How to Tour Jordan in Seven Days: A Snapshot

The Royal Tombs at Petra

We have just returned from our first adventure abroad as a family of four.  In a moment of madness, we booked a tour of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.  To say that we were nervous beforehand was an understatement.  To be clear, we weren’t worried about our safety in Jordan, despite the troubles facing its neighbours.

What concerned us was how the kids would handle it.  We’d be taking them out of their comfort zone and we had no idea how they’d react.  This was not helped by the fact that we hadn’t even been able to celebrate Bonfire Night a week previously due to a Cub meltdown which resulted in us having to leave the town bonfire just as the fireworks started.  I was having palpitations imagining both children dissolving into inconsolable screaming rages shortly into the 5-hour flight.

However, our fears were unfounded (I’ll just forget about the 30-minute screaming fit as the plane began its descent into Amman; it could have been worse) and we had a better trip than we could have imagined.  Jordan was a good choice for a family as children are universally loved.  Ours had to contend with daily cheek-pinching and kissing, and never-ending requests for photos.  This appealed to the Cub’s diva side – “No photos, no photos!” she cried, dismissing her admirers with a wave.

The tour company we used, Jordan Select Tours, were great and they supplied us with a brilliant driver who really helped to make our trip.

I’ll be writing more posts about our trip in detail, but for now, this is how we spent our time…

Day 1:  Umm Qais, Ajlun and Jerash

The Cub in the Oval Forum at Jerash
The Cub in the Oval Forum at Jerash

We left Amman early in the morning (having arrived the previous evening) and drove north, to the Syrian border (gulp) and the Golan Heights.  Umm Qais, or Gerasa, is a Roman ruin made of black basalt, and is one of the decapolis cities.  We spent a little while wandering about the ruins and looking out over the views from the top of the hill.  The amphitheatre here was in good condition and we were glad that we poked our heads around the corner here as at first glance, it appeared inaccessible.

From Umm Qais we drove to Ajlun castle which is perched on top of a hill giving it a commanding position above the surrounding area.  The famous Moorish commander Saladin used this castle as a base during the crusades.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, given its setting, it was never conquered.

Our last stop of the day was Jerash.  We were blown away by the absolutely stunning ruins here.  I couldn’t believe how much remains of this ancient city.  From the wonderful oval forum, still standing, to the beautiful Nymphaeum and the still-paved streets, Jerash is an architectural marvel.  It is suspected that half of it is still buried beneath the sands and we could see where pillars had not been fully excavated.

Day 2: Amman and Dead Sea

The Roman Theatre in Amman as seen from The Citadel
The Roman Theatre in Amman as seen from The Citadel

For our morning tour of Amman we headed to the Citadel which is an ancient site on top of one of the city’s many hills.  You can get a great view of Amman’s limestone buildings from here.  This site has been inhabited since the bronze age and ruins from bronze and iron age settlements well as Byzantine, Roman and Umayyad architecture has been excavated here.

We went down the hill to the Roman theatre which has been restored recently.  Full of secrets, it was our favourite stop in Amman.  This was a good place for the kids to stretch their legs while the husband and I explored.

From Amman we headed to the Dead Sea.  Floating in the Sea was a great experience, although as it’s not suitable for small children this was probably the one activity where we felt limited by the kids.  We had to take turns going in while the other watched the children.  It was also a slightly chilly day!

Day 3: Mt Nebo, Madaba, Kerak, Petra by Night

View from Kerak castle
View from Kerak castle

An absolutely mammoth day which started with the wonderful mosaics found at Mt Nebo, from where Moses stood and looked out over the Promised Land.  A new church and monument has been built here and mosaics from the local area have been beautifully restored.

We progressed to Madaba where we explored more churches and mosaics in this town with a large Christian population.  If you were to visit Jordan as part of a Christian pilgrimage, you shouldn’t miss Madaba.  The markets looked good, too.

Kerak castle was the penultimate stop of the day.  It wasn’t quite what we were expecting.  The town of Kerak now completely encircles and even encroaches upon the castle ruins which we felt spoiled the grandeur somewhat.  But it was a great place to explore, with secret passageways and pitch-black rooms to tiptoe through.  And the views are spectacular.

As if all that wasn’t enough, we then drove to Petra where we had just enough time to check into our hotel and sort the children out before we walked down the famous Siq to the Petra Treasury, illuminated by candlelight, where some local Bedouins performed music for us.  A wonderful end to the day!

Day 4: Petra

The Monastery at Petra
The Monastery at Petra

We had high expectations for Petra which were met, and exceeded.  All of us loved it (well, Bee is only 15 months old so he was probably just pleased to be carried by Mummy all day).  We packed a lot into this day, but with two such small children we couldn’t quite manage to cover all of Petra, and so we had to miss out visiting the High Place of Sacrifice.

