Jordan Tours and Travel Guide
Jordan Attractions & Landmarks Guide
Jordan is a stable country in the Middle East that enjoys a peaceful border with Israel -- the Israeli resort city of Eilat on the Red Sea is literally within walking distance of the Jordanian city of Aqaba.
Often overlooked due to its geographic location in the tumultuous Middle East region, Jordan is a haven for international travelers. Prevalent cultural experiences, outdoor activities, and world-class hospitality help welcome visitors to Jordan each year, despite regional safety concerns and distorted perceptions of traveling and daily life in Jordan.
If you’re looking to whet your appetite for the Middle East, learn both old and modern history, and come home with once-in-a-lifetime memories from some of the world’s most impressive sights, Jordan is a destination worth exploring.
Why Visit Jordan on a Guided Tour?
Traveling independently or solo has its charms, such as freedom to roam and the flexibility to traverse through a destination at your own pace, but traveling in a group has its own benefits and charm too.
Traveling one a private or small group tour or a large group tour, everything is taken care of allowing you to soak in more of the details of the destination rather than fussing with maps, translation apps, crossed communication due to language differences, and anything and everything else that can go terribly or pleasantly wrong. It is no longer your problem to solve when you are on a group tour.
Traveling is an adventure and what better way to travel than making new friends? It’s a great way to share and make those memories that will stay with you for a lifetime.
It’s safer, especially in areas that are experiencing some economic and political turmoil, to travel in groups with a trusted guide. The guide has your back, spotting safety concerns and divert the group to a safe place.
See a world you otherwise wouldn’t have seen before. The guide can also or provide access to parts of the country or communities where it would be much more challenging to gain entrance being a foreigner.
Jordan Travel Overview
Jordan provides a friendly introduction into Middle Eastern culture with a western bent. The mostly Muslim country bordered by Saudi Arabia in the south and east, Iraq in the northeast, Syria in the north, and Israel and Palestine in the west was once influenced by trading merchants, religious wars, and the Romans who have all left their mark over the millennia.
Recently Jordan, which was at the center of the Nabatean merchants trading route between Damascus and Egypt in the Iron Age during the first centuries B.C., revived the 400-mile stretch, once known as the King’s Highway renamed as the Jordan Trail. The Nabatean’s were a nomadic Arabian tribe that eventually settled in Jordan as well as the Naqab desert and Palestine over a period of time during the sixth century B.C.
They built the famous ancient city Petra – Indiana Jones fans will recognize the “Rose City” immediately. For hikers and history buffs (amateurs to the well-trekked) the trail, which opened in 2016, is the best way to truly get to know the small and often overlooked country in an off-the-beaten-path way. The trail winds and twists its way through many if not all of Jordan’s historic sites and natural wonders as well as 52 villages and towns.
See All Hiking Tours in Jordan »
There are, of course, easier ways that take less time than nearly 45-days of hiking (depending on how fast you trek) to get to know Jordanians and the country nearly as rich in biblical history as Israel with the Dead Sea parting the two countries. However, the countries are worlds apart. This can simply be experienced walking between the resort cities that reside within walking distance of each other on the edge of the Red Sea: Aqaba in Jordan and Eilat in Israel.
Close to Aqaba is Wadi Rum (Valley of the Moon), a popular spot for climbing mountains and hiking or camel riding through the desert rock formations. Jordan also borders the Dead Sea and contains numerous biblical sites.
Jordan's top attraction is the ancient rock city of Petra, where temples, treasuries and houses are carved out of sheer rock faces. The UNESCO site is only a few hours' drive away from the resort city, but don’t overlook the journey to Petra in the "siq", translated it means canyon, but its more accurately a gorge, filled with spiritual monuments and carvings along its narrow walls along the pathway to the ancient Nabataean city.
Al-Karak, also known as Karak or Kerak, is home Kerak Castle, a Crusader Castle, which is one of three of the region’s largest castles, resides between Petra and Madaba. The castle was built and utilized by Crusaders but later it was used by the Islamic armies of Saladin and even Islamic terrorists in more recent years.
Jordan’s mosaic city Madaba is home to the country’s largest Christian communities. The city is one of Jordan’s most traveler-friendly cities hosting visitors for millennia through the Byzantine, Hellenistic, Islamic, and Roman ears that traveled the King’s Highway, the main trading route that was restored in 2016.
Travelers can relax at the more well-known Dead Sea or escape the crowds at nearby Ma’in Hot Springs where cold and hot springs rush over the rocks in cascading waterfalls into pools above the cliffs of a wadi, translated riverbed, into the Zarqa river.
