Honestly, where do you begin when putting together an itinerary for Jordan? This country is straight up spectacular.
But you’ve got to do it right, as I have met people who have not enjoyed their time there.
However, whenever I am pressed to give my top five destinations, Jordan has always been high on that list. So this suggests that your experience will very much depend on what you see and how you do it. Below we share the very best of Jordan, with our suggested itinerary depending on how long you intend to visit.
Use this Jordan travel guide and make sure you get the best from your vacation.
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Getting Around Jordan
The thought of driving in Jordan can be a little daunting, but we’re here to say, you can do it! Rent a car, because if you do, your experience of Jordan will be a phenomenal one. There are SO many places to see that are off the beaten track.
To make the drive a little less overwhelming, you might want to consider renting a car outside of Amman. Madaba is a smaller town outside of Amman. In fact, it is only 30 minutes from the international airport and it is a great location to begin your Jordan itinerary.
So stay the night here and collect your car in the morning. This way you won’t need to deal with the stress of driving in the capital, which can be a bit hectic unless you know how to drive like a local.
Alternatively, if you prefer to take public transport, check this page on the Jordan Jubilee for up to date information about the bus routes and prices.
The best route to follow is without a doubt the King’s Highway which runs south from Madaba to Petra. Most sights listed below can be accessed via this very scenic drive. Some are a little further from the highway, but generally speaking everything is relatively close.
The Very Best Sights in Jordan
As mentioned above, Madaba is only 30 minutes from the international airport and 40 minutes from Amman. We started our trip here with an over night stay and a self-guided walking tour around the town and local churches.
Famous for its mosaics this little town will ease you right into what is to come. And there are a number of points of interest here that are definitely worth your time should you have an extra couple of hours.
Visit the Madaba Information Centre marked above on the map for an overview of where everything is located in the town. Or pick up the Lonely Planet for the walking tour.
We recommend that you visit the St George’s Church and admire the mosaic map that depicts ancient Palestine. And the Archaeological Park of Madaba which provides an impressive sight of the restored mosaics from the area.
The Mariam Hotel is a great location to stay. And they can also pick you up from the airport if you are looking for this service.
Mt Nebo & Mukawir Caves
Only 15 minutes from Madaba, is Mt Nebo. And this is the location where according to the bible Moses saw the Promised Land for the first time. In this region, and perched on top of the hill is the Moses Memorial Church. If you are nearby with your own car, then Mt Nebo is worth a quick visit.
Further south of Madaba, and a slight detour from the King’s Highway is Mukawir. Here you will find spectacular views over the Dead Sea, and some great smaller walks and hiking trails around the barren rocky countryside.
This is the location John the Baptist was said to have been beheaded. The ruins are nothing special, but the caves along the small tracks are interesting to explore. And you’ll likely be the only visitors to the area as this place is not frequented by many tourists.
The King’s Highway zig zags its way down one side of the large canyon of Wadi Mujib and then back up the other. The views are incredible, and trust me when I say, stop for a roadside cup of tea and take it all in.
Canyoning is a popular activity in Wadi Mujib. However, this is best accessed from the Dead Sea Highway rather than the King’s Highway. See this post by Wild Jordan for more information about what to expect when canyoning and how to book.
Karak or Kerak Castle
The Crusaders Castle of Karak is a destination often by-passed. Naturally most travellers are heading straight for Petra and miss this picturesque castle. And this is why it was probably one of our favourite places to visit in Jordan. It was quiet and it was amazing!
Driving within Karak is a challenge to say the least. We chose to park outside the city walls and catch a taxi into the town. From here we explored by foot.
For a small entry fee, enter the castle through the Ottoman’s Gate at the end of Castle Street (Al Qala’a St). Navigate yourself around the castle space, taking time to read the display boards. The explanations provided clarify the significance Karak Castle played during the Crusades and throughout history.
Dana Nature Reserve
Once again, off the tourist trail the Dana Nature Reserve is rated in our book as one of favourite experiences in Jordan. This nature reserve is the largest in Jordan. It also sits right beside the King’s Highway and so is extremely easy to get to en-route to Petra.
If you were to stop and look down into the valley, you would be forgiven for missing the Dana village which blends discretely into the mountainside. The houses built from sand stone, are largely unchanged from when they were built some 500 years ago.
The Dana Tower Hotel, is to this day one of the most unique hotels in which we have ever stayed. Simple, eccentric, traditional… it is difficult to sum up in just a few words. The photo below will hopefully provide a sense of our experience there. This room is actually detached from the main building and not normally booked, however the kind manager made an exception for us (as one comes to expect with local Jordanians.) And this is what travel is all about right… those unique experiences!
Hiking within Dana Nature Reserve
If you enjoy hiking and have time on your side, then we can definitely recommend hiking within the reserve. There are options for guided and self-guided walks. We chose the Wadi Dana Trail – described as an easy self-guided 14km, 6 hour hike. But there are several more to chose from.
