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10 of the best things to do in Jordan

From exploring ancient sites in the capital Amman to visiting a Crusader castle and diving in the Red Sea, here are the top things to add to your Jordan travel plans

Helen Wilson-Beevers
Wednesday 02 August 2023 17:39 BST
<p>Prehistoric city Petra is partly built into rock</p>

Prehistoric city Petra is partly built into rock

Jordan can often be overlooked as a tourist destination in the Middle East; instead, places like Dubai tend to hog the limelight. But look closer, and you’ll see this needn’t be the case. Jordan punches well above its weight with things to do on holiday. There are ancient Roman and prehistoric cities to explore, hit springs to take a soak in, wildlife reserves in which to spot hundreds of aniamls, and much more.

The country’s rich history shines through, whether you’re peeping at a 6th-century mosaic map or walking around one of the six Crusader castles. If it’s beach resorts you’re looking for, the southern coast overlooks the Red Sea, and is home to coral reefs and an abundence of fishes to see whether snorkelling or sailing on a boat. Those who want something a little more active, like hiking and canyoning, are in luck.

If you have an upcoming trip or fancy some Jordan travel inspiration, we’ve rounded up the best things to see and do.

Explore ancient attractions in Amman

A citadel and Roman theatre are both located in Jordan’s capital

The Jordanian capital of Amman is home to several ancient Roman and Greek sites, including the ruins of a citadel and a well-preserved amphitheatre. This city dates back to 7250BC, and its impressive landmarks are well worth a visit. Soak up a view of the old town from Jebel Al Qala’a hill, where Amman Citadel is situated and where you’ll also find the archaeological remnants of a Byzantine church and Roman temple.

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Meanwhile the Roman Theatre is at the base of nearby Jabal Al-Joufah hill, and this east Amman tourist spot boasts a whopping 6,000 seats.

Take a dip in the Ma’in hot springs

These natural springs and waterfalls can reach 60C

The Ma’in hot springs are a selection of 63 natural mineral springs and waterfalls set between Madaba and the Dead Sea. Also known as Hammamat Ma’in, the geothermal water is warmed by lava fissures below the ground; it can reach 60C, and is thought to have wellbeing benefits As well as the hot springs, which are free to visit, you can visit Ma’in Hotel and Spa either by buying a day pass or booking a stay.

Spot wildlife at Dana Biosphere Reserve

Dana is Jordan’s largest nature reserve and is home to endangered species

If you’re looking to spot wildlife, Dana offers 320 square kilometres of rolling mountain greenery and desert landscape and is the largest nature reserve in Jordan. It’s rich with flora and fauna, and records indicate there are 190 bird species, 37 mammal species and 700 plant species living there. Plus, 25 endangered bird, mammal and reptile species have been seen, including the spiny-tailed lizard and the Syrian wolf. For those who’d like to stay in the protected area, accommodation options include Dana Eco Camp.

Discover prehistoric city Petra

This Unesco World Heritage Site dates back to prehistoric times

The ancient city of Petra is a Unesco world heritage site, and was built over 2,000 years ago. Located between the Dead Sea and the Red Sea, it is partly built into the red sandstone, and features both a temple and several tombs. Once the capital city for an Arab tribe, the Nabateans, Petra was also a base during Hellenistic and Roman times. Take a walk around the walled city’s ruins as part of a guided tour, and marvel at this archaeological masterpiece.

Visit a Crusader castle

One of the largest Crusader castles can be found in Kerak

There are six Crusader castle in Jordan, constructed during the 12th century, with Kerak Castle being one of the largest and most well-preserved. This medieval fortress is located 80km south of capital city and is on old trade route road, the King’s Highway. The seven-level castle offers an excellent view point (it sits 1,000m above the Dead Sea) and overlooks the Wadi Mujib Valley. Its architecture combines Arab, European and Byzantine influence, while the walls are built from volcanic rock. This impressive castle is open to the public, so you can walk through passageways, towers, kitchens, a chapel and even the dungeon.

Hike through Wadi Rum

Several prehistoric civilisations left petroglyphs in Wadi Rum

Wadi Rum is a protected area in south Jordan, with a desert landscape stretching across 74,000 hectares. Expect to see a combination of mountains and canyons on a hike, and there’s a new 75-mile trail should you be seeking extreme adventure. First inhabited by humans over 12,000 years ago, there are rock carvings depicting early inscriptions. The desert is near the Saudi Arabia border and Lawrence of Arabia passed through more than a century ago.

Go diving in the Red Sea

Divers can catch a glimpse of maritime life

Port city Aqaba, in southern Jordan, is packed with beach resorts; they’re ideal for a diving or water sports holiday. Aqaba Marine Park is a popular place from which to dive into the Red Sea, as it offers comprehensive facilities and has 19 sites. The Red Sea’s marine life includes over 127 forms of coral and 450 fish species, so snorkelling and glass-bottom boat trips are available at the park, too.

Follow the Wadi Mujib canyon trail

Go canyoning through natural pools and along sandstone cliffs

Wadi Mujib is a canyon positioned along the Mujib River in southern Jordan, about 56 miles outside of Amman. In the mountains above you’ll also find the Mujib Adventure Centre, where you can follow the Siq trail along the river canyon. This experience allows you to – quite literally – soak up your surroundings, while navigating the water and rocky sandstone cliffs. Expect to see waterfalls as well as natural pools, with depth depending on recent rainfall.

See the Madaba mosaic map

These beautiful mosaics make up the oldest known map showing the Holy Land

Madaba is known as the City of Mosaics, thanks to the Madaba Map. It was created in the 6th century and what remains today is thought to be around a quarter of what was originally there. This beautiful cartography once depicted an area covering Lebanon, the Nile, the Jordan Valley and the Mediterranean Sea, and is the oldest known map showing the Holy Land. You can still catch a glimpse of the Jordan Valley section when visiting the Byzantine St George’s Church, where it lives.

Walk through Roman city Jerash

This ancient site includes Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of Zeus

Jerash takes the crown as Jordan’s largest Roman site. Its origins date back over 6,500 years and the 200-acre site includes remains of Hadrian’s Arch, which was built for the emperor himself, as well as the Temple of Zeus and 56 Ionic columns. The city is 48km from Amman, so you could easily explore both within the same trip.

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