I would like to share with you my opinion and observations about must-see attractions in Jordan. Below you can find a description of all the places where we were and which I really recommend.
As I mentioned in the previous post we visited Amman, the capital of Jordan, where we were celebrating New Year’s Eve. Also, we were in Madaba, where we admired a mosaic map of Jerusalem and many parts of the Holy Land. Additionally, we were watching the Dead Sea sunset. Another whole day we spent wandering through Petra, a historical and archaeological city. Next day we were drinking a tea, talking and dancing with Bedouins and exploring attractions of Wadi Rum desert. At the end of our journey, we were resting in Aqaba.
Let me start from the beginning.
Before our journey I have read a lot of negative opinion about the capital of Jordan. Many people didn’t recommend to stay there after arrival at the Queen Allia International Airport, because there is nothing interesting to do or visit.
I think a lot of people don’t appreciate Amman. According to their opinion, this city is dirty and crowded. Yes, it is true, but its attractions, friendly and helpful citizens, views make that you feel like home there.
From my point of view Amman has its own climate. I really enjoyed the view of the old city from the top of the castle hill. You should know that Amman formerly was situated on seven hills but nowadays spans over 19 hills. Everywhere stretches the view of bright, usually white houses. For this reason Amman is also known as a ‘white city’. Additionally, I liked wandering through Amman’s streets admiring markets stands full of souvenirs, colorful clothes, and shoes, fresh fruits and vegetables or rich and aromatic seasoning.
Moreover Amman has a lot to offer to history lovers. Do you know that in the past Amman was called Philadelphia? It was during Greek and Roman periods. The name was given as an adulation of Philadelphus, the Macedonian ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom.
I wholeheartedly recommend you to stay there. I think an optional time to visit Amman is 1,5 day.
The most popular attraction in Amman is the Citadel which is situated on the highest hill in the city – known in Arabic Jabal Al Qal’a. It is a site of the ancient Rabbath – Ammon. It is surrounded by a 1 700 m-long fortification walls, which were rebuilt many times. The Citadel has a long history of occupation by many civilizations so it is considered a very important site.
The way from downtown to Citadel is quite steep uphill, but it is located only a few minutes walking distance from Roman Theatre. Some people decide to take a taxi. It costs less than 1 JOD.
If you plan to visit Jabal Al Qal’a you should know that it is open every Friday between 10 am. to 4 pm. whole year and on the other days between 8 am. to 4 pm. from October to March and between 8 am. to 7 pm. from April to September.
The ticket costs 2 JOD or it is free if you possess a Jordan Pass.
There is a lot to see, from breathtaking views of the city to the outstanding Hercules Temple or the spectacular Ummayad Palace. You can visit there also the Byzantine Church and a little museum. Most of the remains are from the Roman and Byzantine periods.
The Temple of Hercules was one of the most beautiful temples of antiquity, built between AD 162 – 166 during the reign of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Unfortunately, now it is reduced in ruins. You can see there two giant standing pillars, which are visible from around the town and parts of the podium. There is also a fragment of a colossal statue, a stone-carved hand, probably of Hercules. All that remains is three fingers and an elbow.
Umayyad Palace was probably built about AD 720 by Umayyad Arabs. It was an extensive complex of royal and residential buildings and home of the Amman governor. Unfortunately, the palace was destroyed by an earthquake in AD 749 and was never fully rebuilt.
Next to the Umayyad Palace you can see the Umayyad Cistern, which once served to supply water to the palace and surrounding areas. It is an enormous circular hole with steps, which lead down to the bottom.
There is also the small Byzantine Basilica, near to the museum, destroyed by the earthquake.
The second most popular place in Amman is the Roman Theatre – the most impressive remnant of Roman Philadelphia. Probably, it was built between AS 138 – 61 during the reign of Antoninus Pius.
The theatre consists of three tiers: closest to the action sat the rulers, the middle section was for the military and the top rows was reserved for the general public.
Once above the top rows of seat housed a statue of the goodness Athena – now it is located in the Jordan Museum.
A restouration works of the Roman Theatre started in 1957. Unfortunately, while restauration was used non-original materials. However, the theatre is stunning. In the summer are organized concerts – if you are interested, check it in the tourist’s office.
The theatre is open from Saturday to Thursday between 8 am. to 4 pm. whole year and on Friday between 9 am. to 4 pm. from October to March and between 8 am. to 7 pm. from April to September.
