Take it from me, Jordan is a truly special place to be. The country may conjure images of camels and endless deserts, but I’m here to let you know Jordan is so much more (but yes, also lots of camels and sand). I finally visited Jordan this year and had an absolutely magical time, so I wanted to pass along my knowledge of the 10 top tourist attractions in Jordan that you have to add to your Jordan bucket list.
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First up is Petra – when you think of Jordan, you’re probably dreaming up images of Petra and the Treasury. This was probably what I was most excited about for my whole trip, and oh my goodness, it proved me right. Petra is jaw-dropping and belongs on the list of the top tourist attractions in Jordan. We rolled up to Petra at 6 AM opening time and then spent about 9 hours exploring the site.
A few must-sees: the Treasury (duh!), but also make sure to hike up to get those Insta-perfect views of the Treasury. A trip up to the Monastery is also 100% worth it. You can’t see it without exerting some effort and hiking up some stairs. To give you an idea of my activity level that day, I ended the day with 42,000 steps and 150 flights of stairs (thanks Fitbit)!
Some tours just show you the Treasury, but please take my word when I say you NEED to spend more time exploring. Petra was the absolute highlight of my trip and definitely at first on my list of top tourist attractions in Jordan, hands down.
As far as how to get there, Jordan does not have reliable public transportation that will take you everywhere you want to go, so you can either take a day tour to Petra from Amman or you could spend the night in Petra (hire a driver to take you there) and go in bright and early. I will say that entering at 6 AM was an incredible experience—we got to walk in without anybody in front of us, which gave the whole experience a truly special feel. This experience is a must-do for your Jordan bucket list.
One thing to note—Petra has donkeys that you can ride. However, my guide warned us NOT to ride them since they’re treated really poorly. Hiking up the stairs on my own two feet wasn’t too hard, so I wanted to pass along the message to please be nice to the donkeys!
2. Wadi Rum
Another must-do for your Jordan bucket list is visiting Wadi Rum. Wadi Rum is the largest wadi (valley) in Jordan; the valley has been inhabited by a whole variety of cultures since prehistoric times. One of the coolest things we did was to take a Jeep Ride around the desert and see carvings and rock paintings from thousands of years ago. Going in to the trip, I didn’t know much about the history of Jordan, so it was interesting to learn about the early civilizations.
Our Jeep also brought us to the desert arches that you could climb (or take jumping picture underneath), whatever you fancy. Next up, we went to an overlook to watch the sun set over the desert, which was an experience like no other. Be forewarned though—as soon as that sun started setting, the temperatures dropped sooooo fast. Bring lots of layers!
Staying in Wadi Rum:
While you’re in Wadi Rum, you have some options of places to stay. If you’re shooting for luxury, go to the Bubble Luxotel, which is exactly as it sounds. It’s a bubble in the middle of the desert that gives you gorgeous views of Wadi Rum. If you’re looking to “rough it,” try Wadi Rum Moon Camp, which is the kind of place we stayed. These accommodations are tents, but come with cozy blankets, a shared bathroom, and buffet breakfast. When else can you say you camped in a desert in Jordan? Sometimes you just have to do it!
Another unmissable experience is a desert night walk. Go with a guide—the desert can be dark and scary at night! One of my favorite parts was making a fire in the middle of the desert to warm up our tea and then sipping under the stars. It sounds magical, and it truly is—you just can’t make this stuff up!
Last up—while you’re in Wadi Rum, make sure to stop by the Bedouin tents and buy some tea. It’s a Jordanian tradition, which is lucky for me, since I’m a tea lover! Plus, it’s really cool to see a culture so different from your own.
To see Wadi Rum, you’re going to want a guide. This tour is a 3 day tour to Wadi Rum, Petra, Aqaba, and the Dead Sea —which will give you a lot of Jordan’s highlights. You can also do day tours, week tours of Jordan, etc.
