Jordan is one of my favorite countries that I’ve ever been to. My biggest lament is allotting only ten days to explore this beautiful country. While ten days was enough to see the star attractions of Jordan, I could have spent much longer enjoying the amazing food and spending time with the fun-loving and genuinely hospitable Jordanian people. The time I spent here was short, but it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in any country.
I would recommend visiting Jordan for any traveler. Both beginner backpackers and experienced jet-setters will find something to fall in love with. Whether you’re traveling with friends or going it solo, Jordan is an excellent destination. Despite being in the Middle East, Jordan lacked the chaos and disorganization of its neighbors, making it much easier to travel around. It’s the perfect way to dip your toes into the region without immediately being overwhelmed by the Middle East’s merciless mayhem.
Ten days in Jordan is not a lot of time, so this is a fast-paced itinerary. It is much faster than I typically like to travel. If you have more than ten days, take your time exploring this beautiful country. Spend an extra few days soaking in the immaculate vibes of Amman. Take an extra day to camp underneath the starry skies in Wadi Rum. Visit the northern cities like Irbid, or its historical sites like Um Qais. Visit less-traveled Wadis, like Wadi Mujib. Relax by the Dead Sea for a day, or soak up the sun in Aqaba. Jordan is a small country, and many, like myself, often make the mistake of giving it too little time. A ten day itinerary for Jordan is enough, but it will certainly leave you wanting more.
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Starting Point: Amman: 4 Days
Let’s kick off the adventure in Amman, Jordan’s vibrant capital and largest city. It is home to over four million people, although it feels much calmer and relaxed than similarly-sized cities elsewhere in the Middle East. There are many pockets of peace throughout the city, from its quaint suburbs to hilltop neighborhoods. I could have spent weeks kicking back in Amman, enjoying the local and international cuisine, and visiting its many hidden gems. It’s an excellent hub for digital nomads looking for a unique but lively city to work from.
The best way to get into Amman is by catching a flight to Queen Alia International Airport. From there, catch a 3.30 JD local bus to the city, and then a 2 JD maximum Uber ride to your destination. Taxis will run you about 20 JD, which is not too bad if you’re arriving at weird hours or just want to pay for the convenience. Amman is pretty spread out, but the action is concentrated in the downtown area. I’d recommend staying at Cliff Hostel to be in the heart of the action, or Battuta Hostel for a more peaceful and upscale backpacking experience.
Day 1: Explore Amman: Amman Citadel, Roman Theater, Downtown Amman
Welcome to Jordan, or as the locals say, ahlan wa sahlan. Amman is a great city, and a perfect starting point for your adventures in Jordan.
Some of the highlights of Amman include the Amman Citadel and the Roman Theater, both included in the Jordan Pass. The Amman Citadel is an archaeological site nestled on a hill, home to a crumbling ruins and ancient churches. It isn’t a particularly spectacular archaeological site, but the highlight is the stunning panoramic view it gives you of Jordan’s capital and its rolling sea of beige buildings.
From Amman Citadel, hike down the stairs to end up at the Roman Theater. It’s a beautiful and well-preserved Roman Theater in a lively part of town. Climb up the steps for some gorgeous views of the city, especially around sunset. The plaza right outside of the theater is a nice spot for people watching and taking in the energy of Amman. From here, stroll through Amman’s vibrant downtown district, which especially comes to life at night. Amman is a safe city, and the downtown is filled with cafes and restaurants, both local and international.
Grab a knafah from Habibah Sweets and top it off with Arabic ice cream from Bekdash across the street. Find a spot to sit down for mansaf if you’re hungry, or just snack on shawarma and falafel along the way. If you’re feeling fancy, check out Rainbow Street for dinner. It’s a lively street lined with more upscale restaurants, coffee shops, and boutique stores.
Day 2: Day Trip to Jerash and Ajloun
Amman serves as an excellent home base for exploring the nearby sites of north and central Jordan. Rather than move around constantly from city to city, I’d say its best to stay in Amman and either rent a car or hire a driver to take you from place to place. Jordan is a small country, and most of the center and north can be done as day trips from Amman.
