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Cabinet of Chic Curiosities

Jordan

Planning a trip to Jordan. We’ll rent a car and we should spend about 2 weeks there. We want to do both the classic sites, and some offbeat stuff…

Amman– You’ll likely be flying into Jordan’s bustling capital city. Check out the archeological sites like the Roman Theatre and the King Abdullah I Mosque, as well as the Amman Citadel, which is an unbeatable spot to watch the sunset. Don’t miss the mysterious Hand of Hercules. Grab coffee or dinner on the famous Rainbow Street, or stroll the local galleries and boutiques and take a stroll down the Umbrella Staircase. Step back into time at Amman’s most unique museum, The Duke’s Diwan. A perfectly preserved stone 20th century building that has served as a post office and a hotel, the museum is dedicated to the architectural and cultural history of Jordan. Visit the Umayyad Palace, an eighth century royal complex that has been carefully restored. 
Wander the artsy Jabal Al Weibdeh, a neighborhood full of cafés, concept stores, and galleries. Relax and take in the sights from one of Amman’s many rooftop bars, like Districtthe Living Room, or the newly opened VEER.Just outside of the city is Iraq-al-Amir, an intricate system of caves inhabited since the Copper Age. 

Exciting trips from Amman include:

  • Jordan’s largest natural reserve, Wadi Dana is a fascinating intersection of the ecosystems of Europe, Africa, and Asia. Don’t miss the ghost town hidden on a cliff nearby, it’s recently been revitalized through ecotourism and you could even spend the night there!  2.5 hour drive from Amman.
  • The Qasr Amra, a curious castle rising out of the desert that is now renowned for its impressive murals. 1.25 hour drive from Amman.  
  • The Wadi Mujib is the lowest nature reserve in the world. The reserve features a breathtaking landscape of cliffs and slot canyons, and you can often spot goats and ibex scrambling up and down the rocks. There are many hikes to choose from, the most famous being the Siq trail, but I’ve heard good things about Wadi HidanWadi Balou’ and Wadi Zarqua Ma’in as well. 1.5 hour drive from Amman.
  • Umm Qays Thich features an impressive archeological museum, the ruins of Roman city, and even a beekeeping tour! 2 hours drive from Amman. 
  • The Dead Sea is a no-brainer. 45 minute drive from Amman there are a plethora of resorts and hotels to choose from. You could also visit the nearby Fortress of Machaerus, located on the northeastern shore. The ancient home of King Herod, the Fortress is where John the Baptist was held and beheaded. Explore the deep history of the site while taking in one of the best views of the Dead Sea.

Es-Salt– This ancient city located near Amman is famous for its Ottoman architecture and Biblical history. Added only this year to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites, it has an impressive museum, hiking trails, and plenty of hilly, windy streets to wander. 

Petra– Jordan’s most famous site is a can’t-miss for a reason. Make sure to check out some of the other exploration-worthy spots on the way, like Um ar-Rasas, which features ruins that date to the Roman, Byzantine, as well as Muslim civilizations. Also on the way is Shobak Castle, built in the 12th century. Petra is worth the hype, and worth dedicating at least an entire day, if not two, to properly explore all of it’s nooks and crannies.I’ve heard you can tour Petra by night, making the new wonder of the world that much more magical, as well as less crowded! Less than five miles away is Siq Al-Barid or “Little Petra”, a smaller site that is nevertheless fascinating, especially it’s newly restored Nabatean fresco that is a mind-blowingly 2,000 years old. 

Wadi Rum– Head into the desert with a visit to Wadi Rum, a valley an hour’s drive from Petra. Explore the dunes, caves, and waterfalls, you can even see the ruin of the house where T.E. Lawrence (AKA Lawrence of Arabia) lived. Famous for its nomadic Bedouin camps, you can take jeep or camel tours, and spend the night in a traditional tent or a glamping hotel. In the mood to time-travel? Hop aboard an early 20th century steam train originally built to transport pilgrims.  

Madaba– The capital city of the Madaba Governorate (one of Jordan’s central provinces), Madaba dates back to the Bronze Age and has all the architecture and history to show for it, it is known as “the City of Mosaics”  Visit the many spectacular churches like St. John the Baptist and Mount Nebo and the archaeological park. Stop by Hussein bin Ali Steet to pick up some local treasures. Marvel over the oldest geographic floor mosaic in existence.  Day trips from Madaba: 

  • Less than 20 miles outside of Madaba, check out the little-known archeological site Um er-Rasas, a site inhabited by various civilizations since 800 BCE.
  • Detox at the hot springs of Hammamat Ma’een . Enjoy the therapeutic effects of the thermal water, there are public springs as well as private spas and resorts to choose from.
  • Explore Kerak Castle, a spectacular hilltop ruin with a killer view. 

Aqaba– This port city (Jordan’s only) is the perfect place to cool off after some time in the desert. Snorkel or dive in the Red Sea, there’s even an old Lebanese freighter shipwreck you can dive to. Or, book a boat trip to catch a glimpse of some aquatic wildlife. Feeling more mellow? Relax with a good book on the beach, there are many beach clubs as well as several public beaches like Al-Hafayer Beach. Feel like you’re in Lawrence of Arabia with a visit to Mamluk Castle, a fortress first used during the crusades. 

General tips All the experts agree that getting the Jordan Pass is a good move- it comes with a travel Visa as well as entry into 40 of the countries most popular attractions.