If you do take this same hike, you will need to arrange transport from the exit point back to Dana. The trail begins in Dana and ends at the base of the reserve by Feynan Eco-Lodge. And keep in mind this is long drive back, so don’t expect to be travelling on after your hike.
The Dana Nature Reserve is an ecosystem unto itself. The abundant plant life and wild life are protected and unique to this reserve. And for this reason a beautiful place to spend a day or two, or more!
This pamphlet by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) is excellent if you are considering a hike. It has a great overview of the hiking trails available with Dana.
Further beyond the Dana Nature Reserve and roughly 30 minutes before you reach Wadi Musa is a second Crusader’s Castle. The quieter and smaller of the two castles, you’ll most likely have this location to yourself, or almost anyway.
There is little restoration made on the Shobak castle and so there is a romantic air about the place. Visitors are welcome to walk around at their own free will. Alternatively, for a small fee find tour guides at the gate who will provide you with a better understanding of the history behind this site.
Wadi Musa – Petra
Now in my opinion, there is no more magical place in the world than Petra. And we’ve explored our fair share of countries. This place filled our cup in terms of adventure, a sense of history and physical achievement.
You could spend a day here, or two or three – as we did. Each day there is more to explore, as you make your way a little further into the rose red city from long ago. And each day the experiences are a little more powerful.
As you’ll discover Petra is far more than the infamous Treasury photo. Put your hiking shoes on, grab your water bottle and explore the surrounding mountains and you’ll find so much more.
But lets first begin here. You know the image, peaking through the Siq, the narrow gorge leading to this spectacular sight. It is here visitors catch their first glimpse of the Treasury… the huge structure carved into the cliff face. It is incredibly overwhelming, but when surrounded by tourists some of that magic can be lost.
In fact, the Treasury gets very crowded as the day goes on and the Siq turns into a highway of people, horses and carriages. So rather prepare for an early morning and get yourself to the entrance in Wadi Musa for the opening timings. Following a 30 minute walk, making your way through the Siq… and low and behold, there she stands in front of you in all her glory. The sun is beginning to rise and besides a few other groups, you’ll be the only people here.
But this is not the only view of the Treasury worth checking out. Take the hike to the cliffs above on the opposite side of the Treasury and you’ll have a bird’s eye view. There are several ways to make the ascent, two of which I’m aware. One is very steep and somewhat sketchy, and the other begins around to the right of the Treasury past the Royal Tombs, which takes a more gentle approach to the view point.
You may also be interested in exploring the Treasury by night. For an extra fee, visitors are able to enter Petra in the evening. Some thousand candles light up the ground beneath the Treasury, as local music is played and stories told.
Petra City Centre – Ruins
Moving right on, from the Treasury follow the path past the Royal Tombs on your right and admire these less photographed but equally as impressive structures. On your left the Street of Facades and Theatre is also a fascinating place to explore.
As you approach the ruins of the Petra City Centre, you’ll find the columns and the Colonnaded Street. The construction in this area tells the story of a different time, one of Roman history. There is much to explore here and having a guide book or detailed map will certainly help.
Beyond the Petra City Centre ruins, prepare yourself for a steep and steady uphill incline to the Monastery. This is best done at the end of the day, as you’ll catch the golden hues of the setting sun bouncing of the Monastery.
There are some spectacular lookouts just a little further up. And it was here that we were lucky enough to time our visit with a choir group singing Amazing Grace. The round trip will take a couple of hours, so be sure to time it right.
Hiking Beyond Inside Petra
Below are some of the hikes that we recommend. These hikes will vary in time according to your level of hiking skill and of course on the time you spend exploring the sights along the route.
We suggest, that you get the Lonely Planet for a detailed explanation on how to find the trails and hikes available within Petra. This guide book was in our hands at all times and served as our go to for step by step directions.
Sights from the High Place of Sacrifice Hike
- High Place of Sacrifice – See the lion monument, garden tomb and roman soldier’s tomb. The walk up is picturesque with spectacular views over Petra to finish.
- Above the Treasury – described in more detail above, this walk provides a rewarding view of the Treasury.
- Wadi Muthlim to the Royal Tombs – This hike is recommended, but is closed at certain times of the year as it was in our case. The 90 minute walk provides an alternative route into Petra. It begins at the entrance and makes its way through narrow canyons and tight spots, finishing, as the names suggests, at the Royal Tombs.
- Other Trails – simply described in the Lonely Planet as other trails, there are many paths to explore and we recommend them. If you are lucky, you will meet locals along they way, who will kindly invite you for a cup of tea in a cave.
Where to Stay
Directly opposite the entrance to Petra is the Mövenpick Resort Petra. The location is super convenient, the rooms are tidy and the hotel perfectly pleasant.
Further south of Wadi Musa is Wadi Rum. And if you are familiar with T. E. Lawrence and the movie Lawrence of Arabia, then you may be familiar with Wadi Rum. Lawrence writes about this region following his part in the Arab Revolt from 1917-18.
