Jordan sits strategically at the crossroads of the continents of Asia, Africa and Europe, in the Levant area of the Fertile Crescent, a cradle of civilization. It is 34,495 sq miles large, and 250 miles long between its northernmost and southernmost points; Umm Qais and Aqaba respectively. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south and the east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north, and Israel and Palestine (West Bank) to the west.The east is an arid plateau irrigated by oases and seasonal water streams. Major cities are overwhelmingly located on the north-western part of the kingdom due to its fertile soils and relatively abundant rainfall. These include Irbid, Jerash and Zarqa in the northwest, the capital Amman and Al-Salt in the central west, and Madaba, Al-Karak and Aqaba in the southwest. Major towns in the eastern part of the country are the oasis towns of Azraq and Ruwaished.
In the west, a highland area of arable land and Mediterranean evergreen forestry drops suddenly into the Jordan Rift Valley. The rift valley contains the Jordan River and the Dead Sea, which separates Jordan from Israel. Jordan has a 16 miles shoreline on the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea, but is otherwise landlocked. The Yarmouk River, an eastern tributary of the Jordan, forms part of the boundary between Jordan and Syria (including the occupied Golan Heights) to the north. The other boundaries are formed by several international and local agreements and do not follow well-defined natural features. The highest point is Jabal Umm al Dami, at 6,083 ft above sea level, while the lowest is the Dead Sea −1,378 ft, the lowest land point on earth. The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth. Jordan has a diverse range of habitats, ecosystems and biota due to its varied landscapes and environments. The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature was set up in 1966 to protect and manage Jordan’s natural resources. Nature reserves in Jordan include the Dana Biosphere Reserve, the Azraq Wetland Reserve, the Shaumari Wildlife Reserve and the Mujib Nature Reserve.
The most impressive place in Jordan is undoubtfully Petra.
One of the New 7 Wonders of the World, this attraction has wowed modern-day visitors since the long-lost city’s rediscovery by Swiss explorer Jean Louis Burckhardt more than 200 years ago.
You’ll need at least two days to hit all the highlights around Petra, which include more than 800 registered sites. But if you have more time, you won’t be disappointed spending it here. Wandering around a city this ancient in such a well-preserved state is an experience like none other.
Petra wastes no time impressing tourists. Immediately after the entrance, you’ll see mysterious Djinn Blocks, imposing stone monuments whose original purpose still remains unknown, followed by the Obelisk Tomb. It’s just a sample of the incredible sites to come.
From here, you’ll make your way through the Siq – the famous snaking canyon pathway flanked by tall walls. Look along the walls to see the remnants of historic channels that were used to supply Petra with water, as well as niches for sacred carvings known as baetyls. These artifacts hint that Petra may have been considered a holy city at one point in time. Keep your eye out for the weathered relief sculpture of camels being lead by two merchants, as well.
Finally, you’ll reach the unmistakable Treasury (also known as Al-Khazneh). Showcased in nearly every travel guide book and social media post about Petra, this attraction’s Hellenistic facade is one of the most enchanting places to visit in Jordan. Legend has it that the rock-hewn monument, which was built as the final resting place for Nabatean King Aretas IV, was the hiding place for an Egyptian pharaoh’s treasure at the time of Moses.
When it comes to things to do in Petra after the Siq and the Treasury, it’s a choose-your-own adventure. Check out dozens of tombs and houses on the Street of Facades, climb steep stairs for a great view at the High Place of Sacrifice, stand in awe at the Theater and stroll down the impressive Colonnaded Street.
If your feet aren’t too sore yet, make your way up the roughly 850 rock-cut steps to the legendary Monastery. The impressive structure, tucked in the hills, is well worth the journey.
Head to the southern region of Jordan, and you’ll be treated to one of the most spectacular landscapes across the globe: Wadi Rum. Also known as the Valley of the Moon, this sandstone and granite rock valley is an otherworldly experience, with towering cliffs, massive dunes, swirling archways, and caverns. It served as the set for much of the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia and was tagged a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011.
