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Things to see and do
Carve out some time for Petra
Petra is one of the great wonders of the Middle Eastern world – a city hewn from solid rock. Built during the 5th and 6th centuries BC, Petra is the ruined capital of the Nabatean Arabs. There are many sites to see, including the el Khazneh (The Treasury) monument, the Temple of the Winged Lions and the al-Deir (Monastery).
Find Bedouin culture in Feynan
Far from any roads, hidden away in the harsh Wadi Araba desert, Feynan offers a living link to Jordan’s Bedouin culture. Stay at the award-winning ecolodge here – lit only by candles – for epic stargazing, superb wilderness walks and fascinating encounters with local Bedouin families for coffee and campfire stories.
Admire the amazing remains at the Amman Citadel
Towering over the bustle of downtown Amman, the capital’s Citadel Hill boasts extensive archaeological remains, including an early-Islamic ruler’s palace, Byzantine churches, the Hand of Hercules and the Roman Temple of Hercules. Come here for the history, and the amazing views right across the city.
Wander Wadi Rum on camelback
Step into the magnificent wind-blown desert of Wadi Rum. The wind has shaped the sandstone cliffs into a cyclorama of pillars and rock arches, explorable by jeep, on foot or astride a camel. Alternatively, soar noiselessly above in a hot-air balloon. By night, enjoy a traditional feast in a Bedouin tent then fall asleep under the stars.
Hark back millions of years at Jordan Museum, Amman
Occupying a pristine new building in downtown Amman, the Jordan Museum showcases the very best of Jordan’s archaeological finds, spanning nearly 1.5 million years of human history. Exhibitions are split between three engaging and interactive galleries – Modern Jordan, Living History and the Archaeological and Historical Gallery.
Weave your way to Mukawir
Visit the village of Mukawir and watch the women of the Bani Hamida workshop weave wool into colourful traditional designs. Nearby is Machaerus, the hilltop fortress of Herod Antipas, where it is said, Salome danced for the head of John the Baptist.
Make time for the mosaics at Umm Ar Rasas
Even if you’ve seen enough mosaics to last a lifetime, spare time for one more: the magnificent mosaic floors of the excavated church of St Stephen in Um er Rasas are the largest in Jordan and deserving of their UNESCO World Heritage Site status for the fine detailing and perfect preservation.
Navigate the King's Highway
Drive along the historic King’s Highway, mentioned in the Old Testament the route follows a line of hilltops the length of Jordan. Call in at Madaba, famed for its superb Byzantine mosaic art, including a stunning mosaic map of the Holy Land and make the detour to Mount Nebo, from where Moses looked over the Promised Land before he died.
Take a tour of the Desert Castles
East of Amman, tour a group of early-Islamic hunting lodges and trading posts known as the Desert Castles, built by the Umayyad dynasty based in Damascus. The best known include Kharanah and the frescoed Amra but visitors shouldn’t miss the expertly restored grandeur of Qasr Hallabat.
Unearth the black gem of the desert
Catch up with more recent history at Qasr al-Azraq castle, Lawrence of Arabia’s headquarters during the Great Arab Revolt of 1917. Then head north towards Mafraq and explore the deserted black basalt city of Um al Jimal, affectionately known as the “black gem of the desert”.
Drive into the desert to visit Qasr Tuba
Hire a guide with a 4-wheel drive vehicle and disappear into the eastern desert. Just when you think you’re on the road to nowhere, you’ll stumble across Qasr al Tuba, the remotest of the Umayyad desert castles, built in AD 743 for Caliph Walid II.
Spot the wildlife at the Azraq Wetlands
Visit one of Jordan’s wildlife reserves, such as the Azraq Wetlands or meander around the lowest nature reserve in the world at Wadi Mujib. Some residents (including hyena, wolf, gazelle, ostrich and oryx) are notoriously elusive but the infectious beauty of each location is easily caught.
Float in the Dead Sea
Bob like a cork in the dense salt water of the Dead Sea. Lying 400m (1320ft) below sea level, and spanning the border between Israel and Jordan, the Dead Sea is a natural wonder. After, drop in at the Dead Sea Panorama museum to learn the sea is living up to its name and shrinking at an alarming rate.
Be mesmerised by multicoloured marine life at Aqaba
Go diving at Aqaba and be wowed by the psychedelic underworld of the Red Sea. After admiring the beauty of the fish in their coral palaces, head back to shore to sample a few marine delicacies in one of the town’s many fish restaurants.
Hike the Dana Nature Reserve
Keep an eye open for ibex (wild mountain goats) on a hike in the Dana Nature Reserve. What you miss upon the rocky outcrops, the enthusiastic park rangers will make up for with their lively evening chats before bedding down in the tranquil setting of an eco-lodge.
Discover Jerash's illustrious past
Catch the spirit of ancient Rome in a trip to Jerash, a magnificently preserved Roman city north of Amman. With columns, temples, colonnaded streets, grand theatres and silent churches, the city’s grand past is architecturally apparent and even today the remains endure as a feast for the eyes.
Uncover the Crusader castle at Karak
Imagine the striking of ancient hooves on cobbles at Karak Castle, a mighty Crusader fortress amid the southern hills. Aim, too, for nearby Shobak Castle, once the Crusaders’ headquarters in Jordan. If you listen extra hard, you may catch the whisper of the wind penetrating the underground passageways.
Explore the waters at the Baptism Site
In an isolated location beside the River Jordan, take time to explore the Baptism Site, a network of channels and pools where it is said John the Baptist baptised Jesus Christ. Ancient churches and hermits’ caves attest to the biblical past of this astonishing place.
Spot springtime blooms in Um Qais
Plan a visit to Jordan in April or May when garlands of springtime flowers lace the Roman monuments at Um Qais (Biblical Gadara), perched high above the Sea of Galilee. If you’re lucky, you may happen on a black iris, the national flower of Jordan.