I am back from my Jordan trip so it’s time to share with you my amazing experience there. I expected to enjoy Jordan but I did not expect to love it so much. Jordan is an amazing country offering so many different objectives to visit. Most probably when you think about Jordan you think about Petra, one of the 7 World Wonders, but Jordan has much more than to offer. You will need around two weeks to really see and discover this country.
We spent 12 days in Jordan, road tripping around the country and in retrospect, I think the timing was fine. 14 days would have made it perfect. Our trip was planned as follows: 4 nights in Aqaba (for some quite moments on the beach), one night in the desert, 3 nights in Wadi Musa (to visit Petra), 4 nights in Amman (to visit Amman itself but also Dead Sea and Jerash as day trips).
I am talking about ‘we’ because we were a group of 6 friends travelling together around Jordan.
While planning and travelling through Jordan you have to keep in mind the followings:
1. If you want to visit the entire country you should plan to spend around 2 weeks here
2. Jordan is a relatively small country so you can easily drive from one point to another (I would say the maximum distance you will have to drive between objectives is around 5 hours)
3. You should rent a car as this is the best way to travel in Jordan
4. The Jordanian roads are in general ok and you can drive by yourself without any problems
This being said I have to mention that you will also find some rough patches of road. For example the road from Amman to Aqaba. The traffic rules are often not followed and although you will not feel this too much while travelling through the country, you will definitely feel it for sure in and around Amman. Here the traffic is very chaotic and crowded (because half of the country’s population lives in this area) so it’s better to let the car in a parking place while you’re in town. Also if you will choose a hotel in the city center make sure it has a parking or there is a parking nearby, otherwise you will struggle to find a good parking place.
5. There are a lot of police controls and it might be possible to be stopped several times while driving for routine checks
Don’t be afraid, just pass your passports to be verified and you will be able to continue your journey. Jordan it’s a quiet country in the middle of a conflict zone so they are doing their best to keep the country safe.
6. When renting a car you might read on the rental conditions that you need an international driving license
Most probably you will not need it; we didn’t have it and nobody requested it (neither when renting the car nor during the controls of the police).
7. Jordan is a safe country and the tourists are very welcomed
People are very nice and helpful. We had some car trouble after we filled the tank in the gas station and the guys there together with the ones from the rental company (by phone) were able to help us solve the problem and continue our journey.
8. My most important advice before going to Jordan would be to buy a Jordan Pass
You can buy the pass online here. You will have included in the pass the visa fee (that’s why you should buy it before entering the country) and many entrances as Petra (1,2,3 days depending of what pass you will choose), Jerash, Wadi Rum, Amman Citadel and many others. You can see the entire list here. There are three options of Jordan Passes, just choose what suits you best.
9. The currency in Jordan is the Jordanian dinar (JOD)
1 JOD=1,5090$, 1 JOD=1,2311 EUR (October 2018)
10. Jordan is an expensive country especially in the touristic area as Aqaba, Petra or Amman, at the same level with the west European countries
In Amman, being a big city, you will find many options to eat, expensive or very cheap but in the resort areas as Dead Sea or Aqaba you will pay a lot for the food.
11. Even if Jordan is a Muslim country the alcohol is not strictly forbidden
You will find alcohol in a lot of places in Amman and Aqaba as restaurants, bars or liquor stores. The prices are pretty high for it however. You will even find a local bear called, Petra.
12. Buy an internet SIM card
In this way you will be able to use the online maps any time you drive or to find on the internet out anything you will need at one moment. We bought SIM cards from the airport, from Zain, and we paid around 22 JOD for 15 GB internet + 5 GB during the night.
13. The best periods to visit Petra are March-May and September-November
Despite the small size of the country, Jordan has wide variations in temperature and climate. While in Aqaba or Dead Sea you can lay on the beach and swim, in Petra or Amman you might need a thick jacket so don’t forget to take with you a wide range of clothes. The sun sets early in this period (around 5 or 6 PM depending if you go before or after the hour change). Why am I talking about the sunset hour? Because depending of the sunset time some objectives will close around that hour (for example Petra or the Dead Sea beach).
14. Dress appropriately (Jordan is a muslim country)
In the tourist areas you can dress the way you want but in the cities or in the areas full o locals try to have a decent outfit (out of respect for them but so you will not feel uncomfortable).
This is the only coastal city in Jordan situated on the Red Sea coast where many big international hotel chains opened their resorts. We decided to spend our time not in Aqaba city but a little bit far away (around 15 minutes drive) in the Tala Bay area.
Tala Bay is a gulf area developed especially for touristic reasons. Here you can find several resorts, the port surrounded by a walking promenade, 3-4 restaurants and a little supermarket. We chose the Movenpick Resort because we wanted to have a private beach in order to be relaxed while wearing our bathing suits.
I do not regret choosing this place as our base, everything was almost perfect. The weather was perfect and I was impressed how little crowded it was. We felt like the entire resort was ours. During the weekend (Friday and Saturday) there were many locals in the resort but even then it didn’t feel crowded at all.
We visited Aqaba one evening using the shuttle bus from the hotel because we were too lazy to get the car out of the parking.
The beach in Aqaba is not the great. I would not recommend Aqaba for an entire beach holiday but only for some days while visiting the country. I would also recommend to stay in a resort. Thus, you will have also access to pools and more options to enjoy your time.