The ticket costs 2 JOD or it is free if you have a Jordan Pass.
King Abdullah I Mosque
It is also known as a ‘Blue Mosque’. It was completed in 1989 as a memorial by King Hussein to his grandfather. The mosque can house up to 7000 worshippers. There is also selected a small women’s section and a much smaller royal enclosure.
The King Abdullah I Mosque is the only mosque in Amman, which allows entering to non-Muslim visitors. It is open from Saturday to Thursday between 8 am to 11 am and 12.30 pm. to 2 pm. The ticket price is 2 JOD (entrance to the mosque is not included in Jordan Pass). Women are required to cover their hair, bare arms, legs or jeans. At the entrance to the mosque, you can check out headscarves and abayas – black full-length dress. You have to take off your shoes entering the prayer hall.
Except for historical attractions I recommend you wander through The Rainbow Street. It is a public space like a promenade, near to downtown. You can find there many rooftop restaurants and pubs and numerous companies and shops. Rainbow Street is a popular place, not only for tourists.
Just 30 km away from Amman is located a place mainly famous for a 6th-century mosaic map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land.
Thanks to its spectacular Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics Madaba is also called a ‘city of mosaics’. All this heritage you can admire everywhere you look, from the historic sites, through the streets where residents showcasing their mosaic, to the Madaba Institute for Mosaic Art and Restoration where local artists continue to preserve the city’s tradition.
Mosaics of Madaba
The Church of St. George
The most popular mosaic covers the floor of the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George, which was built in AD 1896 on the remains of a much earlier 6th-century Byzantine church. The Mosaic Map presents Jerusalem and the Holy Land – hills and valleys, villages and towns as far as the Nile Delta. Originally, the map was around 15m to 25m long and 6m wide. Once it contained more than two million pieces of vividly colored local stone. Unfortunately, much of the mosaic has been lost.
St. George Church is open every day from 8.30 am to 6 pm except for Friday and Sunday when it is open between 10.30 am and 6 pm. The ticket price is 1 JOD.
The Church of the Virgin Mary
The Church of the Virgin Mary is a part of the Archeological Park in Madaba City, located at the Roman colonnaded street that ran east to west in the center of the city. It has a circular plan (it is the only church in Madaba that follows a centralized plan) and a mosaic floor dated to the year AD 767 constructed during the Umayyad period.
The mosaic consists of three concentric circles within a large square of interlacing circles and two interwoven squares, which form a star, surrounded by the central design which lies inside another circle, which is occupied by a Greek inscription. There are also two pairs of geometric-floral motifs.
The most impressive mosaic is in Hippolytus Hall. The western part of it was discovered by the homeowner Sulayman Sunna in 1905. In 1982, the archeologists found the eastern section under the floor of the vestibule of the Church of the Virgin Mary. They believe that the mosaics were covered by the floor of the church only a few years after they were made.
The mosaic depicted personages of Greek mythology, the tragedy of Phaedra and Hippolytus, Adonis and a topless Aphrodite, winged Eros, and the Three Graces (daughters of Zeus representing joy, charm, and beauty).
The Church of the Apostles
In the Church of the Apostles, you can find mosaics dedicated to the Twelve Apostles. They were created in AD 568 and shows Thalassa, a female personification of the sea, surrounded by fish and slippery marine creatures. The corners are decorated by native animals, birds, flowers, fruit, and cherubic faces.
Madaba Institute for Mosaic Art & Restoration
Additionally, you can admire truly masterpieces in Madaba Institute for Mosaic Art & Restoration. Originally it was set up as a school in 1992. This institute trains Jordanian artists in the production, restoration, and preservation of mosaics. The institute is close to the Church of the Virgin.
In the institute, you can find out how to create mosaics.
The Dead Sea
As I mentioned in the previous post about must-see places in Israel, the Dead Sea is one of the deepest hypersaline lakes in the world. To the east, it bordered by Jordan and to the west by Israel and The West Bank.
During our journey we had a problem with finding a place where we could admire the Dead Sea. It was late while we arrived there, so we wanted to wait somewhere for sunset and have a little rest. Unfortunately, along the seashore, all beaches are due and the cost depends on spa resorts. For example an entrance to the Amman Public Beach costs 20 JOD. For us it wasn’t worth it.
