Opposites become one in Jordan: Ancient ruins can be found in modern cities like Amman or Jerash. Thanks to water springs, rocky valleys like Wadi Rum become green oases, and the Dead Sea – contrary to what its name suggests – has healing and invigorating powers. Make sure that you take the time to see these fascinating contrasts and take a road trip to explore the most impressive places in the country.
Back to the Beginning of Mankind
The capital city of Amman is the perfect starting point for your roundtrip. This is a place where high-rise buildings and three-lane roundabouts meet temple, gate, and theatre ruins from ancient times. Modernity has slipped into every corner of the city, yet the past is still omnipresent. Those of you who want to explore the past should visit the Jordan Museum, where you can experience 1.5 million years of Jordanian history. The ‘Ain Ghazal Statues will definitely give you goosebumps; They were created between 8000 and 6000 BC in the surrounding areas of ‘Ain Ghazal and are considered to be the first full-body representations of humans.
Massive Fist of the Gods
Hills didn’t just play a prominent role in the founding of Rome. Citadel Hill, Jabal Al Qala’a, located in the centre of Amman, is also paramount in the history of Jordan. It is one of the oldest permanently inhabited places in the world. At the top, one ancient foundation wall follows the next, one column after the other towering majestically into the air. A particular eye-catcher: The massive stone fist in the middle of the ground. Do you have an idea of who it belongs to? Of course, it belongs to the mighty Hercules, the strongest of the Greek Gods.
Enjoyment for the Masses
Once part of a mountain, the remains of Jordan’s largest amphitheatre are barely recognisable in the current landscape. In this place, it seems like the past and the present merge. In its prime, Amman’s Roman Theater, just a few minutes from Jabal Al Qala’a, could seat thousands to enjoy blood sport and theatrical performances. Stop in the square in front of the arty venue for a moment and look at the rows. If you look long enough, you’ll see our exhilarated ancestors groaning and cheering in your mind’s eye.
Azure and Holy
3,000 worshipers have enough space here, and it is a unique architectural feat: The King I Abdullah Mosque is considered one of the newer landmarks of Amman and is only a few minutes away from the amphitheatre on foot. What makes it special: a magnificent bright blue dome, which is not only easily visible from a distance, it is also enchanting when you admire the colourful mosaics and golden decorations from the inside. Although the mosque was only built in the 1980s, unlike the Hand of Hercules, the temple, and the theatre, it can keep pace with the ancient architecture in terms of aesthetics.
Visiting the Romans
Do you have time for a day trip beyond the bustling capital? The city of Jerash is situated in the north of the capital, 40 kilometres from Amman, and is home to around 40,000 inhabitants today. The perfect place to take another trip back in time. The South Theatre with the capacity to accommodate up to 5,000 spectators, the Jupiter Temple on the artificially made slope, the Zeus Temple with its Corinthian columns, Emperor Hadrian's done-up triumphal arch or the 800-metre-long cardo maximus, which once stretched from the market square to the northern city gate – this Roman city allows you to experience ancient times in person.
For those of you who want to take a trip through the country, head southwest from Amman. You’ll arrive at your next destination after an approx. 45-minute car ride: Mount Nebo. The mountain measures a bit over 800 metres in height, is located in the Abǎrim Mountains, and plays a major role in the Bible, to be more exact in the books of the prophet Moses. This is where Moses was thought to have seen the “promised land” of Israel, and it is here that he is said to have finally died. Whether it really happened that way, will remain a mystery until the end of time. Either way: At the summit, the views of the Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea, and Israel will make Mount Nebo a magical place forever.
Keep your Head above Water
The perfect spot for a day at the Dead Sea is Dead Sea Beach, about half an hour's drive from Mount Nebo. Pack your favourite book and get comfortable – in the middle of the water. Don’t worry! You won’t sink, thanks to the high salt content in the water! Floated long enough? Then you could take a detour to the Salty Rocks lookout point, which is very close to the beach. The waves have done a great job here of covering the rocky surroundings with a rock-hard salt crust.
Gentle Tourism at the Dana Biosphere Reserve
If you drive a little over three hours by car, you will slowly leave civilization behind. Ahead of you stretches the Dana Biosphere Reserve, the country’s largest and oldest biosphere reserve. You’ll find plenty of trails meandering through steppes and bushes at the foot of the rock lines. It’s hard to believe that this barren, seemingly inhospitable landscape is home to over 800 plant species and is a protected area for endangered animals. So, keep an eye out! Maybe you’ll see a Nubian ibex strolling along the steep slope.
Place of Magic
Not quite city, not quite desert, not quite rock – Petra is something in between. This place in Wadi Musa, once the capital of the Nabatean Kingdom (2nd century BC), is so surreal that it is ranked among the seven wonders of the world. The Khazne al-Firaun, the 40-metre-high Treasury of the pharaoh, the facade of which made the rock city famous, looks like an engraving in the sandstone. By the way, it was not a treasury in real life, but the tomb of the pharaoh. If you can, stay in Petra until it gets dark, because this is when the rock city is cloaked in candlelight – and will have you believing in miracles again.
A Night in the Desert
Where better to spend a night in the desert than in Wadi Rum, in the Valley of the Moon? Being the largest wadi in Jordan, it attracts visitors like a magnet and offers impressive views thanks to the deep canyons, the vast amount of sand and the ancient sandstone rock formations. It's no wonder that this landscape was the backdrop for alien planets in numerous films, including movies like Red Planet, The Martian, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and most recently Dune. There are many camps set up very close to the Bedouin camp in the Wadi Rum Village where you can stay in tents or small stone houses for the night.
Long Nose Hawkfish and Wrasse
End station! The desert isn’t king in the port city of Aqaba, just an hour’s drive from Wadi Rum. Here, water dominates the environment. Rising from the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aqaba is home to over 200 coral species, transforming the waters below the surface into a colourful and biodiverse paradise. It’s no wonder that fish love this place: groupers, Indian long nose hawkfish or red-breasted wrasse – you may see one or two swimming towards you if you dive down. But don’t worry! You don't have to remember all these weird names – just seeing them will do just fine.
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