In the footsteps of kings: Amman to Aqaba and back

  • 1 Week

Thanks to its relatively compact size, Jordan rewards even the shortest of getaways, especially if you’re prepared to hire a car. This route takes in most of Jordan's key sites in a journey along the King's Highway, the ancient backbone of the country.

On day one, experience modern Jordan in the souqs of Amman. On day two, piece together a biblical history in the mosaic town of Madaba and, like Moses, survey the Promised Land from neighbouring Mt Nebo.

Spend day three following the caravans of history along the King’s Highway, crossing mighty Wadi Mujib. Visit the Crusader castles in Karak and Shobak and listen for ghostly hooves against cobbles.

Rise early on day four to experience the Siq at Petra and climb to a High Place for lunch. On day five, attempt the back trail to Petra and watch the sunset at Petra's iconic Monastery. Proceed to the seaside town of Aqaba, two hours away. On day six, wash off the desert dust in the spectacular Red Sea before returning to Amman (four hours via the Desert Highway) on day seven; with an early start, a desert lunch is possible at Wadi Rum en route.

The best of Jordan

  • 3 Weeks

With around 21 days, you can unravel a path through Jordan’s most famous sites, travelling in the footsteps of Roman legionnaires, Crusader craftsmen, Islamic warriors and Bedouin nomads. This route takes you on a comprehensive tour of all Jordan’s main highlights and throws in a few wild cards too.

Begin with two days in Amman and a third day at the spectacular Roman ruins of Jerash. For a springtime flower show, camp overnight at the oak woodlands of Ajloun Forest Reserve or spend day four wading knee-high among daisies at the ruins of Umm Qais. On day five descend to the subtropical Jordan Valley, pausing at the point where Jesus was allegedly baptised in Bethany-Beyond-the-Jordan.

Follow Jordan River towards a night of luxury at the Dead Sea, followed by an early morning float on day six at the world’s lowest point. Survey the West Bank from a higher vantage at the Dead Sea Panoramic Complex en route for Mujib Biosphere Reserve. Splash, swim and struggle through ‘Petra with water’ on the unguided Siq Trail. Dry out along the Dead Sea Highway to Lot’s Cave and swap stories about the adventure over a vegetarian supper at candlelit Feynan Ecolodge.

Begin week two chilling in Aqaba for two days, sparing time for a dive or snorkel in the fabled Red Sea. With batteries recharged, tackle a hike in Wadi Rum on day 10 and stay overnight in a Bedouin camp. Spend the next three nights in Wadi Musa, joining Petra by Night for a magical introduction to the world wonder of Petra.

Head north from Petra via the ancient King’s Highway on day 14, sparing time to pause at the imposing castle of Shobak. Break the journey at Dana Biosphere Reserve and relax on day 15, taking village walks or longer guided hikes.

Spend day 16 making the most of the King’s Highway to Madaba, pausing at Karak and Herod’s Castle in Mukawir. Allow day 17 for souvenir shopping in Madaba, the closest town to Queen Alia Airport, or at craft shops in Mt Nebo. From days 18 to 20, cross the desolate Eastern Badia, overnighting at Burqu's ecolodge and Azraq Lodge, touring the desert castles, birdwatching at Azraq's wetland reserve and going on oryx safari at nearby Shaumari Wildlife Reserve.

Middle East heartland: Border to border

  • 2 Weeks

Jordan is plumb in the middle of a richly historic region, making it essential to a Middle East adventure. This 14-day route by public transport assumes entry by ferry from Egypt and exit by bus to Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Check the latest travel advisories before making this trip as the security situation in South Sinai (Egypt) is changeable.

Spend the first two days relaxing in Aqaba: Jordan has a distinct character, immediately felt in the souqs and open-air restaurants of this seaside town. Spare time for a swim – Jordan’s access to the Red Sea may be diminutive, but the coral gardens are pristine and relatively unvisited. On day three take the morning bus and go in search of ‘El Lawrence’ in magnificent Wadi Rum. Hop astride a camel and head into the sand dunes for a camping experience with the Bedouin.

On day four rise at dawn with the locals, ready to catch the minibus to Petra. With two days in the pink city, you can hike to the High Places, learn to cook Jordanian food at Petra Kitchen, watch the sunset from the Monastery and enjoy an evening in the famous Cave Bar.

On day six head north to Amman on frequent Desert Highway buses via Ma’an. Sample the city nightlife, including an evening’s stroll downtown through Amman’s Roman ruins. Hike from the Citadel on day seven and reward the effort with the capital’s best-loved Arabic street food at Hashem Restaurant.

Take an overnight trip on days eight and nine to Azraq and the Desert Castles. Azraq Fort was Lawrence’s winter hideout. Nearby Azraq Wetland Reserve is a reminder of the fragility of life in the black Badia (stone desert). Given the context, the shrunken waters of the oasis seem miraculous.

Head for the Roman ruins of Jerash on day 10. After visiting the extensive site the following morning, spend two nights in Ajloun. With its crumbling castle, nature reserve, Al Ayoun Trail and village homestays, Ajloun offers a rare chance to engage with rural life in the Middle East. Travel up to peaceful Umm Qais on day 13 for a spot of basket weaving before heading along the Jordan Valley to the border with Israel and the Palestinian Territories on day 14.

Gems in northern Jordan

  • 4 Days

With a long weekend, most visitors head straight for Petra on an overnighter from Amman. For a more rewarding use of time, leave the pink city for a longer visit and focus instead on Jordan’s gems in the north. This trip bypasses the capital.

Hire a car or take a taxi from the airport in Amman and head to the Roman ruins of Jerash. On day two, amble down to the Jordan Valley via Ajloun and the Islamic Ajloun Castle. Pause at the point where John allegedly baptised Jesus at Bethany-Beyond-the-Jordan and book in for some extreme R&R at the lowest place on earth at the Dead Sea. On day three, tear yourself away from the fluffy towels of the region’s best spas (which come complete with a bob in the Dead Sea and therapeutic mud pack) and drive via the Dead Sea Panoramic Complex to nearby Mukawir, where Salome reputedly danced for John’s head on a platter. Skirt the plateau ridge to the friendly mosaic town of Madaba and on day four visit Mt Nebo or the dolmens of Wadi Jadid. From Madaba, allow an hour to return to the airport in Amman.

Petra plus

  • 6 Days

Travellers often ask: ‘Is it worth making the effort to get to Petra with only limited time?’ The answer is yes! While you can cover Petra in an exhausting day trip from the capital, this route takes you on a more rewarding route through the south if you’re prepared to use taxis.

From Amman, take the bus along the Desert Highway to Aqaba. With plenty of accommodation, a lively ambience and excellent seafood, it'll be hard to leave town on day three. Take the early bus to Wadi Musa, the town closest to the Nabataean treasures of Petra. Amble through the Siq at midday, missing the morning tour groups. Watch the sunset turn the Royal Tombs pink, and return to the lively traveller scene along the town’s Tourism St.

Follow the ghosts of Crusaders along the King’s Highway to Shobak on day four and stay overnight at Dana Biosphere Reserve. Hike down to Feynan Ecolodge on day five, prearranging transport along the Dead Sea Highway back to Aqaba (or north to Amman) on day six.