Jordan Travel Guide – Everything You Need to Know

Nestled in the heart of the Middle East, Jordan is a land of extraordinary beauty, rich history, and warm hospitality. From the ancient wonders of Petra to the serene shores of the Dead Sea, Jordan offers a diverse tapestry of experiences for travelers. Its archaeological treasures, vibrant culture, and stunning natural landscapes make it a destination that beckons to adventurers, history enthusiasts, and those seeking both relaxation and adventure. Join us as we embark on a journey through the captivating world of Jordanian tourism, where the past meets the present, and hospitality knows no bounds.

What’s the Best Time to Visit? 📅

The best time to visit Jordan as a tourist largely depends on your preferences and the type of experience you seek. Jordan experiences diverse climates throughout the year, so here are the key seasons to consider:

  1. Spring (March to May): Spring is often considered the best time to visit Jordan. The weather is mild and pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 15°C to 25°C (59°F to 77°F). The landscapes are lush and green, making it an ideal time for exploring historical sites like Petra and hiking in places like Wadi Rum.
  2. Autumn (September to November): Similar to spring, autumn offers comfortable temperatures, making it a great time to visit. The summer heat has subsided, and you can still enjoy outdoor activities without feeling too hot. It’s an excellent season for exploring Jordan’s deserts and nature reserves.
  3. Winter (December to February): Winters in Jordan are relatively mild, except at higher altitudes like Petra, where it can get quite cold. This is a good time for cultural experiences, visiting cities like Amman, and enjoying spa resorts at the Dead Sea. In Aqaba, winters are warmer, making it a suitable beach destination during this season.
  4. Summer (June to August): While summer can be hot in Jordan, it’s still a viable option for tourists, especially if you enjoy warm weather. Coastal areas like Aqaba offer relief from the heat with pleasant sea breezes. However, exploring the desert and historical sites during the peak of summer can be challenging due to high temperatures, often exceeding 35°C (95°F) or more.

To make the most of your visit to Jordan, consider your interests and activities. If you prefer comfortable temperatures and outdoor adventures, spring and autumn are ideal. If you want to take advantage of lower hotel rates, consider visiting in winter, but be prepared for colder evenings. Conversely, if you’re a heat enthusiast or want to enjoy beach activities, summer in Aqaba could be an option. Ultimately, the best time to visit Jordan depends on your personal preferences and the experiences you wish to have.

What’s the Best Way to Get Around? 🚌

Getting around Jordan as a tourist can be quite efficient and relatively easy. The best transportation options depend on your itinerary, budget, and preferences. Here are the main ways to get around Jordan:

  1. Private Car or Rental Car:
  • Renting a car is a convenient option if you want flexibility and plan to explore various destinations in Jordan. Roads are generally well-maintained, and signage is in both Arabic and English. However, be prepared for a mix of driving styles, and always carry an international driving permit if required.
  1. Taxis:
  • Taxis are widely available in cities like Amman and are recognizable by their yellow color. Taxis are metered in Amman, but in other places, you might need to negotiate the fare beforehand. Make sure the meter is used or agree on a price before starting your journey.
  1. Uber and Careem:
  • Uber and Careem are popular ride-sharing apps available in Amman and some other cities. They offer convenience, safety, and transparent pricing. Just ensure you have access to mobile data.
  1. Public Buses:
  • Jordan has a public bus system that connects major cities and towns. While it’s cost-effective, it might not be the most convenient option for tourists, as schedules can be irregular, and buses might be crowded.
  1. Airport Shuttles and Transfers:
  • Many hotels in Jordan offer airport shuttle services for guests. Alternatively, you can book airport transfers in advance to ensure a hassle-free arrival.
  1. Domestic Flights:
  • If you’re traveling long distances, such as from Amman to Aqaba, consider taking a domestic flight. This can save you time and is especially convenient for connecting to beach destinations.
  1. Tourist Buses and Group Tours:
  • For day trips to popular tourist sites like Petra or Wadi Rum, consider joining a guided tour or taking advantage of tourist buses. These options often include transportation, guides, and entrance fees.
  1. Walking and Cycling:
  • In urban areas, especially Amman’s city center, you can explore on foot. Some cities also have cycling lanes and bike-sharing programs.
  1. Camels and Horse-Drawn Carriages:
  • In tourist areas like Petra, you can experience short rides on camels or horse-drawn carriages as a fun and traditional mode of transportation.

