Things to do in Jordan
Things to do in Jordan
There are spectacular sights to see along the full length of Jordan. Here are just a few, starting in the capital city in the north and finishing on the Red Sea in the south.
Amman & Jerash
Amman, the capital of Jordan, is the starting point for most holidays to the country. This ancient city, consecutively ruled over by the Persians, Greeks, Romans and Ottomans, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and one of the most liberal in the Arab world.
The older downtown area is the place to visit with its colourful souk and King Hussein mosque. Here, the Citadel Hill is a national historic site with Roman and Byzantine remains, and possible signs of civilisation dating all the way back to the Bronze Age. Other impressive sights include the Roman forum and theatre.
It’s well worth making the short day trip north of Amman to Jerash. The ruins of this Graeco-Roman city are well-preserved. You can see the remains of colonnaded streets, theatres, a hippodrome and forum, almost complete city walls and a triumphal arch built in honour of Emperor Hadrian in 129AD.
East of Amman are Jordan’s desert castles, beautiful examples of early Islamic art and architecture. With their fine mosaics, frescoes and isolated locations, they can be visited as a day trip from the capital. Qasr Amra, one of the best preserved, is a Unesco world heritage site and its interior walls and ceilings are covered with colourful frescoes. Qasr Kharaneh, Qasr Al-Tuba and Qasr Al-Hallabat have also been restored and are all in excellent condition. The black basalt fort of Qasr Al-Azraq has stood since Roman times and was the headquarters of TE Lawrence during the Arab Revolt.
The ancient city of Petra, cut into the cliffs and surrounded by passages and gorges, is the jewel in Jordan’s cultural crown. Founded in around the sixth century BC as the capital city of the Nabatean civilisation, the site has since been settled by the Romans, crusaders and the Byzantine empire, all of whom have left churches, fortifications and monuments.
But it is the Nabatean rock-hewn remains that are most notable, and never fail to inspire. The walk through the 1,600-metre long Siq, a natural corridor through the rock that ends in the much-photographed Treasury, provides one of the most memorable moments in Middle East travel. There are also various walks throughout the site that reveal hundreds of smaller buildings and tombs. Al Beidha, or ‘Little Petra’, is an atmospheric and less-visited site 8km away, with evidence of habitation stretching back to pre-pottery Neolithic times.
Ancient valleys, massive sandstone mountains, and pink and white coloured sands have earned this area the name ‘The Valley of the Moon’. The carved inscriptions of ancient civilisations still exist in Wadi Rum, and more recently TE Lawrence and his adventures during the Arab Revolt of 1917-1918 took place here.
Sunsets and sunrises are incredible over this lunar landscape so make sure to spend a night in the desert at one of the camps here. Otherwise a 4x4 excursions or camel ride among the amazing rock formations is equally impressive.
The Dead Sea
Famed for the curative properties of its mineral-rich waters, the Dead Sea is one of the lowest points on earth, situated more than 400 metres below sea level. Fed mainly by the Jordan river, there is no outlet for the water, so it becomes trapped and evaporates, leaving behind salts and minerals that can be seen encrusting the rocks around the edge of the sea. It is this high salt content that makes any significant plant and animal life impossible, and gives the sea its name.
The high concentration of salt (nine times saltier than the sea) makes the water so buoyant that it is almost impossible to sink, while the natural health benefits of its mineral-rich seawater and natural mud pools have been recognised for more than 2,000 years. In fact, Herod the Great reputedly used the area as a health resort. Today, luxury spa resorts dot the shoreline where you can relax with special treatments and float in the waters.
Aqaba and the Red Sea
For those looking for a beach break, the resort of Aqaba in the southern tip of the country is an ideal location for rest and relaxation. The preserved coral reefs and spectacular sealife make for exceptional snorkelling opportunities. The Gulf of Aqaba hosts about 110 species of soft corals, 120 species of hard corals and more than 1,000 species of fish. Sting and manta rays, clown fish, angel fish, butterfly fish and lionfish, and occasionally turtles, eels and dolphins, can be spotted amid the exquisite coral reefs. Not far from the beaches, a visit to the tiny Aqaba Fort provides an insight into Aqaba’s history.