5 Days in Jordan
There’s more to see and do than Petra! This itinerary fits in a well-rounded taste of the whole country with hiking, eating, visiting Roman ruins, camel rides in the desert, a Dead Sea visit, and even a brewery tour.
Day Four: Ajloun Castle or Wadi Mujib
Day One: Jerash and Amman
For our first full day in Jordan, we went to the Roman ruins in Jerash, about 45 minutes out from Amman. There’s not much open at the actual site for food in the morning so I would eat breakfast in Amman before you head there (or research a spot in the City of Jerash, separate from the ruins site). You can spend a couple of hours walking through all of the ruins here.
There are often free performers and musicians in the outdoor South Theater, so make sure to spend some time there. You can pay for a 30-minute chariot race show as well.
We then headed back to Amman to explore the sites within Amman that afternoon. We had lunch at Hashem, bought dessert at Habeebah, and stopped to take a picture on the Rainbow Staircase, (aka Umbrella Staircase).
Start heading to the Zajal restaurant and you will find it. These three are all easily walkable to each other. There’s a decent amount of tourist shopping in that area too, with lots of colorfully designed ceramics and plates.
We went to the Amman Citadel which has views of the whole city and to the Roman theater in Amman. It was less exciting after seeing the ones in Jerash.
We also saw the Temple of Hercules, another city viewpoint, and two mosques. The Grand Husseini Mosque has a beautiful interior, but women have to go through a separate entrance to a women-only room and can only see the interior from afar. King Abdullah I Mosque was more set up to allow tourists. They gave you a robe to wear to cover yourself and men and women could go in and see the interior areas together. After seeing the inside of the Mosque, the mosque hosts will offer tourists tea and the opportunity to shop in their store.
That night we had dinner, walked and shopped around Rainbow Street, and hung out at the Turtle Green Tea Bar. Rainbow Street is a street with shops, restaurants, cafes, and a few street food vendors. See Where to Eat for restaurant recommendations.
Day Two: Petra
**Note we only had one day at Petra but if I could do it again and had more time I would do 1.5 days at Petra and a half day to visit Mini Petra as well. That would mean two nights in Wadi Rum, but then we could have spent one night at the candlelit Petra by Night too.****
It is about a 3-hour drive to Petra, go as early as you can to avoid crowds. As far as Wonders of the World go though, we were shocked by the minimal crowds at Petra.
When you arrive to buy your tickets there is a large area with shops and restaurants. Almost nothing is open early, so I’d again recommend eating breakfast in Amman or packing something. I would also pack a lunch, some granola bars, and lots of water so you don’t have to waste time taking breaks during the day. Pack as if you were packing for a full day of hiking. Near the ticket office, you can also hire a guide for the day or half day. We decided to hire a guide for the half day, so we could learn some of the history and then be on our own for the afternoon. The guide was also useful because at the end he helped us strategize what hikes and spots to go see with our time left in the afternoon.
If you don’t hire a guide, make sure to take a picture of the map by the entrance, and research what are the main points you want to see. Signage and directions within the Petra area are not prevalent.
The day starts walking down a Siq, which is the long and winding entrance to Petra. There is some history within the Siq itself and it is a perfect build-up to lead you to the famous Treasury. You can also take a horse-drawn chariot in the Siq instead of walking, but I would only do that one way if at all, you see more when you walk.
If you split Petra into two days and have lots of time, after you have seen the Treasury at ground level you can do the hike to the top of the Treasury to see a view from there. If you only have one day I would skip this. If you decide to do it, take the main trail that goes to the Royal Tombs and then veer off to the right after the tombs. This hike is technically not allowed anymore, but many still do it. We continued on to see the theater and the tombs (we saw the tombs from afar and did not hike up close to them) and stopped in to see the mosaic tiles in the Byzantine Church.
All of this was on the path heading toward the Monastery. It is about an hour's hike up to the Monastery and it is 100% worth it. You also have the option to take a donkey up, but it takes the same amount of time because someone walks alongside the donkey.
After the Monastery we started heading back towards the entrance and then hiked to the High Sacrifice and continued up higher. At the top, there is a panoramic view of most of the Petra site. There is also a small tent that sells tea and snacks. It is 45 minutes up to this viewpoint. If you can, try to do this towards sunset for even better views.
We then walked back to the entrance and made it out of the park almost at closing. We chose to ride donkeys on the path out. It is a long day to fit all of this in, but it’s possible.
After Petra, we drove to our desert camp for the night in Wadi Rum, a 2-hour drive. Our lodging included dinner, but it was probably our least favorite meal of the trip. Dinner was a site-wide buffet with lots of other larger tour groups. After dinner, we met with the camp staff to book our desert activities for the next day. Then we bought some non-alcoholic beers and lemon mint juice (no alcoholic beverages were sold at the desert camps) and headed back to our dome for star viewing.
We stayed at the domes in the SunCity Camp in Wadi Rum, we were very happy with the lodging, staff, and excursions at this camp. The food was the only 3-star part of the experience for us there.
