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The best attractions and things to do in Jordan

Jordan has all the ingredients for a perfect vacation - amazing history in Petra and Jaresh, beautiful nature in Wadi Rum and Aqaba, and plenty of culture in Amman. To help you plan your itinerary here's our list of the best things to do in Jordan.

Swim (float) in the Dead Sea

You can’t visit Jordan without visiting the Dead Sea (well you could, but you shouldn’t!). Lying at 400m below sea level it’s the lowest point on earth and incredibly salty and rich in minerals because of the speed at which it evaporates. Its consistency means it’s not necessarily a relaxing bathing experience; and make sure you watch out for any grazes or water in your eyes. If you decide not to swim you can visit one of the many nearby resorts and enjoy a view of the sea from your private balcony. The spas are overflowing with produce from the salty water so you won’t miss out on the experience of bathing in the Dead Sea! The Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea is right on the water’s edge and has nine outdoor swimming pools and a private beach. Rooms start at around Dh717 per night.

The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth and has a very high salt content

Check availability at The Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea

Marvel at ancient Petra, the Lost City

There are few places in the world that evoke such a sense of history than Petra, the ancient Nabataean city in the south west of Jordan. The intricate architecture was cut into the pink rock as early as the 5th century and small parts of it are in almost pristine condition today. Because of its historical importance it was named one of the New7Wonders of the World in 2007 after a seven-year campaign to find the winners. That alone makes it one of the most incredible things to do in Jordan. You reach the hidden city via the narrow Siq canyon which twists and winds before opening up at the spectacular Treasury. You need a ticket to enter Petra and the price depends on how long you’re staying in Jordan. You’ll need a passport or ID to buy your ticket, and children under 12 go free. An official tour guide from the Petra Development and Tourism Regional Authority costs from 50JD (Dh259) depending how far you go, but it’s a good way to make sure you don’t miss anything. Get more information here.

Petra is one of the most historically important sites in the world

Camp in Wadi Rum

The Wadi Rum national park is a vast 720sqkm area of pink desert which was first inhabited by humans in Nabatean times; you can still see their rock paintings and carvings today. It’s still home to the Zalabia Bedouin who have embraced the changes that tourism has brought and successfully launched various eco-adventure activities. Your first point of call at Wadi Rum should be the visitor’s center where you can hire a driver and 4×4 car, or a camel and guide if you prefer the older way of travel! You can also book to camp in the wadi at a ‘traditional’ Bedouin campsite. Your Wadi Rum checklist should include Burdah Rock Bridge and the Seven Pillars of Wisdom rock formation (and the title of T.E. Lawrence’s account of his time during the Arab Revolt). Remember to dress respectfully when you’re around Bedouin communities and ask permission before taking photographs.

How to get there: You can fly from Amman to Aqaba, which is about an hour’s drive away, or to Petra, which is 1.5 hours away.

Wadi Rum was first inhabited by humans in Nabatean times

Roman Theater, Amman

The Roman Theater in Amman is one of the best things to do in Jordan if you’re interested in learning about the region’s history. It was built in Roman times as an entertainment venue and would have seen many a gladiator enter its court. It’s built into a large hill in Amman and has undergone a slightly unauthentic renovation, meaning it was restored in the late 1950s using non-original materials. However the rest of it is as it was and we defy you to not get a sense of the incredible atmosphere as it would have once been.

Opening hours: The theater is open between 8am and 4pm November through April, and 8am through 6.30pm in other months. It closes at 3.30pm during Ramadan and at 5.30pm in April and May.

Read more: Top 8 attractions and things to do in Amman

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Learn to cook – Jordanian style

This tip crops up a lot in our Middle East destination guides but that’s because the food is genuinely sooo good! Petra Kitchen, near to Wadi Musa in the south, offers classes taught by Jordanian chefs where you’ll learn how to make a delicious three-course meal of soup, hot and cold mezze, and a main. You can take one class or sign up for five nights of classes which include visits to other places such as Petra. All the ingredients are sourced locally – including the olive oil which is cold-pressed from orchards around Ajlun and Mafraq in the north of the country. Even the drinks are made in Jordan’s vineyards. You’ll need to reserve your spot in advance here.

Go diving in Aqaba

The dive scene in Jordan isn’t as established as some other places in the region (Fujairah, Sharm el Sheikh, etc) which means you’re not likely to be put off by a tourist scrum. Probably the most popular place to dive in Jordan is in Aqaba, at the tip of the Red Sea. Most of the hotels there have their own dive centers or will organize a trip for you with an independent dive boat. The Intercontinental Aqaba (where rooms start at around Dh600) and the Doubletree By Hilton Hotel Aqaba (rooms start at around Dh299) are two good options. If you want to book your own trip, check out Dive Aqaba, a popular Red Sea dive company offering dives at 30 sites along the Aqaba Marine Park, including five wreck dives.

Walk through the Roman ruins of Jerash

Located around 50km north of Amman is this incredible Roman city where you can see a huge hippodrome, the Temple of Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch – all very important discoveries in Roman history. The ruins, which date back more than 6,500 years, cover a vast area so we recommend you hire a guide rather than try to navigate your own way around. As well as the hippodrome and Hadrian’s Arch, your guide will likely take you to see the cathedral on Cardo Maximus and the north and south theaters which were both used for performances and council meetings. There’s a small museum on site, The Jerash Archeological Museum, which explains the history of the area. The city is around a 40 minutes drive north of Amman on the opposite side of the highway to modern Jerash.

The Roman city of Jerash, Jordan, dates back more than 6,500 years

Drive from Amman to Madaba

If you drive south out of Amman you’ll be on what’s known as the “Kings Highway”, which passes through some of Jordan’s best and most important ancient sites. The first place you’ll come to is Madaba (which means the City of Mosaics), where the churches hide some incredibly detailed mosaics. One of the most stunning examples is the Madaba Mosaic Map on the floor of the Greek Orthodox Church of St George, in the north west of the city. The Madaba Mosaic Map was originally around 94sqm but only a quarter of it remains now. The Madaba Archeological Museum and the Church of the Virgin and the Apostles also house old mosaics depicting wildlife, exotic beasts and other scenes from mythology. Most of the city’s churches and even some private homes have mosaics inside them so take some time to walk around the city and see what you stumble across.

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*Published June 2017. Prices correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change and/or availability.