Top 5 things to do in Jordan

by Travlebag on 26 June 2015, 09:06AM

With a harsh, mountainous terrain, evergreen woodlands and hot deserts, Jordan was home to some of the earliest human settlements and has been captivating travellers for centuries.

The capital Amman is one of the oldest continuously occupied cities in the world, so history and architecture lovers will find plenty to see and do.

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This is a land steeped in history, which provided the backdrop for famous biblical events. Ancient baptismal sites can still be seen today and the village of Bethany, visited by Jesus, is a popular site for tourists. As well as its historical attractions, Jordan is a modern state too and visitors can enjoy high standards of accoommodation as well as dining options.

It's hard to pick only five things to do here, but we've done it. Here are the top five things you certainly won't want to miss out on:

Float in the Dead Sea

This 42 mile long, 11-mile wide body of water isn't a sea at all but the deepest hypersaline, inland lake in the world (we bet you didn't know that!). It is also the lowest point on Earth (we're full of fun facts!). The turquoise blue waters glisten with salt crystals and those bathing in its therapeutic waters experience a sense of real weightlessness. This feeling that is so hard to describe, causes people to flock from all over the world to experience the sensation for themselves.

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After a dip the body is covered in saline so perhaps it is time for a bath in the local mud, reputed to have healing powers. Harsh, towering sandstone rocks and spectacular sand dunes line the Dead Sea – a sight definitely worth a photo or two.

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Mount Nebo on the northern shore is today a Byzantine Basilica, boasting one of the most magnificent mosaics in the world, which marks the spot where Moses first viewed the promised land. The platform at the front of the church provides the perfect vantage point for views across the Jordan Valley and beyond to the rooftops of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. There are a number of high class spas and resorts located in this area, which provide all the facilities you would expect, including private beaches, heated pools and sporting facilities.

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Visit Zarqa Wetland Reserve and Shawmari Reserve

Zarqa is a wetland oasis situated in the Eastern desert. It features an ancient man-made pool, seasonally flooded marshland and Qa'a Al-Azraq, a large mudflat. The reserve is home to wolves, hyenas and many bird species too. The Shawamari Reserve has played a key role in the preservation of the rare and spectacular, such as the white Arabian Oryx, one of the few mammals indigenous to the Arabian Peninsular.

Today, there is a herd of 200 Oryx's to be seen grazing within the reserve boundaries, together with ostriches, onagers and desert gazelles, all of which can be viewed from the observation tower. For those wanting to get up close and personal with the Oryx, safari tours are also an option. There is a tourist information centre, a small zoo for children, consequently due to the reserves breeding programme, a small museum and an outdoors picnic area.

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Marvel at the sites in Petra

Petra, in addition to recently being granted the status of a World Heritage Site as well as ranking as one of the modern 7 Wonders of the World, is Jordan's most visited tourist attraction and is situated in the southern area of Ma'an. Petra has huge archaeological and historical significance as well as being iconic through appearing in several movies too.

This is an area where ancient eastern tradition blends with subsequent Hellenistic architecture. The Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt rediscovered the city in 1812 after it had been abandoned 800 years previously and named it the Rose City because of the colour of the stone out of which it is carved.

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Petra is famous for The Siq (shaft) a fissure in the sandstone rock, which creates a narrow passage, which can be walked down or even ridden down on a horse. The Siq is the eastern approach to the city and has featured in a number of films including The Mummy Returns, Transformers and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade featuring Harrison Ford and Sean Connery walking through the Siq to The Treasury, a small royal tomb with an ornate carved façade. The area has numerous tombs and temples and a splendid Byzantine church.

Follow in the steps of Lawrence in Wadi Rum

The protected area of Wadi Rum is the largest wadi in Jordan, cut into the granite rock in southern Jordan about 50 miles from Aquaba. The area is also known as the Valley of the Moon and is home to many Bedouin. You can explore the area on foot, by horse, by camel or by Jeep (it's up to you which you choose – but we'd recommend horse or camel for something completely unique).

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Wadi Rum is home to a variety of birds, including the desert lark, different varieties of wheatear and African Rock Martins. There are also venomous snakes in the area and the 's' shaped tracks left in the sand by the sidewinding snakes can sometimes be seen. Visit Khazal Canyon, a deep narrow fissure in the mountainside containing many rock inscriptions or see the temple where the Nabateans used to worship their goddess, Allat. There are also sunset sites where the visitors can get the most dramatic views of the area as the sun goes down, perfect for a romantic sunset.

Stop off in Amman

Amman is the capital of Jordan and it is a modern, vibrant place that offers an eclectic mix of old and new. Amman is situated in a hilly area between the fertile Jordan Valley and the desert and it is home to approximately four million people, roughly two thirds of the entire population of Jordan. The residential suburbs comprise charming tree lined streets in which all the houses have, by law, to be faced with local stone. The Downtown area is home to a host of smaller businesses from which jewellery and other goods are traded.

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To get a real feel for modern Arab life visit the markets or why not smoke a tobacco and honey sweet mix from a Shisha pipe in Café Valra.

If you want to explore some of Jordan's famous history, explore the Roman Amphitheatre or visit the Citadel, home to the Jordanian Archaeological Museum which is stuffed full of antiquities from prehistoric times through to the 15th century, including exhibits from the Dead Sea Scrolls and 4 Iron Age anthropomorphic coffins.

The Citadel is also home to the Roman temple of Hercules, the remains of a Byzantine church and the Umayyyad Palace, the site of which incorporates a Roman colonnaded street. Amman also has a children's museum and the Royal Automobile Museum that is now home to the late King Hussein's collection of vehicles.

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As we mentioned, it's hard to only pick five things to do in Jordan – and no doubt there are many more amazing things to see and do there that we've left off this list.

Click here to read more about Jordan.


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