When planning your transportation in Jordan, consider factors like the distance between destinations, your comfort level with driving, and the level of adventure you seek. Most importantly, ensure you have the contact information for reliable transportation options and accommodations in case you need assistance during your journey.

What’s the Official Language?

The official language of Jordan is Arabic. While English is widely understood, especially in tourist areas, learning a few basic Arabic phrases can enhance your travel experience and show respect for the local culture. Here are some essential Arabic words and phrases for tourists:

  1. Hello – مرحباً (Marhaba)
  2. Good morning – صباح الخير (Sabah al-khair)
  3. Good evening – مساء الخير (Masa’ al-khair)
  4. Please – من فضلك (Min fadlik)
  5. Thank you – شكراً (Shukran)
  6. Yes – نعم (Na’am)
  7. No – لا (La)
  8. Excuse me – عذراً (A’dharaan)
  9. How much is this? – بكم هذا؟ (Bikam hatha?)
  10. I need help – أحتاج مساعدة (Ahtaj musa’adah)
  11. Where is…? – أين…؟ (Ayna…?)
  12. Bathroom – حمام (Hammam)
  13. Water – ماء (Ma’a)
  14. Food – طعام (Ta’am)
  15. Coffee – قهوة (Qahwa)
  16. Tea – شاي (Shay)
  17. I don’t understand – لا أفهم (La afham)
  18. I’m lost – أنا ضائع (Ana dayi’)
  19. Can you help me? – هل يمكنك مساعدتي؟ (Hal yumkinuk musa’adati?)
  20. Goodbye – وداعاً (Wada’an)

Remember that while these phrases can be helpful, many people in tourist areas in Jordan speak English, so don’t hesitate to use English when needed. The effort to learn a few Arabic phrases is appreciated by locals and can lead to more meaningful interactions during your trip.

Where to Stay? 🏨

Jordan offers a range of accommodation options for tourists, catering to various budgets and preferences. When choosing where to stay in Jordan, consider your itinerary, the type of experience you desire, and your budget. Here are some recommended places to stay in popular tourist destinations:

1. Amman:

  • Luxury: The St. Regis Amman, Four Seasons Hotel Amman
  • Mid-Range: Amman Rotana, Grand Hyatt Amman
  • Budget: Jordan Tower Hotel, Sydney Hotel Amman

2. Petra:

  • Luxury: Movenpick Resort Petra, Petra Marriott Hotel
  • Mid-Range: Petra Guest House Hotel, Petra Moon Hotel
  • Budget: Rocky Mountain Hotel, Valentine Inn

3. Wadi Rum:

  • Luxury: Wadi Rum Luxury Camps, Sun City Camp
  • Mid-Range: Memories Aicha Luxury Camp, Bedouin Meditation Camp
  • Budget: Rahayeb Desert Camp, Wadi Rum Sky Tours and Camp

4. Aqaba:

  • Luxury: Kempinski Hotel Aqaba, InterContinental Aqaba Resort
  • Mid-Range: Movenpick Resort & Residences Aqaba, Marina Plaza Hotel
  • Budget: Dweik Hotel 3, Al Qidra Hotel

5. Dead Sea:

  • Luxury: Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea, Mövenpick Resort & Spa Dead Sea
  • Mid-Range: Holiday Inn Resort Dead Sea, Ramada Resort by Wyndham Dead Sea
  • Budget: Dead Sea Marriott Resort & Spa

6. Madaba:

  • Mid-Range: Madaba Hotel, St. John Hotel
  • Budget: Salome Hotel, Queen Ayola Hotel

7. Jerash:

  • Mid-Range: Olive Branch Hotel, Jerash Palace Hotel
  • Budget: Mariam Hotel, Al Jabal Castle Hotel

8. Dana Biosphere Reserve:

  • Eco-Friendly: Dana Guesthouse, Feynan Ecolodge

9. Ajloun:

  • Mid-Range: Ajloun Cabins, Ajloun Forest Reserve Cabins

In addition to these options, you’ll find a variety of boutique hotels, hostels, and guesthouses throughout Jordan. Keep in mind that prices can vary depending on the season, so it’s a good idea to book your accommodations in advance, especially if you plan to visit during peak tourist months.

