For such a small area, Jordan sure has a wide variety of natural wonders and must-see places. From living out my inner Indiana Jones in Petra, floating in the Dead Sea, riding through the desert to eating incredible food and meeting some of the friendliest locals, Jordan exceeded all my expectations.
To be honest, I didn’t know much about Jordan prior to my trip. All I knew was it would be a quick flight from Egypt and I could visit Petra, one of the 7 New Wonders of the World! I was pleasantly surprised with everything I experienced during this trip with G Adventures and National Geographic Journeys. After the tour, I stayed a few days and went diving in the Red Sea on my own. I didn’t expect there would be so many must-see places to visit in Jordan!
G Adventures and National Geographic Journeys
This 8-day Explore Jordan tour starts and ends in Amman, the capital of Jordan. Whenever available, I travel with G Adventures’ National Geographic Journeys line because of their quality accommodation and unique offerings exclusive to National Geographic trips.
I previously went to Patagonia and on safari to Tanzania with them so can attest to their high level of service. This tour offered special activities like an archaeologist talk about Petra, a night walk with a Bedouin guide in Wadi Rum and a cooking class in Jerash supporting a women-run cafe.
These are the places I would recommend on a first trip to Jordan:
- The Capital City of Amman
- Roman Ruins in Jerash
- Mount Nebo and Madaba
- Wādī Mūsá and Petra
- Desert Life in Wadi Rum
- Relaxing in the Dead Sea
- Diving in the Red Sea in Aqaba
Check out the itinerary for this tour I went on—Explore Jordan with G Adventures and National Geographic Journeys.
Is it safe to travel to Jordan?
A lot of people asked me about safety in Jordan. Like I wrote about in this post regarding Egypt’s safety, I took similar precautions in Jordan. I traveled in a group with G Adventures, dressed conservatively to blend in, learned some Arabic and practiced street smarts. For a country surrounded by very conservative and traditional countries, I was surprised how progressive it was.
I felt completely safe the entire time and would be comfortable traveling as a solo woman in Jordan (from a safety perspective, not logistically or convenience-wise).
I traveled on my own for a few days towards the end of my trip and never felt unsafe. There were a friendly few who came up to me, asking where I was from and what I was doing there. After telling them, they wished me well with a polite marhaba, which means you are welcome (in our country) in Arabic. These conversations felt more led by curiosity than malice.
However, I did get some cat calls while I walked down the street and lots of staring by men (and some women). Like any place in the world, you have to trust your gut and know when to let your guard down. I’d like to think I helped shatter a few perceptions of what’s normal and acceptable as a solo female traveler just by being there.
Must-See Places to Visit in Jordan
The Capital of Jordan, Amman
Amman is a large, modern city that seamlessly blends the old and new. Much of its history can be seen in its ancient ruins scattered throughout the city, right alongside modern structures. Sadly, I didn’t have too much time to experience “real life” in Amman, but I did see a few key sites like the Citadel which includes the popular pillars of the Roman Temple of Hercules and the Roman Theater. Other downtown spots to check out are Rainbow Street and King Faisal Street with the colorful umbrella street art installation.
Ancient Roman Ruins in Jerash
Only an hour outside of Amman is Jerash, one of the largest and most well-preserved Roman ruins outside of Italy. I did not expect to see this in Jordan, but was not surprised to learn that Jerash was prosperous in the 1st century BC because of its location along the spice trade route. Walking around the colonnaded streets, public squares, fountains and temples felt like stepping back in time. It’s an unexpected must-see place in Jordan that I’m glad we were able to visit.
The program was set up in conjunction with Planeterra and is a “G for Good” moment that helps spread wealth, opportunity and cultural understanding through travel. The main purpose of the cafe and classes are to train and employ women so they can gain their own financial independence. The best part is knowing my tourist dollars are benefiting these women directly. Our second Planeterra Project was at the Al Numeira Environmental Community Center & Cafe, which supports environmental education for local youth and climate change mitigation projects.
Mount Nebo and Madaba
The drive from Amman to Wadi Musa is about 3 hours along the Kings Highway and has a few interesting stops along the way. The first is Mt. Nebo, thought to be the spot where Moses died. The views are incredible from here; on a clear day you can see Amman, the Dead Sea, Jerusalem and Jericho from the top of the hill. There is also a church with beautiful preserved Byzantine mosaics.
Next we stopped by the ancient town of Madaba that’s famous for its mosaics and churches. As a center of early Christianity, it has some of the best preserved Byzantine mosaics in the world. One of the most popular is a sixth-century mosaic map of the Middle East. It’s pretty incredible to fathom how they were able to accurately map out the region and also to put it all together with tiny little pieces of stone! Below is a workshop and mosaic gallery we stopped at that employs physically disabled people.
Before leaving Madaba, we stopped for tea in a charming bookstore and cafe called Kawon Once Upon a Time. Located in an old limestone house, the upstairs is the book shop and downstairs is the cafe and garden. In the courtyard were fruit trees, newborn kittens and plenty of sunshine. The place felt very cozy and homey; I could’ve easily spent an afternoon reading and lounging while sipping on tea in their garden.
