Kingdom of time: Full travel guide to Jordan

Jordan brings out the adventurer in all who visit it – whether for epic hikes in the mountains, starry wild camping in the desert, immersive history at its UNESCO-listed treasures, or simply a city break with a difference. Here’s how to plan your perfect Jordan escape…

At a glance...

With its Martian landscapes, kaleidoscopic waters, rushing waterfalls and fascinating history, Jordan is a place of true adventure. While the country is synonymous with far-flung expeditions and ancient wonders, it is also remarkably easy to get to, with plentiful direct flights from the UK all year round.

Royal Jordanian and British Airways serve Amman, the capital, while Easyjet flies to Aqaba on the Red Sea coast; both options take around five hours.

Located at the meeting point of Africa, Asia and Europe, present-day Jordan occupies historical hot property: a key location for trade, movement and power over the centuries. As such, it has a wealth of archaeological treasures that few countries could dream of rivalling, with relics of the Roman, Greek, and Ottoman empires – in addition, of course, to its famous Nabataean sites, starring the iconic city of Petra.

As well as the ancient sites, Jordan's nature is not to be missed, with highlights including camping in the Wadi Rum, wildlife watching in the reserves, exploring the colourful underwater world at Aqaba and trekking the epic Jordan trail…

Best for culture seekers


Explore the UNESCO Heritage Sites


Though Petra is Jordan’s most famous World Heritage Site, nothing prepares you for the awe-inspiring scale of its vast Treasury, intricate tombs and 8,000-seat amphitheatre – nor the ambition of the Nabataeans, who hand-carved the city over 2,000 years ago. There are multiple hiking routes around the site, but the Al-Khubtha trail ventures up into the hills opposite the Treasury, for a birds’ eye perspective (and an impressive camera angle) on its ornate façade. On selected evenings, you can explore the ruins by candlelight, with live Bedouin music too.

As-Salt – “The Place of Tolerance and Urban Hospitality”

The newest addition to Jordan’s World Heritage Sites, the city of As-Salt was officially recognised by UNESCO in 2021. In its ‘golden age’ (1860s–1920s), this was a thriving trading post that linked east and west: an economic hub rich in wealth, influence and culture. Its architecture reflects its multi-national influences, blending ​​European Art Nouveau and Neo-Colonial designs with traditional Ottoman styles, while its non-segregated layout allowed Muslims and Christians to mix. Its spirit of hospitality is still alive today.

Wadi Rum

A 74,000-hectare protected area in southern Jordan, Wadi Rum is best known for its mighty sandstone mountains and towering monoliths – all set in an ocean of crimson sand. But hidden within this bombastic landscape lies an even more breathtaking sight: some 45,000 rock carvings and inscriptions, dating back at least 12,000 years. The petroglyphs “trace ​​the evolution of human thought and the early development of the alphabet,” writes UNESCO, which has recognised both the area’s historical and natural significance. The Wadi Rum looks more like Mars than Earth, which explains why it has been the location of so many films including The Martian, Star Wars and Lawrence of Arabia, to name but a few. 

Baptism Site – “Bethany Beyond the Jordan” (Al-Maghtas)

Believed by Christians to be the spot where Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist, Al-Maghtas is steeped in religious history, and is visited by pilgrims from all over the world. The UNESCO-listed area encompasses both Jabal Mar-Elias (Elijah’s Hill) and the churches of Saint John the Baptist – where baptisms still take place today. Regardless of your faith, the Roman chapels, monastery and religious hermit caves are fascinating to explore.

Quseir Amra

Thought to be one of the finest intact examples of early Islamic architecture, Quseir Amra is a desert castle that was commissioned in the 8th century by Walid Ibn Yazid – the ruler of the Umayyad caliphate. Though much of the palace has crumbled, the remaining sections give a tantalising glimpse of Yazid’s decadent lifestyle, with intricate frescoes of hunting and dancing, and one of the region’s oldest surviving remains of a hammam. It’s located around one hour east of Amman.

