Jordan is a country that’s practically begging to be on your bucket list. Not only are there a number of unique experiences and sites you can only find in Jordan, but many of them are also well-known thanks to pop culture and travelers who have come before and return home with stories that inspire you to travel – like me, with this blog!
Jordan was on my bucket list long before I visited, and I was lucky enough to tick off a few of those top things to do in Jordan on my first trip. The more I learned about Jordan though, the more I realized that my list should have been even longer! This is a country full of bucket-list-worthy experiences, which is why I sat down to write what I consider to be the ultimate Jordan bucket list.
On this list of the best things to do in Jordan, you’ll find some items you recognize – like Petra and the Dead Sea – as well as others you may not even realize are experiences Jordan has to offer. As you plan your trip to Jordan, be sure to add these must-do Jordan experiences to your itinerary. Whether you visit just once or (like me) plan to return again and again, Jordan is full of incredible wonders. Here are the top ones…
1.-3. Visit the “Lost City” of Petra
It was really hard to decide what to put in the #1 spot on this Jordan bucket list, especially as my personal desire to visit Jordan was spurred by a desire to float in the Dead Sea (#4) and visit the film locations of Wadi Rum (#6). However, as I thought about it, the answer was obvious: visiting Petra is by far one of the most popular things to do in Jordan, so it has to be #1 on this list!
Petra, also called the “Rose City” (for the rock’s pinkish hue) or “Lost City” (though local Bedouin groups always knew where it was) is among Jordan’s top attractions. It’s easy enough to visit – and I make sure to include it in all the Jordan itineraries I write. Here are three top things to do in Petra.
Relive Indiana Jones at the Treasury
Most people know about Petra thanks to the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Here are other movies filmed in Jordan too!). The Treasury, located at the end of a long wadi (slot canyon) is the site for the film’s final act; you can hike the trail and watch the famous spot reveal itself to you. There’s also another hike that takes you to an upper viewpoint if you want a different perspective.
Hike to the Monestary
Speaking of hikes, Petra is also a popular hiking destination. After the short hike to the Treasury, the next most popular hike is to the Monastery – another building you might recognize. This hike will take most of the day, and can be grueling when the sun is particularly hot. However, those who love the outdoors will enjoy the challenge this hike presents. (I have a list of Petra hikes too, for those who really love hiking!)
One final way to experience Petra is at night, during the Petra-by-Night tour. This semi-guided experience allows visitors to walk the Siq Trail and sit in front of the Treasury – all illuminated by candlelight. Guides then share stories of Petra’s long history while the stars whirl overhead. It’s an unforgettable experience, and one I’m really looking forward to experiencing again on my Jordan tour.
4. Float in the Dead Sea
After Petra, I knew that the Dead Sea had to be the next item on my list of things to do in Jordan (if you can only have a few experiences, this has to be one of them!). While you can also visit the Dead Sea in Israel and Palestine, Jordan is the other country bordering the “lowest point on earth” and offers an alternative.
A number of resorts dot the northeast shore of Jordan’s Dead Sea (before the coastline becomes less welcoming and the southern salt farms), so book yourself a stay at one of these for the complete experience. You can float on the water (it really happens!), take a mud bath using the mineral-rich material on the shore, or splurge on a spa experience.
5.-8. Go Wild in Wadi Rum
Wadi Rum is the next must-do experience I recommend in Jordan; this site has become famous thanks to a number of movies filmed here in recent years. There are lots of ways to experience Wadi Rum, and you can do them all during a single visit.
Take a 4×4 Tour to Enjoy Sunset Among the Red Rocks
Many people enjoy taking 4×4 or jeep tours in Wadi Rum, and it’s a good way to see a large area of the massive desert biosphere in a short time. Most tours leave from whichever Wadi Rum camp you’re staying at, show you the famous rock formations, and take you to a spot where you can watch the sun dip below the otherworldly landscape horizon.
See Jordan’s Famous Film Locations
As mentioned, Wadi Rum is competing for Jordan’s most recognizable film location (though it’ll be tough to dislodge Petra despite fewer movies filmed in the ruins). Wadi Rum has been used in films ranging from historic and cultural classics like Lawrence of Arabia and Theeb to The Martian, Star Wars Rogue One, Prometheus, and Dune more recently. Seriously, I’m surprised that there isn’t a movie being filmed at Wadi Rum all the time!
Many Jeep/4×4 guides will focus on film locations; you can always ask to have them pointed out if you’re curious!
Experience Epic Stargazing
Because of its remote location, Wadi Rum is a perfect spot for stargazing in Jordan. After an afternoon of adventure and delicious evening dinner in camp, head out a short distance from your tent/bubble dome to let your eyes adjust and look up at the stars. You won’t be able to count them all!