Other hot springs in Jordan include the Al Hemma hot springs, popular with the Roman dignitaries and vacationers, located north of Umm Qais and about a 45-minute drive from Jerash.
Rich in minerals and salts, the Dead Sea is renowned for its healing properties. It is also a popular destination for Israelis and Jordanians on each side of the border to cool off and simply float, smother themselves in the mineral rich mud, and float again in the salty water. It’s so worth ruining a good pair of water shoes for this once in a lifetime experience.
The youthful capital city of Jordan, Amman, is historic with the magisterial Citadel, mosques, Roman ruins and an active café scene in the city’s center. Further out, the city opens up residential treelined neighborhoods filled with art galleries, shopping, on the western side of the city and where the eastern side of the city is more somber with a more traditional vibe.
The Jordan Valley, translated into Arabic "the Ghor", is known for its rich soil and agriculture. The valley is more than the country’s “food bowl,” it also bursts with pride of its wealth of pristine excavated and unexcavated archeological sites in Pella and Umm Qais, where the Jordan Trail begins.
Above the Jordan Valley are the ancient cities of Jerash and Pella. One of the world’s best-preserved Roman ruins outside of Rome is in the Greco-Roman city of Jerash. The city ruins boast of theaters, coliseums, temples, and monuments. An hour away across the Jordan Valley, Pella has been cited as an archeological jewel with its more than 6,000 years of continuous settlement in the city unearthed in its mounds.
Cities in Jordan
Jordan has several cities of importance, but it’s capital Amman, which is the country’s largest city, and the port city of Aqaba, are the two that serve as entry points or places of rest between the wealth of historical sites the country offers for visitors to explore.
Jordan’s capital city was erected around ancient Roman ruins merging a modern city with its past. Residing on a hilly edge between the Jordan Valley and the desert, Amman enacts a balancing act between its roots deeply seeded in both Europe and the Middle East. The western side of the city is modern lined with homes, art galleries, and cafes and bars shaded by leafy trees. The grittier eastern side of the city is more conservative.
Usually the launching point to the sites of Jordan, most notably Petra, it’s worth spending some time in Amman to see its own sites, such as the Citadel, and particular insight to the Middle East in a western-friendly way it has to offer visitors.
The resort town on the Gulf of Aqaba from the Red Sea is a popular getaway. Aside from the Dead Sea, it offers pristine beaches, incredible snorkeling and diving, culinary delights, and of course easy access to the country’s most treasured sites.
Underwater explorers will indulge themselves of the best the warm waters of the Red Sea have to offer from spectacular coral reefs, including Picasso’s Reef, an underwater mountain off of Pharaoh’s Island, and shipwrecks.
The beaches, private and public, offer sand dwellers and sunbathers ample opportunity to enjoy the sun and water. Two of the best places are where the locals go, the free public beach Palm Beach, also known as Al-Hafayer, and the private beach club, Berenice Beach Club, where you can enjoy the pristine waters, pools, water sports and basically all of the luxury comforts.
Traveling merchants and tradesmen ended their journey in southern Jordan at the port city of Aqaba at the end of the historic trading route, the Jordan Trail. Chefs were introduced to Asian, European, and Middle Eastern ingredients.
Experimenting with the international flavors and ideas they infused traditional Bedouin cuisine with new spices, fruits, vegetables, fish, and meats creating mouthwatering dishes that entice foodies the world over. The best examples can be found in the Old Town Aqaba.
The city is also a favorite entry point to the red desert, Wadi Rum, and the ancient Nabatean city of Petra, also known as the “Rose City.” The sites are nearby as well as historic Arab ruins ready to be explored within the city.
Exploring two cities and countries by foot at once. Aqaba and its Israeli counterpart Eilat are literally steps away from each other.
3. Umm Qais
At the head of the new Jordan Trail in the northern part of the country, Umm Qais offers visitors stunning sweeping views of Jordan, Israel, Palestine and Syria from its perch on top of the Jordan Valley. The area encompasses the Golan Heights, Mount Hermon and the Sea of Galilee. On the edge of Umm Qais, resides the unexcavated ruins of one of the Roman-era Decapolis cities, Gadara, next to an abandoned Ottoman village providing visitors with an awe striking juxtaposition of history and eras long past in the once tumultuous land.
The site boasts of many interesting architectural and archaeological treasures to behold from Roman tombs to the West Theater, but one of the most striking remains is the Basilica Terrace. The terrace is carved directly into bedrock on one side. Shops below it, support it on the other side.
