Small in size but big on adventure, Jordan provides visitors with the perfect ingredients for a memorable holiday: warm hospitality with a blend of cultural, historical, active, and rejuvenating experiences — all set against a backdrop of spectacular landscapes and ancient heritage sites. Here are some of the extra special activities you can experience while visiting Jordan:
At the center of Jordan’s lively capital of Amman, you’ll find ancient history and Roman architecture. The restored Roman Theater sits at street level in the downtown area while remnants of a Byzantine church, Umayyad palace, and the towering Temple of Hercules await atop Jabal al-Qal’a (Citadel Hill). The archeological site isn’t solely for history buffs; the stunning city views and relaxed vibe make this spot a peaceful escape from the bustling city below.
While the majority of travelers make a beeline straight to the south, northern Jordan’s friendly villages and rolling, olive grove-covered hills are well worth a visit. Jerash — one of the best-preserved cities of the Roman Decapolis, complete with a colonnade and Roman Theater — is just 45 minutes north of Amman. And only 30 more minutes from there, you’ll find Ajloun Castle perched high on a hill. A hike to the top of the castle towers affords views of the surrounding valleys and olive groves while exploration of the castle’s architecture, which includes a carved cross within an otherwise Muslim castle, hints at an intriguing and somewhat complicated history. What began as a Christian monastery in the 12th century was transformed into an Arab fortress to guard against the Crusaders. It was then ransacked by Mongols and rebuilt by Mamluk sultans in the 13th century before housing Ottoman troops in the 17th and 18th centuries and suffering earthquake damage in the 19th and 20th centuries.
It’s said that Moses got his first glimpse of the Promised Land when he stood at the summit of Mount Nebo two thousand years ago. On a clear day, visitors can take in a similar view and spot Jericho, Jerusalem, and the Dead Sea from this scenic holy site, then step inside the Memorial Church of Moses — a simple structure that incorporates elements of the former Byzantine basilica and provides shelter for the centuries-old mosaics.
Karak is home to one of the largest Crusader castles in the Levantine region. Although the structure visitors see was built around the 12th century, the history of Karak can be traced all the way back to Biblical times when it began as a fortress. Over the years, multiple civilizations invaded Karak including the Nabateans, Greeks, Crusaders, and Ottomans. A tour of this hilltop castle leads you through layers of local history and down some dark tunnels, so be sure to bring a flashlight and your sense of adventure.
When you round the final corner of the Siq canyon and catch your first glimpse of the iconic Treasury with its Greek-inspired facade carved from the cliff, you’ll understand why Petra is considered a New Wonder of the World. Believed to have been built around 300 B.C. as the capital of the Nabataeans, this rose-colored city is now a World Heritage Site and protected archeological park covering around 2,640 acres. So, while the Treasury itself is worth a visit to Petra, it’s just the beginning. Continue on to the Roman Theater and Royal Tombs then take a trek up to the Treasury Lookout or the High Place of Sacrifice for some magnificent views, with a chance to explore caves and carvings en route. If you’ve got the energy — and plenty of water — be sure to set aside sufficient time to visit the Monastery. This towering monument carved into the top of a cliff is similar in style to the Treasury but larger in size. After you climb more than 800 steps to the Monastery, grab a shai bil nana (mint tea) or Turkish coffee from the cafe opposite the majestic monument and take a rest while you take in the view. Petra extends well beyond the famed Treasury facade, so you’ll need to allow at least two full days to trek some of the trails and marvel at the ornate architecture of the many temples and tombs in this fascinating ancient city.
You won’t need wind or waves for this ride. Instead, you’ll glide across the Wadi Rum sandscape on a ship of the desert: the camel. With broad feet, strong muscles, and the ability to go for miles without food or water, camels are a common mode of transportation in desert conditions. They are often called “ships of the desert” due to the swaying motion they make as they “sail” across the sand. Climb aboard and enjoy the otherworldly landscapes of Wadi Rum at a camel’s pace.
The high salt levels of the Dead Sea — a land-locked, hypersaline lake bordered by Jordan, Israel, and Palestine — make for a unique, natural spa experience. Although it’s named for the lack of plant and animal life that can survive in these salty conditions, the high concentration of minerals in the Dead Sea has health benefits and creates both a healing and buoyant effect for humans. Simply slather on some mineral-rich mud then lay back and let the Dead Sea work its magic.