In November of 2018, my long awaited dream of being Indiana Jones came true. After years of dreaming about it, I finally got to visit the Kingdom of Jordan and it was every bit as amazing as I hoped it would be. Even though I only spent 3 days in Jordan (more on that later in this article) I managed to see and do so much in a short period of time. So, for anyone planning their own trip to Jordan and wondering about the highlights, these are my picks of the best things to do in Jordan.
*disclaimer: I visited Jordan on a press trip with Abraham Tours. All opinions are, as always, my own.
The Best Things to do in Jordan
Explore the Lost City of Petra
The number one reason people go to Jordan (or, at least, the number one reason why I wanted to go to Jordan) was to visit the Lost City of Petra. Ever since I saw a glimpse of the treasury in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade I knew that I HAD to see it for myself. It absolutely lived up to my expectations.
Petra is fascinating. From the long walk through the colourful Siq where you get that world-famous view of the treasury, to scrambling up rocks to explore caves and tombs, and even the 900 step hike up the Monastery, I loved every bit of the UNESCO World Heritage site.
I highly recommend you plan on spending a full day here because it’s so much bigger than you’d expect and there is a lot to see and do. Check out my 1-day guide to Petra for more tips. For those who don’t consider themselves to be avid hikers, you might also enjoy my non-hikers guide to the Petra Monastery. Spoiler alert: It’s worth the climb and definitely one of the best things to do in Jordan.
Step Back in Time in the Ruins of Jerash
Jerash was a big surprise for me and wandering the ruins actually ended up being one of my favourite things to do in Jordan. I think I was so caught up on my obsession for Petra that I didn’t really consider that Jordan would have other impressive historical sites. Which, it clearly does.
Jerash was once a powerful Roman city, but it was destroyed around 749 AD when it was buried by an earthquake. The city remained buried for hundreds of years until it was discovered by a German explorer named Ulrich Jasper Seetzen in 1806.
The ruins as you see them today still reflect the grandeur of this ancient city. In fact, the ruins of Jerash are said to be the best preserved Roman ruins outside of Italy. Though, if you take our guide’s advice, they are even better than what you’ll find in Pompeii. I have yet to go to Pompeii so can’t comment on that, but I can say that I was pretty impressed and quite happy wandering around the theatres, temples, Hippodrome, and forum.
If you are visiting Jordan as part of a tour, as I was, a visit to the ruins of Jerash will no doubt be a part of your itinerary. If you are visiting Jordan on your own, you can visit Jerash as a day trip from Amman.
Take in the Views from the Citadel in Amman
Keeping with the themes of ancient cities and impressive ruins, the Citadel in Amman is a must. Perched on a hill in the centre of Jordan’s capital, the Citadel dates back to the Bronze Age. It is surrounded by a large, 1700m long wall that has been re-built many times over the centuries, and is home to some impressive ruins including the Temple of Hercules and the Umayyad Palace. The ruins here aren’t nearly as big as those of Jerash, however, a visit to the Citadel is one of the top things to do in Jordan and definitely worth your time. Plus, the views of Amman from the walls are pretty impressive as well.
Take a Jeep Tour Through Wadi Rum
After Petra, Wadi Rum was the place that I was most excited about visiting in Jordan. I’d heard from numerous people that this part of Jordan was even more magical than Petra. While I’m not quite on board with that opinion (nothing can beat Indiana Jones in my heart) I did fall in love with Wadi Rum.
Massive sand dunes, impressive rock formations, ancient graffiti, and friendly Bedouin tribes made it a fun place to explore for a few hours. Our tour hired a couple of ‘jeeps’ (more like pick-up trucks) to take us around. We stopped for photos at the Seven Pillars, and again to climb a huge sand dune for views over the desert. Our driver was awesome; driving up big sandy hills and thundering down them on the other side as we laughed and held on in the back. It was a ton of fun and definitely makes the list of my favourite things to do in Jordan.
During the tour, there is a chance to stop and take a camel ride. I’m pretty hesitant when it comes to animal tourism and after a look at the camels chose not to participate. Several in our group did though and met us a little while later at a local Bedouin camp where we stopped for tea.
We only spent half a day in Wadi Rum which was amazing, but I probably could have spent longer. The landscape is beautiful and it’s no wonder it’s such a popular filming location. For those who don’t know Wadi Rum serves as the setting for a number of movies including Lawrence of Arabia, The Martian, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Spoiler alert: It will also be used as a filming location for Aladdin (2019) and Star Wars Episode IX.
Spend a Night Under the Stars
I’m a sucker for star-filled skies so knowing that we would spend our nights in Jordan in a Bedouin Camp in the desert made me pretty darn excited. Our group stayed at a camp called Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp, which is located about 20 minutes from Petra. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect upon hearing ‘camping in the desert’ but it wasn’t nearly as rustic as I had expected.