Exploring further, visitors discover the terrace’s main feature, a fifth or sixth century square Byzantine church with its entrance and outer circular passageway still paved with colored geometric titles leading to an alter in the central octagon.
Just beyond the altar in the atrium, is Gadara’s main street that gives way to the breathtaking view of the Jordan Valley, the Sea of Galilee, the Yarmouk Gorge, and the Golan Heights. The view is worth the long side-trip to get to Umm Qais.
Jerash, which has been inhabited since the Bronze Age, is most notably known for being the site of the most intact Greco-Roman city, Gerasa, outside of Rome. The ancient Hellenistic city’s ruins are located just outside of the northern city that is more than 2,000 years old.
The site takes visitors back to around the first and second centuries when the Roman city was constructed as they wander through Hadrian's Arch, constructed in 129 A.D.; the Corinthian columns of the Temple of Artemis, and the Forum’s oval colonnade to Roman times. The living excavated site displays artifacts found at the Jerash Archaeological Museum.
The “City of Mosaics,” is known for its mid-6th century mosaic map of the Holy Land in the Church of St. George preserved in the Madaba Archaeological Park. The oldest known map of the time was created with more than a million pieces of colored stones along with five other churches and sites in the area resides in the ancient town southwest from Amman that was also along the trade route.
Just to the northwest of Madaba is the biblical hill of Mount Nebo that overlooks the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea. Archeologists and history lovers will enjoy the wealth of artifacts dating back to Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic eras.
Monumental battles between the Crusaders and the Islamic Armies of Saladin, the first sultan of Egypt and Syria, happened in Karak, locally known as Al-Karak. Saldain eventually won the battle reclaiming the land for Islam. The fortified Kerak Castle built in the 12th century is the most intact Crusader castle in Jordan.
The castle and fortress town along the King’s Highway, the main trade route, played a central role during the Crusades and is filled with passageways, dungeons, kitchens and a chapel that encompass seven levels.
Each one of these cities features modern amenities alongside its historic past offering visitors locally operated accommodations, restaurants, museums, and other amenities.
Top Tips For Visiting Petra
There are some key things you can do to enhance your experience of visiting Jordan’s top attraction the ancient Nabataean city, Petra.
Can you really get to know one of the Seven Wonders of the World in a single day? To really understand or scratch the surface of Petra (archaeologists have only uncovered 15% of the ancient city, 85% of it remains a mystery waiting to be unearthed) it’s suggested to spend two or three days to really let it sink in.
Check to see if your hotel in Wadi Musa offers a free roundtrip shuttle to Petra, taxi or rent a car.
Stay with a Bedouin family for a local experience and support the community.
Hire a Bedouin guide. Who else knows the caves and land better than a Bedouin whose family has resided in the area for generations if not for millennia?
Bargain like a Bedouin when buying their handcrafted scarves, jewelry, and other souvenirs. You will be supporting the people.
To get a full experience of Petra, it’s not only about getting to the famous façade. Take your time during the journey to the ancient Nabataean city. The winding pathways through the siq, translated means canyon, but it’s more accurately a gorge, is filled with spiritual monuments placed on rocks jutting out creating natural shelves and carvings along its narrow walls along the way to the ancient Nabataean city.
Plan to walk a lot. Wear comfortable shoes. Enter from the main gate, but rather than return the same way you came fighting the flow of tourists, exit on a less traveled path that continues forward away from Petra toward the Bedouin village Uum Sayhoun, where the Jordan government resettled the Bedouins who still lived in the Petra caves up until the late 1990s more than a decade after it was designated a UNESCO site.
Dare to explore Little Petra, but you will need a guide for this adventure.
Explore Petra at night when its lit up by the glow of the candlelight. It will provide a whole other experience of Petra.
Jordan Culture - Hospitality & Greetings
Jordanians, especially Bedouins, are warm and welcoming embracing guests inviting them into their homes and to join them for meals, especially for dinner.
Declining invitations, it’s alright to decline an invitation by someone. Simply place your right hand over year heart, smile, and repeatedly express your regret for having another engagement. Take a moment to chat candidly with them rather than rush off. If you rush off, you will be perceived as being rude. If you stay and chat and continue politely decline the invitation several times as a cultural custom and politeness.
When accepting an invitation, inform the host of any dietary restrictions or requirements, such as being vegetarian, and don’t show up empty handed. Bring a token of appreciation to your host. Hand it to them when they greet you and invite you inside and don’t bring it up again as is the custom. You can give children gifts, something simple for them like crayons, books, a ball, in front of the family.
