One Week in Jordan
During college, one of my good friends was a Jordanian girl named Najwa, whom I promised I would come visit in Amman the day we walked across the stage to graduate in May 2006. It took me more than four years, but in September 2010, I finally made good on that promise.
My week in Jordan proved to be wondrous and not just because Jordan was only the second Middle Eastern country I visited. Jordan is a land of dramatic contrasts: Ancient Roman structures juxtaposed with modern skyscrapers; some of the wealthiest people in the world living only miles away from impoverished nomads; and some of the most vital, giving people I’ve ever met living in one of the Earth’s least hospitable climates.
Even if you stay more than one week in Jordan, you’ll certainly want to stay longer. Don’t let the Jordan’s small size or seemingly homogenous landscape fool you – this is an absolute land of wonders.
Jordan’s capital Amman is where you will most likely start your trip in Jordan, on account of its international airport, but you’re doing yourself a disservice if you merely make a pit stop here. After arriving in Amman head to the Old City, the highlight of which is the Roman Amphitheater. Speaking of Roman ruins, you also owe it to yourself to visit Amman’s Citadel, which towers over the city and offers a great panorama, amazing ancient architecture notwithstanding.
Not all of Amman’s highlights are old, however. One of my favorite places in Amman is Rainbow Street which, in spite of its flamboyant name, has nothing to do with homosexuality. Here, you can enjoy delicious falafel, grab a coffee at the trendy Books Café and, if you happen to be in town on Friday, explore the weekly market. Overall, I recommend spending between 1-3 days of your week in Jordan in Amman.
The Dead Sea
Jordan shares the Dead Sea with Israel, although the lowest point on Earth is officially in Jordan. Another important distinction between the Dead Sea in Jordan vs. Israel (I have been to both) is that while in Israel the public beaches are quite nice, you really need to visit a private hotel beach at the Dead Sea in Jordan to get the best experience. This is primarily because public Dead Sea beaches in Jordan lack shower facilities – and the water of the Dead Sea is so salty it almost burns, so you really need a shower after bathing.
Usually, you can get a day pass to a given hotel for significantly lower than the cost of a night’s stay, which will enable you not only to use their beaches, but also pool, bar and restaurant facilities. You can see the Dead Sea on a day trip from Amman (add one day to your time in Amman if so) or stay the night in a hotel or guest house nearby.
The crown jewel of Jordanian tourism is no doubt Petra, a city built by the pre-Roman Nabataean Kingdom approximately 600 years before Christ. Although Petra is absolutely filled with tourists, there’s really nothing quite like hiking through the rocky desert and happening upon a city that’s quite literally “half as old as civilization.” (Petra’s slogan, not mine).
Petra begs to be explored at a slow pace, and not just because of everything to see there. Entrance fees are steep, costing 50 Jordanian dinars (or about $70) for one day, 55 JD for two days and 60 JD for three days – it’s obviously a good idea to stay longer. I recommend spending between 2-3 days of your week in Jordan in Petra.
Other Places to See in Jordan
If you have longer than one week in Jordan, there are dozens of places you can add to your Jordan itinerary to round it out even better than I’ve done here. For example, head deeper into the sands after visiting Petra and see Wadi Rum, the impossibly beautiful desert where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed. Alternatively, head south and visit Aqaba, Jordan’s port on the Red Sea and a great spot for snorkeling and scuba diving.
After you finish floating in the Dead Sea, go to the Jordan River, where you can see the place Jesus was allegedly baptized. Or, if the roman ruins in the Amman citadel are not enough for you, head north about an hour to Jerash, home to a much larger collection of them. Whether you spend one week in Jordan, one month in Jordan or a whole year there, you won’t run out of things to do.