The first place I’d recommend visiting would be the archaeological site of Jerash, some of the best Roman ruins I’ve been to. It’s located an hour away from Amman, depending on how bad traffic is. Give yourself between 2-3 hours to explore the site and its many temples, theaters, and well-preserved colonnade.
After Jerash, a potential next stop would be the castle of Ajloun. Ajloun is also home to a forest reserve, although most set tours will take you the castle. The castle is a cool place to visit with beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. The castle won’t take up too much time, and you can expect to be back in Amman in time for dinner. Feast on some mansaf at the local restaurant of Da7berha.
Day 3: Day Trip to Dead Sea, Mount Nebo, and Madaba
Wake up bright and early for your next day of adventure.
Many hostels and tour agencies offer bundle trips to the Dead Sea, Mount Nebo, and Madaba. Experiencing the Dead Sea is a must, although I didn’t consider Madaba or Mount Nebo to particularly exciting. They have a lot of religious and historical significance, so it might be of interest to those looking to retrace the footsteps of Moses. If neither of these seem appealing to you, just take a day to visit the Dead Sea and relax.
If you’re looking for a jam-packed day, here’s a glimpse of how this triple threat tour went down. In Madaba, we visited the Apostles Church, a small church with ancient mosaics dating back to the 6th century. We followed that up by checking out the Madaba Museum, a tad underwhelming if I do say so myself. Lastly, we hit up an orthodox church with a famous mosaic map. They were cool to see, although if you’re short on time, I don’t necessarily think they are worth going out of the way for.
Mount Nebo was a short but cool stop. This is supposedly where Moses saw the Promised Land before passing away. Having traveled through Egypt, summiting Mount Sinai and crossing the Red Sea along the way, it did feel a bit as if I was following the footsteps of Moses to end up here. I don’t really feel any different having done it, but I guess it’s cool to say I’ve done it. There’s a church at the top with old mosaics, but besides that, there isn’t much to see. The views weren’t spectacular, although one could sea the Dead Sea from the panoramic viewpoint.
Lastly, the Dead Sea! The Dead Sea is a weird experience. There are a couple of public beaches, although our driver took us to a Dead Sea resort. The price included a buffet lunch, and starving as we were, we opted to pay the 15 JD resort fee just to eat. After lunch, we headed down to the Dead Sea where we caked ourselves in mud and took a dip in the lowest point on Earth. It’s a weird feeling, being in a sea so salty that you couldn’t sink no matter how hard you tried. It was great fun, and easily the highlight of the day. Given more time, I could have easily spent a few hours there, although sizzling in the sun with the salty sea providing only minimal refreshment was a struggle.
After a long day, head back up to Amman and go for another big feast or indulge in the street food. A wise man once told me that you haven’t had shawarma until you’ve been to Jordan. I kind of agree with him.
Day 4: Wadi Mujib and Canyoning
Looking for something more outdoorsy and exciting? Head to Wadi Mujib. Of the three Wadis to visit in Jordan, Wadi Mujib often gets the most overlooked. It resembles the Narrows of Zion National Park in Utah, except one can scale the canyons of Wadi Mujib. For adrenaline-seekers, canyoning in Wadi Mujib will be one of the highlights of Jordan.
The early morning start means that you’ll have plenty of time to make your way down to Petra later in the day. From Amman, we head south. If you don’t have your own car, catch the JETT Bus to Wadi Musa. Try to catch a bus in the morning so that you have time to explore Petra on your first day. There isn’t much to do in Wadi Musa to keep you busy otherwise. Of course, if you have more time, take the afternoon to relax and hit up Petra the next day.
Day 5: Bus to Wadi Musa and Exploring Petra
Alright, we’ve just been beating around the bush so far. While I’m sure you’ve been enjoying Jordan thus far, you haven’t seen anything yet. No trip to Jordan is complete without visiting the World Wonder of Petra. Of the World Wonders I’ve been to, I’d say it’s 1b to Machu Picchu’s 1a. It is truly deserving of its designation.