Day Three: Wadi Rum
The next morning we woke up before sunrise for our sunrise camel ride. The stars were still bright and abundant when we woke up, so make sure to look up! We took the camels a short distance into the desert to a viewing point for the sunrise. Then we rode our camels to return to camp for the buffet breakfast.
After breakfast, we had our 4x4 desert safari. You can pick anywhere from a 2 to 6-hour tour. We booked a 2-hour tour and wished we had done a longer one. There’s more to do and see in the desert than you would think. There are lots of ancient inscriptions and drawings, canyons, and rock formations.
We also stopped to have tea and snacks over a fire in a Bedouin tent.
To go from the desert camps to the Wadi Rum Arch (used in the live-action Aladdin movie), you have to take one of the longer tours. The camel ride and 4x4 tour combined were $ 33 USD per person.
After our desert tour, we drove back to Amman. Wadi Rum to Amman is about a 4-hour drive.
That night back in Amman we took a cooking class with Beit Sitti. It was a small group setting in a modernly decorated but traditional home with a large balcony overlooking the city. We made 5 dishes and they provided a dessert too. They gave us all the recipes electronically and sent us home with leftovers. It was a good value for all of the food and the class, it was $ 50 USD/per person.
Day 4: Ajloun Castle or Wadi Mujib
If you travel to Jordan between April to October, this should be the day you hike in Wadi Mujib. If you travel outside of those months, then the hike to Ajloun Castle that we did is a good 2nd option. It’s about an hour's drive from Amman to Aljoun.
Hiking in Wadi Mujib is the only day hike you can do in the country without a guide. So to do the hike to Ajloun Castle we met at a nature center and were assigned our guide and group for the day. It was $ 45 USD per person. We learned throughout the day that the guides are likely required because there are no trail markings and oftentimes no real trail. We would hike through people’s farmland, on roads, etc. They included a packed lunch, but I would recommend bringing your own lunch. What they packed didn’t hold up well in the heat.
There is nowhere to stop for water, and not much shade coverage for most of the hike, so bring plenty of water too. This is a long day, but if you enjoy hiking, it’s unique terrain.
The castle itself is interesting too, it is a 12th-century Muslim Castle. From the top of it, you can see views of Syria and Lebanon.
All guided day hikes in Jordan can be booked through their government site here.
If you aren’t interested in an all-day hike, you can also drive directly to the Castle and spend the day in Ajloun.
Day 5: Dead Sea
The Dead Sea resorts are an hour's drive from Amman. You could do a full day and spend the night at a hotel here, but we bought a day pass instead. There are a couple of hotels that offer day passes, The Dead Sea Spa Hotel and the Marriott Jordan Valley. We chose the Dead Sea Spa Hotel because it was significantly cheaper, at $ 25 USD per person. For the entrance fee, you can access the changing rooms, bathrooms, all the outdoor pools, and the Dead Sea beach area. There are restaurant options there too.
Make sure to put some Dead Sea mud on your skin and face while you are there. It isn’t a myth, it made our skin feel soft and smooth afterward. If you want a chill spa/pool day you could definitely stay here all day, but we only needed a few hours there.
We spent the afternoon driving to the only brewery in the country, Carakale. We sampled some beers and ordered pizza in their taproom. The owner happened to be there and he taught us about the beer scene in Jordan. The brewery is located in a mountainous area half an hour outside of Amman.
Build an Itinerary with a stop in Jordan
This is a perfect stand-alone trip option for a short trip, but if you are looking for a longer trip, add it to any stop in Europe or the Middle East. There aren’t many direct flight options to Amman from the States, so you’ll likely have to connect at another stop anyways.
Lodging in Jordan
For our night near Petra, we stayed in a clear space-like dome at a desert camp in Wadi Rum, SunCity Camp. I would recommend SunCity for its quality of lodging, helpful staff, and the excursions they offered. The food was the only area that could use improvement.
If you are able to book one, you should choose the dome experience in Wadi Rum rather than traditional Bedouin tents or a hotel. It’s rare to find indoor lodging where you can watch the stars as you fall asleep. The dome experience made for a magical night in an area known for its star gazing. The domes are more expensive than the Bedouin tent option though. One night in the dome was $ 159 USD per person with two meals.
For our nights in Amman, we stayed in an Airbnb. It was a less expensive option, gave us more space, and allowed us to cook some of our own breakfasts. This is one location you may want to consider hotels instead of Airbnbs though if you want easier travel. A hotel would be useful for helping to line up and communicate with cabs, drivers, etc.
Bookings for a Jordan Trip
You can book your lodging online. If you want to stay in a dome in Wadi Rum, be sure to book it well in advance of your trip, they are popular.
The camps in Wadi Rum can book the Wadi Rum activities, camel rides, desert tours, etc, once you arrive at their property.
For booking drivers, you should lean on your Airbnb or hotel for help.
To book any guided day hikes, this government site facilitates all of the hiking bookings here.
