Everyone Knows the Best Couple Places To Visit in Jordan. Don’t get me wrong, I love all things about Jordan. It is an amazing country to visit, and everyone you talk to wants to see Petra, Wadi Rum, and the Dead. They claim they’ve “done” Jordan, and when they are told they are just scratching the surface.
“So what else is there?” They don’t realize how much the county has to offer! So here is a list of several less obvious places to visit in Jordan.
Umm Al-Jimaal (أم الجمال)
The Abandoned black rock city of Umm Al-Jimaal (Mother of Camels) sits near the northern border of Jordan, virtually unvisited by the hordes of tourists. The city was abandoned over a thousand years ago, and now you can have the eerily quiet buildings all to yourself. You can only wonder what happened to it’s former inhabitants and their ancestors who abandoned the site following an earthquake that shook the region. Explore the region and see several desert villages that are virtually unknown to folks outside of Jordan (and many inside as well too).
Logistics: Located about 12 KM outside of the town of Mafraq, you can reach Umm Al-Jimaal by public transportation from the city of Mafraq itself. But it is not a short trip so leave enough time, or better yet, rent a cheap car, find a few friends, and go.
Eastern Castles (القلاع الشرقية)
Jordan has this huge eastern section that people don’t even think about when they are going for tourism. Dotting the landscape of the large eastern desert are several castles and hunting lodges dating back to the Roman Empire and Ummayid Dynasty. Several of these are no more than a shell of their former self, but there are some that are still imposing after all these centuries. Qasr Amra is one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Jordan, and Qasr Harrana is an large Qasr standing watch the harsh desert. Also check out Qasr Azraq that served as the headquarters of TE Lawrence prior to the Arab uprising. For a bit more adventure test your mettle taking the trip out to Qasr Burqu, located off the road along the desert path of Bedouins and ancient raiders.
Logistics: Qasr Harrana and Amr are easy to reach from the town of Azraq (by bus) or from a tour group from the capital. Burqu requires a 4WD car and a bit of desert navigation to reach. Qasr Harrana / Amr are located about 1.5 hrs from Amman, and Burqu another 2 hrs beyond that.
Umm Qais (أم قيس)
Settled and used by many different cultures over the centuries including the Greek and Romans, Umm Qais is a fascinating set of ruins. The area is also surprisingly green, a level of green that one doesn’t normally associate with the country of Jordan and it’s many desert regions. Located on the Border between Syria and Jordan, you will look north and wonder about the conflict in the countries in this region. To the north west you will see the Golan heights a constant source of tension in the region, and further west Lake Tiberius seems inviting but so far away logistically.
Logistics: Located on the outskirts of the northern city of Irbid. If you don’t have your own vehicle it is still relatively easy to reach from the city of Irbid which has regular connections to capital of Amman. Catch a taxi to the ruins from anywhere in the city and make sure to schedule or hold it for your return trip as well.
Wadi Mujib (وادي الموجب)
When people think wadi, they think of the desert valleys of Wadi Rum and it’s striking red sand. Your thoughts of wadis will be forever changed after a visit Wadi Mujib near the shores of the Dead Sea. Filled with water much of the year, travelers need to wade through flowing water and climb over and across waterfalls. If you thought of Jordan as a desert country you will be completely caught off guard then when the the water descends upon you from the valley walls. There are several trails, all costing different amounts of money. One is self guided and the rest require a guide.
Logistics: Not easy to reach by public transportation, you will need to either charter a taxi for the voyage or drive yourself. Driving yourself is likely the best option.
Azraq Wetland Reserve (محمية الأزرق المائية)
A Wetlands, in the middle of the Desert? Yes, it’s true, and it’s sadly shrinking rapidly. Once spanning a region as large as the country of Lebanon, the Azraq wetlands were and still are one of the wonders of the middle east. These wetlands are crucial to the life of the animals, plants, and people of the eastern desert (and beyond). There are two reserves, the Azraq Wetland Reserve and the Shaumari Reserve. The Shaumari reserve is currently closed for renovation, but visit it if you can due to the only population of Arabian Oryx in the region.
Logistics: Located in city of Azraq, you can catch a bus to Azraq from Amman and then take a cheap taxi to the reserve. It is about 1.5 hours from Amman.
