Jordan’s Top 21 Places to See
Jordan is an Arab state in the Middle East, adorned with medieval fortresses, churches, mosques and nature reserves.
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Things to do in Jordan
Mighty kingdoms formed on the territory of modern Jordan long before our era and left behind magnificent monuments. Visitors from all over the world come to see well-preserved Roman architecture, deserted fortresses built by the Umayyad Caliphs, and the city of Petra.
This biblically glorified land holds unique historical treasures. After all, this is where the prophet Moses died, lived the famous John the Baptist and Lot, who survived the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In the waters of the Jordan River Jesus Christ was baptized. Travelers and believers flock here to see the sacred Mount Nebo, the birthplace of the prophet Elijah and the cave of Lot.
Tourism is an important part of Jordan’s economy. A popular destination is the capital city of Amman. It has a concentration of government offices, commercial centers, national museums, and archaeological sites of the Roman era. Luxury hotels, night clubs and all types of entertainment facilities are waiting for tourists.
Jerash is no less famous. About 100 years ago a Roman settlement, covered with a layer of sand, was found near the city. The ancient ruins are well preserved and are considered a model of ancient architecture.
Jordan is washed by the waters of the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba. Its hot climate, coral reefs, and clean sandy beaches have turned it into a popular resort.
In the coastal area of the bay are open diving schools, diving centers, equipment rentals, hotels and hotels. It offers tourists well-kept beaches, water attractions, yachts and pleasure boats.
The Dead Sea water is saturated with salt and rare minerals. Its mud stimulates intracellular metabolism, promotes rejuvenation and recovery of the body. The coast of the sea is built up with sanatoriums, clinics, and spas. People come here to breathe healing salty air, take sulphurous baths, make mud wrappings, and other cosmetic procedures.
Petra is the capital of ancient states. It is nestled in the mountain valley of the Arava at an altitude of 900 meters above sea level and is surrounded by cliffs. You can get there through a narrow gorge. The central streets, laid out in the Roman era, are decorated with majestic colonnades, triumphal arches, and ancient temples. Many of the buildings are carved right into the rock.
Till our days are well preserved vaults, mausoleums, residences and palaces. Are considered masterpieces of world architecture Hellenic rock temple El Khazne, Nabatean Ad Deir, water channels, carved in the rocks. During the tour tourists can ride a camel and buy souvenirs.
Ancient Ghadara is easy to find in the north of Jordan. It was once a flourishing city that was home to famous Greek poets: Meleagra, Menippa, Philodema. An earthquake in the 8th century destroyed it, and gradually the ruins were covered with a thick layer of sand.
An international archaeological team has been working on the territory since 2001. During the excavations, fragments of streets, houses, ritual structures were discovered. Of great historical value are the marble Roman columns, an aqueduct stretching for 170 km and protective fortresses.
Ancient Umm el-Jimal is called the pearl of the desert. Byzantine, Roman, and Islamic houses built of black volcanic basalt have been found in the archaeological area. Guests are shown altars to Nabatean gods, Greek temples, early Christian churches, stones inscribed with ancient writings, and granite statues.
The Necropolis, located in the city, was attacked by looters in 2014. Criminals destroyed several tombs in the hope of finding gold and jewelry.
The archaeological complex of Umm al-Rasas is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It includes buildings erected by Roman, Byzantine and Muslim civilizations. The ancient city has long lay in ruins, swallowed up by the desert.
Archaeologists have unearthed several Christian churches, a monastery, water cisterns, quarries and military Roman fortifications. A magnificent mosaic floor has been discovered in the temple of Saint Stephen, showing scenes of city life.
The city of El Karak is spread out around the Crusader Castle. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Jordan. The impregnable fortress stands on a hill. It consists of three massive towers, a chapel, and a castle surrounded by a fence. Tunnels have been dug into the rock beneath the castle – the underground passages are unexplored and padlocked. To demonstrate the depth of the dungeons, tour guides simply throw down a lighted torch or newspaper.
The donjon and the Mamluk palace remain from the time of Muslim rule in El Karak. And in the suburbs is the tomb of the biblical prophet Noah and the mausoleum of King Solomon of Israel.
Madaba is an ancient city mentioned in the Bible. Throughout its existence, it has been destroyed many times by earthquakes and wars, but it has always been rebuilt in its former location.
Early Christian churches with colorful mosaics, ancient Greek temples and villas have been found in and around Madaba. The most striking discovery was made in the Orthodox Church of St. George. On its floor discovered a mosaic map of the Holy Land with a schematic representation of Jerusalem.
At the heart of Amman stands the Fortress Mountain, on which stands a large palace complex built in the early 8th century for the Umayyad caliphs. The massive structure with a broad dome was partially destroyed by an earthquake. Only the arched stone gate, the courtyard and the main hall of the palace with its marble colonnade are well preserved.
The outer walls are decorated with geometric and floral ornaments. Despite the destruction, the castle has preserved its elegance and beauty. Nearby are the Roman temple of Hercules and the Byzantine church.
This Jewish fortress in the Moabite highlands was built by King Alexander of the Hasmonean dynasty. When Herod the Great came to power he rebuilt the palace and made it more fortified for defense. The massive castle withstood many a siege, but went down in history as the prison where the biblical John the Baptist was tortured and executed.
Today what remains of Maheron is a high hill with picturesque ruins. On top there is a hollow that leads to a cave. Legend has it that this is where the preacher was held after his arrest.
In the north-east of Jordan, in the Ajlun mountain area, a Muslim castle of the twelfth century rises. It consists of massive fortress walls, round towers, numerous staircases and water reservoirs. The castle is surrounded by a wide moat and a drawbridge leads to the gates.