To get to Petra, head to Wadi Musa. Wadi Musa is the small town that extends to just outside of the Petra Visitor Center. The majority of the city is set up to accommodate travelers visiting Petra, so there are no shortage of hotels and hostels. However, there is a shortage of things to do in Wadi Musa. I wouldn’t linger around Wadi Musa, so get to exploring Petra as soon as you can.
Tickets to Petra start at 50 JD for one day, or 60 JD for 3 days, with 2 days for 55 JD being the sweet spot.
I’d recommend taking two days to explore Petra. The two day ticket is only $7 more than the one day ticket, and you’ll be able to start exploring as soon as you get to Wadi Musa. Take an early bus from Amman to Wadi Musa and drop your bags off at Nomads Hostel. If you arrive in the early afternoon, you still have plenty of time to explore the site. Here’s my recommend itinerary for exploring Petra in 1.5 days.
Exploring Petra: Day 1
Okay, be patient with me here. I know it’s easy to want to immediately see the highlights of Petra, but with the tourist crowds of the afternoon, I would recommend following this itinerary.
Enter the site and before you reach the Siq (canyon) leading to the Treasury, veer left after the Djinn Blocks to a trail that straddles the outskirts of the canyon. If you have Maps.Me, the trail will be on there. There will be hardly any other people along the way, making it a great way to immerse oneself in the natural beauty of the region. The afternoon crowds can dampen the experience, so escaping them immediately lets you get in the right mindset to explore this world wonder.
Follow the trail to the High Point of Sacrifice, giving you a stunning panoramic view of all of Petra. The trail there is stunning, leading you through colorful canyons and dried up riverbeds lined with flowers and lush greenery. Stop for a coffee at the High Point of Sacrifice, and then continue along the trail until you reach the Roman Colonnade. You’ll pass by the ruins of the Great Temple along the way, which only takes a few minutes to explore. From there, follow the signs away from the Colonnade until you reach the Byzantine Church.
Once you’ve wrapped up at the Byzantine Church, go back to the colonnade and walk along the main route towards the Treasury, the iconic structure synonymous with Petra itself. The main route passes by the tombs, ancient theater, and countless other structures built into the mountains of the ancient Nabatean City. We’ll explore those tomorrow. By the time you reach the treasury, there will be loads of tourist crowds, golf carts, camels, and local salesmen. This is why I’d recommend getting up as early as you can the following day. The experience will be much more memorable when there’s no one around.
Head back to your hostel in Wadi Musa. If you’re staying at Nomads Hostel, grab their buffet dinner before heading to their gorgeous rooftop for shisha and drinks. Not too many drinks, though, as you’ll need to be up early the next morning!
Exploring Petra: Day 2
I woke up at 6 AM to get to the Visitor Center right when Petra opened. I’m not joking about it being an early start, but it was so worth it. I was among the first to visit the Treasury. It’s truly a surreal feeling to have a World Wonder all to yourself, and a drastically different setting to what you witnessed the prior day.
Take your time admiring the treasury before continuing along the main route. Walk along the colonnade again and then continue up to the Monastery. It is a steep hike that can take up to an hour depending on your pace, but it will be worth it. This early in the morning, you’ll likely be one of the only tourists at the site. The weather will still be cool enough that the hike up isn’t entirely torturous.
Beautiful, isn’t it? I spent over an hour here just taking it all in and hiking up to various viewpoints of the monastery. I also befriended a handful of animals that probably don’t appreciate how lucky they are to live at a freakin’ World Wonder.
Don’t get too comfortable, though. Our day isn’t over yet! Ready for another hike? Walk back down to the colonnade, continuing to the tombs, highlighted by the Urn Tomb and the Palace Tomb. While not as well-preserved or renovated as the Treasury and Monastery, these are among the most breathtaking structures of the entire archaeological site. One can even enter the buildings, unlike the Treasury and Monastery. There isn’t much to see, but it also serves as a nice respite from the desert sun.
Follow the trail past the Palace Tomb, curling around the canyon. Hike up the stairs, and in about 30 minutes, you’ll reach a cafe with a gorgeous view of the Treasury. Stay as long as you want here. You’ve seen almost all of Petra in two days, and you deserve a coffee or fresh juice with a view. Stare at the crowds beginning to form in front of the treasury and have a laugh at them because you woke up at 6 AM just so you’d be up here and not down there.