When choosing where to stay, consider factors like proximity to your intended destinations, the quality of amenities, and the type of experience you want to have. Jordanian hospitality is renowned, so you’re likely to find warm and welcoming accommodations throughout the country.

What to Eat? 🍽️

Jordanian cuisine offers a delightful array of flavors and dishes that reflect the country’s rich culinary heritage. When visiting Jordan as a tourist, be sure to try these must-try foods:

1. Mansaf:

  • Considered Jordan’s national dish, mansaf is a lavish meal featuring tender lamb cooked in a fermented yogurt sauce and served over a bed of rice. It’s often garnished with almonds and pine nuts and traditionally eaten with the right hand.

2. Falafel:

  • These deep-fried balls or patties made from ground chickpeas or fava beans are a popular street food. Enjoy them in pita bread with tahini sauce, tomatoes, and pickles.

3. Shawarma:

  • Shawarma is thinly sliced, marinated meat (often chicken or beef) cooked on a vertical rotisserie. It’s usually wrapped in flatbread with garlic sauce, vegetables, and tahini.

4. Kebabs:

  • Jordan offers a variety of delicious kebabs, including shish kebabs (marinated and grilled chunks of meat) and kofta (ground meat mixed with spices and herbs).

5. Jordanian Mezze:

  • Mezze is a spread of small, flavorful dishes that include items like hummus (chickpea dip), baba ghanoush (eggplant dip), tabbouleh (parsley salad), and fattoush (a salad with toasted pita bread).

6. Maqluba:

  • This traditional Jordanian dish features rice, meat (usually lamb or chicken), and vegetables cooked together in a pot. When served, it’s flipped upside down to create a layered masterpiece.

7. Jordanian Salads:

  • Try salads like warak enab (stuffed grape leaves), mujaddara (a dish of lentils and rice), and manakish (flatbread topped with za’atar and olive oil).

8. Jordanian Sweets:

  • Indulge in sweets like baklava (layers of filo pastry filled with nuts and sweet syrup), kunafa (a dessert made from thin noodle-like pastry soaked in syrup), and atayef (stuffed pancakes).

9. Bedouin-Style Food:

  • In the deserts of Jordan, you can savor unique dishes like zarb, which involves cooking meat and vegetables in an underground sand pit, creating incredibly tender and flavorful results.

10. Jordanian Tea and Coffee:
– Enjoy a cup of Jordanian sage tea or Arabic coffee (qahwa), often served with cardamom and sugar, as a warm and welcoming gesture.

11. Street Food:
– Don’t miss trying street foods like falafel sandwiches, shawarma wraps, and kunafa from local vendors for a quick and tasty experience.

12. Fresh Fruits:
– Jordan boasts delicious fruits like dates, figs, pomegranates, and citrus fruits. Be sure to taste these seasonal delights.

13. Labneh:
– Labneh is a creamy strained yogurt cheese often served as a dip, spread, or condiment, typically drizzled with olive oil and served with bread.

Jordanian cuisine is known for its use of fresh ingredients, aromatic spices, and warm hospitality. Exploring the local food scene is not only a culinary adventure but also a cultural experience that will leave your taste buds satisfied and your memories enriched.

What to See? 🔍

Jordan is a country steeped in history, culture, and natural beauty, offering a plethora of must-see places for tourists. Here are some of the top destinations and attractions in Jordan:

1. Petra:

  • Petra is undoubtedly Jordan’s most iconic and famous site. Known as the “Rose City,” it’s famous for its rock-cut architecture, most notably the Treasury (Al-Khazneh) and the Monastery (Ad Deir). Petra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and should not be missed.

2. Wadi Rum:

  • Often referred to as the “Valley of the Moon,” Wadi Rum is a surreal desert landscape of towering sandstone mountains and red sand dunes. It’s perfect for hiking, camel trekking, and stargazing in the serene desert.