Next up on my list of top tourist attractions in Jordan is Jerash. Now raise your hand if you thought Jordan has ancient Roman cities…now before this adventure, I would not have raised my hand, but you can learn a lot.
Take some time to wander the ancient site, which looks like it could be ripped from the pages of Italian history. I also loved how the new city sprang up all around the ancient ruins, which gives a unique dichotomy of old versus new.
Jerash has archaeological evidence showing it dated back to the Neolithic Age (aka something like 7000 years ago)!!! Plus, it preserves history from the times of the Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans. Hop on this tour of Jerash and Bethany to combine your trip to Jerash with a visit to Bethany. Bethany is the site where Jesus was baptized and also where early pilgrimage routes took place.
4. The Dead Sea
Your Jordan bucket list isn’t complete without a day tour to the Dead Sea. Take some time to float—I promise, you will! I’m terrible at floating, and even I had an easy time of it. Honestly, it’s a very strange experience to feel that buoyant.
There are a number of day resorts on the Dead Sea that offer places to rinse off, and you’re going to want that because the Dead Sea is seriously salty. Make a day of it and relax by the pool after your float.
One thing to mention—if you have sensitive skin (I do!), keep an eye on how your skin feels while you’re playing in the Dead Sea. I felt a bit itchy when I got out, but it was nothing a little fresh water couldn’t fix!
5. The Citadel
The Amman Citadel is a historical site in the center of downtown Amman. Inhabitants arrived sometime between 2000 and 10,000 BCE, quite a large window, I know! What that means is that the Citadel has history from so many different eras of time.
Today, it’s one of the top tourist attractions in Jordan. Hop on this Amman private sightseeing tour, which runs all hours of the day. You can see the Citadel, plus tons of other attractions in Amman.
While you’re visiting the Citadel, make sure to hit up some of my faves: the Temple of Hercules, the Hand of Hercules, and the Umayyad Palace.
6. Little Petra
Little Petra definitely doesn’t get the credit it deserves, which is actually kind of convenient for you and me. It’s so much less crowded than Petra itself. We stopped by late afternoon on our way to Wadi Musa (where we spent the night before our early adventure to Petra).
Like Petra, you can see buildings carved into sandstone canyons. Though it’s much smaller, it’s still worth a visit if you have the time. For me, it definitely belongs on the list of the top tourist attractions in Jordan.
Also, if you see a sign that says something like “best views in the world” with an arrow pointing the way, they are pretty gorgeous views, though I’m not sure if they’re my all-time favorite ever. I’ll let you judge in the photo below.
7. The Red Sea
Not to be confused with the Dead Sea, the Red Sea is completely different and has much more normal levels of salinity. Note: I did NOT float here. In any case, at our little end of the Red Sea, we were within only miles of Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.
We went boating to take in the awesome snorkeling, and it was completely different from my expectations. The fish looked like they belonged in the Caribbean, so it really surpassed everything I hoped to see.
One thing to note: whether you’re on a boat with a captain or choose to captain your own boat, do not boat too close to Israel. Our captain told us that the boat has gotten close in the past (mind you, you can very clearly see Israel from even the dock where we launched), and the Israeli military boat let off a warning shot . I’d stick with a captain in this instance. If you’re up for it, check out this day tour from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea to make the most of your time. The Red Sea was on my my top tourist attractions in Jordan and such a wonderful surprise!
To get to the Red Sea in Jordan, you’re going to venture to Aqaba; Aqaba is about a 4.5 hour drive or a super short flight from Amman. This city is on the top tourist attractions in Jordan list because it’s the only coastal city in Jordan and offers awesome access to beaches, diving, and snorkeling!
Most importantly, Aqaba is duty-free, which is basically the magic word in Jordan, since alcohol is taxed super heavily. In fact, I think the only alcohol I drank in all of Jordan was in Aqaba.
In addition to the beaches and snorkeling, you can find shopping, resorts, and entertainment. After some dusty days in the desert, it felt quite nice to treat myself in Aqaba!