Our highlight was making the climb through the mountains up to the Monastery, Petra’s largest building.  By this point in our trip we were already vowing to come back to Jordan (and we don’t always think that about the countries we visit) and so we didn’t feel so bad about missing out on anything.

Day 5: Little Petra and Wadi Rum

A view over the desert of Wadi Rum
A view over the desert of Wadi Rum

On our way to Wadi Rum we stopped at Little Petra, another smaller ruined city set in a gorge.  Continuing on our way south we finally entered Wadi Rum.  The setting for many films, including most famously Lawrence of Arabia and more recently The Martian, Wadi Rum is a spectacular desert landscape unlike anything else on Earth.

We took a jeep tour through the desert until sunset, before spending the night at a Bedouin camp.  The desert was where we managed a brief camel ride; the Cub’s favourite moment of the trip.

Day 6 and 7: Wadi Rum to Aqaba

Sunset over Israel from Aqaba
Sunset over Israel from Aqaba

We spent a morning in our campsite, having breakfast and talking with the local Bedouins before packing up and heading to Aqaba for a rest.  By now we were all pretty tired and so the relaxing couple of days before the return to Amman for our flight home was just what we needed.  There are a few ancient sites in Aqaba if you’re interested but the main draw of the town is scuba diving and snorkelling in the Red Sea.

The husband and I have agreed that Jordan is one of the most interesting and spectacular countries we’ve ever been to.  It is so much more than Petra (which deserves its place in the new Wonders of the World) and it saddens us that the Jordanian tourist industry has been so badly hit by the war in neighbouring Syria.  At no point did we feel unsafe or anything other than welcome in the country and we’d encourage everyone to visit.

You won’t be disappointed.

Comments

  1. Andi says:

    The landscape is really nice. I’ve always believed the ancient cities still have secrets beneath that are yet to be discovered. It’s amazing how these places are still well-maintained, at least for some. Their beauty is preserved and people in the coming future can still enjoy while learning the history behind.

    1. Emily Cole says:

      I think there are a lot of secrets buried in the sands in Jordan.. Even Petra was lost for centuries to everyone except the Bedouins. Who knows what is still to be found?

  2. Amazing. So cool that you went there, especially with your kids. When you camped, did you have gear or did you stay at a campground with tents/etc (glamping, I guess)? I can’t wait to hear more, I’ve been fascinating by your Jordan trip since I read your OMG we’re going to Jordan post.

    1. Emily Cole says:

      Thank you Sarah! I will write about Wadi Rum in more detail soon, but we stayed at a campground and yes, it was more glamping as the “tents” had an ensuite bathroom. I think that you can also do more basic camping if you like!

      1. Awesome, I’m not a camper at all – I’m surely a glamper, but the idea of hanging out with locals and staying comfortable is right up my alley! Can’t wait to read more.

  3. Nancy says:

    When you think of Jordan Petra comes to mind first. Never realized how much more there is to see there. The Roman Theater looks so out of place in the city but would be something to see in person.

    1. Emily Cole says:

      Nancy, I didn’t either, really! I didn’t know about the Roman ruins in Amman and while I’d heard of Jerash and seen a couple of photos, I had no idea how much was there. Same goes for the Petra site. I was really prepared for my trip, wasn’t I? 😉

  4. gokulr27 says:

    Perfect itinerary. Petra is infact an amazing place to be. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Emily Cole says:

      It certainly is. It felt magical in a way that few places do.

  5. findinglala306 says:

    Jordan is very much on my list of places to visit. Sounds like now is the perfect time to go! So glad your children enjoyed it and were welcomed – that would make sure a big difference.

    1. Emily Cole says:

      My family was welcomed wherever we went. Jordanians are genuinely lovely people.
      If you go now, you’ll have many of the historical sites almost to yourself. Even Petra felt quite quiet, though it was the busiest place we went to. It was high season in Aqaba and our hotel was practically deserted. 🙁

  6. Wow! What a magnificent trip. Jordan is utterly amazing. I loved learning new things about this historic city but the photo of your daughter walking at the Oval Forum at Jerash is just precious. That would be my Christmas card picture if she were mine. 😉

    1. Emily Cole says:

      Thanks Melody, I think I’ll have to use that xmas card idea! And you’re right; Jordan is amazing. It should be talked about in the same breath as Egypt when discussing ancient wonders.

  7. Jem says:

    Poor Cub getting pinches and stalked for photos. Reminds me of the the book “See you in September” and “It’s all Greek to Me” where the kids had the same experience.

    Anyway, the Petra must have looked enchanting by night with the candle lights. I think I’d follow suit and go there for 5 days like you did.

