Are you planning a trip to the Hashemite Kingdom? This 8-day Jordan itinerary includes all the highlights, from Petra to Wadi Rum and everything in between!
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8-Day Jordan Itinerary
Jordan hasn’t been the country of Jordan for very long – the current constitution of the Hashemite Kingdom only dates back to 1952. But the land is ancient, home to human civilizations since the dawn of time. It’s a land littered with fascinating archaeological sites, from Jerash to famous Petra. But it’s also home to epic natural wonders, such as the otherworldly Wadi Rum desert. And to top it all off, it’s a country with incredible food and extremely kind and hospitable people. In short, it’s definitely a place you want to visit.
I typically do all of my own trip planning, but I booked my Jordan trip through Exoticca – they have amazing tour guides and are extremely helpful in making a trip to the Middle East stress-free.
But, unlike Egypt and other nearby countries, it is possible to plan a trip to Jordan on your own. The infrastructure is decent, almost everyone speaks English, and it’s very safe! So if you’ve decided to plan your own trip, here is an 8-day Jordan itinerary that will help you get the most out of your visit to this beautiful gem in the Middle East.
Tips for Visiting Jordan
Compared to Egypt, driving a rental car in Jordan is easy – I personally have not done it, but I have a few friends who have and they didn’t have any major problems. There is also a plethora of rental car companies available, from big names like Hertz and Enterprise to small mom-and-pop outfits. As with any country, the most challenging aspect is how locals view deriving rules – in Jordan, it seems most rules are subject to individual interpretation.
The most common form of public transportation is by bus. However, there are no bus timetables in Jordan – buses simply leave once they are full. Locals rely on word-of-mouth to know when the next bus is running which route. So if you plan on traveling around the country this way, build in lots of extra time and patience.
Taxis are very commonly used in Jordan, and we did this a couple of times in Amman. As a foreigner though, it’s difficult to know what is a fair price and if you’re being scammed, so just use your discretion.
Check out this full guide on transportation in Jordan.
To get the most out of your time in Jordan, I highly recommend going with a guide like Exoticca which will remove the stress of transportation.
The official currency in Jordan is the Jordanian Dinar and it is also the preferred currency. Many places accept credit cards but Bedouin vendors and small shops only accept cash, and most only accept JD (not euros or American dollars). When I was in Jordan, the JD was very strong against other Western currencies, so that’s a major reason they would not accept anything else. There are plenty of ATMs in Amman where you can get cash for your Jordanian itinerary.
The official language is Arabic, but almost everyone speaks English. Several Bedouins we met were fluent in multiple languages.
What to Wear
Jordan is a Muslim country, and most Jordanians dress fashionably but conservatively. However, there are no rules regarding what tourists can wear. And we did see just about everything, from bikinis at the Dead Sea and complete Instagram costume changes at Petra. My suggestion is to respect your hosts and the locals by not being one of those tourists – they’ll think better of you and you will feel more comfortable by not drawing unwanted attention to yourself. Keep your thighs, shoulders, and cleavage covered, and wear loose-fitting clothing and you’ll be good to go!
My packing list for Egypt applies to Jordan as well, so check that out for more tips.
Day 1: Travel to Amman
Day 1 of your Jordan itinerary is mostly a “travel and then recover from traveling” day. Because for most of you reading this, getting to Jordan is no quick trip. Almost all flights arrive in the capital city of Amman, so plan on getting to your hotel (where you’ll base yourself for the first 3 nights), finding dinner, and resting up before your jam-packed trip around Jordan!
Where to stay in Amman
Day 2: Desert Castles
In the eastern part of Jordan are several desert castles and fortresses. Start your Jordan itinerary by driving out of Amman to check them out!
First, stop at Qasr Al-Kharanah. No one is really sure when it was built or why (though it likely dates back to 700 AD), but it’s an impressive site in the middle of an otherwise barren wasteland.
A few miles down the road from Kharanah is the second desert stop, Qasr Amra. Amra is a UNESCO-designated site because of its extremely well-preserved painting and frescoes from the Ummayad period. It was once both a fortress and a hunting lodge for the caliphs when it was built in the 8th century.
Before you reach the last castle of the day, you’ll see a traffic sign you’ve probably never seen before – the highway here splits and one way goes to Iraq and the other way goes to Saudi Arabia. Take the opportunity to snap a pic!
The last castle of the day is Qasr al-Azraq, located in the oasis town of Azraq. The current fortress dates back to the 1200s when it was used by the Arabs in their fight against the Crusaders. But Azraq is most famous for being where TE Lawrence spent the winter in 1917 with Sharif Hussein during the Arab Revolt. He also met with Prince Faisal here several times.
Drive back to Amman to grab dinner and rest before day 3!
Day 3: Aljoun Castle and Jerash
From the barren deserts of eastern Jordan to the vibrant and lush forests of the north: the next item on your Jordan itinerary is a day trip to Aljoun and Jerash!