Also, when praising the host’s home, be general, don’t eye or point out décor in the home. Custom is for the host to give it to you and for you to accept it or it will be an insult to the family’s honor.
Jordanians greet guests with a traditional offering of coffee (Turkish or Arabic-style), tea, or juice accompanied by sweets or a meal. Most Muslims don’t drink alcohol. Drink immediately, so the host can move the evening forward. If you don’t want another cup, twist your wrist back and forth with the cup in your hand to indicate you don’t want anymore.
During holidays or special occasions, it’s tradition to serve Mansaf, a flat bread of lamb cooked in dried yogurt served on a bed of rice on top of the bread.
Guests and hosts sit around a spread laid out in the center of a room in the afternoon when the biggest meal of the day is served. The women serve the guests, including female guests, and men, and disappear into their sphere of the house or tent. Everyone sits around the food tearing off a piece of bread to scoop up food.
Cultural custom forbids using the left hand to eat, use your right hand to feed yourself. Dining is a practiced dance. Let the host serve you. Don’t reach across for what you want it is considered a faux pas. Maintain an easy pace balancing accepting what the host serves you, slow the process down without stopping as you get full, leave food on your plate so you don’t appear greedy. Once the guest stops eating, everyone stops eating. Consider that the women and children eat the leftovers.
When you are done eating. Thank the host with your right hand over your heart saying, “Thank God,” or better al-hamdulillah (/alˌhamduːlɪˈlɑː/), which translated from Arabic means the same thing.
The second half of the evening happens after everyone washes their hands and adjourn to a lounge. More coffee and tea will be served during the conversing about work and children.
Dodging personal questions about why not more children, or if you don’t have any children, or traveling as an unmarried couple or single woman - there are some things to do to ease the conversation along and take you off of the hot seat: Have photos ready of family members. Unmarried couples might consider wearing inexpensive wedding bands and explain their engaged to be wed. Single women might consider wearing a wedding band to try to avoid prying questions. It also signals respect. Jordanian men don’t enquire about spouses.
Jordan People & Customs
Jordan is a combination of tradition and modernism with Bedouins, Jordanians, and Palestinians inhabiting the small country.
Bedouins, the Arab nomadic tribe that traditionally inhabited what is now known as Jordan. For centuries Bedouins roamed the Middle East, mostly around North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula inhabiting Jordan, Israel, Syria, Iraq and Egypt, traditionally herding camels and other animals. It’s only within the past few decades that Bedouins have begun to adapt to modern times become semi-nomadic settling throughout Jordan and neighboring countries.
One of the rare countries that allows Palestinians citizenship outside of Palestine, the country has seen more Palestinians, who originally resided west of the Jordan river, inhabiting Jordan. Palestinians have brought greater commerce and education to Jordan.
Jordanians are people who have resided west of the Jordan river since 1946 at the end of World War II when the Ottoman Empire was divided up by the British in accordance to the Balfour Declaration.
A Muslim country, it’s rare to see women inhabit the same public space as men. Labor is divided by gender. Women will wear different head coverings from burka, hijab or niqab. Western women aren’t expected to cover their heads as it’s not a part of their personal culture and Jordanians understand that.
Jordanians are also very forgiving if foreigners accidentally break a cultural customs rule. They are also very appreciative of any attempts to follow customs.
Friday is the holy day where the country comes to a crawl in observance of the spiritual day, so plan accordingly. The same in Israel when on Saturday, Shabbat is observed, and most places are closed, and the electricity is shut off from sunrise to sunset.
Food in Jordan
Jordanians typically don’t drink being Muslim, however, they do favor their Turkish or Arabian-style coffee, tea or juice and will happily offer you to sit and join them in a cup at a shop, cafe or at their home.
Situated at an apex of continents Asia, Europe and the Middle East, Jordan’s enjoy internationally influenced fare along with traditional Bedouin cuisine. Expect to enjoy Middle Eastern cuisine such as falafels stuffed into shells of pita bread, maqluba, mansaf, zaarb, shawarmas, fattet hummus, roasted nuts and kunafa.
Not your average hummus, fattet hummus is creamy and rich with the usual blend but pita is added to the mix and its topped off with rich olive oil.
The Middle East’s burritos, shawarmas are pockets of pita bread stuffed with a choice of lamb, beef, or chicken and topped off with a variety of ingredients from raw onions to tangy sumac.
Barbeque Middle Eastern style, zaarb, is a marinated meat baked with vegetables in a sand covered coal pit. The slow baked meat and vegetables is unearthed ready to be rolled into flavorful balls with your right hand (custom is to feed yourself with your right and not your left hand) and popped into your mouth.