Ride a Camel at Sunrise
Life in Wadi Rum begins before dawn, even for travelers on vacation. Rise early on one morning in Wadi Rum to experience a camel ride to see the sun greet the day. I don’t really love riding horses, but I found riding a camel to be incredibly calming, and the whole experience was peaceful and a perfect way to start your morning (before returning to camp for a cup of tea).
9. Explore the Ruins in Jerash
Moving on from the “Big 3” (Petra, Dead Sea, Wadi Rum) to other things to do in Jordan… How about learning history during your trip? There’s tons of history in Jordan, dating back long before even the castles and palaces of Europe.
Jerash is perhaps the most-visited and certainly the largest area of Roman ruins in Jordan. The area remains from when Romans occupied the land that is now Jordan between the 1st and 8th Centuries. More incredibly, some sites in Jerash show evidence of human habitation dating back to 7500 BC – so this site has a long archaeological record and was clearly an ideal spot for settlements through the millennia.
10. Visit the Citadel in Amman
Closer to Amman (actually in Amman), the Citadel is another Roman ruin to visit during your Jordan trip. This site is actually considered to be one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, with evidence dating back to the Neolithic period (~12,000 years ago). There is also archaeological evidence from the Assyrians (8th century BC), Babylonians (6th century BC), the Ptolemies, the Seleucids (3rd century BC), Romans (1st century BC), Byzantines (3rd century AD), and the Umayyads (7th century AD). Yep, people have been here a while!
Today you can easily visit the site to see some of the later ruins still standing, as well as panoramic views of Amman on all sides.
11. Learn about the Crusades at Ajloun Castle
Other historic sites in Jordan focus on specific chapters of the area’s history, such as Ajloun Castle. This 12th Century (AD) ruin was built by the Muslims to defend themselves against the Crusaders. In the centuries since then, other groups have used the fortified building to defend against invaders; today the site is being restored. It’s full of history and as a strategic hilltop site, has sweeping views of the Jordanian countryside.
12. Be Awestruck by the Mosaics in Madaba
30km (~20 miles) from Amman, the town of Madaba is mostly home to Jordanian people going about daily life – but also mosaics dating back to the 3rd-7th Century Byzantines and Umayyads who lived in the area. They left their mark through incredible, detailed mosaics that are preserved and on display for travelers today. A large, diverse collection of churches served as both archaeological sites and record-keepers of these historic relics, and you can easily spend a few hours visiting the elaborate artworks across the city.
If you love mosaics, there are other great places to see mosaics in Jordan too.
13. View the Promised Land from Mount Nebo
Near Madaba, Mount Nebo is another important site. It is officially noted as the site from which Moses looked out across the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea toward Israel, the Promised Land, after leading the Israelites out of Egypt. Today there’s a museum with more mosaics and other significant religious relics, as well as more modern art to commemorate the spot.
I recommend combining Madaba and Mount Nebo into a half-day trip from Amman if you want to tick both of these items off your Jordan bucket list.
14. Experience Bedouin Lifestyle
One of the main cultures in Jordan, the Bedouin people are a nomadic tribal group that stretches across the Middle East and North Africa. People today still practice traditional Bedouin lifestyles, and you can meet them while visiting Jordan.
There are a variety of ways to learn about Bedouin culture, from joining a group that offers multi-day touristic experiences to hiking with a Bedouin guide (as I did) or staying overnight in a Bedouin camp (most Wadi Rum camps are inspired by Bedouin culture so you can sample it that way).
However you do it, visiting Jordan is a chance to learn about the diversity of cultures and lifestyles in the country, and Bedouin is one of the main ones to seek out a chance to experience when planning your trip.
15. Relive the Revolt in Lawrence of Arabia
Let’s end with one final chapter of Jordanian history – this one a bit more modern. The Jordan Heritage Revival Company, established in 2010, aims to preserve Jordanian history through reenactments that bring that history to life.
One popular experience is offered near Wadi Rum, where you can “journey through 1916.” This was the year that the Arab peoples in what’s now Jordan led a revolt against the Ottoman Empire. You’ll board a historic train and ride into the battle, learning about the revolutionaries’ goal and final outcome of the battle, before enjoying a dinner and stargazing experience in Wadi Rum.
16. Hear the Call to Prayer
Among the things to do in Jordan, it’s actually impossible for you to not do this one! The Call to Prayer occurs five times daily, and you’re certain to hear it at least once per day – especially the pre-dawn prayer which roused me from sleep several times during my trip.
While I am not Muslim and do not practice Islam, I found the Call to Prayer a beautiful reminder of those things in this world we can’t explain, and the forces beyond our control and knowledge. As Islam is such as important part of so many Jordanian’s daily lives, pausing each time you hear the Call to Prayer is a special way to travel in Jordan.
