Jordan, a small country in the Middle East, is a premier tourist destination. Considered one of the most westernized nations in the region, it has developed infrastructure and road signs are in English. It is perfect for self-driving enthusiasts. Jordan has a diverse range of attractions. Go back in time to the Ancient City of Petra, one of the most unique and amazing ruins in the world, also one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Enjoy awe inspiring desert excursions in Wadi Rum and let’s not forget about floating in the Dead Sea. With so much to offer, Jordan is a perfect stop for Middle Eastern culture, history and beauty.
Important Things to Know About Jordan
A visa is required for entry to Jordan for most countries, which is typically available upon arrival. The visa fee is 40 Jordanian Dinar (JD), however at Aqaba a 14 day visa is free. We heard some people having trouble getting the free visa in Aqaba but as of December 2016 it was not a problem. If you purchase the Jordan Pass (see Jordan Pass section for more info), the visa fee is included.
Arabic is the main language in Jordan. English is also widely spoken in major towns and at tourist attractions.
Jordanians are very generous and helpful people. If you have any questions or need directions don’t be afraid to ask. Don’t be surprised if they offer to drive you places for free or pay for your food. In one incidence, a family kindly refused to let Yana leave until she ate their falafel.
What to Wear
For tourists visiting Jordan, it is best to stay conservative with clothing choices. Bring clothing that is lightweight and breathable that covers legs and arms. Unlike some other Middle Eastern countries, Jordan can get cold in the winter. So a warm jacket, jeans and closed shoes are appropriate. Here are some suggestions for how to dress in Jordan:
Cover knees and thighs at all times
Wear tops that cover entire chest area
Advisable to bring a lightweight scarf (good for entering mosques)
To enter mosques, men and women must wear long pants covering ankles and women must wear long sleeve shirts covering their arms
The Jordanian Dinar is pegged to the USD at 0.708 USD, so 1 JD = $1.40 and 1 JD = €1.28. Coins are also distributed in Piastres, which is a hundredth of a Dinar. The Dinar is a very strong currency. As a result, Jordan can be an expensive country to visit.
When to Visit
Visit during the spring and autumn when daily temperatures are manageable with warm days and cool nights. Summer temperatures reach over 100° Fahrenheit (40°C) in the desert and around the Dead Sea, making it difficult to visit several important attractions. In the winter, nights get very cold, and locations in higher elevation such as Amman commonly get snow.
Jordanian cuisine is similar to other Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt and Lebanon. Falafel appears to be the national dish, available at nearly every corner. Jordan (and most of its neighbors) is excellent for vegetarians. The commonly served mezze dishes are falafel, hummus, moutabel, ful, and eggplant (aubergine). Meat is available, served mostly as kebabs or shwarma. Jordanians don’t like for anyone to go hungry, so just tell them “taslia” at the end of the meal for some extra food. Typical street food (mezze) ranges in cost from 35 Piastres to 75 Piastres. Coffee typically costs between 50 Piastres and 1 Dinar.
Public transportation is available to most tourist locations in Jordan. There are minibuses that go between most cities. Buses are available between destinations such as Aqaba, Wadi Rum, Petra, Amman, and Jerash. However, you may have to return to Aqaba or Amman between each destination. For example, no buses go between Wadi Rum and Petra. Bus fares are between 7 JD and 10 JD on JETT bus. For those who prefer to self-drive, this is an excellent and easy option in Jordan. Renting a car in Amman will cost between $25 and $35 USD per day.
Hotels are common in popular tourist destinations such as Amman, the Dead Sea, and Aqaba. The Dead Sea has mostly high end resorts. Budget guesthouse rooms start from 15 JD in Amman and Aqaba. Wadi Rum has several Bedouin camps for around 40 JD that include a 4 hour jeep tour, dinner and accommodation. Petra (Wadi Musa) has budget guesthouses available starting from 10 JD.
Jordan has historically been one of the safest countries in the Middle East. However, tourism in recent years has declined due to the close proximity of issues with neighboring countries. Jordan has shared borders to the north and east with Syria and Iraq respectively. With the amount of international news headlines from the Syrian refugee crisis and ISIS terror attacks in the region, some may be wary of visiting Jordan. Aside from the recent attack in December 2016 at the Kerak Castle, this country remains very safe.
The Jordan Pass is a tourist pass that covers the cost of a visa fee and entry to over 40 major attractions. The pass includes Petra, Little Petra, Wadi Rum, Wadi Dana, Jerash, the Amman Citadel, the Ajloun Castle, Kerak Castle, and many other sights. Check out the official website for more on the Jordan Pass.
Cost: 70 Dinar
Main Attractions of Jordan
Amman, the capital of Jordan, has 4 million inhabitants and is the economic, political and cultural center of Jordan. It is a major tourist destination, in particular for those in Arab countries and Europe. Amman has an assortment of beautiful historic sights, the Citadel and Roman Amphitheater being our favorite. There are several great cultural activities to do in Amman. Start with a visit to the Mosque of Abu Al Darwish, one of the more elaborate and unique mosques in the Middle East. Stroll around Rainbow Street and Souk Jara before a simple but authentic Jordanian feast at Hashem Bros Restaurant.
