Top 8 Highlights from 8 Days in Jordan

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What to see in Jordan.

What to see in Jordan, highlights of my 1 week visit.

After my leaving Dahab, my final stop in Egypt, I had the joy of spending a week in Jordan.

Despite the short stay in Jordan, I was pleasantly surprised by the range of activities and sights I had the opportunity to experience. Turns out the west side of Jordan is only 500 km from top to bottom and the transportation time between major cities and must-sees were at most only a few hours.

During this week in Jordan, I did everything from walk on ancient Roman ruins, take a safari through peach-coloured deserts, touch world wonders (Petra and the Dead Sea), walk through rose-colored canyons, ride a camel into the desert sunset, and even stand on the mountain that Moses stood on when he saw the “promised” land.

Here are the top highlights from my trip to Jordan.


What to see in Jordan

1. Downtown Amman – 2nd century Roman theatre

Roman Theatre in Downtown Amman, Jordan

Roman Theatre in Downtown Amman, Jordan. Admission: 1 JD ($1.50)

In the centre of Amman is a well-preserved Roman theatre built right into the rock hillside. Being able to step into an ancient ruin during your stroll through a modern city was quite special. The top of the theatre had a great view of Quraysh Street and of the buildings and houses on the opposite hill. Entry fee: 1 JD ($1.50).

2. Downtown Amman – Citadel Hill

Temple of Hercules on the Citadel, Amman

Temple of Hercules on the Citadel, Downtown Amman. Cost: 2 JD ($3.00)

Up the hill, and walking distance from the Roman theatre, is the Citadel of Amman. It sits on Amman’s highest hill (800m above sea level) and the area is supposedly “the world’s oldest continuously inhabited place” with traces of human life found from 7,000 years ago. On the climb to the Citadel, there was a clear view of a huge Jordan flag on what was the world’s tallest flagpole from 2003-2004 (126m). At the edge of the Citadel are the remains of the Temple of Hercules from the 2nd century. Admission fee: 2 JD ($3.00).

3. Dead Sea – “lowest elevation on Earth’s surface”

Floating in the Dead Sea, Jordan

Floating in the Dead Sea at sunset, Jordan.

The Dead Sea is 425m below sea level and 8 time saltier than the ocean. I was so buoyant that when I tried to swim on my stomach, I couldn’t submerge my legs enough to be able to kick (actually, there are warning signs saying *not* to swim on your stomach, so you don’t get water in your mouth or eyes). This unusually buoyant sensation is definitely worth a spot on your bucket list.

4. Petra – the Treasury, as seen in Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade

Treasury at Petra

Treasury at Petra, and where Indiana Jones found the Holy Grail.

The walk from the Visitor Centre entrance to the Treasury, which passes by massive tombs and temples carved from the mountain rocks and goes a winding path through a canyon (the “Siq”), was an experience in itself.

The Treasury is a monument carved from the rockface from the 1st century. There are legends, according to the local Bedouin people, that the building was once a safe keeping place for treasures; but my guide told me it’s only a tomb. See Petra on Wikitravel for travel tips.

5. Wadi Rum - base of operations during the Arab Revolt in 1917/18

Wadi Rum (wadi = valley, rum = high/elevated), Jordan

Wadi Rum (wadi = valley, rum = high/elevated), Jordan.

Wadi Rum is a protected area full of sandstone and granite mountains. Specific spots in the valley have been named after British Offier T.E. Lawrence, like the “7 Pillars of Wisdom” and the “Lawrence Spring” from his assistance during the Arab Revolt against Turkish rule. The valley sand is a peach colour but when it rains (like it did the day before I was there), sand runs off from the taller white mountains and leaves a pattern of white sand at the front of drain valleys/canyon entrances.

6. Desert – at sunset, on a camel

Camel ride in the desert at sunset, Jordan

Jordan desert at sunset, by camel.

Being in the desert at sunset was peaceful, quiet and you can see the shadows of the safari and camel tracks in the sand. There weren’t any tourists, and aside from my Bedouin guide singing in Arabic and quiet camel footsteps, there were no other sounds. By the way, camel rides are a bumpy, especially if the camel is jogging. I held on to the saddle with my left hand, to my camera with my right hand, aimed the camera and hoped for the best :)

7. Mount Nebo – where Moses saw the “promised land”

Mount Nebo, view of the 'promised land'

Mount Nebo, where God gave Moses the view of the 'promised land.'

According to the Bible, Mount Nebo is where God showed Moses the “promised land”: “Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho” (Deuteronomy 34:1). On a clear day, Jericho and Jerusalem (Israel) are supposed to be visible from where I was standing. Mt Nebo is a designated Christian pilgrimage site and both Pope Jean Paul II and Pope Benedict have visited during their pilgrimages. Entry cost: 1JD, $1.50.

Even as a non-religious person, the idea of standing on grounds with such historical significance was incredible.

8. Bethany – where Jesus was baptized, Jordan River

Baptism site of Jesus, Jordan River

The believed Baptism site of Jesus, Jordan River.

The guide told us the water from the Jordan River running through this Baptism site had dried up recently. Note that you have to be accompanied by a guide from the visitor centre (included with admission, 12 JD $18) to see this site because the area is considered a military zone. The border between Jordan and Israel-occupied Palestine, the Jordan River, is only a few metres wide in some spots. See the official Bethany beyond the Jordan site on how the Baptism location was identified by archeologists. 

Overall impressions of Jordan

Considering the variety of experiences I had during the short span of one week, I was travelling at a quite a relaxed pace. The highways and roads were well-kept, towns were orderly, most locals spoke at least some English and my entire journey in Jordan was quite smooth.