If you don’t feel comfortable to wearing bathing suits around locals even if you are in a resort and you are totally allowed to do this, you should avoid being in Aqaba during week-ends (Friday & Saturday) when they are spending their free time at the beach.
The resorts area in Aqaba and Tala Bay is expensive, more expensive than the rest of the country which is already pretty expensive.
If you decide to stay in Aqaba you will have the advantage of being in a city and having more options for meals and shopping; if you will chose Tala Bay you will only have a few options (excepting the restaurants and bars in the hotel) but you will be far from the city noise and you will be more able to relax and enter the holiday mood.
The area is not crowded at all, maybe because it is not such a popular beach destination comparing with others.
Even if we were in the desert last year in Morocco we decided to also try the Jordan’s desert. And we enjoyed it a lot. And it was such a different experience. We chose a 6 hour trip with overnight in a camp.
For a desert trip you have to book a local agency
There are many options regarding the agency, the tours, the starting hours or the night accommodation, just chose what you like. We were pleased with our decision and I will tell you more about the entire schedule in a following post. Regarding the travel agency we used Classic Wadi Rum Tours and everything was fine.
If I will start talking about Petra probably I will never stop. So I will only give you some general tips and I will invite you to stay tuned and read my next posts; one of them will be for sure dedicated to Petra.
Petra is huge, and I really mean huge. Be prepared to walk a lot and climb many stairs. But in the end your effort will be rewarded by some amazing views.
Two days in Petra is the perfect amount of time for seeing almost everything.
If you want to get some nice pictures start your day very early, just after the sunrise. Even at that hour you won’t be alone in Petra but at least you will not have to stay in the queue for taking a picture. And you will have more time to enjoy the place.
It’s mandatory to have good, comfortable shoes because you will have to climb stairs and go through the sand. Sandals are not an option at all, believe me.
Don’t invest in Petra by Night. I knew it from the beginning, after reading a lot of reviews, that Petra By Night is not worth it but I still wanted to see it with my own eyes. Probably you will do the same :). Apart from some nice night views over the Treasury there is nothing more about Petra by Night. The tickets for Petra By Night are definitely not cheap and they are not included in the Jordan Pass.
We wanted at the beginning to stop at the Dead Sea in our way from Petra to Amman and spend the day there. In the end we changed the plan and decided to go to Dead Sea as a day trip from Amman.
The distance between Amman and Dead Sea will take you maximum one hour and a half so it’s more than fine to visit Dead Sea while based in Amman.
Almost all the resorts around Dead Sea offer day passes for swimming. We chose Holiday Inn because after seeing some pictures we considered it has the best Dead Sea beach.
I would say one day is enough for the Dead Sea, let’s say maximum two days; after that you will probably start to get bored, or at least I would.
If you are only for one day at the Dead Sea try not to leave the beach before the sunset. This is the best moment of the day and you will see that everyone is coming to wait for the sunset.
In our way to the Dead Sea we stopped for a short visit at the Baptism site on the Jordan River. Here you can take a half an hour organized tour (you are not allowed to walk by yourself maybe because here the river is the border between Jordan and Israel and can be very easily crossed). If you are more into religion it does worth a visit to understand the significance of this place otherwise you can easily skip it.
Jerash was our last objective in Jordan and we visited it in the last day in Jordan also as a trip from Amman (there are around 48 km between Amman and Jerash).
The ancient city of Jerash is considered one of the most popular attractions in Jordan behind Petra. This is not a really a valid statement for me, I would definitely put Wadi Rum in front of Jerash.
It is one of the largest and most well preserved sites of Roman architecture in the world outside of Italy and its history goes back more than 6,500 years.
Jerash’s location may be the reason why it was a such a wealthy city at one time and why it was preserved so well. At an altitude of 500 meters, the city has a year-round supply of water and a temperate climate. The modern city of Jerash is built next to the ancient city.
Visitors will have the opportunity to walk through the ancient city and observe the well-preserved colonnaded streets, the theaters, the public baths and fountains.
I do not have any specific recommendation for Jerash, just pass by and take a 2-3 hours walk around the site.
We didn’t have the time to explore Amman very deep just to see its main objectives, which are only a few.
I found Amman as a very nice and vibrant city with a touch of both old and new in the same time. It has some modern areas with plenty of restaurants and bars or tall office buildings and many Starbuck cafes but also the old areas, bazaar styles.
The most beautiful place in Amman is the Citadel, a historical site situated on the hill with great views over the city. Watching the sunset here was definitely our Amman highlight. We even returned another evening to see the sunset for the second time, this much we loved it.
The traffic in Amman is ugly, it is very crowded and driving rules are not followed so it’s better to avoid using the car too much in the city.
There are plenty of options regarding the food in Amman, expensive, moderate or cheap prices, you can find everything you want.
In the end I would say the trip was very well organized and I was happy with the schedule with only 2 mentions:
- I would have spent the night at the Dead Sea (just to be more relaxing and because I liked the Resort)
- I would have added one more day for Amman to explore more the city
I will end saying again that Jordan is a great and varied and safe destination and I encourage you to put it on your list.
And maybe it’s not a very important aspect but Jordan is the country where the muezzin’s prayer call had the biggest impact on me; the resonance of the song over the city will remain probably in my mind for a long time. Even if I heard it in other countries here I felt it really different.
I hope you will find the information here useful and I hope I already convinced you to visit Jordan. Also , I hope you will read my next posts abut Jordan which will come soon.