Roman columns of the ancient city of Gadara, modern Jordan.

© Anton_Ivanov/Shutterstock



In the northwestern corner of Jordan, in the hills above the Jordan Valley, are the ruins of the Decapolis city of Gadara (now called Umm Qais). The site is striking because of its juxtaposition of Roman ruins with an abandoned Ottoman-era village. Umm Qais is especially attractive in spring, when an explosion of wildflowers adorns the fallen masonry.

Umm Qais has another claim to fame as the site where, according to the Bible, Jesus performed one of his greatest miracles: casting demons from two men into a herd of pigs. Since the 1st millennium, Gadara has thus been a place of Christian pilgrimage, though a site on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee also claims to mark the spot.

The site boasts spectacular views of three countries (Jordan, Syria, and Israel and the Palestinian Territories), encompassing the Golan Heights, Mt Hermon and the Sea of Galilee. The Umm Qais Resthouse, a popular restaurant located amid the ruins, is a favourite with families congregating to swap stories of the Holy Land.

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Nearby Jordan attractions

1. Museum

0.04 MILES

Housed in Beit Russan, the former residence of an Ottoman governor, this modest museum is set around an elegant and tranquil courtyard of fig trees. The…

2. Ottoman Village

0.04 MILES

Surrounding the museum are the comprehensive ruins of an Ottoman village dating from the 18th and 19th centuries. Two houses, Beit Malkawi (now used as an…

3. West Theatre

0.05 MILES

Entering Umm Qais from the south, the first structure of interest is the well-restored and brooding West Theatre. Constructed from black basalt, it once…

4. Ottoman Mosque

0.05 MILES

This small mosque, no longer consecrated, is at the heart of the old Ottoman village of Umm Qais.

5. North Theatre

0.08 MILES

The North Theatre is overgrown and missing much of its original black-basalt stones, which were recycled by villagers in other constructions, but it's…

6. Basilica Terrace

0.08 MILES

A bit of imagination is needed to reconstruct the colonnaded courtyard of the Basilica Terrace, the western section of which housed a row of shops. The…

7. Shops

0.11 MILES

The shells of a row of shops remain in the western section of what was once the colonnaded courtyard of the Basilica Terrace.

8. Baths

0.13 MILES

West along the decumanus maximus are the overgrown public baths. Built in the 4th century, this would once have been an impressive complex of fountains …