3. Dead Sea:

  • The Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth and famous for its high salt content, which allows you to effortlessly float on the water’s surface. The mud from the Dead Sea is also renowned for its therapeutic properties.

4. Amman:

  • Jordan’s capital city, Amman, is a blend of ancient history and modernity. Explore the Amman Citadel, the Roman Theater, and the bustling streets of downtown for a taste of Jordanian urban life.

5. Jerash:

  • Jerash is one of the best-preserved Roman cities in the world. Its impressive ruins include a colonnaded street, temples, theaters, and a well-preserved hippodrome.

6. Ajloun Castle:

  • Also known as Qal’at Ar-Rabad, Ajloun Castle is a medieval fortress built by Salah ad-Din (Saladin). It offers breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.

7. Madaba:

  • Madaba is known for its mosaic art, particularly the Madaba Map, a 6th-century map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land made of two million pieces. Visit St. George’s Church to see this remarkable mosaic.

8. Mount Nebo:

  • Mount Nebo is believed to be the place where Moses saw the Promised Land before his death. It offers panoramic views of the Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea, and even Jerusalem on a clear day.

9. Aqaba:

  • Aqaba is Jordan’s only coastal city, offering beautiful beaches, water sports, and vibrant marine life. It’s a great place for diving and snorkeling in the Red Sea.

10. Dana Biosphere Reserve:
– This protected area encompasses diverse ecosystems, including mountains, canyons, and deserts. It’s a fantastic destination for hiking and eco-tourism.

11. Umm Qais:
– Umm Qais, formerly known as Gadara, is a historical site with well-preserved Roman ruins. It offers sweeping views of the Sea of Galilee, the Golan Heights, and the Yarmouk River.

12. Karak Castle:
– The Crusader-era Karak Castle is one of the largest and most impressive in the region. Explore its underground passages, towers, and walls.

Jordan’s wealth of historical and natural wonders offers a diverse range of experiences for travelers. Whether you’re interested in ancient history, adventure, or relaxation, Jordan has something to captivate every visitor.

What to Do? 📸

Jordan offers a wide range of activities and experiences for tourists. Here are some must-do things to make the most of your visit to this beautiful country:

1. Explore Petra:

  • Petra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Spend a day exploring the stunning rock-cut architecture and hiking to iconic sites like the Treasury and the Monastery.

2. Visit Wadi Rum:

  • Explore the breathtaking desert landscape of Wadi Rum on a jeep tour, camel trek, or even a hot air balloon ride. Don’t miss the chance to stargaze in this pristine desert environment.

3. Float in the Dead Sea:

  • Experience the unique buoyancy of the Dead Sea’s hypersaline waters. Cover yourself in therapeutic mud, relax, and enjoy the healing properties of the minerals in the water.

4. Discover Roman Ruins:

  • Jerash boasts some of the best-preserved Roman ruins in the world. Wander through the ancient city, admiring the colonnaded streets, temples, and theaters.

5. Hike in Dana Biosphere Reserve:

  • Explore the diverse landscapes of the Dana Biosphere Reserve on guided hiking trails. Witness the unique flora and fauna while supporting eco-tourism efforts.

6. Taste Jordanian Cuisine:

  • Savor Jordan’s delicious dishes like mansaf, falafel, and mezze. Visit local restaurants and street food vendors to experience the flavors of Jordanian cuisine.

7. Visit Amman’s Historic Sites:

  • Tour the Amman Citadel, the Roman Theater, and the historic neighborhoods of Amman to immerse yourself in the country’s capital city.

8. Go Diving in Aqaba:

  • Aqaba offers world-class diving and snorkeling opportunities in the Red Sea. Explore vibrant coral reefs and a variety of marine life.

9. Experience Bedouin Culture:

  • Spend time with Bedouin communities in Wadi Rum or other desert areas. Learn about their traditions, enjoy traditional meals, and perhaps even sleep in a desert camp.

10. Relax in the Desert:
– Unplug and unwind in the desert. Enjoy the silence, watch a desert sunset, and contemplate the beauty of the vast landscapes.

11. Visit Religious Sites:
– Explore religious sites like Mount Nebo, the Baptism Site at Bethany Beyond the Jordan, and the numerous historical churches and mosques throughout the country.