Soak it all in. What a day, hey?
Walk back to the entrance and voila, you’ve crossed off one of the most epic World Wonders. Head back to your hostel, have a big dinner, smoke some shisha, have some drinks, whatever. You deserve it all.
Bus to Wadi Rum: 2 Nights
Alright, now you’ve seen one of Jordan’s man-made wonders. How about a natural wonder? From Petra, take the minibus to Wadi Rum Village.
Day 7: Arrive in Wadi Rum, Explore Camp
Most likely, you’ll be arriving in Wadi Rum a bit too late to hop on one of the desert tours that leave in the morning. Take your time getting settled in and go for a walk around your campsite. It’s a breathtaking place for an aimless hike, with gorgeous views no matter where you look.
Once you’ve wrapped up your wander, head back to camp to freshen up and get ready for dinner. Most camps will include dinner, or offer it for a small fee. I paid 5 JD for a buffet-style dinner at Wadi Rum Fire Camp. They offered a huge assortment of salads, rice, vegetables, and then the main course: chicken and vegetables cooked in an underground oven. Oftentimes, your hosts at the camp will also play music, start dancing, or just be hanging around in general for good conversation.
Shisha is also an option, and I partook each night I was in Wadi Rum.
Day 8: Jeep Tour in Wadi Rum
Next up, adventure day! The best thing to do in Wadi Rum if you’re short on time is to go on a Jeep tour through the desert. I paid 50 JD for a 10-hour excursion, and I felt that it was well worth the steep price. It’s a long day, involving a few short hikes to stretch your legs and break up the bumpy rides through the desert. Wadi Rum is a huge place, and if you were hoping to see all of the highlights on foot, think again. I love hiking, and even I’ll admit that it’s too ambitious to take on Wadi Rum on foot.
I tried hiking to an arch on the first day before getting lost and aimlessly wandering about until hitching a ride back to camp. Keep in mind that there is no cell service out here, so unless you have offline maps or trail maps downloaded, then it’s easy to get lost and simply not know where you’re going. A Jeep tour is the best way to see Wadi Rum. It’ll take you to highlights like the red dunes, gorgeous canyons, rock arches, and more. I did mine through my campsite and it also included lunch and dinner, as well as countless tea stops along the way.
It is an adrenaline-inducing adventure in a setting that can only be described as otherworldly. I couldn’t tell you the name of anywhere we visited, so just enjoy the ride. Our tour wrapped up with sunset overlooking the desert, cozied up close to a small bonfire sipping on tea. We began the drive back to camp before having dinner and dancing the night away at the instruction of our Bedouin hosts.
Bus to Aqaba
From Wadi Rum, leave early in the morning to catch a bus to Aqaba. The drive takes about an hour and a half and drops you off right at the main bus station. Hakaia Community Hostel is right across from the bus station, and is the best hostel in Aqaba by a landslide.
Day 9: Explore Aqaba, Beach Day
There isn’t too much to see in Aqaba, but it has a great energy to it. Being along the sea, it is home to stunning beaches and laid-back vibes. Pop over to Al-Ghandour Beach to relax, or visit Aqaba Fort just down the boardwalk. If you dive or snorkel, be sure to take advantage of Aqaba’s reefs. Aqaba is also popular for windsurfing and kitesurfing. For dinner, have a feast at Khubza & Seneya. Order an assortment of small plates to share among everyone and enjoy some of the best food I had in Jordan.
Aside from that, there isn’t too much to fill up your time in Aqaba, but relaxing on the beach is a great way to cap off your adventures through Jordan, and maybe wash off the sand that otherwise will stick with you for life.
Day 10: Bus Back to Amman or Onward Travel To Egypt or Palestine
And that’s a wrap on your adventures in Jordan. From here, one can take the bus back up to Amman to fly out, or continue their journeys through the Middle East. From Aqaba, it’s possible to catch a ferry to Egypt or travel overland to Palestine, or simply stay put because it truly doesn’t get much better than Jordan.
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