Jordan Holiday Planning Guide
For such a small country, Jordan boasts a surprising variety of natural landscapes and urban attractions. A trip to Jordan takes visitors on a journey back to biblical times, when sites like the Dead Sea and the ancient yet astonishingly well-preserved city of Petra seemed to be at the heart of world events. Although covered in rocky deserts, Jordan boasts a good network of roads, which makes sightseeing by car an easy way to discover many of the country's top highlights. Begin your tour of Jordan in Amman, the largest urban center and a major political, cultural, and economic hub of this Middle Eastern kingdom.
Places to Visit in Jordan
Regions of JordanMa'in Governorate
: The largest by area and featuring mostly desert climate and lowest population density, Ma’in Governorate hosts the majority of the country’s top historic, archeological, and Biblical sites. It tops the Jordan itinerary list for millions of tourists from all over the world.Balqa Governorate
: Religious tourists flock to Balqa Governorate to see the baptism site of Jesus Christ and a number of Muslim shrines with tombs of important saints in the provincial capital Salt, plus Ottoman-style museums in the area.Irbid Governorate
: With the highest population density in the country, this northernmost governorate boasts some of the most beautiful Jordanian cities, Byzantine-era archeological sites, ancient dolmens, and notable nature with meadows and daisies. Amman Governorate
: Boasting the continuity of civilization for more than 7,000 years, the capital and most urban governorate of Jordan offers a variety of places to see and a range of activities, from World Heritage-listed archaeological sites to ancient museums and modern malls, as well as wildlife tours.Al Aqabah Governorate
: The southernmost governorate of Jordan accessing the Red Sea’s Gulf of Aqaba, this area offers a quiet Jordan holiday with excellent snorkeling and scuba opportunities combined with a visit to an ancient castle, adventure tours, and trips to desert.Madaba Governorate
: With its long Dead Sea coastline, natural hot springs and spectacular history, Madaba Governorate offers you a relaxing Jordan vacation on the salt lake shores. You can also visit an archeological park, ancient churches, and museums.
Cities in JordanAmman
: A great base to explore the rest of the country, the capital and most populous city of Amman takes pride in its cosmopolitan feel, which attracts millions of European and Arab tourists wishing to explore a great Middle Eastern city with a vast cultural heritage. Aqaba
: Relax on your Jordan holiday in Aqaba, combining snorkeling, swimming, and beach-going with the exploration of historic churches, forts, and camel desert tours in and around the country’s only port city.Madaba
: The proximity of the Dead Sea and exquisite Byzantine mosaics in this multiconfessional town, which is easily explored by foot, make Madaba a popular tourist destination.Irbid
: A major ground transportation hub for Syria and a vibrant higher education center, Irbid welcomes shoppers and lovers of urban life, who can also take an advantage of ancient castles and archeological parks nearby.
Popular Jordan Tourist AttractionsPetra World Heritage Site
: A must-visit on your Jordan itinerary, Petra World Heritage Site boasts the unparalleled continuity of civilization for generations; here you can view remarkable ruins and monuments, explore an ancient Street of Facades
, or see Petra By Night
: Boasting the continuity of human settlement since Neolithic times, the Citadel shows a succession of many great civilizations, as it showcases a number of Roman, Byzantine, Umayyad, and Ottoman monuments, palaces, and temples.Wadi Rum
: This huge dry river bed amidst World Heritage-listed desert landscape once served as the World War I headquarters of British-instigated Great Arab Revolt against the Ottomans. It attracts visitors who wish to explore nature as well as iconic scenery.Roman Amphitheater
: The impressive 6,000 stone seats cut into a steep hillside make this 2nd century Roman amphitheater among the top-visited tourist attractions in Amman. In those glorious imperial days, it was called Philadelphia.Jerash Ruins
: One of the best preserved Roman ruins outside of Italy, Jerash Ruins boasts some of the finest marble colonnades and Roman urban planning in the world that sat preserved under sand for centuries until it was found by a German explorer in 1806.Mount Nebo
: View the spot from which Moses saw the Promised Land referenced in the Bible, and visit a memorial church built on this Biblical mountain atop ancient ruins with Byzantine mosaic floors.Madaba Mosaic Map
: Over 2 million pieces of colored stone were used to produce the earliest cartographic representation of the Holy Land and other sacred sites across the Middle East on this 6th-century floor mosaic map built inside a Byzantine church.Dead Sea
: This world-renowned salt lake boasts historical significance and provides a place where you’re able to float, unwind, and combine your relaxing Jordan vacation beach visit with archeological sites nearby.Berenice Beach Club
: A private resort within the Gulf of Aqaba with its own pools, a dive center, and a jetty to a coral reef, Berenice Beach Club offers a variety of watersports and leisure activities that attract record crowds on weekends.Rainbow Street
: Join hundreds of Ammanis and visitors along this major thoroughfare packed with vibrant cafes, rooftop restaurants, and shops; rooftop decks allow you to get a panoramic view of the city.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Jordan
Cuisine of Jordan
Many Jordanians would not consider your Jordan trip to be successful or complete unless you put on some weight in their country. Blending Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes, the cuisine of Jordan is very diverse, with a variety of ways to prepare food. You will most certainly be served mezze--an eclectic appetizer with a number of creamy hummus-based dips with salads and herbs, served on a large plate for community eating.
