Planning a trip to Jordan is a series of decisions: which wondrous sights should you see? How long should you stay in each place? Should you spend more time in the cities, out in the wilderness, or split evenly between both? The best part is that you can’t go wrong: whatever Jordan itinerary you choose will provide you with unforgettable memories and – if you’re anything like me – a strong desire to return and visit again.
One place I’d love to explore more on my next trip is the coastal port city of Aqaba. You might be surprised to learn that Jordan has a port city; it is a Middle Eastern primarily desert country, but there is one small portion of the country that sits on the Red Sea – and the city of Aqaba comprises about half of this coastline.
While you spend time in Aqaba, you might be tempted to explore other parts of Jordan too. Below you’ll find a list of day trips from Aqaba that will work perfectly in a short Jordan itinerary. If you base yourself in Aqaba for 2-3 days, you can add one or two of these destinations to your travel plans and see more of Jordan than the beach and resort town alone.
Ready to explore each of the day trip destinations that you can visit from Aqaba? Here they are, in order from most popular to less so.
Petra is arguably one of the most popular day trips from Aqaba. It is much more convenient distance and time-wise to visit Petr a than it is from Aqaba than Amman. Wadi Musa, the town near Petra, sits only two hours away from Aqaba, and there are numerous tours and transportation alternatives in all price ranges for travelers.
The ancient capital of the Nabataean Kingdom is Jordan’s most famous archaeological site. Its gorgeous structures and fascinating history draw tourists from all over the world. My advice is that you leave Aqaba early in the morning (no later than 7 am) to avoid the relentless heat.
Most visitors hike the Main Trail, which goes past Petra’s most famous sights like the Treasury, Colonnaded Street, and Temples. You’ll also want to allocate at least eight hours to visit the site.
Remember to bring comfortable clothes and a bottle of water. Visiting Petra demands lots of walking.
2. Wadi Rum
When it comes to Aqaba day trips, Wadi Rum is the second most popular alternative. The scenic desert is a one-hour drive down the Desert Highway. Same as Petra, travelers have different alternatives to reach Wadi Rum. They can book a private or group tour or rent a car. Unfortunately, buses between Aqaba and Wadi Rum are not a very convenient alternative due to the lack of regular services throughout the day.
As for what you can do in Wadi Rum, Jordanians have come a long way in developing the tourism sector in the desert. There’s no shortage of alternatives to enjoy Wadi Rum and explore its Martian landscape: sunset camel rides, hot air ballooning, 4×4 rides, rock formation tours, and much more.
3. Dead Sea
Unlike the previous day trips from Aqaba, the Dead Sea requires more driving. It is a 170-mile trip and takes about three hours to complete. If I’m being honest, the drive is worth it as you can get a glimpse of the Jordanian landscape.
A day trip to the Dead Sea is a wonderful alternative throughout the year, but even more so during the blazing summers. Visitors can spend the day on one of the public beaches along the shoreline or purchase a day pass from one of the luxurious resorts. Some resorts that offer day passes include the Dead Sea Spa Hotel, the Dead Sea Marriott Resort & Spa, and the Holiday Inn Resort Dead Sea (where my tour stays!).
Whatever alternative you choose, you’ll enjoy a spa-like experience, floating on the salty waters and rubbing the mineral-rich mud onto your skin. The Dead Sea mud has multiple benefits for your skin, from exfoliating to anti-aging properties.
4. Red Sea
Technically, the Red Sea isn’t a day trip per se, as Aqaba sits on its shores. Consequently, the port city has direct access to the Red Sea and all its wonders.
Famous for its unique corals and sea life, the Red Sea is a privileged spot to go snorkeling or scuba diving. Visitors can book private diving experiences or a day cruise to discover the beautiful underwater world.
The cruises have access to the best snorkeling spots, including the Japanese Gardens, Seven Sisters, Tank, and Cable reef. Visitors also enjoy the company of an expert snorkeler who teaches them about the various marine specimens.
Another perk of these cruises is that they go past the shores of Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, so you can spot these countries from afar.
5. Eilat, Israel
The Aqaba day trips that follow on the list are a bit more complicated as you’ll be crossing a border, meaning you’ll pass through immigration and need to check your visa/passport requirements. Still, nothing’s impossible, provided you plan accordingly and in advance.
Eilat is a southern Israeli port and resort town on the Red Sea. It is accessible by shuttle bus or private taxi. Shuttle buses run twice daily at 7.30 am and 6 pm from most hotels in Aqaba and Aqaba Airport. Bus tickets cost around 25 USD per person– a taxi charges around 15.50USD for the trip to the Wadi Araba Crossing. Once you reach the Israeli side of the border, you’ll have to take another taxi into the city center of Eilat. The ride from here takes around 15 minutes and costs 30-40 NIS (8.50-12USD).
Having cleared the logistic aspects, let’s move on to the more pleasant side of this day trip. Eilat is famous for its beaches and aquatic life. You can visit Dolphin Reef, home to playful dolphins, unique tropical fish, and glowing corals. Visitors can also work on their tan on Eilat’s stunning beaches. Lastly, Eilat is a tax-free zone, so shopping is another popular alternative for visitors.
6. Taba, Egypt
Taba in Egypt is another day trip you can do from Aqaba. Remember that you’ll also be crossing a border, and you must pass through immigration to check your passport and visa requirements, among other things. The most convenient way to get from Aqaba to Taba is by ferry, which costs $90 and takes 2 hours.
Like Aqaba and Eilat, Taba has an impressive coral reef and is a popular resort destination. However, Taba also serves as a gateway to numerous historical and natural sites in Egypt.
Tour operators offer excursions to the Colored Canyon, one of Sinai’s most spectacular natural wonders, and Salah El-Din Castle, a fortress that played a major role in the Crusades, Mamluk, and Ottoman eras.
7. Haql, Saudi Arabia
Haql is a tiny city in Saudi Arabia adjacent to Aqaba. It takes around 50 minutes to drive to Haql, and visitors must go through the Durra Border Crossing. A visa is required to visit Haql, which visitors can purchase at the same border crossing center – Durra Border Crossing is a center with visa issuance ability. Remember to check out all the requirements you need as a tourist in advance.
Haql is a beach gateway with over 1,000 miles of Red Sea coastline. The highlight of Haql is its seclusion. While it has the potential to become the next diving hotspot, not many tourists will include it in their itineraries. If you want to go on snorkeling trips and boat rides into the famed Red Sea, but without the crowds, then Haql is the place to go.
The landscape is also slightly different from Aqaba, Eilat, and Taba. While it shares the stunning coral reefs, Haql is a slightly more mountainous region, with a rocky coastline and sheer cliffs bordering the Red Sea.
As you can tell, there are some fascinating options for taking day trips from Aqaba! Have any questions about these day trip destinations you can visit from Aqaba? Let me know in the comments!