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Amazing Jordan – To Petra and Beyond, A Road Trip

A quick overview on our two week trip to Jordan. The amazing ruins of Petra, the Roman sites, and the Biblical sites all made this trip an amazing one.

We went to Jordan last December for about 10 days, which was plenty since it is such a small country.  We rented a car and drove ourselves all around.  After living Asia, in both South Korea and Turkey, driving in Jordan was quite easy.  All the directional signs are in English and in Arabic, and the roads seemed very well maintained.  Driving in Amman was a little hairy, but no more so than any other big city where we don’t know our way around.

First Impressions of Jordan

We found the Jordanians to be some of the friendliest people that we’ve ever encountered.  Even though our countries are on two sides of the Palestinian-Israeli issue, not one person said anything negative to us.  From our arrival in Amman and all the wonderful things we did there, then all along our road trip, we encountered smiles and helpfulness.

Our Ten Day Itinerary

We picked up our rental in downtown Petra, not at the airport. It’s cheaper that way. In fact, the rental car guy brought the car right to us at our hotel. I love it when that happens.

Amman – Just overnight after we arrived
Dana Reserve – 1 day
Petra – 3 days
Wadi Rum – 1 day
Red Sea – 1 day
Um er-Rasas and Madaba – 1 day
Jerash – 1 day
The castle loop – 1 days
Back to Amman – 1 day

Jordan, one of the best countries to travel to in the Middle East. Go for Petra, leave loving the people and the food!


After reading so many great books about Jordan, we were chomping at the bit to get going and to see The main attraction, Petra. Spoiler Alert! It’s gorgeous.

We spent two days exploring everything. Our favorite times were before 10:30 in the morning and after 3:00 in the afternoon because it seemed that was when the busloads of tourists were not there.

A peek through an arch of one of many castles in Jordan.

I would suggest buying the three day pass to Petra as there is so much to see and do.  The first day we didn’t get too far in because it was in the evening.  The light was gorgeous for taking photos and there weren’t too many people there.  Although trying to get a photo without a tourist in it was still pretty difficult.

One of the best parts of our Petra visit was hiking up to the monastery.  It was a gorgeous walk; the vendors offered to make you cups of tea, and there was a goat herder with his flock at the monastery, so that always makes for great photos.

Other Fantastic Jordan Attractions


Situated a few hours north of Amman, you can easily have a taxi or car and driver from the hotel take you here on a day trip.  The site is a very large Roman area with a colonnaded central area and much more.

A Jordanian city shines in the sun.

The Umayyad Desert Castles

Taking the long road east towards Azraq (180 kms from the Iraqi border) there are a number of desert castles that historians can’t agree what their use was.  Some think they were  royal retreats, others think they are stops along the way (like a caravanserai) and still others believe they are meant to oversee the crops in the area.  At any rate, they are all different.  Again, this is a pretty good day trip out of Amman, and well worth it.

We visted two castles which are within 18 kms of each other, Qusayr Amra and Qasr Kharaneh; both were amazing.  Qusayr Amra is very small, but with well-preserved frescoes decorating much of the walls and ceilings.  It is the main reason the castles are designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites.

The second one, Qasr Karaneh, was very impressive as well, but in an entirely different way.  The building itself, even though undecorated was fascinating.

A lone donkey awaits a rider in Petra.

Azraq Fort

This fortress was built in the community due to its location on an oasis.  Apparently, the site has been occupied since Paleolithic times.  Lawrence of Arabia liked it so much that he made this fortress his headquarters during the Arab Revolt.

Umm al-Rasas

This site is one of the World Heritage Sites, and the big draw were some large mosaics.  We went later in the day, and there were no people there at all.  One of the guards took us around and shared some stories with us.


The site is right on the river, and on the other side the Israelis have built a similar site. The water was brown and the site was very small.


The Greek Orthodox Basilica of St. George located here is very ornate and filled with icons and frescoes as well as the famous Map of the World mosaic.  It’s a short stop, but well worth it.

Mount Nebo

Along with some more mosaics, this offers the view of the Promised Land that Moses reportedly saw coming down the mountain.  It was amazing how high you felt and how much you could see.

The Dead Sea

It was cold…and expensive!  The Jordanians know what they have and they want you to pay dearly to experience it.  I would have paid the outrageous cost if I thought I could have enjoyed it for awhile.  My friends went and they only stayed in the water 15 minutes.  They did say it was a strange feeling, being able to stay afloat as well as they were.  I would definitely go if it were warmer.

Red Sea

We did go to the Red Sea and went snorkeling one warmer afternoon.  The wind wasn’t blowing quite so badly, and when it did pick up, we left.The snorkeling was great!  We saw many, many varieties of fish and were able to enjoy some interesting people watching as well.Again this endeavor is pretty pricey, but it was worth it in my opinion.

A baker making Jordanian flatbread.

Amman Citadel 

In the middle of the city, on top of the hill, lays the citadel.  It has some Roman ruins and is overall a smaller site, but the one real gem is the National Archaeological Museum.  It is small in size, but had exhibits ranging from the Bronze Age.

Amman Roman Theatre

Downhill from the citadel (about a 15 minute walk) is the Roman Theatre, which although small, was well-preserved.

Eating in Amman 

Definitely try the Hashem Restaurant.  They only serve one thing, falafel, hummus and mint tea.  Delicious and cheap.  You sit in the alley and it’s a great place to watch people.  Address:  Al-Amir Mohammed St.

For a great guide, check out the 20 Wonderful Things to do in Amman.

Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.


Tuesday 15th of March 2016

Jordan is a country we'd love to visit one day. Petra especially has been on my list for a long time, I think since I first saw Indian Jones in the Temple of Doom (the worst of the movies as I recall but the setting was stupendous). If we do end up going I'll refer back to this page for all the recommendations. Frank (bbqboy)

Corinne Vail

Wednesday 16th of March 2016

Frank, Well, thanks. And question away!


Monday 8th of June 2015

We are excited to visit Jordan in Nov of this year! We have teamed up with them to show that Jordan is truly a safe place to travel.

Jim Vail

Tuesday 9th of June 2015

You'll love Jordan! And we traveled the length and width of it in our car during some pretty scary times across the border. Never had any problems at all.


Sunday 10th of January 2010

Thanks for encouraging us to go to Jordan! Definitely one of the best trips. The people, the sites (Petra is really magical), and the food were all amazing. I could get used to hummus and mint tea for breakfast every morning...