The Middle East’s most easygoing country, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, better known simply as Jordan, has attracted travellers since ancient times. Today, the nation draws over four million visitors each year to its vast desert landscapes, welcoming cities and the extraordinary Dead Sea. Don’t miss these must-visit attractions, including Wadi Rum, The Temple of Hercules and more.
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The ancient rose-hued city of Petra is Jordan’s most famous tourist attraction and one of the world’s most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage sites. One of the new Seven Wonders of the World, it was once inhabited by the Nabateans, Edomites and the Romans. Rediscovered in the 19th century by explorer Jean Louis Burckhardt, the 1.2km (0.75mi) Siq is the city’s jaw-dropping ancient main entrance which leads from the Dam to the Treasury. This captivating corridor is created by a natural rock formation 80m (262ft) tall and is decorated in part with Nabatean sculptures, mostly of gods.
With its endless golden sands, rugged canyons and sweeping star-studded skies, Wadi Rum is an adventurer’s paradise. Ideal for hiking, camel tours and even overnight stays in desert camps, this mystical land of shifting dunes and reddened sandstone has been inhabited since prehistoric times and is home to nomadic Bedouin tribes. It has stood in for Mars in several Hollywood films and was the location of the Lawrence of Arabia film in the 1960s. Want to see it for yourself? With Culture Trip, you can hike through Wadi Rum and stay in a traditional Bedouin campsite on our immersive eight-day Jordan adventure.
Colonnaded Street, Jerash
Jordan’s largest and most compelling Roman site, the ancient city of Jerash is a must for history buffs. It’s now considered one of the best-preserved sites of Roman architecture outside Italy and visitors can take in its public baths, squares and temples. Colonnaded Street is the city’s impressive main road lined with columns on both sides and paved with the original stones still rutted by the wheels of chariots.
Ajloun Castle, Ajloun
This vibrant city in the north of Jordan is surrounded by pine forests and built on the site of an ancient market town once visited by Emperor Hadrian. The city is overlooked by the imposing Ajloun Castle, which has stood on a nearby hillside for nearly 1,000 years. Though damaged by earthquakes and attacked by the Mongol, the city remains surprisingly well preserved, with a small museum and impressive views.
The Treasury, Petra
One of the most impressive monuments in a city packed with them, the Treasury is the first incredible site visitors see once they have walked the 1.2km (0.75mi) Siq to enter Petra. Carved into the rock, it is almost 40m (131ft) high and decorated with figures, friezes and animals. It is thought to have been built in the 1st century BCE and most archaeologists believe it was a temple, though some think it may have been used to store documents.
Jordan may have just 26km (16mi) of coastline but its clear waters, balmy temperatures and historical sights make the Red Sea port of Aqaba ideal for a beach holiday. Close enough for day trips to the ancient wonders at Petra and the desert landscapes of Wadi Rum, Aqaba also offers action-packed watersports, lively markets and local restaurants serving Jordanian cuisine and fresh seafood. If you get restless after too many days on a sun lounger, this is the perfect compromise.
The Dead Sea is the lowest point of dry land on earth at 431m (1,414ft) below sea level, making for a fascinating natural wonder that no visitor to Jordan should miss. Known for its exceptionally salty but soothing waters, the mineral-rich mud has attracted visitors including the famous Egyptian queen, Cleopatra. Tourists can still float on their back on the therapeutic waters and luxuriate in the black mud – just avoid getting it in your eyes. Enjoy a private boat cruise on the Dead Sea as part of Culture Trip’s specially curated Jordan trip, led by our local insider.
The Jordan Valley, Al-Ghor
See a different side to Jordan in this low-lying valley, where the River Jordan runs south from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea. The valley is lush with date, banana and tropical fruit farms which export their wares year-round thanks to the region’s rich soil and subtropical climate. Surrounded by mountains on both sides, the valley has been settled for around 10,000 years and now runs alongside the border with Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
Mount Nebo, Madaba
One of the holiest sites in Jordan, Mount Nebo is the mountain where it is believed Moses first saw the Promised Land. Around 10km (6mi) from Madaba and around 1,000m (3,281ft) tall, the mountain is also believed to be Moses’ burial site, although this has never been proven. Pilgrims of all religions have travelled here since the 4th century CE and visitors can now visit a small church with an astonishing display of preserved Byzantine mosaics.