Wādī Mūsá and Petra
After a day of travel, we finally arrived in Wādī Mūsá, home to the ancient city of Petra. Getting there in the afternoon meant we had time to relax before our big day to Petra the next morning. I got a Turkish bath in town then spent some time sitting by the pool in our hotel, which used to be a village from the 19th century. They restored it as a hotel complex and kept the incredible structure and views! Just another reason why I love traveling with G Adventures and National Geographic—they pick the best hotels.
Petra during the day
The next morning, we got up really early to be the first to get into Petra. As you can imagine, it gets really crowded and very warm during the day. There’s a lot of walking involved so it’s nice to start early. It takes about 20 minutes to get from the entrance to the Siq, which is a narrow canyon with colorful sandstone walls. After the 1 km-long (.6mi) journey in the Siq, you come upon The Treasury. That first view is pretty magical as the carvings are slowly revealed through the stone walls!
I always thought Petra was just The Treasury, but it’s actually an entire Nabatean city with various buildings and monuments carved into the surrounding mountains. It was an important center for the trade route. Besides The Treasury, other notable sites to visit include Pharaoh’s Castle, the triumphal arch, the amphitheatre and the monastery.
Petra at Night
After seeing Petra during the day, it’s also possible to see it during Petra at Night. There’s nothing quite like seeing the Treasury lit up with 1500 candles! It was one of my favorite parts of the trip. I’d recommend getting there early and leaving the show early or staying right before they tell you to leave to avoid the crowds. This is definitely one of the must-see places in Jordan!
Arriving at the entrance of the Siq, I slowly started the 2km journey along the narrow canyon that led to the Treasury. The walk was in complete darkness except for flickering candles lining the canyon path and stars above. After about 20 minutes of walking in the dark, I turned a corner and saw the lights illuminating the Treasury. I saw it during the day but this moment was completely worth the trek. It was pure magic.
Besides Petra, there’s also a lesser known archeological site called Siq Al-Barid or Little Petra. It is similar to the larger Petra, but on a much smaller scale. The site has tombs, temples and different rooms carved into the mountains. One famous room is The Painted House, which contains a recently restored 2,000-year old Nabatean fresco.
You’ll also find Little Petra’s own resident musician waiting to entertain. We were told for the past 50 years this Bedouin man has walked 10km every day from his village to Little Petra to make music for travelers passing through.
The Desert Life in Wadi Rum
I mentioned earlier that Jordan is full of mesmerizing terrains and Wadi Rum is high on that list. It’s famous for its stunning desert landscape, sandstone and granite rock formations, dunes and valleys. Many movies have been filmed here include The Martian, Transformers and Star Wars.
I loved visiting Petra, but there’s something magical about being in the desert. After we left Wadi Musa early in the morning, we drove to our desert camp in Wadi Rum. Upon arrival we had a traditional Bedouin feast for lunch, then we went on a 4×4 excursion in the desert where we stopped in different viewpoints.
During our drive, we saw ancient sites with rock inscriptions, wild camels roaming freely and picturesque red sand dunes. For sunset, we had the option to take a camel ride and many of our group participated. We were told the camels are well taken care of in the desert. It’s their native home and always have adequate time for rest.
After dinner, we were introduced to a local Bedouin who’s lived in this remote region his entire life. He brought us out into the middle of the sand dunes while teaching us how to find firewood amongst the sand. Then he built a fire before making us tea. We sat underneath the stars and listened to him tell stories of life as a Bedouin. This was one of my favorite experiences during our trip and one of the must-see places in Jordan.
Relaxing in the Dead Sea
The Dead Sea was the perfect spot to end our week-long adventure around Jordan. The main activity at our resort was to relax and float in the sea. We had a private area with direct access from the hotel. Next to the water were tubs of mud that you can apply before going in.
The Dead Sea is 423m (1,388 ft) below sea level and the lowest point on earth. Because of its high salt content, very few microorganisms can survive in its waters, hence the name.
Diving in the Red Sea in Aqaba
Like I mentioned in the beginning, I went to Aqaba after my G Adventures tour to go scuba diving in the Red Sea. Aqaba is known for its many wreck sites including 2 planes, a ship and multiple military tanks.
I found the coral to be very healthy and vibrant, along with the marine life that naturally live alongside it. I did all my dives with Deep Blue Dive Center. They are one of the larger and very reputable companies in Aqaba and have a beautiful boat that cater to divers and anyone wanting to spend a day on the Red Sea.
Visiting all the must-see places in Jordan with G Adventures
Jordan exceeded all my expectations! From the stunning landscapes, friendly people, delicious food, to all the history, culture and ancient ruins, I highly recommend it to anyone looking for an adventure. It’s not the easiest country to get around in and a lot of interactions are based around relationships, which is why I recommend going with a tour company like G Adventures and National Geographic Journeys.
We had an incredible itinerary where we saw so much in a week, had the best service, didn’t need to worry about transport or logistics and got to enjoy getting to know Jordan. There are so many must-see places to visit in Jordan, I hope you visit soon!
Thank you to G Adventures for hosting me on this incredible trip to Jordan. As always, all opinions and photos are my own.