In just six days exploring Jordan you can marvel at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Petra, float weightlessly in the Dead Sea and camp out under the stars in the middle of the desert.
Impressive cultural sites, a rich history, luxury accommodation and warm hospitality are just some of the many reasons to visit Jordan this year.
Follow our six-day itinerary including the must-see places, hotels to check into and plenty of places to eat, shop and relax at.
WHAT TO PACK
DAY ONE: AMMAN
After a comfortable four-and-a-half-hour flight from London, touch down in the Jordanian capital of Amman, a buzzing modern metropolis that’s home to around two and a half million people and numerous ancient ruins. Undoubtedly the best place to check in here is the Fairmont Amman, a gleaming five-star hotel akin to a royal palace, with a prestigious address next to the city’s most affluent neighbourhoods of Abdoun and the adjacent diplomatic area.
Designed by award-winning architects Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo (WATG), the hotel boasts 317 elegantly appointed guestrooms and suites with soothing neutral interiors decorated with wood and marble, plus sweeping views of the city. It’s the perfect place to lay your head after travelling and recharge for a full day of sightseeing.
DAY TWO: AMMAN AND JERASH
After indulging in the Fairmont’s bountiful breakfast buffet in the Nur Lebanese Dining restaurant – including mountains of fresh fruit, warm flaky pastries and an omelette station – hop in the car for a 45-minute drive north of Amman, to Jerash. Often overlooked in favour of more well-known Petra, the ruins of the walled Greco-Roman settlement of Jerash, once known as Gerasa, sit just outside the modern city and are well worth a visit. Widely acknowledged to be one of the best-preserved Roman provincial towns in the world, Jerash was hidden for centuries in sand then excavated and restored over the past 70 years. You’ll need two hours minimum to wander the fascinating remains of paved and colonnaded streets, hilltop temples, grand theatres, baths, fountains and city walls pierced by towers and gates before going back to town for lunch at Hashem.
This eatery is a foodie mecca, known for its delicious plates of warm falafel, hummus and flatbreads which are thrown down on a paper-lined table with little fanfare but taste out of this world – a meal for two will set you back less than a fiver. Satisfy your sweet tooth at Habibah Sweets just up the road – their signature treat is kunāfah, a moreish concoction of shredded and buttered dough filled with a luscious cream cheese that’s flavoured with orange zest and cardamon then drenched in sugar syrup.
Refuelled, head for sights such as the historic Citadel and the Roman Theatre and stroll down Rainbow Street, which is lined with cafes, shops selling handicrafts and rooftop bars. If you’re ready to chill then make a reservation at Al-Pasha Turkish Bath located a few blocks away, where you can enjoy a traditional hammam. As dusk falls, return to the Fairmont for dinner of lobster salad and delicious ribeye steaks cooked over a wood-burning grill at Salt Steakhouse.
DAY THREE: AMMAN TO PETRA
A final morning of sightseeing in Amman should include a visit to see the ornate exterior of the Grand Husseini Mosque and, if you feel like splashing some cash, make a stop at Souk Boukaria just opposite. One of the oldest markets in the city, it’s filled with beautiful goods ranging from ceramic artifacts to embroidered textiles and musical instruments. Eat a light lunch of Caesar salad and club sandwiches in the hotel’s Crystal Lounge, then hit the road for the three-hour drive south to the spectacular UNESCO World Heritage site of Petra.
Those in the know stay at the Mövenpick Resort Petra, not least for its ideal location, right opposite the entrance to the ancient archaeological site. It’s especially convenient if you want to be there for sunrise or to purchase tickets to Petra By Night when you can enter part of the site by candlelight. The hotel has many other great qualities too, including wonderful interiors filled with shiny marble, natural light and Levant-style décor, plus a large pool and rooftop terrace that are a welcome balm for weary limbs after a long day of walking. Breakfasts at Al Saraya restaurant are legendary and include western favourites such as eggs, bacon and sausage, French toast and pancakes as well as falafel, freshly-made in front of you with all the fixings (including delicious tahini) to create a warm breakfast sandwich.