From the top of Ajlun, the surrounding countryside and the Dead Sea coast are clearly visible. Fragments of an ancient Christian church were recently discovered on the site. This confirms the conjecture that the fortress was built on the site of a Byzantine monastery.
In the desert in the east of the country you can find a fortress of the VIII century. Once there was a residence of caliph Umayyad including a military fort, watchtowers and baths. Qusayr Amr has been significantly damaged by time – only the outer walls of houses and the Caliph’s palace, decorated with medieval frescoes, are left of its former greatness.
The drawings clearly show animals, people and hunting scenes. These are unique finds, as the Islamic religion forbids depicting such paintings on walls.
In the center of Amman is the largest amphitheater in the Middle East, built by order of the Roman Emperor Antony Pius. The historic monument, with a seating capacity of 6,000, is carved into the rock on the hillside.
Underground tunnels continue from the Fortress Mountain to the amphitheater. They were used by Roman rulers to attend performances without encountering ordinary people. The arena of the theater is still used for cultural events and is an important landmark of the city.
In the west of Jordan stands Mount Nebo, described in the Old Testament. From its summit, God showed Moses the Promised Land, after the prophet had wandered in the desert with the people of Israel for 40 years. The Bible confirms that Moses died on the mountain, but does not indicate where the burial site is. There is a memorial to Moses, a Franciscan church, and a park at the site of his supposed death. Inside the church are floor mosaics transferred from ancient temples.
Guided by a mosaic map of the Holy Land from Madaba, scholars found the cave of Lot, hidden near the town of Safi. It appears that the righteous man and his daughters lived on a mountain near a holy spring. Nearby stands the pillar of salt, into which Lot’s wife turned when she disobeyed the Lord’s order and looked back on Sodom and Gomorrah.
During excavations the ruins of a Byzantine temple were discovered nearby. The preserved mosaic inscriptions on the floor prove that it was dedicated to Lot, the righteous man of God.
The Place of Baptism of Jesus Christ
Due to earthquakes the Jordan River changed its course several times, so that scholars could not locate the exact place where Jesus was baptized. They were able to find it only in 1990, thanks to a map of Palestine from St. George’s Church.
At Bethany, on the east bank of the Jordan, archaeologists dug up a temple on four pillars, which is indirect evidence of Baptism in this place. Nearby are a pond with marble steps and the church of John the Baptist. According to legend, the temple was built where Christ left his clothes before bathing.
Birthplace and Ascension of the Prophet Elijah
Elijah the prophet is believed to have been born on Tel Mar Ilyas hill near the village of al-Ishtib, where scholars have stumbled upon the ruins of 4th- and 5th-century churches. Inscriptions on the walls, lined with mosaics, indicate that in those distant times people believed that the prophet was born and lived here.
Excavations continue on the hill, so the most interesting discoveries are probably yet to come. Elijah ascended to heaven in the desert where John the Baptist lived. An ancient Byzantine monastery was built on this site.
The Mosque of Abdallah I
At the end of the last century in Amman appeared a mosque in honor of King Abdullah I. The architectural complex has two minarets with graceful balconies. The main temple is topped with a wide blue dome. The hall is decorated with crystal chandeliers, columns and Arabic ornaments.
In the mosque there is a library, a school for studying the Koran and an Islamic museum. In the latter are exhibited manuscripts, documents, personal belongings of King Abdullah I, ancient coins and arms.
This mosque is the only one in Jordan that can be visited not only by believers, but also by tourists. Men must wear pants and a shirt and women must cover their heads, arms and legs to get on the tour.
Royal Automobile Museum
At the behest of King Abdullah, an automobile museum opened in Amman in 2003. It displays a unique collection of cars belonging to the royal dynasty. Rare models from 1916, brought to Jordan especially for Hussein Bin Ali, elite cars of leading world brands and modern sports cars are presented to the attention of the visitors. In the museum there is a library with archival documents and a souvenir store.
Museum of Jordan
In 2014, a historical museum was opened in Amman to house archaeological artifacts. The exhibition halls contain bones of prehistoric animals, limestone statues of Ain Ghazal, Dead Sea scrolls, a copy of black basalt stone with ancient writings, gold and silver jewelry.
All collections are arranged in chronological order, there is a library and a special exposition for children. Neolithic dolmens are demonstrated in the courtyard.
Jordan National Gallery
The Museum of Modern Art in Amman appeared by order of the royal family. Its permanent collection includes more than 2 thousand works of art from the Middle East and Africa. Tourists can explore paintings, prints, sculptures, installations, photographs. In a separate hall you can see handmade carpets, ceramics and national costumes.
The museum regularly organizes meetings with artists and painting workshops.
The stony desert of Wadi Rum covers an area of 741.8 km². Amazing terrain stands out with fantastic landscapes, based on cliffs, canyons, stone arches, deep precipices. The flora is represented by succulents, the fauna – by lizards and snakes.
Wadi Rum is a national reserve of Jordan, which attracts climbers and hikers. Tourist companies offer hikes and jeep rides. And the rock carvings found in the mountains have led to the inclusion of the desert as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Dana Reserve was founded in 1989. It lies on the slopes of the rift valley and includes different biogeographic zones: Sudanese, Saharan-Arabic, Mediterranean. Evergreen cypresses, pistachios, junipers, ficuses, acacias, eucalyptus and olives grow in the park.
Among animals there are Nubian ibex, Afghan foxes, lizards, wild boars, gazelles. The ecoregion is protected by the royal house and access for tourists is restricted.