>> Does Jordan sound like somewhere you’d like to visit? If you’ve been to Jordan, is there anything you’d add to this Jordan must-see list?

I was a guest of the Jordan Tourism Board during a portion of my visit in Jordan. As usual all opinions and photographs are my own.

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  • Kurt W

    Lily…your photos are awesome! Great write up as well. Seeing Biblical history in person has to be quite an experience.

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      Hi Kurt,

      I’m not a religious person and the sites themselves aren’t so thrilling (especially in comparison to Petra or the Dead Sea), but knowing that you’re standing somewhere with so much religious and historical significance was a quite the experience.

      Thanks for stopping by!
      - Lily

  • Pingback: What Happens in Petra When it Rains at Night?

  • http://twitter.com/VCCORG zablon mukuba

    the dead sea is really cool. i went there i had the time of my life

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      Hi Zablon,

      Floating in the Dead Sea is such a special experience, isn’t it? :)

      - Lily

  • Anonymous

    Great list and beautiful photos! I’ve only really thought of Petra and the Dead Sea as things to do in Jordan, so it’s nice to learn about other places too.

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      You’re one up on me – before I started researching Jordan, I only knew about Petra. I didn’t even where the Dead Sea was, aside that it was somewhere in the Middle East region. I love geography lessons :)

      - Lily

  • http://www.baconismagic.ca Ayngelina

    Agree with all of these, the only place I didn’t get to was Bethany.

    I agree with Ammar as I had been to the places he mentioned but you can never see everything!

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list!” - Susan Sontag

      - Lily

  • ammar

    Buy guide books for Jordan from http://www.thejoshop.com

  • ammar

    I am from Jordan, There are still more places to see in Jordan, such as Ajloun, Karak, Irbid (Um Qais) , Eraq al Ameer (West Amman) , Dana reserve ,

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      Hi Ammar, thanks for these recommendations. I’ve heard of Ajloun, Karak and Dana Reserve but didn’t get the chance to go on this trip. I would have really liked to do a hike/camp trip at one of the protected parks if I had a longer visit. Will keep your suggests in mind for next time :)

      Thanks for stopping by!
      - Lily

  • Anonymous

    Before I read this post I was ignorant about options for activities in Jordan. I used to think Jordan was only a basketball term until I read this post. Then like a burning bush, a parting of the red sea, I became aware of the amazing possibilities for adventure travel in Jordan thanks to Lily Leung.

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      Hi Ted,

      Sounds like you really need to get to Jordan ASAP for a visit ;) I highly recommend it, especially if you’re tight on time because it’s a relatively small country but with lots to experience.

      - Lily

  • Inka

    I love Jordan and have visited several times. I’d like to add Jerah, the biggest ancient Roman site outside Italy.

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      Hi Inka, good suggestion! I’ve heard a lot about Jerash from other travellers and have seen some really epic photos as well. Thanks for the reminder, will keep that in mind for next time.

      Thanks for stopping by!
      - Lily

  • http://www.ordinarytraveler.com Christy @ Ordinary Traveler

    I really want to check out Wadi Rum. Great list of favorites!

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      Hi Christy, Wadi Rum is certainly worth visiting, and the camel ride into the sunset was great (actually a camel ride at any time of the day is a fun experience!) Camping overnight was really special too, I can never get enough of a dark sky full of stars :)

      - Lily

  • http://www.quietwanderings.com Cherina | Quiet Wanderings

    Swimming in the red sea, Petra, camel rides…what an amazing week you had! I know so many people who have been to Jordan lately. Wonderful photos too, Lily.

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      Hi Cherina, it does seem like there’s been a lot of people in Jordan lately! And everyone comes back with beautiful photos and great stories to report. Maybe you should go too ;)

      - Lily

  • Anonymous

    Jordan is DEFINITELY high up on my bucket list! :) Do you think the 8 days was enough to get a rough overview of the country? or was that a breakneck pace? I’m hoping for a week there…

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      I was going at a pretty relaxed pace. I had almost 3 full days in Amman (I think 1-2 days would’ve been enough). Plus, the trip to Mount Nebo, Bethany & Madaba is 1 day. So if you have a week, you could see everything I did, and maybe even one more place. It’s a relatively small-sized country. If you like diving/snorkelling consider going to Aqaba (on the Red Sea) too – that’s one spot I didn’t get to. @VisitJordan on Twitter (the Jordan Tourism Board) is really helpful in case you need planning tips later :)

      - Lily

  • http://technosyncratic.com Technosyncratic

    Jordan is definitely high on my list of places I’d like to visit, so this post is great.  It’s been bookmarked!  :)

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      Oh yes, I’d say it’s a country worth visiting if you get the chance. I actually knew very little about Jordan (and the Middle-East in general) before I got there, and have been pleasantly surprised by what there is to do & see. Plus it’s far friendlier and more comfortable than what the North American media has led me to believe.

      - Lily

  • http://stophavingaboringlife.com Rob

     I *LOVED* Jordan and you did a great job of highlighting the experience, hope to go back again one day if in the area to reconnect with my guide an driver, cool guys.

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      My guide and driver were fantastic too – really approachable, funny and knowledgeable. I used to prefer self-guiding, but for harder to reach places or for sights with historical significance, having a guide is great. I loved Jordan too!

      - Lily

  • Anonymous

    Definitely sounds like a place we’d like to visit! Great list of places to visit and things to do here. 

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      Jordan definitely offers a huge variety of experiences. One place I didn’t visit was Aqaba, it’s on the Red Sea and is supposed to have phenomenal diving/snorkelling. Would definitely consider making a visit there if I went back to Jordan.

      - Lily