Why should you go?
From clapping eyes on the sandstone-hewn temples of Petra for the first time, to hunting for ancient petroglyphs in the desert wilderness of Wadi Rum, Jordan is an adventure-lover’s paradise. But it’s not just for adrenaline seekers.
From cooking with local families to getting a taste of nomadic Bedouin life, there are plenty of cultural experiences on offer in Jordan. The country’s top sights are well maintained, and can be visited in less than a week – though you could easily spend a fortnight exploring further afield.
Why is now a great time to visit?
Jordan’s tourism industry has taken a battering in recent years. Visitor numbers to Petra alone halved between 2010 and 2015 and are only creeping back slowly. Go now, and you can enjoy Jordan’s sights without the crowds – sometimes even all to yourself.
If you’re a keen hiker, you can also be one of the first to tackle the Jordan Trail – a spectacular 650km hiking trail that spans the entire country from tip-to-tail – which opened in 2017. Choose a manageable section, or set aside a month to hike its entire length.
Making for a smoother visit, the (from 70JD) launched in 2015. It offers hassle-free prepaid entry to more than 40 sites across the country and waives the standard 40JD tourist visa fee. Don’t forget to purchase the pass in advance of your trip.
Is it safe?
First-time visitors may be surprised to find that Jordan is an incredibly welcoming, easygoing country, and most travellers – including solo women – report feeling safe here. It’s important, of course, to check official travel advice before you go.
Violent attacks are rare in Jordan, though there were a few incidents in 2016, some serious, which saw Jordan beef up security at its borders. It’s always worth checking the for the latest travel advice.
Which sights shouldn’t I miss?
It would be a travesty to leave Jordan without exploring the ancient Nabataean city of Petra (try to catch one of the thrice-weekly night shows), zooming around the soaring sandstone peaks of Wadi Rum in a 4WD, or testing the incredible buoyancy of the Dead Sea. But there are plenty more attractions worth squeezing in beyond this.
Less than 50km north of Amman, Jerash, the largest Roman city in the Middle East, is worth a day trip from the capital. And it can easily be combined with a visit to the nearby 12th-century Ajloun Castle, one of Jordan’s handful of Crusader-era fortresses.
Karak Castle, in Jordan’s central west, is the largest and most popular of the lot – but many say Shoback Castle, perched on a wild, remote knoll 100km south of Karak, is the nation’s most picturesque.
Amman is also worth a day or two of your time. Enjoy sweeping views of the “White City” from the Amman Citadel, which dates back to Neolithic times; marvel at the 2nd-century Roman Theatre (the on-site Folklore Museum was reopened in 2016 after being closed for five years), and check out the excellent Jordan Museum.
Dive trips can be arranged from the Red Sea resort city of Aqaba, too, and there are limitless opportunities for hiking and canyoning in Jordan’s many wadis (valleys).
Note: Jordan has a well-established tourism infrastructure, though it’s worth hiring a car or arranging a private driver to get around if you’re travelling independently. Public transport can be patchy.
Karak castle © Leonid Andronov/Shutterstock