A must-try is mansaf--lamb or goat cooked in a sauce of dehydrated fermented yogurt called jameed--it’s the distinctive national dish layered with rice or bulgur, bread, and nuts. If you head out to a Bedouin camp, you will get a desert-style barbecue--roasted meat and vegetables over hot embers and stones in a sand pit, called zarb. Falafel--fried chickpea flour blended with spices and herbs served in pita bread--always makes a good snack.
Baklava and halva are the usual desserts.
Shopping in Jordan
Besides very sophisticated modern shopping malls in large urban centers, you can complement your tour of Jordan with a visit to a number of high-quality handicrafts markets, eclectic stores and small street shops where you can find almost anything. The capital Amman
features modern and trendy shopping facilities and designer shops while the busy market town of Madaba
boasts globally renowned handicrafts such as carpets, tapestries, and mosaics, and you can observe the artisans make their crafts on the spot. During your Jordan trip, you can also get Bedouin-made pottery and silverware in Petra and the surrounding area, as well as beadwork jewelry.
Sand art in a bottle, tribal jewelry, inlaid boxes, Dead Sea products, creams, and perfumes are some of the popular souvenirs you can get on your Jordan trip.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Jordan
Interesting Facts About Jordan
● The national flower of Jordan is the rare Black Iris, which only grows in Wadi Rum and only in the spring.
● Jordan is the only Middle Eastern country which has no oil.
● Jordan was created in the wake of World War I after Britain and France divided the Ottoman Middle East, following the Great Arab Revolt instigated by Lawrence of Arabia.
● Jordan houses the earth’s lowest point in terms of dry land, which is the shore of the Dead Sea lying 420 m (1,378 ft) below mean sea level.
● The Dead Sea (also known as the Salt Lake waters) are nearly ten times as salty as the ocean and keeps bathers buoyant.
● The water system of Jordan’s ancient city of Petra was more efficient and advanced than ancient Rome’s and could support 40,000 people in the desert.
Things You Should NOT Do in Jordan
Jordanians are generally considered to be liberal, but public displays of affection between a man and woman are not acceptable. By contrast, it is not uncommon for men to walk hand in hand in public. You should dress conservatively and avoid shorts, bearing in mind that consciously dressing down is considered to be rude. Under no circumstance should you show your soles, as it is considered deeply offensive. Also, do not interrupt a Muslim praying in a public space or consume food in public during Ramadan.
Most of the Jordanians are polite and hospitable and will not tell you about these things during your Jordan trip, but if you want to win respect, follow these unwritten rules.
During small talk, do not inquire directly about female family members, as it is considered rude and suspicious. Be prepared, however, to be asked about your marital status and the number of your children. If you are a woman traveling alone, experts advise getting a cheap, fake wedding ring to wear while in Jordan.
If you are invited for a meal in someone’s house, do not offend them by offering them money, but rather bring a bag of sweets for the kids or a small gift for the hostess. Be sure to let the hostess know in advance if you are a vegetarian. General etiquette outlines that it’s polite to refuse the offer of a meal three times before finally accepting.
Holidays & Festivals in Jordan
A traditional Islamic country, Jordan celebrates Muharram throughout the country, marking the beginning of the Islamic year, which takes place in January. Following the Muslim calendar, Muslim festivals are timed according to various phases of the moon as observed locally. Public businesses are closed at the beginning and end of Ramadan, Prophet Mohammad’s birthday, Independence Day, and Christmas.
