Essential Stops to Make on your Jordanian Road Trip
Planning a road trip through Jordan? We can help with that! And even if you aren’t, you may want to by the end of this blogpost. Our Jordanian road trip is probably the story we tell most about our trip to the Middle East. Make arrangements to rent a car, then be prepared to go with the flow because Jordan is unpredictable!
Here are the essential stops (we believe!) that you should make sure you include on your Jordan road trip:
After experiencing Amman, we wish we had planned to spend more time there. It was just one of those cities that we fell in love with immediately - full of local gems, rich culture, art, history, kind locals and, perhaps most importantly: knafeh! We’ve already highlighted our favorite places to eat in Amman here; including chicken cooked in clay pots and tomato sauce that rivals the Italians’, breakfast sandwiches on fresh ka’ek bread at a local hole-in-the-wall, and the infamous knafeh. Check it out!
But aside from eating, we also enjoyed wandering through the famous Amman Citadel ruins in downtown. These ruins date back to Neolithic times and are evidence of Roman occupation in what was then the province of Arabia. Not only are the ruins fun to wander through, but the view of the city is just stunning. Especially if you’re coming from America, then this view will be unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.
The rest of our day and a half in Amman (I told you there wasn’t enough time!) was spent wandering through the city streets, popping into markets, spotting street art, and climbing those deadly hills that Amman is famous for. Amman is #1 (along with Rekyavik) on our list of cities we want to return to and spend more time in.
2. Dead Sea
Our second stop on our roadtrip was the Dead Sea. It was the off-season (we went in January), so we decided to treat ourselves with an awesome deal we found to the Dead Sea Marriot Resort & Spa. This was a pro to it being the off-season; the con was that the Dead Sea was too wavy for us to get into! The beach was closed while we were there in preparation of an upcoming storm and to protect tourists from the already choppy, extra-salty waves. They did, however, let us play in the famous Dead Sea mud; and luckily for us, the Spa had their own pool that they filled with water from the Dead Sea. I (Amanda) have had the opportunity to float in the Dead Sea before, but Daniel had to make due with the pool – it was the same floating sensation, but still a reason for us to return someday soon.
3. Jesus’ Baptism Site
Even if you aren’t religious, this is a cool destination to put onto your itinerary. Over the last 2,000 years, a plethora of international churches have been built around this holy site; we went with a tour that let us see inside the Greek Orthodox Church of St. John the Baptist, but nearby is the Surb Karapet Armenian Apostolic Church, Russian Pilgrim Residence and more. Despite the way religions promote peace, it’s not always the case – but seeing religious people from many denominations and countries coming together in one place was a cool experience.
On that same note, it’s an international destination as well; it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the last decade. We visited the Jordanian side, but only 20 feet away from the bank we were on was Israel. Despite Jordan and Israel’s sometimes-dicey relationship, there was minimal military presence (when comparing it to the border crossing, at least.) In a way, this destination was a small glimpse at the way religions (or denominations in this case, but I’m thinking optimistically!) and countries can coexist.
4. The Ma’an Mountains
This drive from the Dead Sea to Petra was, perhaps, the most adventurous part of our travels. Instead of taking the highway, we decided to take the scenic route through the Ma’an mountains. Let me tell you what: the drive was incredible. The mountains views were absolutely stunning. And on top of that, this drive gave us glimpses into Jordanian life that we would have never had otherwise: including winding around dirt roads that took us through Bedouin communities. We found ourselves dodging shepherds and their sheep, stray dogs and boys playing in the road. We drove past local markets, the tents that these people call home, and plenty of camels – it was a fascinating and educational experience, even though we didn’t leave the car!
At sunset, we pulled over on the side of the road to snap the pic below, and when we were returned, our car wouldn’t start. Yep. That’s right. Our engine died right smack dab in the middle of the Jordanian mountains.
We were still a 2 hour walk from our hotel and the sun was setting, so we started to problem-solve: it took us 15 minutes of fiddling with the engine (and casually freaking out) when it miraculously turned back on. We still don’t even know why!
5. Petra (duh)
Everyone we know (including ourselves) goes to Jordan for Petra, but comes back loving every inch that they managed to explore of this country. That being said, Petra is an excellent reason to travel to the other side of the world.
I actually don’t want to write too much about Petra. I think the pictures do enough of the talking, but I also want to encourage every one of you to experience it for yourself. We’ve been blessed to see a good amount of this world so far, and Petra was absolutely one of the most stunning and mysterious places we’ve ever visited. It’s impossible to wander through the miles and miles of caves and carvings and wonder who lived there before the Lost City became lost.
Our biggest tip to any of you who are planning to visit Petra is to take the climb to the Monastery! The Treasury (the most famous site in Petra and the one featured in Indiana Jones) was amazing, but the Monastery is twice as big with half as many people gathering around it. Perhaps we just got lucky because we took the hike in the “off season” but we were able to snap these pictures in front of the Monastery with no one else around.
The hike itself is nearly 8 miles and up 990 stairs; you’ll have to avoid donkeys carrying goods to the “café” at the top and Bedouin children attempting to sell you things, but it’s a fulfilling hike with excellent views and a great end-destination nonetheless. And get yourself a mint lemonade to celebrate at the top!
Traveling to Jordan? Here are our tips:
Just like we said in our blogpost about traveling to Egypt, we’d urge you to not give money to any of the animal caretakers in Petra. Don’t ride a donkey or camel up the mountain, in other words. Petra was amazing, but the dark part of our trip there was seeing how the animals were treated. We witnessed a Bedouin girl kicking a stray puppy for no reason, and a man getting mad and hitting his donkey in the face with a rock. Don’t give your money to these animal handlers; perhaps the tide will change when they see they can no longer profit from their animals, and then animal welfare in the country can change as a whole.
If you’re planning a roadtrip: watch for speed bumps. Seriously. There are speed bumps everywhere, even on the highway! In fact, the ones on the highway are the ones you have to look out for most. They aren’t painted and there’s only a sign in Arabic there to warn you of this hazard! We were taken by surprise too many times. So, FYI, the sign looks like this:
If you plan to bring your car into a hotel or mall parking lot, security will stop you at the front gate before you enter and they’ll scan your car with a detector to make sure you aren’t a security threat. Just be polite and let it happen!
Look into the Jordan Pass. For $99-113 USD you can have access to 40+ attractions in Jordan, as well as fully cover your tourist visa, which is in itself around $50 USD. The Jordan Pass also includes 1-3 consecutive day visits to Petra (depending on which pass you spring for. ) It got us entry into the Amman Citadel and Jesus’ Baptism, as well as covered our visit to Petra and our tourist visas, so it was well worth the money spent!
The people are so incredibly welcoming: before we could return our rental car, the small group of employees working invited us to share dinner with them! And every time we would return to our hotel outside of Petra, the front desk person (who we made friends with) would insist on serving us some delicious Arabic tea. It doesn’t matter how much of a hurry you’re in – let them serve you! Listen to them! Learn from them.