A land rich with history, ancient architecture and religious importance, Jordan is one of the Middle East’s most popular destinations for travellers. Jordan lay at the centre of the ancient world, enjoying links with Persia, Babylon and Egypt as well as Greece and Rome at various times in its history, and was the site of numerous significant events in the Jewish and Christian traditions.
However, it’s not all history – modern Jordan is a progressive, liberal Arabian state, and despite sharing its borders with Iraq, Israel, Syria and Saudi Arabia, it’s one of the safest and most stable countries in the Middle East. Most of the country is desert, but there is also a surprising wealth of beautiful grassland, lush forests and fascinating natural features like the Dead Sea. This guide recommends some of Jordan’s most famous destinations, but there are many more to discover for yourself.
Where to stay
The capital, Amman, a modern and diverse Arabian city, is a great base for exploring the country, with a (relatively) cool climate, large shopping centres and interesting historical sites to visit, including a Roman amphitheatre and an extensive citadel. City centre accommodation is abundant, but for something a little more unusual (and luxurious), consider the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar, which offers amazing views over the Dead Sea while remaining in easy reach of the capital.
What to see
Jordan’s most famous tourist site is undoubtedly Petra, an amazing classical-era city carved into the sandstone cliffs of southern Jordan. Often described as the Middle East’s answer to Machu Picchu, it features enormous temples, mausoleums, theatres and administrative buildings, as well as an incredibly sophisticated water system that allowed its inhabitants to create an artificial oasis in the middle of the desert. It may be a well-trodden tourist destination, but it’s an unmissable one.
In the north of Jordan, the Greco-Roman city of Gerasa is the country’s second most famous archaeological site. One of the best-preserved Roman provincial settlements in the world, it spent centuries hidden under the desert sands before its towering columns and amphitheatres were excavated in the middle of the 20th century. It boasts a fascinating blend of Arabian and Greco-Roman architecture. To the east of the ruins is the modern city of Jerash, which also hosts Jordan’s biggest annual festival of music and culture.
The Dead Sea is a spectacular natural feature that’s well worth a visit. Known for being one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world, it’s also the world’s first health resort – visited by King Herod and Egyptian pharaoh Cleopatra – as its unique environment allows for the natural production of a variety of medicinal minerals. The Amman Touristic Beach on the Dead Sea Road offers the ideal spot for travellers to relax in this beautiful landscape.