There was a large communal area tent where breakfast and dinner were served then small individual tents for sleeping (ours slept four). The beds were pilled thick with blankets so even though it got pretty cold at night, I was warm and toasty while sleeping. There was running water and hot showers in the bathroom area, and a common-area type tent to hang out in during the evenings, charge your electronic devices, and just relax with tea or shisha.
Sadly, the skies were overcast when I visited so I only got to glimpse a few stars through the passing cloud cover. But I was rewarded with some seriously pretty sunrises and the camp had these beautiful lantern type lights in the surrounding rock formations that gave the area a pretty glow. It was a really cool place to stay.
Camping in the desert is also very common in Wadi Rum. While I didn’t get to experience this for myself, we did have lunch at one that looked pretty amazing and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t just a little bit jealous of those who were actually staying.
One of the best things about the desert camps in Jordan is that there really are options for all budgets. Some of the most luxurious desert camps will cost a couple hundred dollars for a night, while others (like ours) was geared more towards budget travellers. No matter your budget, make sure to add this to your list because camping in the desert under the stars is one of the coolest things to do in Jordan.
Have Tea with the Bedouins
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice that I’ve mentioned tea twice now in this article. Tea is a huge part of most middle eastern cultures and Jordan is no exception. It’s also delicious. Mainly because of the amount of sugar in it (though every place differs) but I couldn’t get enough of the stuff. Especially on those chilly nights in our camp. Whether you are a tea enthusiest or not, having bedouin tea (preferably with the bedouins) is a must-do when it comes to the top things to do in Jordan.
Stuff your Face with Kanafeh
Kanafeh is a sweet dessert served in a few places throughout the middle east. Though I have to say, I wasn’t too excited about it at the start. I love cheese but when it comes to dessert you bet I’m choosing a slice of chocolate cake over the cheese plate every single time. To me, cheese is a snack or an appetizer, not a sweet treat.
In fairness, our guide didn’t quite do it justice by describing it as a gooey cheese pastry so I was a bit hesitant before I took my first bite. But I’m glad I did because it was freaking delicious. It was like a thin, flaky pastry filled with creamy, warm cheese topped with pistachios. The whole thing had been soaked in some sort of sweet syrup or honey and it pretty much melted in my mouth. So. Darn. Good. You have to try it!
Float Away in the Dead Sea
Alright, I’m cheating a bit on this one because I didn’t visit the Dead Sea in Jordan, I visited it in Israel. But it’s SO much fun bobbing around in that super-salty water that it couldn’t not make my list of the best things to do in Jordan. Especially for those who aren’t visiting Israel in combination with Jordan as I did.
The Dead Sea is the lowest place on earth and one of the saltiest places on earth. It’s so salty that nothing can live in this water. It also means that if you have a cut or a scrape you don’t want to go in either. It will burn like hell. (Insider tip: don’t shave on the day you visit either!). However, spending a couple of hours floating around in the Dead Sea is fun, relaxing, and a unique experience and an absolute must when it comes to things to do in Jordan. Make sure to find some of the clay to give yourself a mud mask/wrap. Your skin will feel amazing afterwards!
3 Days in Jordan?
No doubt I took a few of you by surprise when I mentioned I only spent 3 days in Jordan. I actually visited Jordan on a tour from Israel. I partnered with Abraham Tours who offer a 2 or 3 day Jordan trip from both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. At first, I was a bit hesitant. Three days in Jordan didn’t seem like a lot, especially since it’s a country I have been desperate to go to for so long. However, the itinerary convinced me I would see the two main things I wanted to: Petra and Wadi Rum and, as you can see from my list of the top things to do in Jordan, quite a bit more.
I’m not normally a guided tour type person, but my 3 days in Jordan with Abraham Tours was, honestly, pretty awesome. Transportation, which I’ve heard from independent travellers can be pretty tricky in Jordan, was taken care of by a friendly and responsible driver. We also had an amazing guide who was full of information and stories about everywhere we visited. Given that Jordan has so much fascinating history, this was something I really appreciated. I honestly think that having a guide for this trip made it more enjoyable than I would have found it on my own.
So, for any other travellers who want to visit Jordan and may be hesitant for whatever reason, check out this tour. It is fast-paced and a lot of bus time (especially on your last day) but it’s a great way to explore and experience the best things to do in Jordan. You can learn more about the 3 day Jordan tour here.
PS: for any women heading to Jordan, be sure to check out my Jordan packing guide!
A Note on Travel Insurance in Jordan
Please, do NOT travel without travel insurance! I’ve had to rely on mine twice before (once for damaged luggage, once because I developed a lung infection while traveling). While the cost may seem annoying and better spent elsewhere, trust me when I say you’ll be sorry if you don’t have it. For just a couple bucks a day, you can save yourself a whole lot of stress and money. I like to recommend SafetyWing for travel medical insurance. With prices starting at $37 for 4 weeks, they are one of the most affordable options I’ve found. Learn more about the importance of travel insurance here.