    1. Emily Cole says:

      I know! She wasn’t impressed – doesn’t even want to pose for me let alone strangers. Some Chinese tourists had the right idea – they bribed her with Oreos. That worked 😉 I would recommend Petra by night but it’s not on every night so you have to plan ahead.

  8. What a wonderful read. Yes, you’re right that it does put a lot of people off (including me – I guess I’m un-informed) visiting Jordan due to the headlines you read. Having spent a lot of my time in Greece, I am a huge fan or culture and ancient cities, so I think I’d love a tour to Jordan. As a single female traveller though, would you recommend it? This definitely puts me off.

    1. Emily Cole says:

      While I can’t say for sure as I travelled with my husband, I think that you would be fine in Jordan. It had a friendly vibe and I didn’t get so much as a dodgy look from anyone. I’ve been to Egypt (I wouldn’t recommend going solo here) Morocco and Turkey (the latter two with partners) and I felt much more comfortable in Jordan. Because the children were asleep we didn’t go out in the evenings in Amman, so I couldn’t comment on what the night life would be like. I wore skinny jeans, t-shirts and thin cardigans, so basically my normal clothes; I covered my skin but didn’t wear loose skirts or anything. I’d go back solo.

  9. Jordan is so high on my travel wishlist, it soon will fall off. I’d love to have been there to hear the little diva say: no picture no pictures. Hilarious!

    1. Emily Cole says:

      She acted all offended but secretly she was loving the attention. The baby had less choice, he came out of the theatre in Amman with his cheeks plastered in lipstick.

  10. What an amazing trip. You really got to see a lot. I want to see Petra so freaking bad, so I have to plan a trip soon.

    1. Emily Cole says:

      You should – it’s safe and they need tourism badly. Petra is just as amazing as you imagine!

  11. Ugo Cei says:

    Jordan is such a beautiful and peaceful country and its people are so warm and welcoming. I only saw Wadi Rum and Petra, so I can’t wait to go back and see more of it.

    1. Emily Cole says:

      We thought the people were absolutely lovely. It’s a great country on all counts. Hope you get to go back and see the rest.

  12. Diana Chen says:

    Awesome post. I’ve never been to the Middle East because it’s a bit difficult to travel there as an American. The Dead Sea has always been on my list, especially now that I’ve been hearing it won’t be around for much longer (10 years or so)? I think I’d really love to visit the ruins and castle as well.

    1. Emily Cole says:

      The Dead Sea level is dropping really quickly. You could see it very clearly at our hotel. They’re planning on building a canal from the Red Sea to fill it up as Jordan and Israel can’t afford to lose it.

      1. Diana Chen says:

        Oh wow, that’s good to know. Hopefully they can preserve it.

  13. Karla Strand says:

    What an incredible experience for you and your kids! I would love to go to Jordan; I don’t see much about it in travel blogs but it looks so amazing. Thanks for sharing – will pin for future reference!

    1. Emily Cole says:

      Thanks Karla. I don’t know why Jordan isn’t more famous, it should be on everyone’s bucket list.

  14. Marge Gavan says:

    Just for bringing the kids alone, you got my utmost respect. I don’t have kids, but I practically raised my younger siblings and my nieces and nephews so I know that children can be a handful and they are particularly difficult when we have to go out somewhere. Personally, I don’t like traveling with children, I just don’t have the patience. But you guys, it’s awesome that you bring your kids with you in your travels and now they’ve been to Jordan, which is one of my dream destinations!

    I can imagine when people come up to you to take picture of your kids. I mean I can’t handle kids but I know how cute they can be so yeah I can understand the wanting of some people to have photos with them.

    1. Emily Cole says:

      Thanks Marge! Ha, before I had my kids I couldn’t imagine anything worse than travelling with them! I used to be a primary school teacher and school trips were the most stressful days ever – the constant worry of keeping track of 30 five-year-olds… Happily it is different now I have my own children; just as well!

  15. Believe me, I’m from the Philippines and seeing beautiful photos of Jordan everyday because of my online job. If I would be ask where I would like to fly next. I want to visit this part of the world. I want to be in the middle east. I want to see petra and dead sea. I want to explore the rawness of Jordan.

    P.s your baby is so cute 🙂

    1. Emily Cole says:

      Thanks Cai! It is a wonderful country; I hope you get to visit. I have the same feeling whenever I see photos of the Philippines – it looks like a beautiful place. I’d love to do some island hopping.

  16. Jerny says:

    I’d really check Petra and Dead sea in Jordan when time comes that traveling and my time permits me there. The stone architecture is different and it preserves the culture and the ancestral likes in the country. I’ve had friends who went there and they all stated everything’s awesome in Jordan! Can’t wait for that time!

    1. Emily Cole says:

      It is a great place to visit and there are lots of different ruins to find. And the Dead Sea is a really interesting experience!