Start your morning with a tour of Aljoun Castle. This picturesque fortress is located high atop a hill overlooking the town of Aljoun. It was built in the 12th century by the famous military leader Saladin (the same guy who built Cairo’s amazing citadel). Much of the original structure no longer exists but most of the castle has been rebuilt and restored. But the real draw are the amazing views over the Jordan Valley from the castle’s parapets. On a clear day you can see all the way to Israel’s Golan Heights and the Sea of Galilee! It’s proof that Jordan isn’t just a country of rock formations and sand dunes.
Just a short drive down the mountain from Aljoun is the largest, best-preserved Roman city outside of Europe – Jerash.
Like most of Jordan, people have been living in the region of Jerash for millennia, but its heyday was during the Roman Empire when it was a bustling metropolis and one of the most important trading outposts outside of Italy. For centuries that was lost to history though, as the ruins were covered up by sand. It wasn’t until 1925 that Jerash was rediscovered and excavated. Today, it’s an amazing half-day excursion that even only mild history lovers will enjoy!
Highlights to visit in Jerash include the impressive southern gate, also known as Hadrian’s Arch. Behind it lies the Hippodrome, which could seat 15,000 spectators for chariot races.
There’s also the Temple of Zeus, worth the climb for the view it offers over the city! In the South Theater, you’ll likely find bagpipers proving just how excellent the acoustics are.
And on the north end of the site is the Temple of Artemis, home to the only original Roman-era columns still standing.
Tips for visiting Jerash:
- Bring a hat or wear sunscreen as there is almost no shade
- There is a cafe at the entrance that has a buffet if you get hungry, but make sure to bring water with you inside the site
- It takes at least 3 hours to see the whole site
- I recommend going with a tour guide, like this one, as you’ll get much more out of your visit than if you go on your own
Head back to Amman for one more night before exploring more of Jordan!
Day 4: Mount Nebo, Madaba, Petra
Day 4 of your Jordan itinerary starts with a drive to Biblical Mount Nebo.
In Deuteronomy 34, God took Moses to the summit of Mount Nebo to show him the Promised Land. When Moses died, he was likely buried nearby. Many centuries later, early Christians built a church on the mountain in honor of Moses. Eventually, that was lost to time, but the church foundations and some of the original floors were rediscovered in the 1930s. Today, you can visit the memorial that the Franciscans built to protect and preserve the church and honor the grace God showed to Moses.
A few short miles from Mount Nebo is the town of Madaba. Another Biblical site, Madaba is home to the oldest surviving map of the Holy Land. It forms part of the floor of St. George’s Church and dates back to the 6th century. The map is made up of over 3 million mosaic tiles!!
From Madaba, begin the drive to Jordan’s most famous landmark: Petra.
Petra is about 3 hours from Madaba. There are a handful of small towns and gas stations in between, but nothing major, so you may want to grab lunch in Madaba before you head out.
A few miles north of Petra is Shobak Castle, one of the country’s most well-known Crusader castles. We were supposed to make a stop here but weren’t able to (a long, amusing story involving truck protests and bus drivers that you can ask me about another time lol). But, you should make the stop if you can!
Arrive in Petra in time to check into your hotel, have dinner, and then enter the ancient city for Petra at Night. Petra at Night gives you a once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience the ancient city lit up by candlelight. The experience also includes a show put on by the Bedouins but, to be honest, it’s really bizarre and not very good. BUT, it’s worth it to walk through the canyon at night and see the Treasury at nighttime!
I recommend staying two nights in the Petra area so that you can enjoy a full day in the site itself on Day 5.
Where to stay in Petra
We stayed at the Town Season Hotel. It’s a wonderful, family-run boutique hotel in the heart of Wadi Musa (the modern-day city of Petra). They serve an amazing breakfast and dinner, the staff are kind and accommodating, and the rooms are modern and comfortable. It was one of our favorite hotels on the trip!
Day 5: Petra
The day you’ve probably been waiting for (and rightly so!) – day 5 of this Jordan itinerary is Petra day!
Petra is one of the 7 Wonders of the World and it definitely lives up to the hype. The impressive facades that it’s famous for are even more astounding in person than pictures suggest. Though everyone is familiar with the famous Treasury (thanks, Indiana Jones!) the archaeological site of Petra is actually huge, including hundreds of other tombs and several miles of hiking trails. You do need an entire day to fully explore it.
Tips for visiting Petra:
- Wear comfortable shoes – the road through the canyon between the visitors center and the Treasury is paved (also known as the Siq), but no other trail within the site is. There’s lots of sand and rocks! And unless you pay one of the Bedouins for a camel or donkey ride, you’ll be walking the entire day.
- Wear sunscreen and/or a hat – there is shade within the canyon, but there’s plenty of hot, direct sunshine beyond the Treasury
- Bring water – it’s a sandy and dusty place. While there is a cafe within the park, places to buy water are limited
- Bring cash (I.e. Jordanian Dinar) – if you do decide to purchase something from the Bedouins, a few only take cash
- Go with a tour guide – there are no signs or plaques within the site to tell you what you’re looking at, so a tour guide (like this one) will help you get the most out of your visit
Day 6: Little Petra and Wadi Rum
Before totally leaving the Petra area, start day 6 of your Jordan itinerary by stopping by what’s known as Little Petra.
