Introduction

The historical artifacts and geological sites contained within Jordan alone are worthy of putting this destination to the top of any travel bucket list.  In fact, I have included this country on my list top 10 countries to visit.

Jordan has a long history that dates back to the paleolithic period and was under the control of several empires such as the Ancient Egyptian, Assyrian, Greek, Roman, and Ottoman empires.  You would be hard pressed to come up with another country with such diverse and unique historical monuments all within a few hours drive of each other.

During my trip, I had four full days to tour Jordan and was able to visit the following sites.  While I was able to cram all these destinations in four days, I wish I had more time at each of these locations to thoroughly enjoy what they had to offer.

  • Jerash: One of the most intact Roman cities with large structures over 2,000 years old
  • Amman’s Roman Theatre: 6,000-seat Roman Theatre built in 161
  • Amman Citadel: Hilltop in Amman containing the Template of Hercules and Umayyad Palace
  • Mount Nebo: Where Moses was said to have viewed the promised land
  • Kerak Castle: A crusader castle from the year 1142
  • Petra: A complete city carved into mountains established in 4th century BC
  • Wadi Rum: Mars like desert landscape where Lawrence of Arabia and The Martian were filmed
  • Dead Sea: Earth’s lowest elevation on land and deepest hypersaline lake

Colonnaded Street in the Roman city of Jerash

Getting There

If you are coming from the US, Royal Jordanian offers direct flights to Amman from JFK, Newark, Chicago, and Detroit aboard the Boeing 787.

If you are coming from Europe, you are in luck.  Just about every major city has direct flights along with some cities having low cost carriers like Ryan Air.  Lowest cost flight I have seen was $12 from Krakow.

Direct flights to Amman along with prices

Places to Stay

For those looking to book hotel stays using points, there are plenty of hotel chains available within Jordan.  Amman has hotels bookable using points from Hyatt, Wyndham, Marriott, IHG, and Choice hotel programs.   Several dead sea resorts can also be booked using Marriott, IHG, or Hilton points.

Dead Sea Marriott Resort & Spa

Tour Booking

Several private group tour operators are available along with big group tour operators.  What was not readily available was small group tours for those that prefer to save money but not be in a big bus full of people.  Compared to private tour prices in Morocco, the cost of tours in Jordan was much higher.

Another option is just renting a car and touring Jordan yourself.  Roads are well marked and paved with destinations not to far from one another.  However, this will require an additional level of planning prior to the start of the trip.  For those not looking to get into the details of planning a trip, a private tour is the best option.

Scenery While Driving in Jordan

Day 1: Jerash

Located 30mi north of Amman, the city of Jerash contains one of the most intact Greco-Roman settlements in the world.  Walking throughout the site, its easy to imagine what the area looked like in its heyday.  The main colonnaded street still has drainage systems visible with manhole covers made of stone.

Compared to Rome, where ancient buildings are mixed with modern buildings, this area is filled with structures mostly 2,000 years old.  The highlights of Jerash are the oval forum, theaters, colonnaded street, nymphaeum, and hippodrome.

Arch of Hadrian

Oval Forum and Cardo Maximus

Nymphaeum

North Theater

Colonnaded Street

Roman manhole over for sewage system

Entrance to Theater

Temple of Artemis

Day 2: Amman, Mount Nebo, Kerak Castle

Before heading south to visit Mount Nebo and Kerak Castle, several Roman archeological sites were visited in Amman such as the Roman Theater and Citadel.  Out of all my travels, never have I visited so many archeological sites spanning thousands of years in just one day of touring.

Amman Roman Theater

The Roman theater was build in the year 161 and can seat 6,000 people.  Facing north, the theater was built into a steep hillside to keep the sun out of spectators eyes.  Also, nearby is the Jordan Folklore Museum and Jordan Museum of Popular Tradition.