A classic comfort food harking back to medieval Baghdad, maqluba is a chicken stew with rice, potatoes and vegetables slowly simmered over a long period of time on the low fire until its ready to be made into flavorful cakes filled with chunks of the meat and vegetables.
The most prized dish served is mansaf, a flat bread of lamb cooked in dried yogurt served on a bed of rice on top of the bread, on holidays and special occasions. Given that there isn’t much vegetation in the arid desert land, the cuisine is largely animal-based seeped in herbs and spices infusing the meat with flavor and accompanied by rice.
The Jordan Valley is considered the “food bowl” of the country where there might be more vegetables and fruits offered from the fertile soil and in the gulf of Aqaba opening into the Red Sea seafood is served.
Don’t forget dessert with the sticky sweet kunafa, a pastry layered with cheese or cream.
Safety and Security in Jordan
One of the first concerns most travelers have when considering a trip to Jordan is safety and security. Much of the Middle East is under U.S. Department of State travel advisories.
While Jordan is usually a rare exception, deemed a safe destination by the state department, in the region there’s a standard notable police presence and checkpoints throughout Jordan.
Since December 2018 the U.S. State Department elevated the country’s threat level to “exercise increased caution” to travelers enjoying the once long peaceful Middle Eastern country.
Common Countries Also Visited on Jordan Tours
There are many ways to travel to Jordan. You can focus your entire trip on Jordan or select from a variety of private, small group and group tours that also include the entirety of the Holy Land or focus on key countries, such as Israel .
Tours to Jordan, Israel, and the Palestine Territory
Venture through the Holy Land through Israel and Jordan, on a selection of 5-day to 26-day trips, that takes travelers through the cradle of civilization and the birthplace of three of the world’s major religions Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
Go back to biblical times with the rise of religious beliefs and their evolution through modern day. Explore cities carved into the walls of gorges and canyons to ancient cities some thriving and others archeological relics of the past and life in the arid desert then and now from Cairo to Amman to the West Bank to Jerusalem to Tel Aviv-Yafo.
Tours to Jordan, Israel, and Egypt
Return to the time of Pharaohs and Sultans traveling through Egypt, Jordan, and Israel on a selection of 7- to 22-day guided tours. Many of these trips begin exploring the pyramids of Egypt in Cairo. The groups then journey to Jordan exploring Petra, the mosaic map of the Holy Land at the Church of Saint George in Masada and other sites before crossing over to the other side of the Dead Sea into Israel.
In Israel, these travelers explore the Holy Land in the old city of Jerusalem, which is a living archaeological site, and the cosmopolitan city of Tel Aviv-Jaffa. Some tours traverse into the West Bank in the Palestinian Territory to Bethlehem.
Tours to Jordan and Egypt
Journey through the land of Pharaohs and the Valley of Kings to the land of Nabataeans, Byzantines, Franks and Sultans on a choice of 19- to 26-day guided tours of Jordan and Egypt. Explore Pyramids of the bygone Pharaohs and civilizations into antiquity to the ruins of the Roman and Ottoman empires to Jordan’s partially and unexcavated living archeological sites.
Tours to Jordan and Oman
This Middle Eastern adventure thorough Jordan and Oman takes travelers on a journey through Jordan and the other side of Saudi Arabia to Oman on a selection of 14- or 22-day guided tours. Some itineraries include Egypt. In Oman, travelers will visit the sites starting with the ancient city of Muscat before 4-Wheeling across the desert and into the Jebel Akhdar Mountains.
Here adventurers will explore the forts of Nakhal, Al Hazm, Nizwa Fort and the Jabrin Fort and sleep in luxury tents in the desert before journeying to Jordan. In Jordan the adventure takes visitors to Petra, Masada, and the country’s capital city Amman. Throughout the trip experience the hospitality of the Jordanian and the Omani people.
Something For Every Kind of Traveler
Whether you hope to sample the best of all Jordanian tourist activities or have a particular kind of travel you enjoy – Jordan has something for everyone. Adventure travelers will enjoy hiking, camping, and cycling throughout the country; luxury travelers will appreciate the resorts along the Dead Sea and world-class shopping in Aqaba; history fans will admire the ruins spread throughout the country; and foodies or wine lovers can sample some of Jordan’s excellent traditional dishes and vintages. If you can’t find at least one thing you enjoy while traveling in Jordan, you simply haven’t done enough.
All Jordan tours, river cruises, expedition cruises, and adventure trips. Find the best guided trips and expert planned vacation and holiday packages. Average rating of 4.8 for all Jordan trips.