Wadi Rum is a desert of rolling red sand dunes and magnificent rocks that seem to rise straight up out of the ground.
The best way to explore Wadi Rum is through a 4×4 tour. There are several points of interest that they can tailor into a visit. It is also very common for visitors to spend a night camping in traditional bedouin tents. This is a great opportunity to catch a sunset or sunrise and to experience a local meal which has been cooked underground.
Included in the tour, you will likely explore the desert dunes, rock inscriptions and petroglyphs. The grand siqs and canyons along with the rock bridge resembling certain National Parks of the USA.
One of the highlights of Wadi Rum is the Seven Pillars of Wisdom. This grand rock formation is most beautiful at sunset and the lookout is easily reached from the park entrance.
This well frequented resort side town is popular with the locals and tourists. If you like diving then this may well be an important destination to add to your Jordan itinerary.
Diving the red sea is an experience in itself, and there are several wreck dives worth checking out. If diving isn’t your thing, then perhaps being beach or pool side with a drink in hand is.
The Dead Sea
Back towards Amman and Madaba is the Dead Sea, pictured on the map at the beginning of this post. If you are ready to treat yourself and unwind after, up till now, what has been a rather physical exploration of Jordan, then keep the Dead Sea for last on the itinerary. We can definitely recommend the Mövenpick Resort & Spa, however to look at further options in this beautiful little place see the map below.
If you are unfamiliar about what makes the Dead Sea such a unique place to visit, then you are in for a surprise. First of all the Dead Sea is not an ocean, rather it is best described as an inland salty lake. And it is so salty that it is in fact impossible to sink.
Lining the edge of the water is thick mud. Layer this on before you go for a swim and enjoy the therapeutic qualities of the mud before taking the next step. And as you begin to step cautiously into the water, you’ll likely first notice the sting. The salt causes any little skin nick to burn slightly, which is actually rather unpleasant. But as you begin to get used to this sensation and as you lower yourself further into the water, you’ll find that your legs have an urge to lift up towards the surface. Before you know it, you are bobbing awkwardly on the water, rather than in it. There is no experience quite like it!
Many people are known to visit the Dead Sea for the treatment of ailments. But if you are passing through, then one or two nights will most likely suffice.
The Best Itinerary for Jordan
The best itinerary is obviously one that incorporates your interests and allows you to explore Jordan as you like. But to give an indication, taking into consideration the number of days available and including key sights then the following may help.
Four Full Day Itinerary Jordan
|Day 1||Take the King’s Highway to Wadi Musa |
Stops – Madaba, Karak, Dana
|Day 2||Explore Petra and stay the night in Wadi Musa|
|Day 3||Drive to Wadi Rum early in the morning|
Take a 4×4 tour and camp the night in the desert
|Day 4||Drive four hours to the Dead Sea|
Spend the afternoon swimming & luxury night stay
One Week Itinerary Jordan
|Day 1||Amman and Madaba|
|Day 2||Take the King’s Highway to Wadi Musa|
Stops – Mt Nebo, Mukawir Caves, Karak and Shobak
|Day 3||Explore Petra and stay the night in Wadi Musa|
|Day 4||Explore Petra and stay the night in Wadi Musa|
|Day 5||Drive to Wadi Rum early in the morning|
Take a 4×4 tour and camp the night in the desert
|Day 6||Drive 4 hours to the Dead Sea |
Stops – Dana, Wadi Mujib Nature Reserve
Stay – Luxury stay at the Dead Sea
|Day 7||Day at the Dead Sea to unwind|
Two Week Itinerary Jordan
|Day 2||Madaba, Mt Nebo and Mukawir Caves|
|Day 3||Take the King’s Highway to Wadi Musa|
Stops – Karak and Shobak
|Day 4||Explore Petra|
|Day 5||Explore Petra + Treasury by candlelight|
|Day 6||Explore Petra and beyond|
|Day 7||Wadi Rum|
|Day 8||Wadi Rum|
|Day 11||Dana Nature Reserve and full day hiking trip (Optional)|
Stay the night in Dana
|Day 12||(Optional) Canyoning in the Wadi Mujib Nature Reserve|
Drive to the Dead Sea
|Day 13||Luxury stay at the Dead Sea|
Relax and unwind
|Day 14||Luxury stay at the Dead Sea|
Relax and unwind
Of course, we would recommend that the four day itinerary is rather full. This is not how we tend to travel. But if time was limited to four days, and you wanted to take your time a little, then we would suggest leaving Wadi Rum off the itinerary above.
We hope that your find an itinerary to suit your needs and that your experience of Jordan is an amazing one. And we’d love to hear what you loved about your visit there. Please feel free to drop your comments below. Our visit sadly did not include north of Amman, but we have heard many amazing stories of this region. Let us know if you have been?
We now travel the world full-time as a family. Want to see how we do this? Then read this post on how we got started during a world pandemic!
If you love ancient Middle Eastern history then plan a visit to Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates.
Pin for later – The very best of Jordan + Itinerary