Includes both a beautifully restored castle and a forest reserve, Ajloun makes a wonderful and fairly easy day trip from Amman (or in conjunction with a trip to Jerash). The castle itself was built by the nephew of Salah Ad-Din to protect the region from those pesky invading Crusaders from Europe. The castle was damaged severely over the centuries due to several large earthquakes that shook the region. A great place to visit in preferable warm weather where a nice walk and perhaps a picnic out in the forest region would be a perfect way to enjoy the Jordanian outdoors.
Logistics: Easy to reach from Amman by bus (take a mini bus from the northern bus station). Many tourists make the visit in conjunction with Jerash although there is enough to spend a day alone here if you are not too time pressed in your Jordan visit.
Is this a trick? Obviously you are going to visit Amman right? I mean you have to fly through it! But most people use Amman as simply a point of entry and exit from the country barely giving it a visit at all. Don’t do that. Having spent 6 months there myself I can say there is a lot to do here! Be sure to visit the Citadel, spend some time in the Roman theater. Enjoy the arts scene in Jabel Webdeh. The new Jordan National Museum is worth a visit, it was in a soft opening prior to me leaving so its bound to be fully opened soon. Also a rather unknown sight is the Hejaz Train Station which was functioning as of only a few years ago and still makes a rather interesting visit. With some extra time take a side trip to As-Salt (described later) or the Christian village of Fuhais. There is certainly more than enough things to fill up a few days let along more time if you can afford it.
Logistics: It is likely your entry point into the country. If not, all roads lead to Amman so it is easy enough to find a route there. Just make sure not to leave before you get to know it.
Some of the best preserved Roman ruins in the world and certainly the best in Jordan, Jerash is a worthy visit on your travels through Jordan. Built during the exploits of Alexander of Macedonia, Jerash has played an important role in the region for many centuries. One of the most famous sights, Hadrian’s Arch was built when Emperor Hadrian purportedly visited the region in the 2nd century A.D. The ruins are impressive and incredibly well preserved. There is even a roman “show” that occurs weekly in the Hippodrome for tourists traveling through the region.
Logistics: Cheap to reach via bus or taxi from the capital. Given that many citizens of Jerash work in Amman there is a large quantity of buses making the regular route between the two cities. Catch a bus by the university or from the northern bus station for the easiest chance of finding a reliable ride.
Kerak and Shobak (الكرك والشوبك)
Crusader castles dot the desert landscape of the country keeping vigil over the towns and villages that lie in the valleys below. Both famous for their roles during the Crusades these two castles lay dormant these days, seen regularly but barely remembered for their influential roles in centuries past. Both Shobak and Kerak are ruins of their former self but still imposing behemoths that show a glimmer of their former size and force. Kerak especially, slowly restored and well remembered for it’s infamous inhabitant, Renaud de Châtillon who threw prisoners from it’s high outer walls (and was beheaded himself by Salah Ad-Din). Visit and think about the histories of these places and the conflict that still mars the surrounding regions.
Logistics: Both are located along the King’s highway in Jordan. Kerak is easy to reach by bus or car from Amman (take a bus from the Southern Bus station) and cheap too by public transportation. Shobak is more difficult to reach as it is less visited and further south. Great to visit on your route south to other destinations perhaps.
Once the former capital of the region, most visitors don’t even know to visit the beautiful hilly town of As-Salt. It is now basically a suburb of Amman, but it’s history is still able to view through its many museums and own buildings that line the hills of this town. Honestly it is a far more beautiful city than Amman, and possibly the most beautiful in Jordan. It is worth at least a full day, and there is plenty to do, but I wouldn’t fault you if you just spend the day wandering the hills and enjoying the beautiful scenery. Take tea in one of the old tea houses in the town, or even visit the oldest school in the country. Be sure to get high as well for a lovely overlook of the land, and check out the old mosque as well if you have time.
Logistics: Very easy to reach from the capital Amman. I prefer to take the mini buses from the main gate of the University of Jordan as they regularly pass by for students who are making the commute back home. Only 0.50 JD and 30mins and certainly worth the time and price to visit.
I hope I was able to introduce you to a few places you did not know of in Jordan worth visiting. And I hope you will take the time to extend your trip some and really get to know this lovely country. For more Jordan information, be sure to visit my Jordan Travel Guide.