17. Scuba Dive in the Red Sea near Aqaba
Moving on from history and culture, Jordan is also an adventurous destination. One great example is in the far southern reaches of the country, where you can SCUBA (or snorkel) in the Red Sea. Aqaba is your base for this adventurous activity; a number of outfitters offer rentals and guided dives if you want that extra support or training before exploring the reefs and ruins below the water’s surface.
18. Hike in the Jordanian Wilderness in Dana Biosphere Reserve
I already mentioned hiking in Petra, but there’s an even better place for day hiking if that’s your travel style. Dana Biosphere Reserve is Jordan’s equivalent of a national park in the United States; it’s a huge area of undeveloped land where you can get in touch with the wild, sometimes harsh natural landscape of the country.
At 320 square kilometers, Dana Biosphere Reserve has both developed and undeveloped hiking trails; I recommend using a guide since the rock formations and landscapes can be labyrinthine. There’s also a village and a few hotels you can base yourself in while exploring the area.
19. Hike or Bike the Jordan Trail
A recent tourism development, the Jordan Trail has quickly become a popular way to see some of the country’s top sites – by foot or two wheels! The Jordan Trail was established in the mid-2010s to connect 75 villages and towns – including many of the sites I’ve already mentioned on this list of things to do in Jordan.
The trail stretches some 675 kilometers (420 miles) and takes roughly 40 days to complete by hiking. Recently, some folks have started biking the trail instead, though this is less common.
If you have the time to see Jordan this way, it will surely be an unforgettable experience. Much like the Camino de Santiago in Spain, the Jordan Trail is a transformative pilgrimage of sorts for those willing to endure it.
20. Go Canyoneering in Wadi Mujib
I’ll admit: this is one of the things to do in Jordan that I haven’t done – it’s still on my Jordan bucket list. That’s partly because it was closed on the day I tried to visit; I don’t think my own Jordan tour will visit either due to the timing of when the experience opens each year (usually mid-April).
In any case, if you’re visiting and Wadi Mujib is open, it’s a must-do! You can strap on a life jacket and hike up the wadi. Unlike in Petra, this one has water flowing through it and requires you to climb with the assistance of guides and ropes at times. It’s a heart-pumping way to experience a different form of outdoor adventure that you might not expect in a desert country like Jordan.
21. Soak it all in at Ma’in Hot Springs
After all that adventure, it’s time to relax and let your muscles heal. What better place than Ma’in hot springs? The resort at this naturally occurring thermal spring offers overnight stays, spa services, and – of course – a chance to soak in the mineral-rich waters. Best of all, it’s not far from Madaba and the Dead Sea, which makes it easy to tack onto other things to do in Jordan already mentioned on this list.
22. Sample Jordanian Foods Across the Country
I came home from my first trip to Jordan with an obsession for Jordanian and Middle Eastern food; don’t be surprised if you feel the same after eating your way across the country during your travels.
Many traditional Jordanian foods aren’t “fancy” by Western/European standards – they’re hearty and flavorful and go well with one another. Even street food – like kofta (kebab) – or desserts – like knafeh – are unique and delicious.
All this to say: try the local food! It’s part of how you’ll experience Jordanian culture!
23. Try Jordanian Wine
For a country where over 95% of people practice Islam, you might be surprised that there is any wine production at all. Actually, the small minority of Christians in Jordan consume wine (as part of church services) and some have created vineyards for this production.
Today there are a handful of labels you can purchase in the few liquor stores across the country, including Mount Nebo and Saint George (both pictured above). Syrah (my fave!) is the most commonly produced varietal in Jordan.
24. Enjoy a Meal & Conversation with Jordanians
Some of my most memorable moments when visiting Jordan occurred when I connected with locals – usually over a meal. These include sitting on the steps of a shop, chatting with a young Jordanian guy about where to find wine in town; sipping tea with my guide at many roadside stops; and sharing a meal in the back garden of a Jordanian family.
While you can wait for these experiences to happen naturally, there are also tours that create the right circumstances for you to enjoy a hearty meal and a thought-provoking conversation with the local hosts in Jordan. These include Beit Sitti in Amman and A Piece of Jordan in Petra; add one to your itinerary for a truly unforgettable meal.
25. Join Me in Jordan!
Okay, okay, this isn’t technically one of the best things to do in Jordan – but it is worthy of your bucket list! I’m leading a tour in Jordan in March 2022 and would love to have you join. We’ll visit many of the top sights I’ve mentioned, sample food and connect with Jordanian locals, and spend a bunch of time stargazing if you want to have that experience too.
Check out the itinerary and reserve your spot here. I can’t wait to explore Jordan with you and show you why this country is so incredible!
So that’s my Jordan bucket list – what’s on yours? Let me know any questions about these top things to do in Jordan in the comments!