When I learned that I would be traveling to Jordan six months ago, I heard one of two responses from people. The first was will you be safe? and a close second was Cool! Jordan is on my bucket list! Funny that many people who said the first expression often said the second too.
Obviously, I agree with the latter sentiment, as Jordan (particularly the Dead Sea) has been on my bucket list for years, and the post that won me that trip was entitled 5 Reasons to Put Jordan on Your Bucket List. Jordan is a natural bucket list destination – it has everything that the great destinations of this world offer: historic relics, a dynamic culture, and pristine natural beauty. It’s an endlessly fascinating country, and there are loads of interesting facts about Jordan. You want it, Jordan has it. I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again: if Jordan isn’t on your list to visit someday, it’s time to add it.
But if you’re reading this post, you’re not just dreaming of Jordan; you want to visit, and you’re looking for how to make that happen. Your wish is my command.
I spent eight days in Jordan in May 2016 as part of a 10-day trip based out of New York City (two travel days). This itinerary hits all of the points I can imagine that you’re dreaming of seeing, so while you may not use every suggestion here, it should give you an overall guide for planning your own dream trip. Food, history, culture, adventure… whatever you want, you’ll experience it with this itinerary.
Before we dive into this guide to spending 10 days in Jordan, I also created a short travel guide.
Jordan Travel Planning
Before you book a trip to Jordan, it’s important to understand a few things about visiting the country.
The Best Months to Visit Jordan
The best months to visit Jordan are mid-February to mid-May, and October through November. You won’t have to endure the dramatic heat of summer in the Middle East (though sidebar, we had the hottest week of the year and one of the hottest Mays on record during our trip), nor will the cold interfere with your ability to enjoy nights in the mountains or desert.
Booking a Guided Tour or Doing it On Your Own
To be honest, unless you speak fluent Arabic, I would recommend arranging all or the majority of your trip through a company.
In my case, my trip was arranged by Bestway Tours. Bestway Tours is a Canadian tour company that manages major planning and coordinates with an on-the-ground company for day-to-day tour activities; in this case, the latter company was Plaza Tours, based in Amman. Together, these two companies made sure everything was arranged in advance. The trip was basically seamless and far more relaxing, because we had a driver, a guide, and an interpreter all rolled into one.
That said, you may be a bit more free-spirited and adventurous than I was, and want to plan it yourself. To help out, I’ve provided some links on each day to tours and reviews, so you can do additional research on your own. You’ll see each section headed “Resources for Day #;” the links will take you to TripAdvisor, who have a great list of tours for each of the activities I include in those sections.
The Cost of Travel in Jordan
To my surprise, because I don’t do nearly enough research (luckily, you are not like me), Jordan is not a cheap destination to visit. Airfare is reasonable given the fact that it’s required that you make an international flight to visit, and multi-day inclusive tours are comparable to elsewhere in the world. That’s the good news.
The bad news I didn’t realize was that day-to-day travel costs are actually quite high: the current exchange rate is 1 Jordanian Dinar (“JD”) for $1.41. For context, £1 is currently $1.46. What I’m saying is that for most costs, you’re paying the equivalent of the conversion Great British Pounds, but you’re not in England. A 2JD bottle of water (which you will buy everywhere) is really a $3 bottle of water. A 7JD lunch is really a $10 lunch. And so on. Budget accordingly.
Additionally, tipping is a bit of a mixed bag in Jordan. On the whole, tipping is not necessary for bars and restaurants, or for services provided by bellhops and taxi drivers. Tipping is requisite for all tour providers and transfers, at roughly 10%, or $10 per day. I just tipped everybody to get over the awkwardness.
The Perfect 10-Day Itinerary for Jordan
Here’s the quick version of a 10-day itinerary for Jordan. You can read below for greater detail.
