World-class archaeological sites, spectacular desert scenery, friendly people, delicious food and guaranteed sunshine – there are plenty of reasons to visit Jordan. Though who am I kidding, it was famous view of the Treasury at Petra through the rock corridor of the Siq in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade that sold it to me. Whatever your reasons for wanting to visit, Jordan’s a great place for a road trip, with decent roads (though keep an eye out for speed bumps) and cheap fuel. So if you want to see the best of Jordan in just one week, here’s my perfect one-week Jordan itinerary – with what to see and where to stay along the way.
Read more: A first-timer’s guide to visiting Petra
Jordan itinerary map
Day 1: Arrive into Amman
Arrive into Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport and pick up a hire car (it’s a really good idea to hire a GPS or download a map app as Amman is confusing to navigate – there are a lot of roundabouts!). If you arrive early enough then spend the afternoon exploring the city. Visit the Roman theatre and climb up to the citadel just before sunset for a stunning view over the city rooftops. Then head to Rainbow Street for dinner – this area’s a hub for cafés, boutique shop and restaurants with some great people-watching.
Where to stay in Amman: Amman’s got a lot of big chain hotels with fairly similar style and facilities, and the competition means you can often get a good deal if you shop around. We stayed at the Le Meridien for around £110 which had indoor and outdoor pools, a couple of restaurants and free car parking. Also similar in size and price are the Kempinski, the Intercontinental and the Grand Millennium.
Day 2: Jerash
Head out of Amman in the morning and drive around 30 miles north to the Roman city of Jerash. It was originally known as Gerasha and is one of the best Roman sites outside of Italy. Though it covers a huge area so pack decent shoes, a hat, water and sunscreen. There’s a mix of temples, ruined buildings, rows of columns, plazas and amphitheatres to explore. Some of the highlights are Hadrian’s Arch at the entrance, the giant hippodrome, the Southern Theatre and the Forum, which is lined with 100 stone columns.
Total driving: 66 miles/2 hours
Day 3: The King’s Highway
Leave Amman behind and head south towards Petra. The quickest way to get there is via the modern Desert Highway (3 hours), but the King’s Highway is much more scenic (4 hours 45 mins). This route – now called Route 35 – was a trade and pilgrimage route through the Middle East for over 5000 years. About 20 miles south of Amman is Madaba, home to some of the world’s largest and best-preserved Byzantine mosaics. You can see them on display at the Church of St George and in the town’s archaeological museum.
Further south, the road twists its way down into Wadi Mujib – a 1300-metre-deep gorge that’s been nicknamed Jordan’s Grand Canyon. The views from the top are fantastic, looking down onto the dam with patches of green irrigated farmland among all that sand. Then carry on south to Karak, a town dominated by its huge 12th-century Crusader Castle. You can stop off to explore the castle ruins before carrying on though Shawbak and finally arriving into Wadi Musa – the town which has grown up around Petra.
Stay in Wadi Musa for two nights – if possible try to make sure you’re there on a Monday, Wednesday or Thursday. That’s when the spectacular Petra by Night take place, with the Siq and the Treasury lit up with over 1800 candles. It gets pretty busy but it’s a magical sight, with Bedouin music outside the Treasury at the end. The tour starts at 8.30pm and lasts two hours – if you want somewhere to stop before or after, the Petra Guest House’s Cave Bar is a unique chance to have a drink in a 2000-year-old Nabataean tomb.
Where to stay in Wadi Mesa: There are lots of hotels around Petra – one of the closest is the five-star Mövenpick, a couple of minutes from the main entrance. It has a pool, bar, roof gardens and a restaurant which is worth a visit even if you’re not staying there. Or if you don’t mind a bit of a drive, the hotels on the hill above Wadi Musa have amazing views. We stayed in the Rocky Mountain Hotel for a bargain £25 a night, with simple en-suite rooms and a big balcony and roof terrace where they do traditional dinners.
Total driving: 170 miles/4 hours 45 mins
Day 4: Petra
There’s not a lot of shade around the ruins at Petra so it’s a good idea to get there early in the morning, then stop for lunch (and maybe a siesta) in the hottest part of the day before going back in the late afternoon – that should miss some of the worst crowds too. The entrance to the site is along the Siq, a mile-long gorge which is carved from curving pink and orange rocks. At the end is the Treasury, the most famous of Petra’s temples. That first glimpse of it through the gap is a real jaw-dropping sight you’ll never forget. It’s only a fraction of Petra’s 60 square kilometre area though, so choose the bits you want to focus on.
The walk along the main pathway towards the centre of Petra takes you past the Street of Facades, with over 40 merchants’ tombs stacked on top of each other in the rock face. Then there’s an ancient amphitheatre and the grand Royal Tombs, the biggest and most impressive tombs in Petra. A paved Roman road runs through the Colonnaded Street and the centre of old Petra. Here you’ll find the Qasr al-Bint temple and the old Nabatean baths. There’s also a museum and a restaurant if you want to stop and cool off.
One of the best walks in Petra is the hike up to the Monastery – an even bigger version of the Treasury, that’s a lot less busy as it’s harder to reach. The path leaves from near the museum and takes you up 800 steps to the top (there are donkeys at the bottom but there are reports of them being badly treated so I’d avoid them if possible). Also recommended are the hikes up to the High Place of Sacrifice and the Al Khubtha trail which starts near the Royal Tombs and gives you that famous view of the Treasury from above.
Day 5: Wadi Rum
Leave Wadi Musa and head south to the desert landscape of Wadi Rum, a UNESCO World Heritage area with miles of stunning golden rock and sand stretching for miles in every direction. To get around you can hire a 4×4 from the visitors’ centre and head out on your own. Or you can hire a driver and guide (or a camel if you prefer) to take you around some of the most famous landmarks like the Jebel Burdah Rock Bridge and T.E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Then head to a traditional Bedouin camp for the night.
Where to stay in Wadi Rum: The Arabian Nights camp is the best-rated in Wadi Rum, run by a Bedouin family out in a remote area surrounded by mountains. There’s a mix of private rooms and dorm beds if you’re on a budget, with a communal shower and toilet block, and a central tent where everyone gathers to eat together. It’s got a real sociable feel – with some of the best star-filled skies you’ll ever see.
Total driving: 64 miles/1.5 hours
Day 6: Dead Sea
It’s worth getting up early to watch the sun rise over the desert before a Bedouin breakfast. Then start your journey northwards towards the Dead Sea. After following the Desert Highway through Ma’an, the route takes you down a winding mountain road with some great views until you reach the banks of the Dead Sea. Most of the hotels are concentrated at the north end so follow the coast road – taking a couple of diversions along the way. Firstly to the Ma’in Hot Springs where you can soak in hot mineral springs and waterfalls, and then at the Dead Sea Panoramic Complex where you can see right over to Israel on a clear day.
Where to stay at the Dead Sea: The Dead Sea coast is a bit lacking in budget options, so if you want to splash out somewhere (excuse the pun) then this is a good place to do it. We stayed at the five-star Mövenpick Resort & Spa which had a few different pools as well as a spa and private access to the sea. Again like Amman there’s a lot of competition from similar hotels so you could also try the Crowne Plaza or Kempinski. Though beware that food and drink prices are more expensive than elsewhere in Jordan.
Total driving: 206 miles/5 hours
Day 7: Depart Amman
Have a last soak in the Dead Sea or laze by the pool before heading back to Amman for your flight home.
Total driving: 42 miles/1 hour 20 mins
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