9. Karak Castle
Karak Castle is something like 900 years old, which compared to the rest of Jordan’s history, seems very new! It’s a large Crusader Castle located in Al-Karak and was built to defend against Saladin’s forces. Explore the underground passages and turrets—another excellent history opportunity!
The day we were there was incredibly cold for some reason, so please excuse my very quickly taken photos…I was trying not to get frostbite on my fingers!
This tour of Karak and Shobak Castles will also take you to the Crusader Castle of Shobak, which also has underground passageways aplenty to explore!
10. Camel Ride
I couldn’t end this article of top tourist attractions in Jordan without mentioning a camel ride, am I right? The Bedouins historically traveled via camel, and those living in and around the desert still keep camels today. Your best bet to arrange a camel ride is in Wadi Rum—we went with a local Bedouin the guide recommended. If you want the true experience to ride through the deserts as inhabitants here have been doing for millennia, look no further.
Fun story: it’s so hard to sit on a camel! I was on for maybe an hour, and my bum was very uncomfortable and sore afterward. You might have noticed, but those humps are not exactly conducive to sitting…not to mention when they stand up and sit down—you’re going to want to hold on tight!
However, a camel ride at sunrise is a pretty unforgettable experience and definitely something that needs to be on your Jordan bucket list!
Transportation for the Top Tourist Attractions in Jordan
A few questions to consider: will you use Amman as a home base and venture out on day trips each day or do you prefer to move every night? The other thing to consider is if you prefer to self-drive, hire a driver, do day tours, or join a group tour. The biggest note is that you’re not going to be able to rely on public transportation, so plan ahead!
If you’re more comfortable on an organized tour, I would highly recommend check out this Jordan Tour with G Adventures—G Adventures designs small group tours with expert guides that can truly give you a local experience. Plus, this is the exact tour I did and absolutely loved it!
Where to Stay in Jordan
Alright, you have a VERY wide range of options for where to stay in Jordan. The Red Sea/ Aqaba are too far for a day trip, so you’ll need at least one night in Aqaba. Without further ado, here are some of my hotel suggestions in Amman and Aqaba:
In Amman, if you’re going for luxury (which is only $200 a night!), make sure to check out the Fairmont Amman, which is 5 stars and worth the splurge. If you’re looking for more moderate prices, the Amman International Hotel is for you. The biggest thing for me was making sure there was security at the front door so I felt 100% safe. I was willing to spend a little more to check that box! Another thing to consider – make sure your hotel has WiFi – it was less common than I expected, so just make sure to read the reviews.
I have similar suggestions for Aqaba, with an emphasis on the security. For top of the line, you can’t go wrong with Al Manara, which has a private beach area. If you plan to go to the beach in Aqaba, a private beach is your best bet. As a tall, blonde female, I already got way more attention than I wanted; everyone I spoke with warned me away from public beaches. The Intercontinental Aqaba is another safe bet—say hello to a private beach, lagoon pool, and spa.
If you’d like to avoid the hotel route altogether, check out Airbnb (use my link for savings on your first stay)! Just make sure to read the reviews for safety!
Cheap Flights to Jordan
I can’t say I loved my flight to Jordan since it involved a 10 hour layover in Germany…cue trying to stay awake after flying all night and then opting to drink German wine. These decisions may have resulted in a quality airport nap. However, if you’re looking for affordable flights, check out Priceline– the site will scan 450+ airlines to find you the best deal! And now you all know my secret…Shhhhh. I personally ended up flying to Bucharest, Romania afterward. The flight was SOOO cheap, so if you find yourself in the same boat, check out my guide to 3 days in Bucharest.
One last thing—you can take public transport to your hotel, but if it’s super early and you can’t see straight yet, consider booking an airport transfer from Queen Alia airport in advance. And that’s all for today—everything you need to know about my version of the 10 top tourist attractions in Jordan.
Let’s hear your opinion – what are some of your top things to do in Jordan? Anything else I should add to this Jordan bucket list?