Jordan Itinerary – Getting There and Getting AroundThe main point of entry into Jordan is its capital city of Amman. Flights directly to Aqaba were recently introduced. British Airways and Royal Jordanian have direct flights to Amman for London which take about 5 hours. Multiple other airlines fly from London to Amman with a stop in their hub city eg Air France, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines. JETT tourist bus is quite a good air-conditioned option between Amman and Aqaba and between Amman and Petra. The only internal flights are between Amman and Aqaba. Jordan is quite easy to drive around and very safe. There is no need to hire a 4 wheel drive – but do avoid any areas that are too sandy!
⇒ If you’re going to hire a car in Jordan check out this great post on 5 Things You Need to Know Before Driving in Jordan.
Organised Tours of JordanIf you’re keen to head to Jordan but would like to go on an organised tour there are quite a few options. Kuoni is a more upmarket tour company and they offer an 8 night trip to Jordan that is very similar to my Itinerary. Flashpack is more focussed on solo travellers and those in their 30s and 40s and they offer a 6-day tour which is focussed on Petra and Wadi Rum. At the mid-market level Explore offers seven different Jordan tours and Exodus offers eight different options. And check out Tourradar for a range of different organised tour options.
Jordan Itinerary by Day
Days 1 and 2: AqabaAqaba sits at the southern tip of Jordan and is a sort of Jordanian beach town. It is situated on the Red Sea which is the home to some rather stunning seas, snorkelling, diving and most fun things to do in Jordan. It is also home to some terrific hotels and beach resorts and a nice place to kick off your Jordan trip with a nice mix of some relaxing and fun things to do in Aqaba such as a glass-bottom boat cruise.
Things to do in Aqaba
⇒ have a stroll through the old town of Aqaba and hit the souk
⇒ visit the old settlements like Ayla and Mamluk Castle
⇒ Snorkel or dive in the beautiful Red Sea, famed for its clear waters and extensive coral and sea life
⇒ Take a boat cruise on the Red Sea
⇒ Enjoy some of Aqaba’s famous seafood
⇒ Splurge on one of Aqaba’s many upmarket hotels and just relax – the rest of this itinerary is pretty busy!
Itinerary AlternativeIf you like to sleep in the same place each night it is possible to base yourself in Aqaba and visit Petra, the Dead Sea and Wadi Rum on day trips. Long day trips. Or you could do an overnight trip into Wadi Rum and then base yourself in Aqaba for day trips to Petra and/or the Dead Sea. The major downside with the day trips from Aqaba – apart from the amount of time spent in a vehicle – is that you will be at both Petra and Wadi Rum only in the middle of the day. This is when the sun is at its height and can be uncomfortable. Also, for me, a big part of the beauty of both Petra and Wadi Rum is watching the colours change throughout the day. This isn’t an option when there is only limited time. However, if you are looking for a more restful trip it is absolutely an option to sleep in Aqaba on all 7 nights of this itinerary and manage some of the major attractions through day trips.
Where to stay in AqabaBoutique Hotels are a bit thin on the ground in Aqaba. Most of the more upmarket hotels are very upmarket and part of chains. But there are still some fantastic options and they tend to be quite reasonably priced considering the cost of staying at these hotel brands in other countries. Virtually all the main hotels are located on the waterfront and have private beaches for their guests.
⇒ For the ultimate in Middle Eastern luxury check out Al Manara. The design is a little heavy on the Middle Eastern brown for my liking but some of the rooms are more minimalist and the pool is stunning.
⇒ Kempinski comes with whitewashed rooms and polished floorboards and modern fresh design. It claims to be the only genuinely luxury hotel in Aqaba.
⇒ I do like the Movenpick hotels. There are two Movenpicks in Aqaba. They are both excellent value for money but don’t have quite the high-end design of the Kempinski. Also, do note that the Movenpick Resort & Residence is located in the centre of Aqaba rather than on the waterfront but it does have four pools! A great option if you’re keen to get out and about whilst you’re in Aqaba.
The Movenpick Resort & Spa Tala Bay is located on the waterfront 15 minutes from the centre of Aqaba.
Where to Eat in AqabaAqaba is well known for seafood, unsurprising given its location!
⇒ Alibaba has been a tourist favourite for years and is well known for its dish called Sayiadya.
⇒ Al Shami for traditional Jordanian food and mezze
⇒ For a seafood extravaganza head to Captain’s Restaurant
⇒ For upmarket Lebanese try Burj Al Hamam at the Intercontinental
Days 3 and 4: Wadi RumWadi Rum is the stunning desert area in Jordan. Made famous by Lawrence of Arabia it is a jaw-dropping landscape of rich colours and shapes and a must see in Jordan. I enjoyed Wadi Rum as much as I enjoyed Petra which was a lovely surprise! The desert is a protected area in the south of Jordan. The Rum as it is known has been habited for thousands of years. Today the residents of the Rum are bedouins – they live on and around the area and tend to their goat herds. There are many sites to see within Wadi Rum. Quite a few were made famous by Lawrence of Arabia – such as the seven pillars of wisdom and Lawrence’s Spring. The scenery is stunning and Wadi Rum Jordan is so quiet and so big. The desert appears to stretch forever.