Roman Theatre, Amman
Jordan’s very own Colosseum, the mighty Roman Theatre is Amman’s most famous archaeological treasure, located in the heart of the busy downtown district. The theatre was built in the 2nd century CE in the reign of Emperor Antoninus Pius and seated 6,000 people over three tiers. Restoration started on the ruins of the theatre in 1957 and the site is now open to visitors, even hosting sporadic musical performances.
Ma’in Hot Springs
If you’re craving some R&R, the Ma’in Hot Springs is a natural spa 264m (866ft) below sea level. Herod the Great is said to have bathed in the area’s thermal mineral hot springs and waterfalls, where travellers have soaked since Roman times. Believed to help skin conditions and joint pain, water rich in potassium, magnesium and calcium cascades down the hillside and reaches temperatures of 60C (140F) for truly extraordinary bathing in the middle of the desert.
Temple of Hercules, Amman
The Temple of Hercules sits within the historic Citadel on the top of the highest hill in Jordan’s capital Amman, and dates back to the time of the city’s Roman Theatre. Two tall pillars and parts of the podium are all that remain of the temple now, although the site also displays a hand carved from stone. This is thought to be the hand of Hercules from a statue that would have stood over 12m (39ft) tall before it was destroyed, possibly in an earthquake.
The Baptism Site of Jesus Christ, Al-Maghtas
A revered Christian pilgrimage site, Al-Maghtas translates as “the place of baptism” and is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. The spot lies on the east bank of the River Jordan, 8km (5mi) north of the Dead Sea, and is believed to be the location where John The Baptist baptised Jesus of Nazareth. The archaeological site now includes more than 20 points of interest including caves, a monastery and baptism pools.
Temple of Artemis, Jerash
The Roman city of Jerash, 49km (30mi) north of Amman, retains its grandeur even in ruins, with ceremonial gates, colonnaded streets and theatres. The Temple of Artemis is one of the most striking sights with its stately Corinthian columns that would once have dominated the city from its hilltop setting. It was built between 150 and 170 CE and dedicated to Artemis, the revered goddess of hunting and fertility.
Church of St George, Madaba
Keep your eyes down in this 19th-century Greek Orthodox church, where the oldest known map of the Holy Land is assembled on the floor with more than a million mosaic pieces. The map was constructed in the 6th century CE and was originally between 15 and 25m (49 and 82ft) wide, made of more than two million pieces. Less than a third has survived but this artistic masterpiece is still a remarkable sight to behold.
Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, Amman
This gallery in the capital is one of the Middle East’s major art museums, with over 3,000 works including drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics, video art, graphic art and photography from artists spanning Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America. Founded in 1980, it was the first museum of its kind in the area with a unique collection of artwork from contemporary artists from Jordan and the wider Arab world.
Umm Qais, Irbid
Now known as Umm Qais, the ruins of the Decapolis city of Gadara lie 25km (16mi) northwest of Irbid and are worth visiting for the magnificent views alone. The hilltop offers an unbeatable vantage point over the Jordan Valley, Sea of Galilee, Syria and Israel and the Palestinian Territories. If you can tear your eyes away, the site also features an abandoned Ottoman village, Roman streets and the ruins of two theatres. The bible says Gadara was also the place Jesus performed a miracle, casting demons out of two men into a herd of pigs.
Wadi Mujib is a resplendent canyon often considered Jordan’s very own Grand Canyon. Stretching over 70km (43mi), it teeters over the Mujib River which eventually flows into the Dead Sea. It is believed Moses walked through the chasm – once known as the Arnon Valley – which is now a dream for outdoorsy types with canyoning, abseiling and hiking available to suit every level.
Jabal Al Weibdeh, Amman
Jabal Al Weibdeh, one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the capital of Amman, is a bohemian district filled with independent shops, art murals and cafes. With a high number of foreign expat residents, the area attracts the city’s artists and writers to its narrow lanes, original stone buildings and galleries. Wander the quiet streets far removed from Amman’s usual traffic, linger over a coffee and take in views of the ancient Citadel.
Rainbow Street, Amman
Take time out to people-watch on the one-way, cobble-stoned Rainbow Street, which is lined with restaurants and cafes to suit every taste and budget. Located on one of the busiest roads in the capital in the downtown area of Jabal Amman, Rainbow Street lies close to some of Amman’s major sites including Citadel Hill and the Roman Theatre. Whether you’re looking for souvenir shops, rooftop bars or local handicrafts, you won’t be disappointed with a stroll down this street that never sleeps.
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