I recently went to Jordan and it was an unforgettable experience. It was a jam packed holiday, filled with culture and adventure. For someone who has never really travelled much (yet!), this was a holiday of a lifetime. I’ve decided to include some of the things I saw and did to give you some idea of the treasures that Jordan has to offer. I’ll also give you some tips and tricks in case you ever decide to visit, which I very much recommend that you do. Finally, I’ll include the prices, which will (hopefully) help you to budget for a trip….if you decide to make one. In short, I will tell you everything I know about the Jewels of Jordan!
Things to see/do
Amman: Discover The Capital City
There’s lots to see and do in Jordan’s capital city. Here’s a couple of things that you have to see!
- Roman amphitheatre – sitting on the stone seats at the top of the amphitheatre, imagining what it would be like to watch a play during the Roman era, was a pretty cool experience. Cost: 2JD
- Citadel – it’s been there for around 7000 years! It was lovely to walk around and see parts of the structure that were still standing. The view of old Amman, from the top of the hill where the citadel is, was also impressive. Cost: 2JD
Visit a Special Baptism Site
I’m not a religious person, but visiting the Jordan river and the site where Jesus was (allegedly) baptised by John was a very surreal and fascinating experience. It was particularly interesting to see how close we were to the Israeli border (or the Palestinian border, depending on how you look at it. Not trying to be controversial, just saying). Several people, on both sides of the river, were baptised and I enjoyed seeing how special the moment was for them all.
Float in the Dead Sea
Floating in the dead sea was incredible. Everyone knows that it’s super salty, but it still feels surprising when you get in and you’re not able to sink, however hard you try!
Cost: 12JD (see “Tips and Tricks” for more details)
Explore the Secrets of Jerash
Jerash was one of my favourite places in Jordan. Walking around this archaeological site, I felt like I had wandered back in time. Our guide shared some secrets with us about the wobbly columns, caverns, water fountain, and amphitheatre. The wobbly columns were purposely built with the ability to sway so they wouldn’t collapse in an earthquake. The caverns beneath Artemis’ temple are now full of bats, but were once used as storage for gold offerings to Artemis herself. The the water fountain once contained seven statues that would take it in turns to pour water depending on the day of the week. And, finally, the astounding amphitheatre, had the most phenomenal acoustics.
See the views at Ajloun castle
The castle was built in the 12th century as Muslim fortress intended to defend the area from invading Crusaders. It overlooks the lush, green Jordan Valley, proving that Jordan has a lot more to offer than just dry, desert-y environment.
Aqaba and Cooling Down in The Red Sea
Aqaba itself is rather small, and we didn’t really explore it very much since we spent most of our time in the sea. The water was beautifully blue and a perfect way to cool down since it was pushing 40 degrees Celsius when we were there! If you get a chance, you should go diving and/or on a glass boat tour in order to see all the fish (see “Tips and Tricks” for more details).
Cost: 14.20JD return bus ticket from Amman to Aqaba.
Petra and Wadi Rum
Petra is probably Jordan’s most famous tourist destination, so a holiday in Jordan would not be complete without a visit. The Wadi Rum desert is also iconic, and we managed to visit both places in one day. In hindsight, this wasn’t such a great idea. But you live and learn, I guess.
We discovered that it’s quite difficult to travel between Petra and Wadi Rum if you’re not planning to spend the night at a hotel near Petra, since the only bus from Petra to Wadi Rum leaves at 6.30am. In order to visit both locations, we decided to take a tour bus from Amman. We first drove to Petra. Once there we walked through the siq (the passage through the canyon) until we reached the impressive looking treasury (and yes, I did start humming the Indiana Jones song as soon as I saw it. And no, I wasn’t the only one to do so). We were also able to explore several tombs which were cut into the mountain side, as well as a temple, a theatre, and a whole host of other ancient structures.
Sunset in the Wadi Rum Desert
After our Petra adventure we drove to the Wadi Rum desert. We didn’t hesitate to take a desert tour in an open topped 4×4 (cost: 8JD). Our driver showed us some impressive sand dunes (where I just had to make a sand angel!) and took us to a prime location where we could watch the beautiful sun set. After the tour, we ate a delicious buffet dinner with the rest of the people on our tour bus, and then headed to the top of a nearby hill to stare at the stars. That was an incredible experience. There was hardly any light pollution (what with us being in a desert), so we could see the milky way so clearly, and a few shooting stars too!
If you do decide to take a similar bus tour, bear in mind that you’ll probably get a very limited time at Petra. This is because you have to squeeze two amazing locations in one day. We only had three hours to explore the Petra site, which was nowhere near enough time, and was also annoying because we’d paid so much to get in. Also, the tour guide didn’t speak a word of English, which wasn’t too frustrating because our Jordanian hosts kindly translated for us, but is something that you should ask about before you book a tour.
Cost: 16JD for a return bus tour from Amman to Petra and Wadi Rum, including evening meal. 50JD entrance to Petra, 5JD entrance to Wadi Rum.
