Jordan’s rugged and mystical beauty always leaves us enchanted, but we clearly weren’t the first to fall under its spell. From Nabataean kings and Roman emperors to the foodies and filmmakers of today, Jordan’s ability to inspire and intrigue has never waned. With its ancient wonders and historic cities as your compass, here’s our guide for enjoying a cultural passage through time in Jordan.
TIMELESS TREASURES: PETRA
You’ve seen the photos, but nothing can really prepare you for Petra’s breathtaking beauty. Following the tangle of sand-dusted trails to see this ancient Nabataean capital materialise from towering blush-pink cliffs is a sight we’ll never tire of. Experts estimate that it dates back to 300 BC but time has not lessened the rose-hued citadel’s power to awe. Marvel at the ornate Al Khazneh temple and intricate carvings, those Nabataean king’s sure knew how to impress. Put simply, a trip to Jordan isn’t complete without a visit to this world wonder.
ROMAN TIMES: JERASH
Jordan’s own Pompeii; it’s hard to believe that the city of Jerash—formerly ‘Geresh’, one of ten great Roman cities—lay hidden beneath the sands until only 80-odd years ago. It is now one of the world’s most prized and well-preserved Roman cities. Stunningly set within lush, wooded hills (Jordan isn’t all desert, you know), you can wander the grand colonnaded plazas and explore hilltop temples before taking a leaf out of the Romans’ books and hitting the public baths for a soak.
BYZANTINE BEAUTY: MADABA
Follow the King’s Highway, Jordan’s main artery, south of Amman to reach this ancient market town. Madaba’s impressive history stretches back to long ago and it even gets a mention in the Bible. But the biggest cultural draw is the fine collection of Byzantine churches and mosaics, including a renowned sixth-century mosaic map. History buffs should also pay a visit to nearby Mount Nebo, the peak where Moses looked out over the Promised Land – today the panoramic views are just as good.
BEDOUINS & RED PLANETS: WADI RUM
The best way to get under the skin of a place is to mingle with the locals, and you’ll never find a warmer welcome than in Jordan’s red desert. The nomadic Bedouin tribesmen that call Wadi Rum home are renowned for their hospitality, and whether you stop over to their camp for a night under the stars or just pop-by for a mint tea, a chance to meet-and-greet should never be passed-up. If the rippling dunes and red-rock monoliths of this striking desert seem familiar, it’s probably because you’ve already seen it on the silver screen (it’s a favourite planet-double for Mars) so it’s also a top choice for film fans looking to re-live their favourite scenes.
MODERN MUSING: AMMAN
For a taste of contemporary Jordan, Amman is the place to head. Its regions are like Jordan’s cultural offering in microcosm, mixing Roman and Ottoman architecture with hip cafés, galleries, museums and bars. Here you’ll find the best restaurants and bars (foodies take note) combined with a healthy dose of traditional souks and the colourful chaos that comes with them. And of course plenty of lux hotels to rest your head.