Things to see & do in Jordan

Jordan is home to some magnificently atmospheric experiences. Wandering the ancient rock city of Petra by night, as it’s illuminated by thousands of candles, is a completely different ambience to the daytime. Soaking in the therapeutic waters of the Dead Sea is said to heal a variety of ills. And of course, when people ask, “What should you not miss in Jordan?” top of the list is always spending an evening at a Bedouin encampment in the desert – perhaps even staying overnight for a chance to sleep beneath the stars. Read our guide to the best things to do in Jordan for more details and lots of inspiration.

1. See Petra by candlelight

Walking through the 1.2km-long sandstone “corridor” of Al Siq is the classic way to enter Petra, with the astounding sight of the Treasury revealing itself at the end. You might think it would be hard to improve on this experience – after all, Petra is one of the top things to see in Jordan – but the Jordanians thought otherwise. They decided to light 2,000 candles every evening to beautifully illuminate the front of this monument. Returning after dusk to witness this is a travel experience not quickly forgotten, as the rose-coloured rock appears to glow from inside.

Our Travel Team specialist Alice Jewell recalls her visit to Petra:
“Not surprisingly, the crowds at Petra were predominantly focused around the iconic Treasury, but there is so much more to Petra then this. We found it was relatively easy to get away from the larger crowds. We easily spent eight hours walking around the site and could have gone back the next day and done the same – there are so many different parts of the site to explore, or simply sit and take in the beauty of the surroundings.

“We climbed 1,000 steps to reach the monastery and were rewarded with wonderful views and no one else to enjoy those with beside our group. It’s well worth it if you have the time. We left at dusk and I’m pretty sure we were the only visitors left for the day! As we left, we were fortunate enough to catch the site being set up for Petra by night. There was something so special about being there at this time – it was so quiet and peaceful, and I will certainly be going back to experience Petra by night.”

2. Learn to cook Jordanian food

Hummus, falafel and kebabs are popular across the Middle East and beyond. But on a Jordan food vacation, you might also try your hand making some of the more distinctly Jordanian dishes, such as mansaf, where seasoned lamb is cooked with onion in yogurt to create a delicate creamy sauce. Or go a step further and visit Petra Kitchen, just a short walk from the famous ruins, where local women and chefs teach you to cook Jordanian delicacies so that you can recreate the flavours back home.

3. Float in the Dead Sea

At 400m below sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest point anywhere on land. Water from the mountains collects in the Dead Sea and then evaporates, concentrating the minerals and salts that are extracted for industry, agriculture cosmetics and health products. This viscous cocktail is many times saltier than sea water – nothing can survive in its depths, hence the name. The Dead Sea is actually an 80km long and 14km wide lake, often very calm, almost mirror-like, which adds to its otherworldliness.

Floating in the Dead Sea is an unusual experience, but is said to be therapeutic, the minerals helping with a range of ailments. Though if you’ve picked up any nicks or scrapes while hiking or canyoning, expect them to sting when you get in. There are many spas and places to stay around the Dead Sea where you can see nothing but water and mountains for miles around. Mud baths that are reputedly excellent for the skin are also popular here, along with other treatments.

4. Shop in Jabal Amman

Shop with a difference in Jabal Amman, a lively district that stretches out along Rainbow Street, where crafts from across the country can be found, from wall hangings and handwoven rugs to jewellery and organic fruit jams. Don’t miss Soap House Trinitae – a beautiful old villa where you can buy handmade cosmetics, soaps and candles, many of which are made using Dead Sea salts.
Travel Team
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5. Brilliant birdwatching

With almost 10 percent of its landmass declared an Important Birding Area and a total of 412 species recorded here, Jordan is not the place to forget your binoculars. Dana Reserve, the wetlands of Azraq and Petra itself are all fantastic spots for birdwatching vacations in Jordan, with the Sinai rosefinch, Bonelli’s eagle, steppe buzzard and Syrian serin all waiting to be ticked off the twitcher’s checklist.

6. Stay overnight at a Bedouin camp

The Bedouin people still roam desert landscapes in Jordan nomadically, as they have done for centuries, herding their livestock according to the cycles of the rain. Today, however, many communities also make an income from tourism, and our partners ensure that you can enjoy an authentic cultural experience that shows respect to Bedouin traditions.

An evening in a genuine Bedouin camp, perhaps even staying overnight and sleeping under a canvas of stars, is not just an incredibly romantic experience. It’s also an opportunity to understand ancient ways of life, the joys and challenges of a nomadic existence, and to share a traditionally prepared meal with your hosts and guides.

7. Rejuvenate in hot springs

Beside the Dead Sea, you can also soak muscles and soothe your skin in a number of hot springs around Jordan. Among the most notable are those of Al Hemma, in a tiny village just north of Umm Qais. Once a favourite of Roman dignitaries for their perceived therapeutic qualities, the springs are still saturated with minerals and open to visitors – definitely one of the best things to do in Jordan in winter, when the mornings and evenings can be on the chilly side.

8. Hike in the Dana Reserve & stay at Feynan Ecolodge

Close to the iconic Petra, Jordan’s largest nature reserve is a hiker’s paradise, with lots of superb walking trails of varying lengths and difficulty. Among the most popular is a stretch of the 600km Jordan Trail which passes through, and the Wadi Dana Trail (16km) between Dana Village and the Feynan Ecolodge.

The Feynan Ecolodge (founded by Jordan’s Royal Society of Conservation of Nature) is the best place to stay in the Dana Nature Reserve. As well as helping progress conservation initiatives through tourism, the lodge’s 100 percent local employment policy means that some 450 people from the surrounding community benefit economically from the business.
Photo credits: [Page banner: Pocholo Calapre] [1. See Petra by candlelight: Filippo Cesarini] [3. Float in the Dead Sea: Ricardo Frantz] [5. Brilliant birdwatching: flowcomm]