It’s just a couple of miles north of big Petra and actually likely predates it. The site is much smaller and quieter and only takes an hour maximum to visit. But it has some extremely well-preserved examples of Nabatean homes, including frescoes that are a couple thousand years old. And it’s nice to explore these ancient sites without all the crowds and vendors that fill the main Petra site.
From Petra, it’s a short 2-hour drive to the only place more epic than Petra: the Wadi Rum Desert.
Wadi Rum’s claim to fame is that it doesn’t look like it should be on Earth. It’s been the filming location for several Star Wars movies, Dune, the Martian, and several other sci-fi films. The towering red mountains and drifting sand dunes are beautiful for their otherworldliness.
Despite its size, an afternoon and morning are the perfect amount of time to allot in your Jordan itinerary for Wadi Rum. The desert is gorgeous but empty and there is not a ton you can do on your own.
Ways to explore Wadi Rum:
- 4×4 Jeep Tour – There are no paved roads within the Wadi Rum protected area, so the best way to see a lot of it in a short amount of time is via 4×4. Most of the camps offer a 2, 3, or 4-hour tour, or you can book a 4×4 tour ahead of time
- Stargazing – There is almost no light pollution in Wadi Rum, so it’s one of the best places in the world to go stargazing. There is a center in Wadi Rum that has extremely high-quality telescopes that you can use to see stars, planets, and other galaxies that are invisible to the naked eye. The experience is inexpensive but worth doing and can be arranged through your hotel.
- Hiking – From gigantic cliffs, cool rock formations, and ancient petroglyphs, there are plenty of things to entice a hiker in Wadi Rum. However, it is still a desert and there’s a good reason most Wadi Rum activities are arranged with a guide. If you choose to go hiking on your own, be sure to let your hotel know and take a map and supplies. Or, you can hire a guide to take you on a Wadi Rum hiking trip.
- Camel ride – One of the most memorable parts of our entire trip was taking a sunrise camel ride out into the desert. Our guide took us over a mile away from any camps to an amazing spot and made a pot of tea while we watched the sun rise over the red mountains. We did this the morning of Day 7 of our Jordan itinerary before leaving the desert.
Where to Stay in Wadi Rum
There are no traditional hotels here, only various camps ranging from completely budget-friendly to high-end luxurious glamping style. Wherever you stay, I highly recommend sleeping in a dome/bubble that gives you a view of the stars. We stayed one night at the Hasan Zawaideh Camp, which was a great mid-level desert camp. They serve a traditional Bedouin community-style dinner every night and offer both tents and Martian domes.
Day 7: Dead Sea (drive to Amman)
After several jam-packed days, it’s time for a little R&R at the Dead Sea. From Wadi Rum, it’s about 4 hours to the Dead Sea, so leave early and arrive at the lowest place on earth around lunchtime.
The Dead Sea is so named because aside from some microorganisms and algae, nothing lives in it. This is because of its extremely high salt content. That salt content also causes another phenomenon – extreme buoyancy! Even someone who has never been able to float in a normal pool (like me) can float with ease in the Dead Sea. My mom floated so easily that she had a hard time getting out LOL.
Most Dead Sea resorts won’t let you use their beaches unless you’re a guest, understandably. But O Beach Resort is an exception – you are welcome to drop in for a few hours, use their showers and changing rooms, and rent a locker for a small fee. They also have a restaurant that’s a great place for lunch. It’s nothing fancy, but it doesn’t require you to have a room with them.
You might want to spend extra time on the beach, floating in the water, or rubbing Dead Sea mud on yourself. Personally, an hour was plenty of time for me. However long you choose to spend though, once you’re done, head back to Amman and check into your hotel for two more nights in Jordan’s capital city.
Day 8: Amman
On the last day of your Jordan itinerary, spend time exploring the big city itself – Amman.
The area of Amman has been inhabited for almost 10,000 years. Today, with Jordan being the “Switzerland of the Middle East,” it’s a mixing bowl of old traditions and architecture, new styles and chic trends, of cultures and languages from all over the world. It’s worth spending a few hours getting to know this bustling metropolis.
Things to do in Amman:
- Amman Citadel: The area of the Citadel sits on a hilltop overlooking the city and dates back to 1800BC. Every age has left its mark on this hill, from the ancient Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, and the Ummayyads. Highlights include the impressive Temple of Hercules and the Umayyad Palace.
- Roman Theater: Just a 20-minute walk from the Citadel is the restored Roman theater. It gives tourists an idea of what Amman may have looked like back in its Roman days.
- Jordan Museum: This new museum has a host of interactive exhibits and important artifacts, including one of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Jordan Museum is one of the most accessible ways to learn about the country’s long and colorful history.
- Eat: Jordanians know how to cook, that’s for sure! And Amman is home to some of the best places in the country to try Jordanian cuisine
- For authentic dishes, check out Tawaheen al-Hawa. It’s a favorite with the locals, inexpensive, and you will not leave hungry!
- For dessert, swing by Habibah, Amman’s most well-known bakery. It’s the best place to try knafeh, the most classic Jordanian dessert.
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