[blocks layout=”layout2″][block background=”#333333″ text_color=”#1abc9c” rounded=”true” shadow=”true”]
Day 1 – Arrive in Amman
Day 2 – Explore Jerash & Ajloun, Stay in Amman
Day 3 – Sightseeing in Amman, Visiting Mount Nebo
Day 4 – Hiking in Wadi Mujib, Stay near Dana Biosphere Reserve
Day 5 – Hiking in Dana Biosphere Reserve, Petra by Night
Day 6 – Exploring Petra by Day, Drive to and Stay in Wadi Rum
Day 7 – Exploring Wadi Rum
Day 8 – Sunrise camel ride in Wadi Rum, Drive to the Dead Sea
Day 9 – Day at the Dead Sea
Day 10 – Return to Amman[/block]
Here’s a handy map, too. You can hover over each dot to see the city/destination and day of the itinerary:
Here’s a fun album I made as a visual guide you for this itinerary:
Day 1: Arrive in Jordan, Amman
After a long flight, you arrive in Amman, the capital city of Jordan.
Rather than attempting any sightseeing, rest and relax in the evening. If possible try to enjoy the sunset before turning in early. Keep your ears peeled for the sounds of prayer that rise hauntingly above the city as the sun sets – and which will wake you before dawn.
Resources for Day 1:
Day 2: Jerash & Ajloun
Rise early to make the 50-minute drive north of Amman to the town of Jerash. There, spend several hours exploring the amazing Roman ruins preserved in the old part of the city. From stunning temples to amphitheaters, this is one of Jordan’s most popular tourist sights – and for good reason.
If possible while in Jerash, try to catch a performance from Jordanian veterans in the Roman Amphitheatre. These veterans perform as their livelihood, enduring the heat and the sun to fill the stone ruins with hauntingly beautiful music.
While exploring the region north of Amman, make the 30-minute drive from Jerash to Ajloun to see another stunning ruin.
The castle, originally built in 1184 by the Crusaders, later became a stronghold for resistance to Crusader movement in the area. Like many parts of this region, it has a tumultuous history and has changed hands several times.
Resources for Day 2:
Day 3: Amman & Mount Nebo
In the morning, rise early to explore an important sight in Amman: King Abdullah I Mosque. As the only mosque in Amman which openly welcomes non-Muslim visitors, this is a rare chance to respectfully observe the religious practices maintained by 98% of Jordanians.
Visitors are not permitted in the King Abdullah I mosque during prayer times, but outside of prayer times, one can enter the main prayer hall. Additionally, there is a museum housed below the prayer hall that is included in the cost of admission. It highlights the life and works of King Abdullah I, first king of Jordan and grandfather of the current king.
Women visiting the mosque are expected to wear traditional, conservative clothing (a robe is provided to women upon admission to the mosque) as well as a head scarf. For more information on what women should pack, check out my article featuring a packing list for women traveling to Jordan.
Depart Amman and make your way southwest. Stop for lunch in the town of Madaba, where you can view stunning Byzantine mosaics in St. George’s Greek Orthodox Church. These mosaics earned Madaba the nickname ‘City of Mosaics.’
Continue out of Madaba to Mount Nebo. Famous as the mountain where Moses is buried, you can enjoy stunning views of the Jordanian countryside. On a clear day, you can see the Dead Sea – and even Israel.
While on Mount Nebo, be sure to visit the sanctuary and other buildings. Inside, you can admire amazing mosaics and learn about the history and symbolism of them. The small museum also houses other relics that help anchor you in both the geography and religious history of this pilgrimage destination.
Resources for Day 3:
- Admission to King Abdullah I Mosque: 2JD (~$3US).
- Admission to Mount Nebo: 2JD (~$3US), or book here.
Day 4: Wadi Mujib & Dana Biosphere Reserve
Start the day by arriving early at Wadi Mujib. This popular spot draws tourists from around Jordan – and the world. Early arrival is a must, as there are no reservations to access the biosphere for canyoning.
Once there, grab a life jacket and prepare for several hours relaxing hike. Guides will help you through the more complex parts of the canyon, and the cool waters of the river will be refreshing against the heat.
