Jordan - Our Travel Diary
Updated: Sep 11
Duration - 8 days (May 2017)
Getting there - Jordan’s capital city of Amman is the gateway to the country by air. Queen Alia International Airport in Amman is well-connected with most of the major European, Asian, Middle Eastern and North African cities via direct or one stop flights. We flew Royal Jordanian from London Heathrow to Amman (just over 5 hrs non-stop).
When to go - The best time to travel to Jordan is during Spring (From March to May) or during Autumn (September to November). During these months the weather is prefect for sightseeing and cool enough to explore the ancient sights and natural beauty of the country.
What to buy - If you like to get a little something more than your memories and photos, then get some freshly ground cardamom coffee or different spice blends from a local supermarket, there is also a variety of beautiful pottery to choose from, and based on your budget you could also splash on some beautiful mosaics. Try some local street shops for some real and quirky finds.
Staying comfortable - The geography, climate and culture means that you are better off with breathable and modest clothing. Always carry a light jacket, sunglasses, hat or scarf- the heat can be relentless but at the same time the evenings can be chilly. The obvious but important- always carry water with you. If you are travelling with children carrying some fruit juice and snacks keeps them hydrated and energetic.
Our itinerary -
We started our Jordan exploration from Amman. Amman, like many other capital cities is a beautiful mix of the by-gone era and modern development, the Roman ruins and amphitheatre standing in harmony with the modern ‘Boulevard’ - the shopping and food district of Amman.
Day 1 - Full day sightseeing in Amman
Spend day 1 exploring Amman - a visit to the Amman Citadel, Roman Amphitheatre, Royal Automobile Museum, King Abdulla Mosque and downtown Amman will fill up your day. Day ones are always about getting a feel for the place - so keeping it nice and relaxed always puts you on the right frame of mind.
The Temple of Hercules, Amman Citadel
Roman Amphitheatre, Amman
The evening was nice and breezy and we dined at the ‘Vivid’ a rooftop restaurant in Boulevard Amman. Sitting there enjoying our meal made us a bit emotional. We had heard stories during the day as to how people between Jordan and Syria travelled for sight seeing and picnics when life was ‘normal’. Less than 100 miles from where we sat was a world torn apart by years of war. It is difficult not to be moved with what conflict does to a place and its people… silently hoping that peace and happiness and normalcy returned to those people…
Day 2 - Full day trip to North Jordan
Part of the North of the country can be covered from Amman as a day trip. We had visited the following,
The town of Salt: The town of Salt has its own significance as the Ottoman trading hub which reflects its Ottoman architecture. A visit to the Abu Jaber Museum and strolling through the street markets of Salt will transport you back in time. Read our experience at Salt here. We also had some delicious freshly made ‘Awameh’ and ‘Qatayef’ - offered by a couple of Hussam’s (our guide) many friends! As we stood chatting to locals- we were invited by one of them to see the renovation work he was doing to a century old property… we always love the connections humans can make even when you don’t speak the language and don’t belong to that place.
Bread seller from the Bazar of Salt
The fruit and vegetable seller in the Bazar of Salt
The Ajloun Castle: This is a ‘must see’ in our opinion, the old walls and alleyways of this 12th century hilltop castle is full of stories from the past. The view of the northern terrain of Jordan from the top of Ajloun Castle is breath-taking and reveals the secret of its strategic location. This is where you fully appreciate where you are standing and how close all the conflict zones are!
The Roman Ruins of Jerash: Jordan’s largest and most interesting Roman ruins will take couple of hours if not less. Stroll through the stone paved streets of the ruin city of Jerash to appreciate its true beauty. The heat can be relentless during the day- so take breaks and stay hydrated. Like all Roman ruins, the enormity and openness make the heat more unbearable.
Gerasa's Main Street, Roman Ruins of Jerash
The Oval Plaza of the Romain Ruins of Jerash
Day 3 - Central Jordan – Madaba, Mount Nebo and Al Maghtas
The central part of the country has huge religious and historical significance that attracts hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from around the world every year.
