When I mentioned that I was going to spend two weeks in Jordan, people (the neighboring Israelis in particular) were aghast. What could I possibly do in Jordan for two weeks??
Well, I’d done a little bit of research beforehand and I didn’t foresee a problem finding things to do. Sure enough, despite two weeks of near-constant adventure, I left Jordan with unchecked items still on my ‘to see’ list.
With its array of ancient ruins and natural wonders, Jordan is bound to suck you in!
What follows is a list of places my boyfriend and I visited in Jordan, followed by a couple things we missed. If you know of a hidden Jordanian gem I forgot to include, please let me know in the comments and I’ll add it!
Here’s an example itinerary for what to do in Jordan for two weeks. The only change I might make is to remove a day of exploring Petra and throw in a third day at Wadi Rum. This is a loop itinerary for those who arrive and depart via Amman, but you can make it a one-way trip if you’re traveling overland to or from Egypt or Israel (border crossing info here). For an idea of how much two weeks in Jordan costs, check out my budget post.
Sights and Activities
Amman: It seems that no Middle Eastern capital is the same as another, so I never know what to expect. Amman’s pale buildings, unique topography (like a smaller version of La Paz, Bolivia) and treasure trove of ancient ruins within the city made the sprawling capital city a pleasant surprise.
- Eat: Try the mensaf at Al Qud (“Jerusalem Restaurant”). Across the road from the Roman amphitheater is a bakery that dishes out fresh kanafeh, a sweet cheese pastry, all day long; grab a slice and eat it in the restaurant while it’s still hot. Hashem is a cheap place around the corner from Al Qud with fast and delicious falafel and mint tea.
- Do: Climb to the top of the amphitheater and marvel at its modern surroundings ($1). Then walk up the stairs to the Citadel, an archaeological park perched high above the city ($1). It’s well signed and beautiful, and you can easily spend a couple hours exploring. Definitely take a daytrip to Jerash (see below).
Jerash: These expansive Roman ruins are just a couple hours north of Amman (admission $11). The ancient city includes two amphitheaters, a hippodrome, a unique circular plaza ringed with pillars, and amazing water structures like aqueducts and fountains (all dry now, of course). The place is very well signed. You’ll want to spend several hours here, so definitely bring food and water as there’s only one restaurant within the grounds and it’s stupidly expensive. Take the bus from Amman, and be sure to get off as soon as you see the ruins out the bus windows to the left, otherwise you’ll have to walk back to the main gate.
Madaba: If you’re flying in and out of Jordan, I’d recommend Madaba as either the first or last city you visit rather than going to Amman twice. It’s actually closer to the airport than Amman, but you’re limited to taxis for transportation whereas Amman has frequent airport buses. Madaba is a small city surrounded by endless things to do (including the three sites described below). One day to explore the city, and one day to explore the surroundings is probably enough, but you could easily stretch it to three days depending on your interests (there are also half a dozen important religious sites in the area that we did not visit). Don’t miss the world famous Mosaic Map, created in ~550 AD. It’s on the floor of a church in town ($1) and is a remarkable piece of historical art.
The following three places are within a single daytrip from Madaba if you hire a car.
Dead Sea: The Dead Sea is a must-see, but I’m sure you already knew that. We hired a private car and driver through the Queen Ayola Private Home Experience, and instead of taking us to the clean but expensive Amman Beach ($28), he took us down the road a little ways to where a man with a couple shacks had set up shop on the roadside. He let us access the beach below his shops for free, and then charged us a reasonable $7 each to use his clean, private shower (and believe me, you will need a shower). I assume all local drivers will have connections like this if you want to skip the expensive beach. Bonus: we had the place all to ourselves. Oh, be sure to visit the Dead Sea Panorama on the cliffs above the sea. It sounded cheesy, but the views were unbelievable, and the museum inside is really very well done.
