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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.