Jordan is a gold mine of history deep in the desert. It lies humbly under the radar for most travellers, even though it has an arsenal of phenomenal historic sites definitely worth bragging about. This is where you’ll find Petra, the prehistoric capital cut into a rock face; Amman, home to a Citadel that makes it one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world; the parched, Mars-like desert of Wadi Rum; and important biblical sites including Bethany Beyond the Jordan and Mount Nebo.
There’s nothing quite like seeing Petra for yourself. It’s the main reason people visit Jordan, to gaze upon the glorious Rose Red City chiselled out of the desert sandstone over 2000 years ago. The walk to Petra is as much of the experience as the city itself – you pass through Al Siq, a sandstone gorge path that slowly reveals the classical façade of the Treasury, a meticulously planned build up that makes laying eyes on the UNESCO site all the more spectacular. The Treasury, or Al Khazna, is the classic part of Petra that everyone knows about (it was the backdrop to the final scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade). Built by the Arab tribe, the Nabateans, it looms almost 40 metres high with beautiful Corinthian columns in the red sandstone, and like many of Petra’s sites, it becomes even more impressive in the changing light of dawn and dusk. Along with the Taj Mahal, Macchu Piccu and the Great Wall of China, this ancient city was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. A full day in Petra is the best way to cover the rest of the site’s monuments and buildings, like the Colonnaded Street and the Street of Facades. Petra is manageable for most though it might be challenging for those with walking difficulties. Sensible walking shoes are recommended, as is the optional visit to The Monastery. Bigger than the Treasury, the 850 or so steps take you to the perfect place to spend the sunset with a few vantage points for amazing photo opportunities.
The Dead Sea
The Dead Sea is one of the saltiest bodies of water on earth. It’s near impossible to really swim through it – the salt forces you to stay afloat so you end up bobbing along the surface of water in one of the most surreal natural experiences. The mud that collects at the shore is rich in minerals and thought to be great for the skin; most bathers paint themselves in it before getting into the water.
Escorted tour in Jordan
Our popular small group Highlights of Jordan escorted tour is the best way to take in Jordan’s staggering relics and ruins. Travelling between the main tourist sites, you’ll be guided by local tour leaders to some of the Middle East’s most famous points of interest and finish your exploration with some time to relax by the Red Sea. Slather some mineral-rich mud on your skin and float effortlessly in the Dead Sea, stay just outside the entrance to Petra and spend a full day exploring its monuments, and scale rock-cut steps for views over the barren deserts of Arabia.
Where is Jordan?
Jordan is an almost entirely landlocked country in north-west Arabia. It has a small, 16-mile-long coastline in the south-west and sits on the Red Sea’s Gulf of Aqaba, a coastline it shares with Egypt.
Snorkelling and diving
Jordan is full of unexpected delights, and the warm waters off its beach resort Aqaba is one of them. The Red Sea has coral reefs with a surprising amount of marine life to spot including sea turtles – you can snorkel right off Aqaba’s shallow beaches to look for them. The Gulf of Aqaba is protected living spots include Cedar Pride, a scuttled ship that’s now home to colourful coral and fish.
There is limited public transport in Jordan but the roads are excellent and well signposted. The best way to travel is with a car and driver where you can easily get to the main tourist areas which are safe to visit.
A visa is required for UK passport holders (available on arrival)