Um ar-Rasas (Kastrom Mefa'a)

While it originated as an ancient Roman military camp, Um ar-Rasas grew into a town from the fifth century – eventually boasting several ornate churches, which contain exquisite mosaic floors and artworks. Inside the Church of St Stephen, constructed in 758AD, you’ll find mosaics depicting life in the region in extraordinary detail. Meanwhile, the site’s 14-metre high stone tower is the sole remaining relic of the Stylite monks, who meditated in isolation atop purpose-built columns and plinths.

Don’t forget the Jordan Pass

Tailor-made for visitors, the Jordan Pass is the ultimate sightseeing package, giving you access to over 40 of Jordan’s attractions including Petra. The pass allows you to skip the queues for tickets, offers downloadable brochures and information, and even includes the cost of your visa, saving you money. 

Explore the capital

Your Jordan adventure will likely begin in Amman, the capital – but before you hit the road to discover the country’s natural and cultural wonders, take a few days to explore this cosmopolitan, creative city...


Despite being one of the oldest cities in the world (it was originally called Ammoun until its name changed in 1921) Amman is far more contemporary than many visitors expect. While history lovers will enjoy the imposing Citadel and Roman Theatre in Al Madinah, and the several notable palaces (including the 2,000-year-old Qasr al-Abd), this city is future-focused too. In Jabal Amman, you’ll find busy cafés, independent shops and modern art galleries, while Jabal al-Weibdeh has a hipster, creative vibe. For eclectic shopping visit Al Shumaysani as well as the colourful Old Town (al balad).

Overlooking Downtown Amman and the Citadel, the Wild Jordan Centre (owned by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature) offers a locally-sourced and seasonal menu, served on its outdoor terrace. Tuck into eggs shakshuka for breakfast, before walking to the Jordan Museum to peruse its ancient artefacts and archaeological treasures. From here, it’s a10-minute cab ride to the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts (a must for art lovers) and the King Abdullah I Mosque – a beautiful blue-domed building that welcomes worshippers and non-Muslims alike.

Meet the locals

For a unique, authentic interaction with local people – and to support vital cultural and community projects – follow Jordan’s Meaningful Travel Map, which connects visitors with 12 remarkable enterprises. Here are a few to look out for…

1. Iraq Al Amir Women’s Cooperative

As well as selling hand-made ceramics, fabrics and gifts, this women’s cooperative offers cooking classes and paper-making workshops. Choose the former, and you’ll learn how to make local dishes such as magloubet zahra (‘upside-down’ cauliflower) – while the latter reveals how herbs and spices are used to colour artisan paper.

2. Jordan River Foundation: Bani Hamida Women’s Weaving Project

This pioneering weaving project has changed the lives of over 1,650 local women, empowering them with new skills and financial independence. You’ll meet the weavers themselves, with the opportunity to buy carpets, baskets and food directly from the women who made them. It’s located just over an hour’s drive south from Amman.

3. Summaga Café

Golden olive oil, fresh honey, zaatar-infused flatbreads… this community café and shop in Ajloun serves organic produce from family-owned farms across Ajloun, with a menu of home-cooked dishes. For many local women, it also offers their first opportunity of full-time employment. Look out for the soap-making and crochet workshops, too.

4. Beit Khairat Souf

At this small village restaurant, hearty breakfasts and lunches are served in a beautiful tree-shaded garden. Run by a local women’s cooperative, this family home is now a community hub that offers jobs and training for women and young people. The shop sells home-made jams, pickles, olives and more, plus a unique blend of coffee.

Best for adventure seekers


Take on the Jordan Trail

A true expedition, the Jordan Trail stretches between Um Qais in the north and Aqaba in the south – a 675km journey that takes around 40 days to complete. Whether you choose to walk one section or do the entire route, you’ll explore the country at a slower, more connected pace, and witness its landscapes from a whole new perspective...