What to Wear and Pack for a Jordan Trip
What to Wear
Women should dress conservatively here, especially in Amman. I would not recommend wearing shorts, short dresses, tank tops, or short skirts in Amman. We saw some tourists on the trip wearing tank tops and short shorts but they drew attention to themselves, especially in Amman. In tourist-heavy Petra, it was slightly more common to be in shorts or a tank top.
To enter the mosques in Amman, shoulders, legs, and your head need to be covered. One of the larger mosques does provide a cloak to wear over your clothes (that is required), but still, bring your own headscarf.
When we went hiking near Aljun, we hiked with some locals, so we were glad we wore hiking pants and t-shirts with sleeves there as well.
In Petra hiking or trail shoes are recommended if you want to do any of the Petra hikes.
In the Wadi Rum, bring a scarf or something to keep dust out of your face during the desert tour.
A hat to keep the sun out is helpful for all of the stops.
What to Pack
Bring a lightweight backpack for Petra and the hiking day.
What to Eat in Jordan
Eat lots of pita, hummus, kebobs, olives, stuffed grape leaves, and baba ganoush (eggplant dip), but there are some less common dishes to try too.
Fukhara- Clay pot stews with various meats and vegetables
Fetteh- Crumbled toasted pita casseroles with varying ingredients.
Makmoora- A Middle Eastern/Jordanian take on a chicken pie, with chicken and vegetables inside and a flakey exterior.
Fatayer A Middle Eastern meat or vegetarian small pastry (looks like a samosa). We loved the spinach ones.
Knafeh, A warm cheese-based dessert
Baklava-A flakey pastry, nuts, and honey-based dessert.
What to Drink
Pomegranate orange juice- freshly squeezed, our favorite was at the Jerash visitor’s center
Lemon and mint juice- a refreshing choice in the heat, they had this everywhere
Saint Georges Wines- We only found wine and beer at more expensive restaurants, but this was a local brand we liked.
Carakale Beers- The only brewery in Jordan, it has beers with local influence in the flavors.
Where to Eat in Jordan
Sufra- Popular local spot serving traditional Middle Eastern food. It was so delicious we ate here twice. It has classic Jordanian tile work throughout and a balcony in the back overlooking the city. The pita and hummus were the best I have had in my life! The falafel was also one of our favorites and different from what we typically find in the States.
Fakhereldine- Higher-end, traditional Levantine food set in a traditional upper-class home. They are known for their grilled meats and some raw meat dishes too. Try the raw lamb—Kubbeh Nayeh. It will have a local crowd too.
Jordan Heritage Restaurant - Has the most specifically Jordanian food anywhere we went. It had many dishes that we hadn’t seen on any other menus. We loved the Makmoora. This restaurant is also part of a non-profit and sells some local crafts and has an area with historical information too.
Hashem- Cheap, no frills, popular local spot downtown for a quick outdoor lunch. $ 5 USD per person. There’s a set lunch offered (they never even gave us a menu) with pickled vegetables, hummus, pita, falafel, and baba ganoush. It’s close to Habeebah, so stop there for dessert after.
Habeebah- The best dessert shop, a must-stop. This is where you can buy knafeh, but I would also recommend buying tins of their other small cookies and sweets to bring home or to snack on during the trip. They hold up during travel and stay fresh for months.
Turtle Green Tea Bar- A cozy stop for fancy juice or tea. It is a local evening hangout with lots of fun couches and nooks to chill with friends. They have a breakfast and lunch menu too.
Shopping in Jordan
We loved all the colorful, floral designs of the ceramics in shops here, plates, bowls, platters, etc. They were all well-priced too. We also all brought back Dead Sea beauty products and everyone we gifted them to loved them, especially the Dead Sea mud face masks. There are also lots of scarves for sale and some artwork too. The majority of the shopping we found was in Amman, but there are stalls set up throughout Petra as well, that sell scarves and artwork.
Getting around Jordan
We hired a driver to use for the whole trip and it was a reasonable cost. Our driver was $ 250 USD for the whole five-day itinerary below except for evenings. For nights we used Ubers, but it wasn’t always easy to get them. Careem is the local competitor of Uber, so download its app before you go too. Having a driver made it more convenient to not have to figure out our transit every day.
I also had a friend who used Uber her whole trip though, and even Ubered to Petra and the Dead Sea, so it is possible.
When to Go to Jordan
We went in November because of a cheap flight deal right before Thanksgiving time. In late November it wasn’t too crowded and the weather was comfortable. Generally, Spring and Fall are best for travel to Jordan when there are mild temperatures, but you can go year-round. If you want to hike the Siq Trail, Wadi Mujib, then you need to go between April and the end of October.
Other Tips for a Jordan Trip
Buy the Jordan Pass before your trip. It includes the tourist visa and your entrance to Petra, Wadi Rum, Jerash, the Amman Citadel, Ajloun Castle, and more. It’s cheaper than paying for it all individually, and it also makes it quicker every time you deal with entering a site. It was $ 106 USD when we bought it.
We found plenty of spoken English in restaurants, shops, and at tourist sites in Jordan.
Trip Dates: November 17th- November 23rd, 2018.