Tips and tricks:
1. Eating falafel at Abu Jbara
We had falafel for breakfast here and it was delicious. At first, I was a bit sceptical because I’m not much of a breakfast eater, but the food was so good. We received falafel, a variety of hummus and dips, lots of freshly baked bread, and hot, sweet, black tea. The place was packed full of locals, and once we tasted the food, we realised why. Extra tip: get there early or be prepared to wait a bit for a table.
2. Canyoning Adventure
I’m in two minds about mentioning this as a “tip” to do if you’re in Jordan. On one hand, I spent most of the canyoning experience absolutely terrified, but on the other hand, it was an amazing experience and I’m so glad we did it. Hiking in the canyon and scrambling up the rocks was the most fun part – you can’t help but feel like a mountain goat. Jumping into pools of water, and abseiling down the rock face was, for someone who’s rather afraid of heights, not as fun. But I managed to do it (I’ll be honest, there were quite a few tears involved). After the active part, our guides cooked us dinner in the wilderness and we ate in plain view of the amazing canyons.
What to Bring
We went with the Ultimate Canyoning group and I would recommend them. They were a lot of fun and took very good care of us. Only downside is: not all of the guides speak English (probably because not many English speaking people attend the trips) but we managed to get by with my shoddy Arabic, hand gestures, and our Jordanian hosts, cum translators. Extra tip: bring spare clothes/shoes with you to get changed into after the experience. You’ll get completely soaked and it’s not fun sitting in wet shoes and socks for the rest of the day (speaking from experience, because we didn’t realise how wet we would actually get and didn’t bring any spare clothes).
Cost: 35JD. This includes minibus ride to and from canyon, safety equipment, and evening meal. Do bear in mind, the meal was entirely meat based and not very vegetarian/vegan friendly. It might be possible to arrange something if you notify them beforehand.
3. Tips for Visiting The Dead Sea
You have to pay to enter the beach area which, in my opinion, is slightly ridiculous. A lot of people decide to pay a bit more (upwards of 20JD) to be able to use the beaches connected to the hotel resorts. We went to a cheaper public beach and paid 12JD, but in hindsight, I wish that we spent a bit more. The beach was peppered with garbage, and the shower and toilet facilities were terribly dirty. Since we only had time for a few hours in the sea, this didn’t matter too much, except that we were left wondering what the heck our 12JD admission price was used for (obviously not to pay for cleaners). However, if we were spending a whole day there, I would have splashed out (no pun intended) for a ‘cleaner’ experience.
Extra tip: do NOT get the water in your eyes or mouth. It burns! And I was tasting salt all week.
4. Diving in The Red Sea
This was an amazing experience! It took me a while to get comfortable with the idea of ‘breathing’ underwater, but once I did, I enjoyed it immensely. We swam around, peeked in the coral reefs, and saw lots of pretty and unusual fish. If you’re thinking about having a diving experience, I’d highly recommend Arab Divers. We paid 35JD for a package that included all the equipment, a diving crash course, and at least 30 minutes under the water.
5. Glass Boat Tour in Aqaba
After our diving experience, we wanted to head back into the red sea. We decided to take a glass boat because we wanted to see some more fish. Our boat driver showed us some more coral reefs, including an artificial reef made from an old army tank. He also allowed us to swim in the sea, far away from everyone else, which was really cool! We managed to get a deal with one of the boat drivers (because he heard that I was from England, and for some reason that deserved a discount – not that I was complaining), so we only paid 20JD for a private one-hour tour.
6. Jordan Pass: Good Idea or not?
One of the things we missed out on was the Jordan Pass. It’s a comprehensive pass that includes the entry visa and admission to over 40 attractions, including Petra – it’s such good value for money! My travel companion and I found out about it from a backpacker that we randomly met at a bus station. We mentally kicked ourselves for not having found it ourselves since it would have saved us so much money. If I ever go back to Jordan, I’ll definitely get one of these before I go. Since not many people know about the pass, I’ll include the link here.
7. Exchanging your Currency for Jordanian Dinars (JD)
Not many Bureau de Change’s in your home countries carry JDs, I don’t imagine. A good tip is to visit one when you arrive in Jordan. The exchange rate is usually better that you’d get in your home country anyway. Do NOT exchange any money at the airport though, those exchange rates are terrible! I had to exchange some money in order to purchase a visa. I paid 60eu for a 40JD entrance visa, when I should have only paid about 50eu! If you get the Jordanian Pass before you go, you don’t need to worry about exchanging money on arrival at the airport since the visa is included.
If you’re curious about any more prices, or want to know what else Jordan has to offer, then take a look at the Visit Jordan website which is very comprehensive and helpful.
I hope this post was successful in showing you some of the amazing jewels of Jordan. If you do decide to visit, I hope that this is useful as you plan your trip. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.
Thanks to my dear friend and travel companion, Sonja Haedicke, for allowing me to use her amazing photos in this post.