Although a small country, Jordan is a land of rich history, natural beauty and stunning people, offering wanderlusters a generous number of unique and adventurous things to do. From sightseeing tours in the city to guided hikes through jutting peaks and everything in-between, you might not even know where to start. The best part is that you can experience all of these in as little as a week because they are all in proximity. The icing on the cake is that you will also get to discover delicious and varied cuisine with mansaf (slow-cooked lamb) and mah'shi (stuffed vegetables like onion, zucchini, and eggplant) being some of my faves.
May I suggest that you add these following 5 must-do exciting activities to your Jordan bucket list - I can promise that you won’t regret it. These include bathing in natural springs, snorkeling in the clear blue sea, jumping on desert safaris and exploring cities from bygone eras
- The Wadi rum safari tour
T.E. Lawrence brilliantly described the Wadi Rum or the “Valley of the Moon”, as "vast, echoing and god-like" and so it is. A 4x4 open-top pick-up will take you through this otherworldly site. You will navigate through monolithic rock formations that climb to heights of 1,750 meters. Passing under wind-carved tunnels and riding over sand dunes, you’ll get to jump out to explore watering holes, canyons and even to see 12,000-year-old Petroglyphs of both humans and animals (the depictions of camels, ostriches, and hunters in action on rock are incredible), earning Wadi Rum the nickname of “Open-air Library.”
Both mysterious and majestic, Wadi Rum is not only a cultural treasure but also a natural one, highlighting deep caverns, towering cliffs, space-like ramps, wide landslides, and tight gorges that have been carved by desert winds passing through the sands of time. Impressive to say the least and truly exhilarating as you bum around, you cannot miss this adventure and the most exciting things to do in Jordan.
- Experience Petra by Night
Under a dark, starry night sky, walk through the Siq, a narrow gorge that leads to the Treasury of Petra, one of its most elaborate Temples. As you slip out of the tunnel, you will come face to face with the intricately carved sandstone rock face, believed to serve as the mausoleum of King Aretas IV, who ruled in the 1st century AD. Cast your gaze to the second floor and glimpse the mysterious urn, set against a background of beautiful and detailed designs. Thousands of candles illuminate the night as the sound Bedouin chants cast an enigmatic feel to the experience.
You’ll be invited to take a seat in the golden glow and enjoy an aromatic blend of Bedouin tea. Then, the cultural performances will begin with some pieces played on a traditional flute. Then the Rababa, an ancient stringed instrument) will be taken out, its haunting sounds drawing you to contemplate the secrets of the Nabatean in the silence of the night. Then, the story of Petra will be dramatically narrated, bringing you to imagine the life of these people who once upon a time lived in this enchanting mountain fortress.
An ethereal experience that you really cannot miss – you’ll thank me later! If you want to spend more time in Petra, you might want to do our Hiking the Jordan Trail to Petra tour. Ranked as one of the best hikes in the world by National Geographic, you’ll walk in the footsteps of the Nabateans on diverse mountainous terrains and enter Petra through the back door.
Whether you hike in by day, or camel trek there over a series of days (yes, this is a once in a lifetime Jordan tour!) or visit by night, experiencing Petra is a must-do Jordan tour.
- Float in the Dead Sea
Experience a deep sense of well-being and relaxation as you weightlessly (yes, weightlessly as in no effort necessary!) float in the warm waters of the Dead Sea, which is 10 times saltier than the ocean. The salt concentration is so high that you’ll experience that buoyant force you learned about in ninth grade physics on your own body.
Jordan is the perfect place to witness this phenomenon as its beaches are pristine and uncrowded, set up for you to spend the day both lounging and swimming. Speaking of day, do plan to spend the day really soaking in those Dead Sea minerals, which will leave your skin softer than a baby’s bottom. Prepare for a head-to-toe mud bath (Dead Sea mud has 21 minerals that detoxify, relieve, and can heal many skin conditions) and keep it on for as long as you can handle that tingling feeling.
You can swim in the Dead Sea all year round, although the water temperature can be a bit cool in winter and a bit too warm in the summer. So, bring your swimwear and get ready to soak in the gorgeous views while you properly decompress.
- Explore the ancient city of Jerash
This place, founded over 9,000 years ago, is awe-striking. The ruins are so well-preserved that you can almost hear the chariots clamoring up the alleyways and the sound of children’s voices bouncing off the myriad columns. It is a remarkable sight, with many timeless structures standing strong despite the thousands of years that have passed since they were raised.
Of all the sites to see, I’d say the most impressive is the South Theatre, which could seat over 3,000 people. It was designed to have such powerful acoustics that even spectators in the back could hear every word said on stage. Go test them yourself!
Then there is the Temple of Artemis, which is a gigantic structure with towering columns, displaying elaborate carvings that speak of the craftsmanship of this day. Artemis was the patron goddess of the city, and the impressive sanctuary of the Temple still stands today.
The Oval Forum, which was a massive plaza where people carried out activities like public meetings or shopped in the marketplace is also largely intact and intriguing. There are several beautiful temples, and the Arch of Hadrian is an example of the immense architectural feats of the day.
Oh, and don’t forget to spend some time at the Nymphaeum, the monumental fountain dedicated to water nymphs. It’s amazing to think that once upon a time, drawing water from the public well was meant to be an uplifting and reverent experience.
- Hiking Wadi Mujib – Siq Trail
I saved the (arguably) best for last: the breathtaking Wadi Mujib Siq Trail that follows the Mujib River through a dramatic gorge and into the looming sandstone cliffs of the Wadi Mujib Reserve. It’s a bit of a challenging hike but well worth the effort that takes about a maximum of three hours to complete.
The hike starts off with a bang as you descend into the depths of the gorge via a set of steep steps, while refreshing drops of mist from the imposing waterfall that’s right above you cool you down. Then you follow through the riverbed in this narrow valley, with golden, stunning cliffs on every side. A few times, you’ll have to wade through the river, which is icy cold and clear. You’ll have some time to swim in the natural swimming holes and catch a breather before the most challenging part of the hike begins.
You’ll be clambering over boulders and squeezing through narrow gaps to make your way through the toughest section of the trail. You might feel like you are in an episode of Survivor and or a thrilling and unforgettable experience.
Bonus: Snorkel in the Red Sea
Little did I know that the Red Sea offers the perfect conditions for swimming and snorkeling because of its crystal-clear waters and warm water temperature. Not only that, but the Red Sea has rich marine life and is inhabited by over 500 species of exotic fish. There are easily accessible coral reefs with colors so vibrant that they might just take your breath away. There’s a whole life just underneath the surface, with sea turtles and dolphins often splashing around and even playfully interacting with snorkelers, which is why the Red Sea is the number one spot for dolphin research particularly.
This experience is amazing for both avid snorkelers and amateurs, potentially the best snorkeling experience you might ever have. Travelous offers a tour that includes a feast at lunch (on the boat!) so that you can spend as much time as you need getting acquainted with the mesmerizing sea life.
These are our top five picks for Jordan, and all five can be done in a relatively short time (we’re talking seven days). Really, how many destinations give you the opportunity to visit ancient ruins and wind-carved canyons, gorgeous beaches, wondrous cliffs, and sand-swept deserts at dusk in a week? Couple that with finger-looking good food, incredibly kind locals and wonderful guides and you’ve got the perfect ingredients for a truly unforgettable trip.