  17. Neha Verma says:

    A very useful guide. Jordan is high on my bucket list. When I travel there, I will be going with my kid. I am going to bookmark your post and refer back to it in the future

    1. Emily Cole says:

      Thanks Neha; I’m sure your family will have a great time. The Jordanians are very welcoming to families with young children.

  18. Jordan is high on our list. The diverse landscapes and natural wonders are enticing. Dead sea and Petra are definitely on list. The many sites of historical importance are going to be a good practical lesson to your kids I believe 🙂

    1. Emily Cole says:

      It was a good lesson for the whole family; it got the kids out of the comfort zone and showed us that we could travel with our little ones. We all came home more confident 🙂

  19. Indrani says:

    A well planned doable itinerary! I am keen to see all these places, particularly the dead sea where one can float. I have been reading about it since school days! Great captures, they instill a feeling of longing to see in real!

    1. Emily Cole says:

      It was the same for us, Indrani. Ever since we watched Indiana Jones as children the husband and I have wanted to see Petra. It was also fascinating seeing some of the locations for the Old Testament stories.

  20. Elisa says:

    Wonderful country and wonderful people, isn’t it? I was in Jordan long time ago and I have nice souvenirs. Good the kids also enjoyed it

    1. Emily Cole says:

      Yes, the people really helped to make the trip a fantastic one. We felt very welcome.

  21. Johna says:

    I’ve always wanted to visit Petra!!! Ugh!! Haha. We were in Israel in April and we were going to cross to Jordan buttttt we didn’t have enough time. Next time for sure. Looks so lovely 😀

    1. Emily Cole says:

      Make sure that you see the rest of Jordan too. Petra is amazing but there are lots of other places to see too 🙂

  22. JP Licudan says:

    Wow Jordan! It’s my dream to visit this country one day. Beautiful pictures! What camera are you using?

    1. Emily Cole says:

      Thank you JP. I used a Nikon D3300 with the kit lens. But I’m still learning to use it properly!

  23. Becky says:

    Curious if you actually snorkeled in Aqaba? How does it compare to other parts of the world? The rest of the country seems so unique, but I’m not sure if Aqaba is worth it if you have limited time.

    1. Emily Cole says:

      I did mean to snorkel in Aqaba but unfortunately I didn’t manage to with the children. I have snorkelled and dived in the Red Sea in Egypt and it was one of the best places I’ve snorkelled. Our family needed the rest after the hectic week so I’m glad we went there. An alternative could be the Dana biosphere reserve for nature if you weren’t interested in Aqaba.

  24. Vyjay Rao says:

    Jordan is a fascinating place. The history and culture is really mesmerizing. Given this, I am sure there is so much to see, one would be a loss to prioritize and prepare ones’ itinerary. Your post is a great help here to plan a trip that optimize and plan for 7 days.

    1. Emily Cole says:

      I think we managed to cover the basics but I would have liked longer as there is still a lot we didn’t see!

  25. Jordan is such a fascinating country straight out of fairy tales and an oasis of peace in Middle East… your pictures totally want me to go there again

    1. Emily Cole says:

      It’s a wonderful place; we loved every second. One of the best things for me was visiting the sites of many Old Testament stories 🙂

  26. Lovely place to visit! I have heard lot about Jordan, but never been there. Jordan is in my wishlist. I hope at least next vacation will be planned to Jordan. I can’t wait to visit. Thanks for inspiring me to visit such a wonderful place.

    1. Emily Cole says:

      Thank you; I hope you get to go soon. We will go back one day as there was so much we didn’t manage to see!

  27. We were recently in Jordan with kids as well and I cannot stop talking about how wonderful it was! 7 days was not nearly enough time for us to really soak up Jordan, but we too, saw the highlights and are itching to go back and explore more!

    1. Emily Cole says:

      Same here; we all loved it and we have to go back! There’s so much we didn’t manage to see and we’d go back to Petra, Wadi Rum and Jerash in a heartbeat.

  28. LC says:

    I’ve rather become a bit obsessed with Jordan and can’t stop reading blog posts about it. Sounds like a great trip.

    1. Emily Cole says:

      All I can say is go! Brilliant country and lovely people.

  29. I first heard of Petra from my supervisor 3 years back. It amazes him how those details across the gate were etched. I will definitely add this to my bucketlist so in case I meet my boss again (hopefully I visit Petra first), I have something to share with him. =)

    1. Emily Cole says:

      It was incredible to see in person. You could see little notches carved into the rock where they had fixed ladders to climb up. I’d recommend seeing it, whatever your reason!

  30. asoulwindow says:

    Whoa, it made me relive my stay in Jordan. My favourite was Wadi Rum and the mostly under rated Jerash. This little nation has so much to offer.

  31. […] you believe that Emily Cole who traveled seven days in Jordan felt safer in the same manner she felt comfort in her home country, […]

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