Discover the perfect one-week/7-day Jordan itinerary – taking you from Amman to Petra, Wadi Rum and the Dead Sea, with world-class archaeological sites, spectacular scenery and delicious food.
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With its desert landscapes, renowned historical and religious sites, and friendly people, Jordan is the perfect introduction to the Middle East. The famous temples of Petra might be the big draw – especially for those of us who grew up watching Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – but there’s plenty more to see around the rest of the country too.
Jordan is a great place for a road trip, with manageable distances, decent roads and cheap fuel meaning you can easily see the best of Jordan in a week. This 7-day Jordan itinerary takes you across the country, with what to see, do and where to stay along the way.
7-day Jordan itinerary map
Notes on driving in Jordan
Driving distances/times in this 7-day Jordan itinerary are based on Google Maps estimates and don’t include stops along the way. So allow extra time to stop off for food and drink or to photograph the views. Main roads in Jordan are generally well maintained, but potholes, uneven roads and other drivers (or animals) can all slow down progress.
Speed limits in Jordan are 60km per hour in urban areas, 80kmph in rural areas and 120kmph on highways. There isn’t much street lighting outside the cities so it’s safest to get to your destination before dark. And watch out for the speed bumps – they’re all over Jordan, even on highways, and not always well marked so keep a look out.
Road signs in Jordan have major destinations written in English as well as Arabic. But it’s useful to hire a GPS or download a map app to help you navigate – particularly when you arrive in Amman which has a lot of confusing roundabouts!
Day 1: Arrive into Amman
International flights arrive into Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport, which is around 35km south of the city centre. Pick up a hire car at the airport (it’s a good idea book in advance to get the best deals) then drive into Amman and check in to your hotel.
Spend the rest of the day exploring Amman. The highlights include the Roman theatre, Jordan Archaeological Museum and hilltop citadel – time your time to just before sunset for stunning views over the city’s rooftops. Then head to Rainbow Street for dinner, a hub for cafés, boutique shops and restaurants with great people-watching.
Total driving: 35km/22 miles – approx 45 minutes.
Where to stay in Amman: Amman has a lot of big international hotels with similar styles and facilities which are good for a short stay – and the competition means you can usually save by shopping around. The Kempinski*, Intercontinental* and Hilton* are all centrally located and have swimming pools, gyms, restaurants and free parking.
Day 2: Jerash
The next morning, head north out of Amman on a day trip to the city of Jerash. Just outside the modern city is the ancient Roman city of Gerasha – one of the best preserved Roman towns outside Italy. This once-great city was destroyed in an earthquake in 749 AD and buried beneath the sand until it was rediscovered in the early 19th century.
Since then temples, columns, mosaics, plazas and amphitheatres have been excavated. Some of the sights not to miss are Hadrian’s Arch at the entrance, the giant hippodrome, the South Theatre and the Forum, which is lined with 100 stone columns.
Jerash covers a huge area so you need at least half a day there, and pack a hat, water and sunscreen as there’s not much shade. Then head back to Amman for a second night.
Total driving: 104km/66 miles (52km/33 miles each way) – approx 2 hours.
Day 3: The King’s Highway
Then leave Amman and head south towards Petra. The quickest way to get there is via the modern Desert Highway, which takes 3 hours. But the slower but much more scenic route is via the King’s Highway. This route – also less poetically known as Route 35 – was a trade and pilgrimage route through the Middle East for over 5000 years.
The King’s Highway takes around 5 hours to drive, and there are lots of places to stop off along the way. First is the market town of Madaba, about 38km south of Amman. Madaba has some of the world’s largest and best-preserved Byzantine mosaics, which you can see on display at the Church of St George and in the town’s Archeological Park.
Another 50km further south is Wadi Mujib – a 1300-metre-deep gorge that’s been nicknamed Jordan’s Grand Canyon. The road twists and turns its way down into the gorge and up the other side. The views from the top are fantastic, looking down onto a reservoir with patches of green irrigated farmland standing out among miles of sand.
Then it’s another 45km south to Karak. This hilltop city is dominated by its huge Crusader castle, which was built in the 12th century. You can stop off to explore the castle ruins before carrying on though Shawbak, which has another castle, and finally arriving into Wadi Musa – the town which has grown up around the ancient city of Petra.
You’ve got two nights in Wadi Musa – and if possible try to make sure that one of them is a either a Monday, Wednesday or Thursday night. This is when the site stays open late for the spectacular Petra by Night event, with the Siq and the Treasury lit up with over 1500 candles and Bedouin music playing outside the Treasury.