In the end we decided to find a place, where we could park a car and walk down to the Dead Sea. It wasn’t too easy because local people came up with an idea to sell a piece of the Dead Sea to silly tourists. When we parked a car by the wayside, close to a new hotel construction, some local guys required a payment for an entrance. There wasn’t a beach. You can see everywhere rubbish and dirt. We wasted a lot of time, so we decided to negotiate a price and finally we paid 3 JOD for 4 people and a car.
Maybe I’m not objective, because we didn’t reach any beautiful beach with outstanding views eventually, but in my opinion the Dead Sea from the Israeli side is much better. The first reason is that you don’t have to pay for it. The second reason is the difference between salt grains. In Israel there are a lot of small grains whereas in Jordan was a big salt surface. Moreover, in Israel was cleaner.
Undoubtedly Petra is the most visited place in Jordan and the most valuable its treasure. It is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world and one of the seven wonders of the world.
There is no precise information when Petra was built, but the city began to prosper as the capital of the Nabataean Arabs from the 1st century BC and it grew thanks to trade in frankincense, myrrh, and spices. Later Petra was annexed to the Roman Empire and continued to thrive. Unfortunately, the large earthquake at the beginning of the 4th century AD destroyed much of the city and caused its downfall. Finally, Petra was abandoned and then lost for all. The ancient city started to become famous in 1812 when a Swiss explorer set out to ‘rediscover’ Petra.
Petra is open on a daily basis from 6 am. to 6 pm. during the summer and 6 am. to 4 pm. in the winter. I recommend you to wake up at early hours and start your trip the next minute after opening.
The entrance fee depends on how many days you are going to visit Petra. One day ticket costs 50 JOD, two days ticket costs 55 JOD, and three days ticket costs 60 JOD. If you have Jordan Pass your entrance fee is included in a final price.
How to get to Petra from different places in Jordan you can find in my previous post –> here.
For more information about Petra go to: http://www.visitpetra.jo
How long should you stay in Petra
Many people wonder how much time takes an exploration of the whole ancient city. Before our journey to Petra, I had the same doubts as other tourists – if one day is a good option or maybe we should take a two-day ticket? I have read a lot of thoughts and recommendations about it and I noted that more people have chosen a one, but a high impact day in Petra. If you like quick traveling, I think one day trip should be enough for you.
If you are going to explore Petra within one day, I recommend you to get up early and start your trip the next minute after opening. We woke up at 5 am. and after preparations, we reached the entrance 10 minutes before official opening.
Unfortunately, during the whole day, the sky was cloudy but amazing views compensated poor weather. We were wandering through the city around 8 hours. The city made a huge impression on us. It was an exciting day, full of breathtaking views.
We decided to leave Petra before closing. Firstly we walked on foot long distance, so we were tired and secondly, we had a long way trip to our next destination.
You should know that Petra is a tough place to walk hence for many tourists, local people offer a camel or donkey ride. Don’t be surprised when you see absolutely exhausted donkeys climbing upward and carrying stupid tourists who have fun. Unfortunately, it won’t change, until tourists don’t change their behaviors.
The most famous attractions in Petra
Certainly, if you have seen Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, you can easily recognize places where the action has been taken.
The journey starts from Petra Visitors Center and leads towards the main attractions of the city. At the end of walking through the Siq (the main entrance to the ancient Nabatean city), over 1km in length a narrow gorge surrounded either side by 80 meter high cliffs you reach the first stunning place – Al-Khazneh (the Treasury).
Al-Khazneh was built at the beginning of the 1st century AD as a mausoleum and crypt of the Nabatean King Aretas IV. The Treasury is 40 meters high and 28 meters wide and consists of two floors and six columns. It is the most popular place in Petra.
Continuing walking on the main trail you reach Street of Facades, where you can see the row of monumental Nabataean tombs carved in the southern cliff
Passing Facades Streets you get to the Main Theatre, which was built during the reign of King Aretas IV (4BC-AD27). It was carved from the rock in one piece.
From the Theatre the road leads towards the Royal Tombs. At the end of the main trail, you can admire the Great Temple.
The map of the main trail you can find on the Petra official website: http://www.visitpetra.jo/Pages/viewpage.aspx?pageID=136
Are you going to visit Jordan? Which places do you want to see? Tell us!