Section 1: Um Qais – Ajloun

Length: 4 days, 80 km

The Jordan trail can be walked in either direction, but travelling from north to south allows you to acclimatise to the terrain before tackling its more remote sections. This first section will get your legs pumping, as it weaves through the green and fertile hills around Um Qais, taking in old oak forests, pretty lakes and archaeological relics from the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman eras. Join the trail at the hilltop ruins of Gadara, overlooking the Yarmouk River gorge and the Sea of Galilee beyond.

Section 2: Aljoun – As-Salt

Length: 4 days, 62.4km

This section begins near King Talal Dam, the literal lifeblood of countless villages and farms in northern Jordan. While it’s spectacular year-round, in spring (March–May) the hilly landscape is full of wild poppies and irises, with warm temperatures ideal for hiking. You’ll explore the Christian-Muslim settlement of Rmeimeen – whose church spire and mosque minaret sit side-by-side – before heading to Fuheis, the home of Jordan’s first microbrewery. Here you can toast your adventure on a tasting tour.

Section 3: As-Salt – Wadi Zarqa Main

Length: 4 days, 84.4km

After exploring the UNESCO-listed city of As-Salt, you’ll reach the ancient palace of Qasr Al-Abd: one of the country’s most impressive Hellenic remnants, which dates back to the 4th century. Walking on, the lush terrain becomes drier and more remote on this section – and the hills soon yield to a sun-baked plateau. This is a lonely landscape, but the view of the Dead Sea is a constant companion, as are the welcoming Bedouins who live in this region.

Section 4: Three Wadis to Karak

4 days, 75km

Hugging the edge of three wadis (river valleys), the trail delivers yet more epic views – particularly at Wadi Mujib, the ‘Grand Canyon of Jordan’. The vast chasm makes for a memorable wild camping spot, with just a few hardy goats for company. This is a mountainous and rugged section, packed with thigh-burning climbs (and descents), ending at the Crusader castle of Al-Karak – a 12th-century stronghold, whose imposing ruins overlook its namesake settlement.

Section 5: Karak to Dana

4 days, 83.2km

As you leave Karak’s fortifications behind, the valley reveals verdant olive groves and fruit orchards, with the abandoned villages of Shehabieh and Khirbet Ainun standing sentry. In-the-know locals will lead you to secret hot springs, and the wild camping opportunities are plentiful. The trail loops down into the wadis and up to the ridgeline – before finally reaching the restored village of Dana, surrounded by the ​​largest nature reserve in Jordan.

Section 6: Dana to Petra

4 days, 84.5km

While the rose-red city of Petra is certainly an alluring end-point, this is not a section to be rushed. Its epic scenery has earned it the reputation of being one of the world’s finest walks, yet the challenging terrain keeps the crowds at bay. Whether you’re teetering on the rim of a plunging canyon or spotting wild ibex grazing on a mountain plateau, there’ll be nary another soul in sight – so take time to explore, and your arrival in Petra will be all-the sweeter.

Section 7: Petra to Rum

5 days, 90.6km

While this section begins in the mountains, those Herculean peaks soon soften to pure desert wilderness: a land of sculpturesque rock formations in a dusty ‘sea’ of sand, where the night sky glitters with untold constellations. It’s stark, yes, but otherworldly in its beauty – described by Lawrence of Arabia as ‘magnificent, vast, echoing and Godlike’. This is one of the trail’s most remote sections, so you’ll need to arrange supplies and water locally. If you’re travelling independently, consider hiring a guide too.