How to get to Wadi RumWadi Rum is 76km almost due east of Aqaba – although the road is very much not due east! Wadi Rum has a visitor’s centre which is quite modern and well equipped. Many tours of Wadi Rum begin and end at the Visitor’s Centre and parking is available. Whilst it is possible to get a permit to take a 4 WD and drive yourself around Wadi Rum I wouldn’t recommend this unless you have considerable experience driving around deserts. You may well miss some of the key attractions or worse get quite lost! The other option is to leave the car and have your Wadi Rum tour pick you up in Aqaba and then return you to your hotel that evening. Or even better stay the night in Wadi Rum in a bedouin camp so as to see both the sunset and the sunrise.
Things to do and to see in Wadi RumThere are 19 sites of interest in Wadi Rum in total. I don’t think it is critical to visit all 19 – here are some of the highlights.
⇒ Visit one or more of the 3 Rock Bridges in Wadi Rum- climb up on top for the quintessential Wadi Rum photo!
⇒ Lawrence’s Spring – named after Lawrence of Arabia
⇒ Take a Camel Ride through Wadi Rum
⇒ The stunning red sands of Al Hasany DunesDon’t forget to charge your phone and camera and to bring a power bank just in case – Wadi Rum is almost obscenely photogenic!
Luxurious Places to Sleep in Wadi RumWadi Rum now has some very cool luxury accommodation! For fantastically photogenic and very cool sleeping pods check out the Wadi Rum UFO Luxotel Sharah Luxury Camp Memories Aicha Luxury Camp
Days 5 and 6: PetraPetra is an amazing archaeological city in Jordan. For many it is best known for its appearance in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – I highly recommend you watch this film before going! Petra is an old city rediscovered in the early 1800s by a Swiss traveller. Today it is a well deserved World Heritage Site with all the positives that come with that as well as one of the key Jordan tourist attractions. You can visit by day and/or experience the magic of Petra by candlelight at night. Petra is number one on most lists of Jordan sites to see with good reason!
How to get to PetraWadi Musa is the closest town to Petra. This town has sprung up around Petra and contains all of its hotels and restaurants. It is about a two-hour drive from Aqaba to Petra. If you are planning to stay the night in Petra (which I highly recommend) then a hire car is the best way to get to Petra. There is a JETT bus which leaves Aqaba in the morning but it cannot be booked online and it goes to the tourist information centre at the entrance to Petra rather than the town of Wadi Musa where all the hotels are located. Entrance into Petra is by ticket only. Tickets can be purchased at most hotels in Petra or at the Visitor’s Centre. The best way to organise your ticket is to buy the Jordan Pass. This fantastic pass from Jordan Tourism can be purchased online before you go to Jordan and offers free entry to 40 of Jordan’s tourist sights (including Petra and Wadi Rum) AND your tourist visa for Jordan. The Jordan Explorer option gives you two days at Petra which is perfect. The pass is amazing value for money – particularly if you’re not staying the night in Petra. Entrance to Petra is considerably more expensive if you are only visiting as a day trip.
Things to see in Petra
⇒ The SiqOne of the highlights of visiting Petra takes place before you even arrive! The Siq is the ancient main entrance to Petra. This windy path through rocks is about 1.2km long. The magic moment is seeing the Treasury emerge before your eyes at the very end of the Siq. There are options to take a donkey/horse/cart through the Siq but I would recommend walking as I think it is a more magical experience.
⇒ The TreasuryThe Treasury is probably the building most associated with Petra. It is the first building you will see from the Siq – and it featured heavily in the Indiana Jones movie set in Petra! It is a facade rather than a proper building and rises 40 metres.
⇒ The MonasteryYou’ll have to earn your views of the Monastery as it is a big long walk from the entrance to Petra and there are quite a few stairs involved. But to me, it is one of the most spectacular sites of Petra and a must-visit.
⇒ The Street of FacadesThe Street of Facades is a row of tombs just past the Treasury.
⇒ The TheatreI do love an ancient theatre! This one can seat 4000 people – and it is very photogenic.
⇒ Colonnaded StreetThis would have been one of the principal shopping streets of Petra and several of the original Colonnades are still in place.
⇒ Experience Petra by CandelightI highly recommend having this magical experience. Three nights a week Petra is lit by over 1500 candles. The gates open at 2030 and close at 2230. There is an additional cost to experience Petra by candlelight. Tickets can be purchased at the Visitor’s Centre or at hotels in Petra. There are locals offering Petra tours everywhere. I do think it is ideal to get a guide. Petra is big and there is so much information to take in. Also, it is easy to get tomb wear out when you are just wandering without information! If would like to stay the night in Aqaba then one of the easiest ways to get to and from Petra efficiently is to take a guided tour from Aqaba to Petra.
Where to Stay in PetraFor a truly memorable experience check out the stunning Bubble Luxohotel Petra! The only downside is it is quite away from the main entrance to Petra but they do provide a free shuttle bus. Movenpick hotel in Petra Petra Boutique Hotel!
