Jordan City Guide

04/08/2014 17:27 | Updated 22 May 2015

With 310 days of sunshine every year, there's far more to Jordan than the world-famous Petra - although no trip is complete without a visit to the rose red city.

There are two seas to dip your toe into - the Red and the Dead - as well as stunning nature reserves to explore, the desert which was home to Lawrence of Arabia, the Roman ruins at Jerash and Biblical history around every corner, all packed into a country the size of Portugal.,feedConfig,localizationConfig,entry&id=944983&pid=944982&uts=1287483969

Starter for 10: Jordan

Jordan is home to more than a few luxurious hotels, including the Kempinski Aqaba on the Red Sea, which opened last year. With temperatures in the 20s during the winter months, it's perfect for some sunshine while you explore the diving and snorkelling on offer. Rooms cost from around £135 per night.

But if you get the chance, head out to the desert and enjoy a night in a Bedouin tent. Mzied's camp, at Wadi Rum, is right out in the desert, so after a traditional meal and some Bedouin music, you can sleep under the stars. Accommodation and a tour cost from around £35 per night, depending on what you include. Do bear in mind that temperatures get very cold overnight during the winter months though.

Starter for 10: Jordan

Jaw-droppingly beautiful, the orange sands of Wadi Rum, overshadowed by the sheer rocks around is the perfect way to explore the desert. Home to Lawrence of Arabia, people have lived in this stunning and inhospitable environment for centuries – the local guides can show you the ancient Anfashieh inscriptions on the rocks.

The best way to explore is by camel, slow enough to appreciate the landscape but less effort than walking, although you can also opt for a 4WD tour as well. Contact the visitor's centre to arrange a guide, who'll show you everything from the precarious rock bridge to how to spot lizard tracks, and traditions of life in the desert.

Starter for 10: Jordan

Voted one of the seven new wonders of the world, Petra is one of those destinations that has the power to amaze you, even if you've seen a hundred photos – or even its cameo in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Walking through the long winding path in the rock known as the Siq, the view of the famous Treasury, El Khazneh, as you round the last corner is enough to take your breath away.

Hidden for centuries under the desert sands, until a young Swiss explorer discovered the secret of the ancient carved city in the 19th century, there's far more to explore than just the Treasury though. As well as the carvings of camels along the Siq, the hillsides are home to tombs, a temple, a theatre and other ruins, some dating back to the sixth century BC. Finally, the carved facade of Monastery may not be as famous but is worth the 800-step climb. If you want to spend longer than a day, you can head further afield to the High Place of Sacrifice, as well as some early Christian churches.

You can get tickets for one, two and three days (around £18, £23 and £27 respectively). Try to arrive early in the morning or towards sunset to avoid the tour groups.

Starter for 10: Jordan

You can't visit Jordan without a sense of the centuries of history which have shaped the country – as well as Roman ruins like Jerash and crusader castles, places from the Bible come to life at every turn. And nowhere more so than in Madaba with the mosaic map in St George's Church. Showing the Middle East from Egypt to Lebanon, the 6th century mosaics lay hidden for centuries before they were unearthed, helping archaeologists to establish present-day locations for ancient sites.

One theory is that it was a map for pilgrims, while others believe it showed Moses' view of the promised land – which you can replicate at the nearby monastery on Mount Nebo, where he is believed to be buried, making it a site sacred to Christians, Jews and Muslims. Madaba is around 30km from Amman.

Starter for 10: Jordan

With six nature reserves scattered across the country, you're never far from a walk in Jordan, whatever your fitness level. And it's far from being only desert landscapes to wander through. In Mujib, the world's lowest nature reserve, on the banks of the Dead Sea, you can follow a walk-cum-hike in the river valley, clambering and swimming along the Siq trail to the waterfall at the top. Don't try it without a guide though, and the trail is closed during winter as the water level is too high.

Further north, between Dana and Rummana, you can try something equally rugged, if slightly drier, with a walk along the cliffs and into the gorge which extends from the Rift Valley in Africa, and which is home to protected wildlife. Still further north comes one of the country's biggest surprises at Ajloun, with miles of leafy green oak and pistachio forests, and various hikes including the Prophet's Trail, stopping at Mar Elias where Elijah was reputedly born. Visit for more information, some of the reserves are closed during the winter months.

Starter for 10: Jordan

The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature isn't just involved in preserving wildlife and looking after hiking trails. As part of the Wild Jordan project, they're involving local communities in tourism projects – one of which is to enable visitors to meet local people and eat with them.

In the Ajloun reserve, you can choose to follow the Soap Maker's trail, which takes you to one of the workshops where local women create olive oil soap, before finishing in the village for lunch with a family.

Starter for 10: Jordan

You might not associate Jordan with wine, but the country has vineyards tucked away, with the best-known wines coming from the area around Mount Nebo. As Jordan is a Muslim country, it's not always easy to find though, so look in the shops of Aqaba, as the city's tax-free status means you can pick it up cheaply.

Or try a glass at the Haret Jdoudna restaurant in Madaba, near to where the grapes are grown.

Starter for 10: Jordan

Indulge in some retail therapy with a conscience – helping local communities to support themselves, you can buy guilt-free at the Wild Jordan shops across the country. Based in the six nature reserves, each area specialises in their own crafts – Dana is well-known for its hand-crafted silver jewellery, based on the plants and animals of the reserve, while Ajloun has its soap-makers, and you can also pick up hand-tooled leather, silk, food and teas.

If you can't get to each of the reserves, head to the Wild Jordan centre in Downtown Amman which has a selection of handmade crafts from around the country.

Starter for 10: Jordan

When all you need to do is lie back and try not to get water in your eyes, it's hard to do anything other than relax in the Dead Sea. Almost nine times saltier than the ocean, it's impossible to sink (although it might take a few minutes before you can believe it) although some Vaseline comes in very handy if you've got any cuts or grazes – this is not the morning to shave your legs!

Before you take your dip, smear yourself from head to toe in Dead Sea Mud, let the minerals do their work and enjoy getting a thoroughly natural spa treatment. Temperatures around the Dead Sea can get punishingly high during the summer, so time your float for early morning or sunset. Stay in the air-conditioned chalets at the Mujib Reserve, where you have a view over the water and can walk down for your swim.

Starter for 10: Jordan

All visitors to Jordan need a visa but you can arrange these on arrival in the country.

Royal Jordanian flies from London Heathrow to Amman, with return flights costing around £479, including taxes. BMI also flies from Heathrow to Amman, with return flights costing around £463 return, including taxes.

Virgin Holidays' new Worldwide Journeys has an eight-day tour, Jordan with a difference, priced from £1,470 including flights. On The Go tours has several tours visiting Jordan, including the six-day Passage to Petra from £499, and the eight-day Totally Jordan, from £679, both excluding flights.

If you've held a driving licence for at least one year, it will be accepted for car rental in Jordan, if you want to explore solo.

Starter for 10: Jordan


Suggest a correction