Section 8: Rum to Red Sea

6 days, 112km

By now, you’ll have experienced Jordan’s most breathtaking scenery – but there’s still a spectacular finale in store. You’ll be humbled by the mighty cliffs of Jebel Rum, and awed by the millennias-old carvings on the tawny rocks – before the trail turns westward for the last leg of your journey. Soon, views of the Gulf of Aqaba come into view, and the path becomes sandy once again, as you descend to the shores of the Red Sea. You’ve certainly earned a dip…

Three more great hikes

1. Wadi Mujib Siq Trail

Splash, scramble and climb your way up the Wadi Mujib riverbed, on this wild hiking route near the Dead Sea. Sandwiched between towering limestone cliffs, the trail crosses walkways, ropes, ladders and deep plunge pools – and ends at a waterfall, one kilometre upstream. For more guided hiking and cycling tours in the Dead Sea region, contact the Al Numeira Environmental Association, a conservation NGO which also offers accommodation, volunteering opportunities and cultural activities.

2. Wadi Dana Trail

While there are multiple hiking trails in the Dana Biosphere Reserve, this one is a moderate-yet-challenging 14km, and leads to the award-winning ​​Feynan Ecolodge – which hosts cooking workshops and authentic Bedouin experiences. The path begins at Dana village, then descends steeply into the red rock canyon: other than a few herds of goats, and perhaps another walker or two, you’ll have this mountainous landscape all to yourself.

3. Shaumari Wildlife Reserve

You don’t need to be a hiker to explore Shaumari Wildlife Reserve (see ‘Go wildlife watching’, below), but the three kilometre circular trail from its visitor centre offers the chance to see Arabian oryx in the near-wild. Though it’s a desert landscape, Shaumari has over 190 plant species and is surprisingly green – particularly in spring. The terrain is easy, and no great fitness stamina is required.

Wildlife watching

With its advanced conservation projects and designated nature reserves, Jordan is a haven for many of the region’s most endangered species – and a treat for wildlife lovers and birdwatchers alike. Thanks to the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN), founded in 1966, successful captive breeding programmes have led to the reintroduction of Arabian oryx, gazelle and ibex back into the wild at locations all over the country. Under the brand name Wild Jordan, the RSCN offers myriad fauna-focused experiences, such as safaris and bike tours at Shaumari Wildlife Reserve, with the chance to see Persian onagers, Arabian gazelles and Houbara bustards in its grassland enclosures.

Out in the Eastern Desert, the marshlands of Azraq Wetland Reserve bustle with migratory birds: over 280 species have been spotted here, including Montagu's harrier, little ringed plover and European honey buzzard. It’s also an oasis for local birds, such as the desert finch, hoopoe lark and Cetti’s warbler. Bike rental and guided walking tours are available, plus traditional meals with a local family. Dana Biosphere Reserve is also a vital area of avian diversity, with 190 species recorded locally – plus breeding sites for very rare birds, such as Syrian serins and sooty falcons.

Diving and snorkelling

At the northernmost tip of the Red Sea, Aqaba is renowned for its diving and snorkelling sites – with a fascinating mix of natural coral reefs, shipwrecks and other man-made curiosities, such as submerged tanks and a helicopter at the Underwater Military Museum. As for wildlife, sea turtles, whale sharks, dolphins and dugongs can be spotted here too, and the water is clear and warm (around 23ºC on average). Whether you’re snorkelling on the surface or qualified to dive deep, there’s plenty to see here – and an abundance of operators offering day trips and courses for all abilities.


If the Siq Trail (see ‘3 more great hikes’ above) has whet your appetite for adventure, try tackling Wadi Mujib’s epic canyoning routes too. On the Malaqi Trail, you’ll hike to the spot where the Hidan and Mujib rivers meet, before abseiling down a 20-metre waterfall; meanwhile, the Al-Hidan trail involves swimming through natural freshwater pools. In every direction, the smooth limestone cliffs loom large, though there’s always a sliver of blue sky overhead. A guide is essential, and the routes are only open in summer (the water is too high in winter), but the flowing water and ample shade keeps things deliciously cool.

Make it happen

Turn your dreams of a visit to Jordan into a reality by heading over to the official Jordan website.