Amman’s Roman Theater

Amman Citadel

Located atop one of the seven hills of Amman, the Citadel is considered one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the world.  The area has been occupied by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, and Muslims.   As a result, structures from the Roman, Byzantine, and Umayyad time periods can be found at this site.  Major buildings on the site include the Temple of Hercules, a Byzantine church, and the Umayyad Palace.

Amman

Umayyad Palace

Amman Archeological Museum

Mount Nebo

Mount Nebo is an elevated ridge in Jordan where Moses was granted a view of the promised land.  Excellent views of the valley below can be seen along with beautiful mosaics at the Basilica of Moses.

Mount Nebo

Serpentine cross sculpture

Madaba Map

Located in the St George Byzantine church, the Madaba Map is a mosaic that contains the oldest surviving original cartographic depiction of the Holy Land, dating from the year 542.

Kerak Castle

One of the largest crusader castles in the Levant, the Kerak castle was built in the year 1142.  Built by the Franks, the architecture is a mixture of west European, Byzantine, and Arab designs while being a prime example of a Spur castle.

Kerak Castle

Kerak Castle

View from Kerak Castle

Day 3: Petra and Wadi Rum

Day three of this journey took place in southern Jordan where the historical city of Petra and Wadi Rum was visited.  Surrounded by deserts and mountains, this region looks a lot like the deserts of Utah.

Petra

Believed to have been settled as early as 9,000 BC, Petra is a historical and archaeological city that should be at the top of any traveler’s bucket list.  Established as the capitol of the Nabataean Kingdom in the year 4,000 BC, Petra is famous for is rock-cut architecture.  Many of the large rock-cut structures date back to the 1st century AD.  Nicknamed the rose city, Petra is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the seven new wonders of the world.

There are many things to see and do in Petra and if time permits, a couple of days in Petra would be time well spent.

The Treasury in Petra

The Treasury in Petra

The Treasury at Night

The Great Temple of Petra

Rock-Cut Structures in Petra

Camels in Petra

Tombs in the southern part of the city

Petra Rock-Cut Structures

Petra Rock-Cut Structures

Obelisk Tomb and the Triclinium

Theater

Ancient Road

Wadi Rum

Cut into sandstone and granite rock, the Wadi Rum valley is a Mars like landscape full of remarkable beauty.  Tourists often come here to admire the landscapes, ride a camel, and camp in one of the various desert camp sites under the stars.   Additionally, there are petroglyphs and Nabatean temple that can be visited.

Exploring the desert, watching the sunset, and spending time at the campsite where traditional food was being prepared was well worth the trip down to Wadi Rum.

Wadi Rum DesertEnjoying the sunset with some camels

View on the way to Wadi Rum

Exploring Wadi Rum in the back of a pickup truck

Wadi Rum sandstone cliffs

Wadi Rum Camp Site

Wadi Rum Camp Site

Wadi Rum Fire

Traditional food being prepared under the ground.

Awesome Delicious Food

Day 4: Dead Sea

The Dead Sea is the deepest hypersaline lake located on the the lowest land elevation in the world.  Almost ten times more salty than the ocean, the salinity makes for a harsh environment in which plants and animals cannot flourish.  Due to the high density of the water, people seem to float like corks in the dead sea.  A trip to one of the several dead sea spa resorts is the perfect way to end an adventurous trip of Jordan.

Additionally, now more than ever is a good time to visit the dead sea since it is rapidly receding and in danger is disappearing from its current form.  The drop rate of the dead sea is about three feet per year due to the diversion of incoming water from the Jordan River to the north.  See it now before its gone.

Dead Sea

Beach at Dead Sea Marriott Resort & Spa

Beach at Dead Sea Marriott Resort & Spa

Conclusion

In conclusion, no country packs in more diverse historical archeological sites spanning thousands of years in such a small area.  The magnificent landscapes, monumental ancient architecture, delicious food, and friendly people makes Jordan one of the best places to visit for sure.  Without a doubt, Jordan should be at the top of any traveler’s bucket list.

Wadi Rum Desert Sunset