12. Shop in Local Markets:
– Visit local markets (souks) to shop for traditional handicrafts, spices, textiles, and souvenirs. Don’t forget to haggle for the best deals.

13. Take a Traditional Hammam Bath:
– Experience a traditional Arabic bathhouse (hammam) for relaxation and cleansing. Many hotels and spas offer this service.

14. Trek in Ajloun Forest:
– Hike through the lush forests of Ajloun and enjoy the serene natural surroundings.

15. Enjoy Desert Campfires:
– Spend evenings around a campfire in the desert, listening to Bedouin stories and traditional music under the starlit sky.

Jordan offers a rich tapestry of experiences, from ancient history and natural wonders to cultural immersion and culinary delights. Tailor your trip to include a mix of these activities to create lasting memories of your journey through this enchanting country.

Culture and Safety 🦺

Traveling to Jordan offers a rich cultural experience, but it’s essential to be aware of cultural norms and ensure your safety. Here are some tips for understanding Jordanian culture and staying safe during your visit:

Culture:

  1. Respect Local Customs: Jordan is a predominantly Muslim country, and it’s important to respect Islamic traditions. Dress modestly when visiting religious sites and in public places. For women, this often means covering your shoulders, chest, and knees. Men should avoid wearing shorts in such places.
  2. Greetings: When greeting someone, use the Arabic phrases “Salaam Alaikum” (peace be upon you) and respond with “Wa Alaikum Salaam” (and peace be upon you). A friendly greeting goes a long way in Jordanian culture.
  3. Hospitality: Jordanians are known for their warm hospitality. If invited into someone’s home, it’s customary to bring a small gift, like sweets or pastries. Always remove your shoes before entering someone’s home.
  4. Public Behavior: Public displays of affection should be kept to a minimum, as they are not commonly practiced in Jordan. Public drunkenness is also frowned upon.
  5. Ramadan: If your visit coincides with Ramadan, the holy month of fasting, be respectful of those who are fasting. Avoid eating, drinking, or smoking in public during daylight hours. Many restaurants and cafes will be closed during the day but open for iftar (the evening meal).
  6. Language: Arabic is the official language. While English is widely spoken in tourist areas, learning a few basic Arabic phrases can be appreciated by locals.

Safety:

  1. Travel Advisory: Check your government’s travel advisory for Jordan before your trip. Follow any safety recommendations or warnings.
  2. Local Laws: Familiarize yourself with local laws and regulations. Be aware of laws related to drugs, alcohol, and public behavior.
  3. Political Climate: Jordan is generally stable, but it’s a good idea to stay informed about the political climate during your visit. Protests and demonstrations can occur.
  4. Petty Crime: Jordan is relatively safe, but petty crime like pickpocketing can occur in tourist areas. Keep an eye on your belongings and use a money belt or pouch for valuables.
  5. Health Precautions: Ensure your vaccinations are up to date before traveling to Jordan. Drink bottled water and be cautious with street food to avoid foodborne illnesses.
  6. Travel Insurance: Consider purchasing travel insurance that covers medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and other unforeseen events.
  7. Transportation: Use reputable transportation providers and avoid unlicensed taxis. Negotiate taxi fares in advance or ensure that the meter is used.
  8. Border Areas: Exercise caution near Jordan’s borders with Syria and Iraq, as these areas can be less stable. It’s generally best to stay away from border regions.
  9. Emergency Numbers: Know the emergency numbers in Jordan. The general emergency number is 911.

Overall, Jordan is a welcoming and safe destination for travelers. By respecting local customs and staying informed about safety measures, you can enjoy your visit while having a positive and respectful cultural experience.

Conclusion

As your journey through Jordan comes to a close, you’ll carry with you a trove of unforgettable memories. The ancient wonders of Petra, the otherworldly landscapes of Wadi Rum, the soothing embrace of the Dead Sea, and the warm smiles of Jordan’s people will remain etched in your heart. Jordan offers a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty that leaves an indelible mark on every traveler. So, as you bid farewell to this enchanting land, remember that Jordan’s timeless allure will forever beckon you back to explore its wonders anew.