Madaba: The town of Madaba is the home to the famous ‘The Madaba Map’ also known as the Madaba Mosaic Map, a floor mosaic in the early Byzantine church of Saint George. The famous Madaba Mosaic Map depicts Jerusalem which includes area from Lebanon in the north, the Nile Delta in the south, the Mediterranean Sea in the west and the desert in the East. Among other important features, the map also depicts the Dead Sea and animals such as lion and gazelle. The other important sites to visit in Madaba are The Church of The Apostles and Church of the Beheading of John The Baptist, both of which house impressive mosaics.
The Church of Saint George, Madaba
The Map of Madaba on the floor of the Church of Saint George
The mosaic on the floor of the Church of the Apostles
Mount Nebo: Just outside Madaba is another very significant and religious site, Mount Nebo- which is according to the Bible is where Moses was granted a view of the Promised Land and according to many historians is the burial site of Moses. At top of Mount Nebo is the 4th century Moses Memorial Church which houses some of the best mosaics in Jordan, dating from around 530 A.D. Among the many mosaics the masterpiece is a hunting and herding scene which depicts an assortment of African fauna including lion, zebu, zebra, ostrich and camel-shaped giraffe.
Moses Memorial Church and the Valley in the background, Mount Nebo
The mosaic of the Moses Memorial Church, Mount Nebo
Al Maghtas: Downhill from Mount Nebo towards the River Jordan is the most important religious site of Jordan – Al Maghtas, believed to be actual site where Jesus was baptised. Situated on the eastern bank of the River Jordan, this is a UNESCO world heritage site. It consists of two main archaeological areas – Jabal Mar-Elias (the remnants of a monastery on a mound) and an area close to the river with remains of churches, baptism ponds and pilgrim and hermit dwellings. Throughout the year pilgrims from around the would flock to this holy site to take a dip in the River Jordan which is barely few meters in width and is also the border between Jordan and The West Bank of Israel. This was also one of the wow moments- standing at such an important site and seeing Israel just across the river. Just a head’s up that you do get pushed to buy souvenirs before you leave.
Jesus baptism site at Al Maghtas
Dead Sea: A short drive will take you to the dead sea- time to relax!! Enjoy some sumptuous dinner at your resort – we went for an American style burger – there weren’t too many options to choose from, but the surroundings make up for everything. As the day evolved into evening, we stopped to watch the sunset – a truly beautiful experience. Whoever came up with the idea of placing the wooden chairs is a genius!
Sunset by Dead Sea
Sunset by Dead Sea
Day 4 – Dead Sea Floating and drive to Wadi Musa – Petra
Dead Sea Floating: All big resorts have their share of the ‘private beach’ of the Dead Sea. Start early to experience the sunrise over Dead Sea, with barely any people in the morning it’s the best time to enjoy a relaxing float in Dead Sea. The water is packed with minerals and has an almost oily texture. Avoid dead sea water getting into your eyes! there are usually pots of dead sea clay that you can use to rejuvenate your skin before you take a shower. We enjoyed another dip in the infinity pool before having a hearty breakfast and starting off for Wadi Musa – Petra. Looking back, we wish we had another day at dead sea – just enjoying the beautiful resort and the magical floating experience!
Wadi Musa – Petra: On the way to the town of Wadi Musa lies the canyon of Wadi Mujib, a jaw-dropping canyon through which Mujib river runs into the Dead Sea. This place is a must visit attraction for adventure seekers for day long hiking while following the Mujib river on foot through the canyon. Take some stops at the Al Tafilah Mountain on King’s highway. The scenery is worth everything, A long drive through the rugged landscape of the Al Tafilah Mountain leads to the town of Wadi Musa, the home of one of the seven wonders of the world – the ancient hidden city of Petra by late afternoon. We checked in into our hotel and headed outside to explore Petra during late afternoon for couple of hours before the gates to Petra closes. Dinners are always nice in the middle east – and so are the nights.
The canyon of Wadi Mujib
The view of Al Tafilah Mountain
Day 5 – Petra and its magic!
Petra during the day – Start early to beat the heat, a long 2 mile walk through the ‘siq’ (narrow gorge) opens up to Petra Treasury. This is one of those ‘lifetime experiences’! Take time to take it in!! The way the light travels through the siq and then brings you face to face with the giant structure from history is something that cannot be really described in words. the Bedouins dressed up especially the fake Johny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean) adds to the feel of the place.