Hammamat Ma’in: On the same day that we visited the Dead Sea and the Panorama, our driver took us down into a steep-sided valley to soak in the hot springs at Hammamat Ma’in. It’s actually a fancy resort-spa kind of place (Evason Resort), but regular day visitors can access the natural springs, too. A stay at the resort costs $140, a day pass arranged through the resort costs $45, or just showing up at the main gate and asking for admission costs $20. Of course, we did the latter. The bathrooms and changing rooms were spotless, there were refreshments available, and, of course, the hot springs were amazing. They gush from the canyon wall like a river. There are numerous pools to soak in, and even a small cave behind the waterfall that acts as a natural sauna. Most women wore modest one-piece bathing suits, but I and a couple other women were in bikinis and it seemed perfectly acceptable.
Machaerus/Mukawir: On the plateaus high above Hammamat Ma’in is another ancient ruin ($1). Referred to as Machaerus in the Bible, or Mukawir in Arabic, this is the site of Herod’s ancient fortress overlooking the Dead Sea. On a clear day you can see all the way to Jerusalem. The ruins are unremarkable, but it’s historically and scenically fascinating, and you’re likely to have the place to yourself. Getting there on public transportation is a pain, so I recommend adding it to your daytrip to the Dead Sea and Hamamat Ma’in.
Petra: So you’re obviously going to Petra, right? It’s why most people visit Jordan to begin with. And while there’s so much more to Jordan than just Petra, there’s no way you can miss this amazing place. First, a heads up—it’s expensive. Tickets are $71 for one day, $78 for two days, and $85 for three days. Bonus: the three day pass includes a free fourth day, so if you’re unlucky and are forced to spend a day indoors while a winter storm blows through, that extra day can come in handy (yes, I’m speaking from experience). Also worth noting is that if you’re visiting as a daytrip from Israel or Egypt without spending the night in Jordan, the ticket will cost $127 for just one day!
As it is, we spent three very full days exploring Petra and did not get bored. There’s so much more to this place than just the Treasury and the Wall of Facades. There are numerous trails that will take you up and away from the main drag to such amazing places as the Monastery and the Place of High Sacrifice. Go, explore, bring food and water and sunscreen, and by all means, do not limit yourself to one measly day here.
Wadi Rum: This is another must-do in Jordan. Wadi Rum is an amazing chunk of desert southwest of Petra. The best way to explore Wadi Rum is spending several days and nights in the desert with the Bedouin tour operators who run the place. We found a trip through the company Rum Stars (can’t recommend them enough) that included a day of camel riding followed by a day of Jeep touring, interspersed with several hikes and a dozen points of interest, with two nights spent in an amazing permanent camp. I’ll never forget that trip.
Things we missed
We were supposed to also see the following sites, but we were pinned down by Winter Storm Huda for four days! Seeing snow at Petra was amazing, but it didn’t help our itinerary any. Here’s what we missed.
Karak Castle and Qatrana Fortress: Both of these sites are accessible from the Desert Highway as you travel between Amman and Petra. Most private car hires include a stop at both places. The Qatrana Fort (free) was built in 1531 to protect pilgrims. It seems to be small but historically interesting. Karak Castle ($1) was built in 1142. The castle looks to be an impressive piece of architecture with tunnels, vaults, corridors, battlements and rooms.
Dana Nature Reserve: I was really bummed to miss this place. Dana is a small village of hotels and restaurants that provides access to what looks like a beautiful natural area. It’s hard to figure out where to stay and how much things cost based on their website, but from what I heard from other travelers there’s inexpensive accommodation in the village, plenty of trails to hike (though most require a guide), and chances of seeing some cool wildlife. The restaurants are unavoidably overpriced, so bring your own food for snacks and lunches to help cut costs. I was hoping to do the big one-way trek up from Feinan Lodge by the Dead Sea to the Dana Village. Next time!
So there you have it, a way to easily spend two weeks exploring Jordan without a moment of boredom! Thanks for reading, and if you like what you read here, please share this post with your friends and followers!