DAY FOUR: PETRA TO WADI RUM
Set your alarm as early as you can bear to beat the crowds visiting Petra on any given day. The site is sprawling, so the best way to navigate it is with a tour guide, such as the brilliant company Tours By Locals who arrange authentic experiences using only the most knowledgeable and friendly guides. They will meet you at the gates of the Siq – a 1.2-kilometre winding road – and accompany you in the early morning light through the dusty red desert which soon turns into sheer cliff faces and winding gorges that have been shaped by centuries of wind, rain and rivers. Suddenly, you will see the famous Treasury appear through a gap at the end of the pathway, a breath-taking 2000-year-old mausoleum carved directly into the sandstone cliff that will stop you in your tracks. But there are plenty more ruins to explore; from towering tombs to the amphitheatre and the monastery, you can spend as long as you like walking around the site, with a stop for lunch to escape the midday heat.
Once you have said goodbye to your guide, check out of the hotel and get back in the car for the hour-and-a-half journey to Wadi Rum, a desert reserve in the southern part of Jordan famous for its red and pink sands, stunning natural landscape and prehistoric rock carvings. There are many accommodation options in the area – also known as the Valley of the Moon – but the one that stands out is Sun City Camp. Choose between sleeping in one of their Bedouin tents (black and white striped tents with interior walls) or a Martian Dome, fun geodesic structures with big windows facing out across the desert; either way, rooms come complete with a double bed and a private bathroom with a large shower so you will be super comfortable. During an overnight stay at Sun City Camp, dinner and breakfast is included; both are served buffet style in a giant communal dome and the food is unbelievably good, especially considering the remote location.
Expect a traditional Zarb (Bedouin barbecue) dinner – chicken, lamb and other meats cooked in a subterranean oven, with a big show of pulling the steaming three-tier cooking tray out of the sand – along with a huge selection of colourful salads, dips, flatbreads and desserts galore. End the evening around the campfire, with a cup of tea warmed over the charcoal, and perhaps some customary dancing with your hosts before a stargazing-experience with RumSky’s professional astrologists where you can gaze into space using state-of-the-art telescopes.
DAY FIVE: WADI RUM TO AQABA
Waking up to sunrise in the desert is certainly one of the most memorable parts of any trip to Jordan; the golden light drenches the desert landscape so you feel like you truly are on another planet. Today is a day for activities, which are all brilliantly organised by the Sun City Team, who match guests up with charming Bedouin tour guides, either on a 4X4 tour or a camel ride across the sands. On the Jeep excursion experienced drivers will take you up and down the majestic dunes, visiting local Bedouin tents along the way for tea, and pointing out filming locations for iconic movies such as Lawrence of Arabia, The Martian and Star Wars.
It’s hard to leave this magical land behind, but don’t miss some R&R on the country’s south coast, where the town of Aqaba offers direct access to the wonders of the Red Sea. The short one-hour transfer will get you there for a spectacular sunset at the Kempinski Hotel Aqaba Red Sea. The hotel offers spacious and light rooms, with a calming minimalist décor and fantastic views out to sea. By day, find a sun lounger by the pool and settle in with a good book, perhaps putting it down to swim a few laps, unwind in the jacuzzi, eat a warm panini for lunch or order a cocktail from the swim-up bar. Guests also benefit from a wonderful spa and direct access to the ocean via a pristine sandy beach, so you can get your daily dose of vitamin sea. At night, venture out into the city and eat at any one of the local spots for some seriously good mezze and shisha.
DAY SIX: THE DEAD SEA
No trip to Jordan is complete without a dip in the Dead Sea so it’s time to move on once last time. Base yourself at the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea, another comfortable classic from the brand, with fabulous rooms and an ambitious design inspired by the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The Superior Rooms are huge and come with large terraces overlooking the Dead Sea, and there are a trio of outdoor swimming pools as well as numerous bars and restaurants to enjoy.
The real action happens down on the hotel’s private beach, where you are encouraged to slather yourself in the almost-black Dead Sea mud that staff have helpfully collected in giant urns and then sit in the sun as it dries hard. To wash it off you must walk into the sea and attempt to swim, although it is so hard to even push your legs through the water due to the high salt levels so floating really is your only option. Afterwards, expect super soft skin for days. End your trip on a high with a delicious seafood dinner at Blu Mediterranean Flavours and a digestif on the Sumerian Terrace with panoramic views over the water.
It is possible to self-drive around Jordan but the most relaxing way to see the country is with a driver who can take you from point to point. One of the best is Ahmad, a kind and friendly gentleman who will be with you every step of the way in a smart and clean car, making stops to buy you gifts of coffee and dates, and teaching you all about the history and the people of his country. Message him on +962 7 9637 8077
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