The siq of Petra
The end of the siq which reveals the Petra Treasury
Beyond the Treasury there are many more historic sites to explore within the city of Petra, among which the most significant one is Petra Monastery which is situated at the top of a mountain. It isn’t easy travelling up the steep mountain path as the air gets thinner and you may feel your heart pounding like disco music! Take breaks, hydrate and take it slow. There are donkey and mule ride options – the subject of using them are debatable. Head back to the hotel and put your feet up! Dinner is served in a traditional tent overlooking the beautiful setting. We witnessed the making of the ‘Zarb’ – a Bedouin delicacy with meat, veggies and rice that is cooked underground and tastes like made in heaven!
Horse carriage in Petra
Obelisk Tomb, Petra
The Royal Tombs of Petra
The Monastery of Petra
Petra by night – At night this beauty throws in another spell. Some clever mind came up with the idea of lighting the siq leading to the Treasury and the ground in front of the Treasury with thousands of candles. The atmosphere gets elevated to another level when the sounds of Bedouin music flows through the air under the night sky in the hidden city of Petra and get mixed with the hypnotic dancing flames of candles.
Sunset over Petra from Bedouin Tent
Sunset over Petra Mountains
Petra by Night at Treasury
Day 6 - Drive to Wadi Rum
After breakfast at Petra leave for Wadi Rum. The landscape changes from rugged mountainous to harsh and ruthless deserts during the drive from Wadi Musa to the desert of Wadi Rum. The desert highway that connects these two places was used as makeshift runway for fighter jets from the Arab Coalition Force during the ‘6 day war’…
Arrive at Wadi Rum village in the afternoon post lunch to be picked up by the Desert camp 4x4 vehicle. This is quite a ride. Long rugged terrains and the vastness make you feel small and wobbly! Check into desert camp- there are a few options to choose from and the quality of the service depends on the provider. If you can choose the ’Bubble Tent’ to enjoy the stunning view of the desert sky at night. Stay indoors during afternoons to avoid being charred and blown off. The desert is in all its ruthless right during mid-day.
As evening sets in the temperature drops and it’s time to crawl out of your burrows and enjoy a drink or two. Now is the time to catch the sunset experience and join one of the guided walking tours around the desert.
As night falls you see the zillions of stars dazzling in the desert sky – visibility is high with no light pollution. Sit back and gaze at the stars while the fire and mint tea keep you warm. The sounds of the Bedouin music and the food create the ambience … slowly the torches dwindle and the music fades away and it’s time to hit the sack!
Desert of Wadi Rum
Bedouin delicacy Zarb
Day 7 - Wadi Rum safari
Start early to witness the beautiful sunrise with Bedouin tea and morning walk. Post breakfast head for the desert safari of Wadi Rum. This is the place which ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ once used to call his home!
Sunrise in the desert of Wadi Rum
Bedouin Tea in the desert of Wadi Rum
You will be taken to the Umm Fruth Rock Bridge, khazali siq (canyon), Little Rock Bridge, Lawrence’s House, Alameleh Inscriptions, Al Hasany Dunes and Burdah Rock Bridge. Its wonderful in the desert until the sun comes overhead. Take a moment to appreciate the almost ‘lunarscape’ on the face of planet earth. The outer space type feeling you experience tells you why Martian was shot here!
At top of Umm Fruth Rock Bridge
Lunarscape of Wadi Rum
4X4 Desert safari in Wadi Rum
St. Stephen's Church and it's mosaics: Arrive back at Wadi Rum Village to be picked up by the hired car to travel back to Amman. On the way back to Amman stop at St. Stephen’s Church in Umm er-Rasas - A roman ruin site which also houses many mosaics. Arrive back in Amman by evening. Check-in into the hotel and visit the local market or shopping malls if that takes your fancy. Cardamom coffee from Jordan is heavenly!! We wish we bought more!
St. Stephen’s Church in Umm er-Rasas
Mosaic from St. Stephen’s Church in Umm er-Rasas
Floor mosaic from St. Stephen’s Church in Umm er-Rasas
Day 8 - Home time!
We checked out and headed back to the airport.