Petra is the highlight of Jordan, and reason alone to make this journey. Located near the village of Wadi Musa, the Ancient City of Petra is considered one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. This magnificent lost city is enormous. The Treasury and the Monastery are the two main attractions that cannot be missed. With hundreds of tombs and a massive temple complex, Petra requires a full day or two day visit. Don’t miss the hike up to the overlook of the Treasury, starting behind the Royal Tombs. Every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, Petra by Night lights up a walk through the entire Siq to the Treasury.
Cost: Entry cost is 50 JD for one day, 55 JD for two days, and 60 JD for three day visits to Petra. Little Petra entry costs 2 JD. Both sites are included in the Jordan Pass.
Tip: Stop at Little Petra, a 15 minute drive from Petra. Little Petra can be seen in a couple hours, and is great to do the day before exploring Petra.
Check out Petra – One Day Itinerary for more details and the best spots in Petra.
Wadi Rum is located in the south of Jordan, only a 45 minute drive from Aqaba. Wadi Rum is a protected area and the desert scenery is some of the most beautiful in the world. Huge mountains 5,000 feet tall (1,500 m) surround this gorgeous orange desert. Star gazers from around the globe claim Wadi Rum to be one of the best places to view stars in the world. The area is commonly explored by off-road jeep tour or by camel. Jeep tours can be arranged with Bedouin camps, and typically last four hours. Tours often explore slot canyons, sand dunes, arches, natural springs, and ancient rock art.
Cost: Entry cost is 5 JD to Wadi Rum. Entry to Wadi Rum is included in the Jordan Pass. Jeep tours cost between 20 JD and 40 JD with budget friendly outfitters. Camel rides cost 10 JD per person for a one hour ride.
The Dead Sea is an extremely hyper-saline lake bordered by Jordan and Israel. It is known as one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world, and it is located at the worlds lowest elevation of 1,400 feet (430 m) below sea level. With salinity nearly 10 times that of the ocean, swimming in the Dead Sea is more like floating. The Dead Sea is known for its spas and lavish resorts, where the extracted salts and minerals are popular for therapeutic uses. The Jordanian side of the Dead Sea is very remote, unlike its neighbor. Most accommodations and beach access is in the far north. For those just coming for the day, there are two options. Amman Beach has two entrances, one for their main beach as well as access to several pools, the beach, food and shower facilities. Next door (also part of Amman beach) is a more basic option with only beach access and shower facilities.
Cost: Entry to Amman Beach (with pools and facilities) is 20 JD. The separated but more basic Amman Beach next door is 12 JD per person.
Tip: Between April and October, head out on an excellent hike in Wadi Mujib, located next to the Dead Sea.
Jerash is located in Northern Jordan 45 minutes from Amman. This modern city is one of the largest in Jordan, but the main draw are ruins of ancient Jerash. This Greco-Roman city was built as early as 300 BC by the Greeks. After conquests by Romans in 63 BC, Romans continued to build a prosperous city for hundreds of years. This site holds some of the best preserved Roman ruins and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Jordan.
Cost: Entry to Jerash ruins is 10 JD. The Jordan Pass covers the entry.
Dana Biosphere Reserve
As the largest reserve in Jordan, Wadi Dana is becoming more popular each year for tourism. The area is a melting pot of wildlife and animals from Africa, Asia and Europe. There are over 1,250 species within the reserve, and up to 25 of which are considered endangered. The best way to explore Wadi Dana is by hiking on one of the popular trails. Some of the best hikes are on the White Dome Trail, the Wadi Dana Trail, the Wadi Dathneh Trail, and the Wadi Ghwair Trail.
Situated on top of a large hill, Kerak was built by the crusaders during the 12th century. From the 13th century to the 16th century, the Mamluks controlled the region and built several new towers and additions to the castle. The castle is a wonderful mix of roman design with influence of European, Byzantine, and Arab architecture. Large enough to visit for a couple hours, Kerak Castle is a good stop after the Dead Sea. Unfortunately, this was the location of a terrorist attack in December 2016, when terrorists shot and killed ten people, mostly Jordanian security forces, and one Canadian tourist.
Cost: Entry to the Kerak Castle is 2 JD. The Jordan Pass covers the entry cost to Kerak.
One Day in Amman
Grab a taxi or hire a rental car and drive 30 minutes to the Jerash Ruins (2-3 hours)
Visit the Amman Citadel and soak in the views of Amman (1 hour)
Walk to the top of the Roman Amphitheater steps (1 hour)
Visit the Mosque of Abu Al Darwis (30 min)
Take a stroll on Rainbow Street where there are several shops (1 hour)
Walk around Souk Jara for some souvenirs (1 hour)
Finish with dinner at Hashem Bros Restaurant
One Week in Jordan
Visit Amman and all of the local sights, including Jerash Ruins (one to two days)
Spend a half day at the Dead Sea and a visit to the Kerak Castle (one day)
Hike in Wadi Dana (one day)
Explore the dunes and magnificent Wadi Rum by jeep tour (two days)
Go back in time at the Ancient City of Petra and visit the Treasury, the Monastery, the Temple Complex, the Royal Tombs, and hike up to the overlook. (two days)
Check out our post on a One Day Itinerary at Petra:
Check out our other top posts from the Middle East:
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Visited in November 2016.