When I first decided to visit Jordan, my knowledge of the country’s attraction begins and ends with Petra. In my mind, it’s basically the Angkor of Middle East. As it turns out, Jordan has so much more to offer than ancient ruins.
Using my real itinerary from 6 days in Jordan, here’s how you can cover the key highlights. I will comment on each destination and assign them a rating of 1-3 hearts (the more hearts, the more I love them).
Day 1 (Amman-Desert Castles-Jerash-Amman)
I arrived in Amman at 3am in the midnight.
In the morning, the excursion started with a visit to three desert castles. Close to the border with Saudi Arabia is Al Kharanah (♥), pretty well-preserved considering the harsh environment it’s located in.
Amra Castle (♥♥) is my favorite of the three. While only the remnants remain, the structure is uniquely-shaped and it has interesting frescoes inside. You might need to get a guide as the castle was locked from the outside when I first arrived. Thankfully I saw a guide later who unlocked it for me.
Al Azraq (♥) is the largest of the three, though it’s the least preserved one. Lots of black basalt ruins, but I surprisingly liked it more than Al Kharanah.
My driver drove me through his hometown in Zarqa, and along the way, we saw quite a bit of Syrian refugee camps. We also saw mini-sandstorm and I feel super-excited when I saw a desert mirage for the first time. It looked almost like a huge ocean coast on the other side!
Finally, we reached Jerash (♥♥), a huge Roman site which took me 2 hours to explore. To be honest, it looked just like any other Roman ruins, but it does have a beautiful Oval Plaza, especially when seen from the top of Zeus Temple.
Day 2 (Amman-Wadi Mujib-Dead Sea)
Canyoning at Wadi Mujib (♥♥♥) is just lovely. The whole path is covered with a small river, gradually from ankle-deep to knee-deep before climbing up a few small waterfalls. You can also slide down the river at the end, which is a fun experience (even though I spoiled my camera because of it).
While on the way to the next destination, I was lucky the weather is good enough for me to see Jericho (the oldest city on Earth) across the Palestinian side.
Dead Sea (♥♥) is slightly overrated. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience floating here, for sure. But the view is so-so and I get bored after an hour. That being said, I enjoyed covering myself in Dead Sea mud and bask in the sun afterwards.
Day 3 (Dead Sea-Petra)
En route through the Dead Sea Highway, I saw salt rocks and beautiful scenery. Jordan’s mountainous landscape greeted me afterwards, and the view from the top down to the valley is spectacular.
I also caught a view of Dana Nature Reserve (really pretty) before arriving at Petra. I visited the surprisingly informative Petra Museum (♥♥) to learn about Nabataean culture—they learned really well how to hide water under the desert so they escaped really well from attackers.
That night, I did a Petra By Night (♥♥♥) experience. I started by walking through the canyon, which has a very mystical feeling at night with the mountainous shadow in the desert as a backdrop. Finally, I arrived at the candle-lit treasury where traditional music is played while tea is served. A must do, but you must time it well because it’s available on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday only!
Day 4 (Petra-Wadi Rum)
Petra (♥♥♥) is obviously a huge highlight. It’s gorgeous. Not because of the ruins, but the beautiful mountains surrounding it. You might need more than 1 full day to get the full Petra experience. I hiked a lot that day and was out of energy by the end.
I started with a horse ride to the entrance (skip it, it feels very persistent and rip-offy to me). The Siq Trail (♥♥) is a gorgeous narrow canyon though Wadi Mujib was better. The path ends at the Treasury (♥♥), where all Petra’s postcard photos are taken from.
From there, I hiked up to the High Place of Sacrifice (♥♥♥), which is a so-so ruin but it’s what comes after that makes the long hike up worth it. Instead of going back down, you continue from the above, passing through spectacular viewpoints of Wadi Farasa down under and many off-the-beaten monasteries along the way (I was like the only tourist there).
Once I go down, I decided to hike up 800 steps to the Monastery (♥♥♥), which is like the Treasury but better! It’s much quieter and set at a more scenic backdrop. You will also see a few signs saying “Best View in Jordan”. I followed two of them, both of which did offer impeccable views. Tiring but rewarding!
Finally, I followed the path back down to the entrance via Silk Tomb (♥♥) and Urn Tomb (♥♥), both of which are pretty but I was “templed out” by then. And then there’s the Theatre (♥), which is honestly just like any other theatre ruins.
At late afternoon, we drove to Wadi Rum with an overnight in a desert caravan camp, which is a unique experience.
Day 5 (Wadi Rum-Aqaba-Amman)
Wadi Rum (♥♥♥) is a masterpiece of nature. It left a strong impression because I’ve never seen such a moon-like, orangey, mountainous, deserty landscape before.
The first stop was a forgettable Lawrence Spring (♥), continued on to a complex sight of Khazali Canyon (♥♥). As I did a 4-hour jeep tour instead of the standard 2-hour, I got to visit Um Frouth Rock Bridge (♥♥♥) and saw Burdah Arch/Rock Bridge (♥♥) from below.
The drive passed through Lawrence’s House (♥) and Sand Dunes (♥), both forgettable, before it ends.
From there, I continued on to Aqaba (♥♥), the view slowly changed from orange mountains to white mountains. At Aqaba, I took a Glass Boat ride and snorkle at the Red Sea. I saw many beautiful corals and a shipwreck! Although to be honest I’ve seen much better at Belitung in Indonesia!
In Aqaba, I also saw Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and the Israeli city of Eilat from the other side. Aqaba is really an interesting port where three countries border.
Day 6 (Amman)
In the morning, I hiked up to Amman Citadel (♥♥), which I expected to be another boring Roman ruin but the view from above towards the beautiful white houses of Amman is worth it! The ruins themselves are surprisingly quite worth exploring too.
Your ticket also entitles you to enter Jordan Archaeological Museum (♥), which is honestly so-so. Finally, I went to the Roman Theatre (♥), which is a pretty standard Roman fare.
Alternative Itinerary: 4 Days Jordan Highlights
Having experienced the key highlights first-hand, here’s how I would recommend you to do things differently if you’re short in time.
Day 1: Visit Amman Citadel and then transfer 3 hours to Wadi Rum desert camp for overnight.
Day 2: Do the four-hour Wadi Rum jeep tour, then transfer to Petra for overnight. Do Petra By Night.
Day 3: Full day exploration of Petra (skip the Silk/Urn Tombs and hike up to either the Monastery or High Place of Sacrifice), transfer 3 hours to Dead Sea for overnight.
Day 4: Spend your morning floating at Dead Sea and transfer to airport for your flight back home.
If you can do 5 days, I highly recommend to spend Day 4 afternoon canyoning at Wadi Mujib, overnight either at Dead Sea or Amman, depending on what time is your flight back home on Day 5.
Wadi Mujib is a strong highlight for me, but I removed it because I can see why hiking through river and mini-waterfalls might not be suitable for everyone. And although Dead Sea fell short of expectation, I still kept it because it’s such an iconic experience and you’ll regret never knowing how it feels like floating there!
Where I Stayed
- Jordan: Hamoudah Hotel
- Dead Sea: Ramada Resort Dead Sea
- Petra: Petra La Maison Hotel
- Wadi Rum: Caravan Camp
What are your favorite Jordan sites? Which one do you want to visit?
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