During your Jordan trip, you may want to take advantage of both local and international festivals. The capital Amman hosts a number of important cultural festivals such as the international theater festival in March every year, as well European Film Festival and French Film Festival in May. The historic city of Jerash has an annual Jerash Music Festival with a diverse mix of local and international Arab musicians and folk groups that takes place in July and/or August for two weeks.
Celebrating the unique culture and tradition of the Bedouin people, an arts festival in Aqaba hosts a large crafts fair with peculiar Bedouin handicrafts, while a festival in Azraq showcases local music, dancing, and food in the town’s streets with street stands selling art and crafts. Both festivals take place in February.
For those seeking thrills of speed, check out the Jordan Rally in October; it’s an international motorcar race that takes place out in the dunes.
Useful Jordan Travel Tips
Common Greetings in Jordan
Jordanians are very sociable, and the concept of personal space is generally non-existent, so do shake hands or kiss on the cheek while greeting. Be aware that people stand close to each other while talking and, if you are sitting, be sure to stand up before a handshake. Conservative veiled women, naturally, may not reach out. Saying “Marhaba” (Hello) or “Salaam” (May peace be with you) while greeting people is common, and a useful phrase in answering a “How are you?” is “alhamdulillah” (Thank God). Although most people in urban areas know English, learning a few Arabic phrases can come handy, earning you a great deal of respect during your Jordan holiday.
If repeatedly asked in the street to look at someone’s merchandise, it is rude to brush him off and pass by with an angry hand gesture. You should rather politely say “shukran, shukran” (thank you) with your hand on your chest or be funny and say “bukra, bukra” (tomorrow).
Climate of Jordan
A subtropical country influenced by the arid Arabian desert and the humidity of the eastern Mediterranean, Jordan has a hot, dry climate with long hot summers and short cool winters. The hottest month of the year is August with temperatures generally in the range of 20-25 C (68-77 F), while January is the coldest with temperatures from 5-10 C (41-50 F). During the summer, temperatures during the day can be very hot, reaching over 40 C (104 F), especially when there is a hot, dry, southerly wind. However, this is generally bearable due to relatively low humidity. Jordan is a very sunny country with 310 days of sunshine per year. Sporadic as it is, the rainy season in Jordan begins at the end of November and continues until the end of March.
If you decide to go out in the desert on your Jordan itinerary, be aware that temperatures during the night can get pretty low. Also, the winds can be strong and cause sandstorms.
Transportation in Jordan
Being a major tourist destination in the Middle East, Jordan has a developed public and private transportation system. However, public transport can substantially vary in quality and frequency.
Cities are connected with bus lines, but their timetables are unreliable and buses tend to depart when they are full. As an alternative, there is a share-taxi service which runs regularly from most major cities. To get around cities, you can use fixed-fare share-taxis which operate on standard routes.
Roads are generally in good condition, but if you are venturing out in the desert, you should hire a four-wheel drive vehicle. Generally you can rent these in all major towns and you can also hire a driver to take you around. Given the irregularity of the bus schedule, your best option to see the country may actually be to rent a car for at least a part of your Jordan trip.
For fans of old railway lines, the classic Hejaz Railway runs from Amman to Damascus on the old Ottoman tracks. The journey is long but scenic and nostalgic and definitely worth the trouble if you are a history buff.
Jordan has only one port city, Aqaba, from which you can take the only ferry that will deliver you to Nuweiba in Sinai.
Tipping in Jordan
Although not compulsory, tipping in Jordan is always appreciated but there are no fixed amounts. Ten percent tips are generally expected in better restaurants. Most of the restaurants include 10 percent service in the bill but 5 percent to 10 percent extra for the waiter is appropriate if you are happy with the service. Also, it is customary to leave one or two Jordanian dinars (or $1) to hotel bellmen and porters, and two Jordanian dinars for maids. Generally, if you are staying in a hotel, tip the cleaners and service personnel in advance, and they will put forth extra effort. A way to show your satisfaction, tipping can make your Jordan vacation much easier.
If you are using a metered taxi, round up your fare. However, if you are paying a daily rate, which you should always negotiate in advance, there is no need to tip the driver. Tour guides should be tipped if they make the extra effort, and a great deal of them are very knowledgeable in history and culture.