Adventure lovers, eat your heart out: The Zalabia Bedouin, a cultural group that lives in the area, have transformed the Wadi Rum into an ecotourism playground. You can ride camels or spirited Arabian horses through the area, strap on a harness and go rock climbing up the sandstone mountains, hike through canyons, and kick up sand on ATV tours.
Ask your tour guide to take you to the Khazali Canyon, where you can see petroglyphs of humans and antelopes that may date as far back as the 8th century BC.
Consider spending the night at one of the luxurious “glamping” (glamorous camping) sites in Wadi Rum. With almost zero light pollution, the park offers incredible stargazing opportunities. No wonder visiting Wadi Rum is one of the top things to do in Jordan.
There are several other amazing places in Jordan worth a visit such as Dead Sea, Amman and Jerash ruins or Madaba.
Number one thing to know – before coming to Jordan, definitely buy Jordan pass. If you plan on visiting Jordan for more than 3 nights then you absolutely should purchase the Jordan Pass for 70 Jordanian Dinars or “JOD” (approximately US$99). The Jordan Pass is not a physical card or ticket – you must purchase it online ahead of your trip, and a PDF containing a QR code is e-mailed to you afterwards. All you have to do is show your ticket at any of the 40 attractions covered by the pass across Jordan, including Petra. Not only do you save massively on entrance costs throughout Jordan, the Jordan Pass also covers your entry visa into Jordan, as long as you are staying for more than 3 nights. The Jordan visa-on-arrival costs 40 JOD, and a 1-day pass for Petra costs 50 JOD. The basic Jordan Pass costs 70 JOD.
The Jordanian Dinar (JD) is the official currency of Jordan. Cash payments in Jordan are the norm, though larger businesses also accept cards. ATMs are easy to find. Try to keep change on you for small expenses such as snacks, water, tipping etc. One thing to consider before visiting Jordan is that it’s not a cheap country. Many tourists are taken completely by surprise by what things cost in Jordan, and that would have to include me to be honest. Just to give you an idea, a meal in a basic local eatery – think hummus and falafel – will be in the range of JD4 (short of $6). If you want something more elaborate, you will end up paying up to JD20 ($28).
Jordan has a reputation of being a much more liberal country compared to other countries where the majority of people are Muslims. However, while you may come across some women not wearing a headscarf in the most modern neighborhood of Amman, most people dress conservatively. While female travelers won’t need to cover their head, it’s always best not to go around wearing shorts, minidresses or tank tops – and the same goes for male travelers. Opt to wear long skirts and pants and to layer up with light shirts and – depending on the season – a sweater or a jacket. Bikinis are acceptable at Dead Sea beach resorts and – in theory – also at public beaches where locals go, but keep in mind they will go in the water practically fully dressed.
One of the best things to do in Jordan is eating and there is no shortage of good restaurants. Mansaf, one of the most traditional dishes consisting of lamb and rice, is commonly found on the menu. Hummus and falafel are great choices for vegans and vegetarian. On a typical meal in Jordan (or at a buffet restaurant) there’s a really large selection of fresh delicious salads.
Mansaf – Traditionally served in a large platter meant for communal eating, mansaf is a dish of tender meat layered with paper-thin flatbread and great piles of aromatic rice.
Falafel – Crisp balls of falafel shaped from spiced, ground chickpeas are a street food staple across the Levant.
Fattet Hummus – Like the original, fattet hummus is a puree of tender chickpeas, but it’s mixed with pieces of torn-up pita bread, tahini and pine nuts, then topped with a pale green pool of olive oil.
Bedouin tea and coffee – Sharing tea is an important part of Bedouin culture, as is their remarkable hospitality. If you sit down to drink with the local Bedouin, called Bdoul, you may be in for infinite refills — until you signal your satisfaction by placing a hand over the glass.
Shawarma – The rich, fatty meat is served in warm pockets of pita bread, then topped with everything from raw onions to za’atar, a spice blend that varies with the chef, but relies on sesame seeds and tangy sumac.