Places to visit in Jordan
Jordan is a relatively small country but packs a big punch in terms of places to visit. We have listed all of the highlights here and will be happy to discuss with you how best to fit these together. Jordan also combines well with a visit to Egypt and Israel so do ask us if you would like further details.
Petra is quite simply the most incredible ancient site that will delight all ages – as last some archaeological ruins that children actually enjoy! Who would not love wandering through the mysterious narrow siq (canyon) to emerge at that famous sight from ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ – the towering façade of the Treasury. With its exquisite architecture carved intricately out of rock, this is the spot for the classic Petra shot replete with colourfully bedecked camels picturesquely lying on the sandy floor. The rock glows different hues of pink, amber and rose depending on the time of day and it is worth simply spending some time here to watch the expressions on people’s faces as their first glimpse of the site comes into view.
Beyond the wonderfully preserved amphitheatre, there are some fantastic hikes up to the monastery and the ‘high place of sacrifice’, depending on the ages of your children and how fit / portable they are. There are also camels and donkeys that can carry the weary. Part of the appeal of this site for younger ones is that the ruins are very extensive with remote, less crowded parts, little-visited caves and small desert tracks that children will love to explore. With plenty of shaded cafes Petra is the perfect place to make history come to life in the most enjoyable way.
For older families there is also the option of a candlelit visit to the site, which operates on certain evenings – a truly magical way to enter one of the world’s greatest ancient sites.
Dead Sea, Madaba, Mt Nebo and Kerak
Jordan is packed full of ancient biblical sites – perhaps some more mythical than factual. A wonderful day can be spent visiting many of these places en route between Amman and Petra following Jordan’s rift valley. The Church of St George in Madaba, close to Amman, contains the oldest mosaic map of the Holy Land and is a very spiritual place. Nearby Mt Nebo is allegedly the spot where Moses viewed the Promised Land and on a clear day you can see as far as the Israeli cities of Jericho and Jerusalem. From here you can descend for something a little more child-friendly – a splash around in the Dead Sea (or perhaps more of a float in its salty waters) and children will love covering themselves in the thick, gloopy mud on the shores of the lowest place on earth.
Continuing south along the King’s Highway, a stop at the crusader castle of Kerak provides an interesting break. An impressive hill-top fortress, Kerak can be a little hair-raising for those with younger children as some of the drops are severe and there are few safety barriers, but it is a lovely site to wander freely and it sees few of the crowds of Jerash and Petra.
The spectacular desert landscape of Wadi Rum is where everyone can unleash their inner Lawrence of Arabia! Towering rock outcrops chiselled into the most wonderful and weird shapes by the wind will fire the imagination of both children and adult. 4WD safaris take you deep into the desert where you can run down sand dunes and stand atop massive rock bridges. Ride camels to remote desert camps and watch the sunset change the landscape through a myriad of different colours. Children will never forget nights spent singing songs around the camp fire and sleeping in open Bedouin-style tents on mattresses on the floor.
This really is a remarkable place where more active families can enjoy nights ‘wild camping’ in the heart of the desert under a carpet of stars. Even a one night stay can still give you a true sense of adventure and provide that element of freedom for children that may be needed after visiting a few ancient sites.
Aqaba provides the beach R&R that most family holidays require. The Red Sea is famous for some amazing marine life which can be enjoyed by glass-bottomed boat cruises, snorkelling or diving trips. The beaches are safe for swimming and there is more of a relaxed atmosphere surrounding dress guidelines. Aqaba offers 5* resort accommodation where you can relax by the pool or simple family-run hotels from where you can travel just out of town to the best beaches and snorkelling spots. It is a useful last stop on any trip – especially for some souvenir hunting – and a convenient short flight or 4 hour drive back to Amman to connect with your homeward flight.
An hour north of Amman lie the fabulous Roman ruins of Jerash. These are wonderfully preserved and extremely picturesque. Children will enjoy exploring some of outlying areas of the site, clambering over the ruins and acting out scenes in the imposing amphitheatre. A visit here is often combined with the beautiful and little visited crusader fortress of Ajlun creating a fully comprehensive, yet not too exhausting, day out from Amman.
Most holidays commence in the capital city of Amman in the centre of the country. A day spent here is definitely worthwhile if you have the time. You can adjust to the Middle Eastern way of life, waking to the sound of the muezzin (call to prayer), wandering the lively streets, visiting the souks and enjoying a delicious cup of hot sweet mint tea in a café alongside the locals smoking their nargilas (water pipes). A visit to the impressive Roman amphitheatre in the downtown area will give you a hint of the ancient delights to come…
Dana Nature Reserve
The beautiful Dana Nature Reserve is one of Jordan’s hidden gems and home to a remarkable diversity of flora and fauna as well as stunning scenery. Active families can follow one of the more extensive trails through the reserve including a fabulous 15km hike that descends through a spectacular valley to Feynan. You can be accompanied by donkeys if the children get tired. There are also many shorter trails, are well suited to parents whose children are reluctant to walk so far. Try spotting the majestic ibex, grey wolf or desert monitor lizard on your hikes.
The spectacular canyon at Wadi Mujib is one of the most breath-taking sights in Jordan, crossed by the King’s Highway that wends its way south from Amman.
There are fabulous hiking opportunities here, and active children will love following the rocky paths down along the riverbed, clambering over the rocks and visiting some beautiful waterfalls where you can take a refreshing dip.
To the east of Amman are the ‘desert castles’, built by the Ommayeds more than 1,300 years ago as either palaces, hunting lodges or caravanserais. Most are beautifully well preserved and our favourite, the Qasr Amra, has an interior that is completely covered in wonderful frescoes. This is a remote and forbidding region (the road leads on from here into both Iraq and Saudi Arabia) but it gives a real taste of life as it must have been like for the earliest camel caravans that used to amble across this barren stretch of desert.
The castles can be visited in a day trip from Amman.
Southern Jordan - Camel Safaris
Active families with a true sense of adventure might like to consider a camel safari through Southern Jordan. There are fantastic opportunities for heading out into remote corners of Jordan’s spectacular desert regions, travelling between Wadi Rum and Petra. You will spend your nights ‘wild camping’ in the heart of the desert under a carpet of stars. Unleash your inner Lawrence of Arabia!
Call us and we will be happy to provide you with a free-of-charge no obligation itinerary and quotation designed for you.
Jordan in pictures
Talk with our friendly team about your family travel needs.