welcome.
Tips: For the full Bedouin experience, stay overnight at one of the many glamping sites dotted throughout Wadi Rum. Hasan Zawaideh Camp is a great option with private huts (and bathrooms). They prepare a nightly zarb feast for all guests, a traditional way of cooking underground, and offer music, dance and shisha. They can also arrange camel rides and Jeep tours in the desert.
Bordering Jordan, Israel and the West Bank, the Dead Sea is a salt lake located more than 400m below sea level, making it the lowest point on Earth.
Said to be ten times saltier than ‘normal’ sea water, swimmers float effortlessly on its surface and enjoy a wide range of natural health benefits.
With its high-concentration of minerals, including magnesium, calcium and potassium, it is celebrated for its therapeutic qualities and said to help people with skin conditions and joint pain.
Visitors are encouraged to smother themselves in the mineral-rich mud before taking a dip for maximum benefit.
Tip: For a truly rejuvenating and luxurious experience, check in at the sumptuous Hilton Dead Sea Resort & Spa. It looks out directly over the Dead Sea and offers direct access to the water, as well as a wide range of high-quality dining, health and lifestyle facilities.
From the graceful locals to the iconic sights and colourful local cuisine, Jordan is sure to win your heart. This fun and culturally rich destination is a thrill for all types of travellers and offers outstanding value for money. Fly direct from Prague to Queen Alia Airport with Ryanair – find flights here.
- Ben Holbrook