Day 7: Dead SeaThe extremely salty waters of the Dead Sea lie between Jordan and Israel. It is estimated to be the second saltiest major body of water in the world (the saltiest is in Antarctica!). Due to all this salt not only is it possible to float in the Dead Sea it is virtually impossible to sink – or swim! The mud along the shores of the dead sea is known for its mineral properties – thus the many photos seen of visitors covered in mud!
How to get to the Dead SeaThe Dead Sea is 235km from Aqaba and just 60km from Amman. There are many day trips and buses to the Dead Sea available from Amman.
Things to do at the Dead Sea Jordan
The number one thing to do in the Dead Sea is to experience uncontrolled floating! It is quite odd at first – particularly if you are a swimmer. Don’t forget to take a book in with you for the classic shot. And don’t forget that if you have any cuts they will really sting in the super salty water so do be careful.
⇒ Cover yourself in mud
There is mud all along the shore that is just waiting for you to pick it up in your hands and lather it all over your body. There is no set rule as to how long to keep the mud on. I usually work to about 20 minutes. And yes you can put it in your hair as well.
⇒ Enjoy Resorting
There is one public beach on the Dead Sea (the Amman Tourist Beach) and the rest are owned by the hotels. Most hotels sell day passes. Or stay the night and then you can enjoy your hotel’s private Dead Sea beach.
⇒ Buy some salty souvenirs
Dead Sea salts are a great gift or a way to extend your Jordanian holiday once you return home! There are interesting skincare products galore using elements of the Dead Sea as ingredients for purchase.
Where to stay at the Dead SeaAgain the Dead Sea mostly features high-end hotel brands along its shores. Luxury abounds! And most guests choose to eat in their hotels as the only real option is to drive to another hotel and eat at their restaurants! The Kempinksi has won many of the tourist awards for hotels in the region and is a great option. Movenpick hotel and this is where I stayed when I visited the Dead Sea. Ma’in Hot Springs Resort and Spa is at the top corner of the Dead Sea and provides mountain views and has its own hot springs waterfall. There is a steam cave for detoxing and a lantern-lit restaurant called Olive which comes with good reviews.
Day 8: AmmanAlas, there is no time to explore Amman on this itinerary. Many people, including me, choose to spend their last night in Jordan on the Dead Sea and get up early to be driven to Amman and the airport.
Itinerary VariationsFor a Jordan Itinerary 5 days, I would suggest taking Aqaba out of the itinerary as somewhere to stay and potentially the Dead Sea. Focus on Wadi Rum and Petra. If you are looking for a Jordan itinerary 10 days then add in Amman and some of its fantastic day trips like Jerash and Umm Qais.
When to visit JordanJordan has a subtropical arid climate. Winters in the areas with higher altitude can get quite cold. Temperatures vary a bit across the country. In Petra January is the coldest month of the year with temperatures around 13 degrees celsius and hitting 33 degrees in July and August. Aqaba is much warmer with a low of 20 degrees in January and temperatures around 40 degrees for July and August. The best times to visit Jordan are the shoulder seasons of Mar/April and mid-Sep-early November.
⇒ Looking for some travel inspiration? Itineraries not only help you plan a trip they can also help you to figure out where you want to go next. Check out my itineraries for Austria, Nova Scotia in Canada, Colombia, Chile, Nepal, Namibia, Sicily, Turkey, Scotland and Korea.
Things to know before you go to Jordan
⇒ tap water isn’t safe to drink in Jordan so stock up on bottled water
⇒ If you’re planning a few days in Jordan and to see some of its main tourist attractions don’t miss buying the fantastic value Jordan Pass which covers the entrance to over 40 tourist sights as well as much more.
⇒ Wifi is readily available in the main cities. Outside of that expect to have wifi in big hotels and that most towns will have at least a wifi cafe. But as Jordan is quite mountainous the signal outside of this can be quite patchy. If you are going to hire a car I would make sure it has GPS and also bring a good old fashioned map as a backup.
⇒ Jordan plugs are 220V. Most sockets require the two-prong European plug.
⇒ Make sure you check if you will be travelling during Ramadan (dates change every year). Opening hours etc may change during Ramadan and it is not appropriate to eat or drink in public when the sun is up even if you are a tourist.
⇒ Whilst Jordan is one of the more liberal countries in the Middle East it is still most appropriate to dress conservatively. I generally work on the principle of having my knees and shoulders covered and nothing low cut. As always when travelling, layers are optimal as evenings can get cold.
⇒ Jordan’s time zone is GMT +2.
MoneyThe national currency is the Jordanian Dinar. Cards are accepted in most places across the country. But do beware that there can be hefty commissions when it comes to tours. There are many ATMs across Jordan as well for withdrawing cash.
Solo Tour OptionsWhilst a woman travelling on her own in Jordan will most likely be very safe you may attract unwanted attention. Personally, I would look to join a group tour. Here are a few options:
⇒ If you like a few more creature comforts without going super five stars the well regarded Flash Pack has a Jordan tour
⇒ Exodus is always a great option for solo travel groups and they have several options for tours in Jordan
⇒ Heading to Jordan with kids? Make sure you read this great post on Family Travel in Jordan from Roaming Family.