Set at the crossroads of the Middle East, surrounded by Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria and Palestine, and inhabited for thousands of years, Jordan is one of the most fascinating destinations in the Middle East, offering friendly people, dazzling landscapes and amazing food. From the lush, fertile slopes of the Jordan Valley to the ancient Roman ruins of Jerash, there are many compelling reasons to add a visit to Jordan to your travel wish-list – here are our top five.
Jordan’s capital city is among the most modern and Westernised of Arab cities, despite a heritage that dates back to Neolithic times. Today, it’s a fascinating amalgam of modern and ancient, complete with high-end shopping malls, nightclubs and restaurants. It’s also home to the Jordan Museum, which hosts some of the nation’s most important archaeological finds, including one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, animal fossils that date back 1.5 million years and one of the world’s oldest human statues. Amman is also the ideal base from which to explore the ancient city of Jerash, whose incredible Greco-Roman ruins include Hadrian’s Arch, the Temple of Artemis and a 3000-seat amphitheatre.
The ancient Rose City is thought to have settled by the Nabatean people around 2000 years ago, and is now Jordan’s greatest attraction. Its building facades, which have been carved from the surrounding pink-hued sandstone, have featured in numerous movies, but nothing you’ve seen on the screen can compare with the thrill of emerging from the narrow, kilometre-long slit canyon known as the Siq to stand before its most famous feature, Al-Khazneh, or ‘the Treasury’. It’s a four-hour drive from Amman, but you could easily fill several days here: climbing 800 rock-cut steps to Ad-Deir monastery and absorbing the atmosphere in the vast 3,000-seat amphitheatre en-Nejr. Three nights a week, Petra becomes even more magical when it’s illuminated by the light from thousands of candles.
At more than 400 metres below sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth. Its mineral- and salt-laden waters have created a unique destination, notable not just for its other-worldly landscape but for the health-giving benefits that are said to arise from soaking in its extremely buoyant waters and slathering your skin in its rich mud. Fifteen minutes is the maximum recommended time for a single dip, due to the extreme salinity, but you can spend the rest of your time enjoying the spectacular setting, gazing across the waters to neighbouring Israel.
If you think of the Red Sea as having the shape of an elongated rabbit’s head, the city of Aqaba sits at the tip of the animal’s left ear, in the southernmost corner of Jordan. The Old Town, with its souq filled with stalls, handcraft stores and cafes at its heart, is a wonderful place to explore on foot for a taste of old Arabia, but Aqaba’s main drawcard is the sea and the amazing diving that’s on offer here. A magical combination of warm waters, great visibility and vivid coral gardens has made this one of the world’s great dive destinations, whether you’re an absolute beginner or a seasoned professional. When you’re back on dry land, be sure to treat yourself to the local speciality, sayadieh: a delicious dish of freshly-caught fish that’s cooked with a sauce of caramelised onions, spices and herbs.
Wadi is the Arabic word meaning valley, and Wadi Rum is the most famous and most spectacular of Jordan’s valleys. Immortalised in Western minds by the exploits of T.E. Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia), it’s also known as the Valley of the Moon and is located just 60 kilometres east of Aqaba. Inhabited by various cultures since prehistoric times, today it is home to the Zalabian Bedouin people, who are responsible for having developed the region as a haven of eco-tourism. Rock-climbing, horse- and camel-riding and hot-air ballooning are popular ways to appreciate the valley’s stunning rock formations, such as the Burdah Rock Bridge and the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, before spending an unforgettable night camped beneath the stars in a luxuriously-appointed Bedouin tent.
If you’d like to experience the magic of this fascinating destination, ask your personal travel manager to design an itinerary that suits you.