Petra by Night gets pretty busy but is still a magical sight. It starts at 8.30pm and lasts around two hours. And if you want somewhere to stop off before or after, you can have a drink in a 2000-year-old Nabataean tomb at the Petra Guest House’s Cave Bar.
Total driving: 360km/224 miles – approx 5 hours.
Where to stay in Wadi Mesa: One of the closest hotels to Petra is the five-star Mövenpick*, a couple of minutes’ walk from the main entrance. It has a pool, bar, roof gardens and restaurant. Or if you don’t mind a bit of a drive, the hotels on the hill above Wadi Musa have amazing views, like the budget Rocky Mountain Hotel* which has simple en-suite rooms and a roof terrace where they offer traditional dinners.
Day 4: Petra
Petra is Jordan’s most famous attraction and top of many travel wishlists – and it doesn’t disappoint. The city’s temples, tombs and palaces were carved into the red sandstone rocks by the Nabateans in the 3rd century BC. The site covers over 60 square kilometres so you’ll never see all of Petra in one day, but there’s time to see the main attractions.
There’s not a lot of shade at Petra, so it’s a good idea to get there as early as you can – the site opens at 6am – then stop for lunch (and maybe a siesta) to avoid being out in the hottest part of the day, before heading back out in the afternoon and staying until the site closes at sunset. That should miss some of the worst crowds too.
The entrance to Petra is along the Siq, a mile-long gorge 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 the archaeological site though, so choose the bits you want to focus on.
Past the Treasury the path opens out into the Outer Siq, running past the Street of Facades, where over 40 merchants’ tombs are stacked on top of each other, the amphitheatre and grand Royal Tombs, the biggest and most impressive tombs in Petra.
Then 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 Nabatean baths. There’s also a museum and a couple of restaurants if you want to stop and cool off.
One of the best walks in Petra is the hike to the Monastery – an even bigger and more impressive version of the Treasury, that’s also less busy as it’s harder to reach.
It’s best done in the late afternoon when the temples glow in the sun. The walk takes 45 minutes each way, starting near the museum and climbing up 800 steps (there are donkeys for hire but concerns over treatment means we wouldn’t advise using them).
Also recommended are the hikes up to the High Place of Sacrifice, though you would need around half a day to get there and back. Or the Al Khubtha trail, which starts near the Royal Tombs and gives you the classic view of the Treasury from high above.
Make sure to allow time to get back to the visitor centre at the end of the day – the site closes at sunset and it’s around 4km from the museum back to the entrance.
Day 5: Wadi Rum
The following day, leave Petra behind and travel further south into the desert landscapes of Wadi Rum, a UNESCO World Heritage site with miles of golden sand and rocks stretching out in every direction. Its otherworldly scenery has made it a popular filming location for movies like The Martian, Rogue One and Lawrence of Arabia.
To get around you can hire a 4×4 from the visitor centre and head out on your own. Or you can hire a driver and take a jeep tour* (or camel if you prefer) of the area’s major landmarks, including the Jebel Burdah Rock Bridge and T.E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Then head to a traditional Bedouin camp to spend the night.
Where to stay in Wadi Rum: The Arabian Nights* camp is the best-rated of the camps in Wadi Rum, run by a Bedouin family out in a remote area surrounded by mountains. They have a mix of private rooms and dorms 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 most star-filled night skies you’ll find anywhere.
Total driving: 105km/66 miles – approx 2 hours.
Day 6: The 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 turns off at Al-Husainya and you travel down a winding mountain road with great views until you reach the banks of the Dead Sea.
Most of the hotels are concentrated at the north end of the Dead Sea 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 the Dead Sea Panoramic Complex, where you can see views out as far as Israel on a clear day.
Where to stay at the Dead Sea: The Dead Sea doesn’t have many budget options, so if you want to splash out it’s a good place to do it. The five-star Mövenpick Resort & Spa* and Kempinski* hotels have several pools, private sea access, spas, bars and restaurants – though beware food and drink are more expensive here than elsewhere in Jordan.
Total driving: 311km/193 miles – approx 4.5 hours.
Day 7: Depart Amman
Finally, spend the last morning of your 7-day Jordan itinerary soaking in the Dead Sea or lazing by the pool before heading back to Amman for your flight home. Or if you have a late flight you could add on a visit to Bethany beyond the Jordan. It’s just 22km to the north of the Dead Sea and is thought to be where Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist.
Total driving: 65km/42 miles – approx 1 hour 10 minutes.