From Wadi Mujib, it’s a two-hour drive to the historic town of Dana. Sitting on the edge of what can only be described as the ‘Yosemite of Jordan,’ you can spend the afternoon relaxing, drinking tea, and admiring the view of the huge Dana Biosphere Reserve spread out before your eyes.
As the sun sets, head to the edge of town to admire the oncoming dusk. The small town will go dark and quiet. Even the call to prayer in the pre-dawn hours can’t be counted upon; sometimes, the town sleeps through the night.
Resources for Day 4:
- Entrance cost to Mujib Biosphere Reserve: 13JD (~$18US), or book here.
Day 5: Dana Biosphere Reserve
Rise early to beat the heat for a long hike in Dana Biosphere Reserve. This massive ‘national park’ is 300 square kilometers (~200 square miles), and home to Bedouin tribes who still move through and live off the land.
With your guide, learn the history of the land, as well as the plants and animals that allow people to live here despite the harsh (but beautiful) surroundings.
While on your hike, take a break with your guide to enjoy fresh tea overlooking the vast wadi (canyon) of Dana Biosphere Reserve.
Mahmood, pictured above, is a former military service member who came home to work in the Biosphere reserve as a guide.
After a long day’s hike, spend the night relaxing and watching the sunset. You’ll never get tired of the beautiful silence at night.
Resources for Day 5:
- Entrance to Dana Biosphere Reserve: 7JD (~$10US).
- Book your Dana stay at the Dana Hotel.
Day 6: Petra (by Night)
Drive an hour south to the town of Petra, home to the famous Rose City. This wonder of the modern world is located west of the town of Petra where there are several high-quality hotels you can stay in.
In the evening, book a ticket to visit Petra by night. You’ll follow a candle-lit path through the deep siq (narrow canyon) to the stunning Treasury building. There, Jordanian guides will teach you the history of this city and the people who lived here.
Resources for Day 6:
- Entrance to Petra by night: 55JD (~$80US) for a two-day pass, or book here.
- Book your stay at the Petra Moon Hotel.
Day 7: Petra (by Day) & Wadi Rum
Rise early (again) to enter Petra for a daytime view. The sun – and heat – are merciless, as are the crowds of visitors that flock to the site.
From the entrance, it is a 2.1km (1.3mi) walk to The Treasury, and there are dozens of kilometers of trails throughout the city. You can also visit The Monastery, Temple of Dushares, and Renaissance Tomb, or witness archaeologists at work uncovering and preserving the ruins.
After spending the early part of the day exploring Petra, make the 90-minute drive to Wadi Rum in the afternoon.
This vast expanse of red rock has been the setting for several movies filmed in Jordan, and you can take a 4×4 or pick-up tour to explore more of the land in a few hours.
Resources for Day 7:
- Learn more about movies filmed in Jordan.
- Learn about Wadi Rum and the top sights in Wadi Rum.
- Book a tour to explore Wadi Rum.
- Book your stay at Sun City camp in Wadi Rum.
Day 8: Wadi Rum
Rise even earlier today – before the sun! Take a camel ride out into the wilderness of Wadi Rum to watch the sunrise. A guide will escort you and your camel through an enchanting pre-dawn landscape, and the world will burst into color as the sun rises over the massive rock formations.
Ride your camel back to the permanent camp where you spent the rest of the day and night – you may be surprised how relaxing the camel ride ends up being.
Resources for Day 8:
Day 9: The Dead Sea
After a morning tea, make the long, four-hour drive from Wadi Rum back to the northeast coast of the Dead Sea. Here, you can stay in one of the many luxury hotels and enjoy a few modern conveniences on your last night in Jordan.
Most hotels offer access to the Dead Sea directly; each will likely offer spa services which take advantage of the Dead Sea’s health properties. Spend time enjoying the natural buoyancy of the Dead Sea – but not too long, as the water can be a skin irritant. Yes, you really will float in the water! Enjoy this last look at the beauty and surprising wonder of Jordan.
Resources for Day 9:
- Book a night at the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar, Crowne Plaza, or Ramada Resort.
- Read more about other surprises you might have in Jordan.
Day 10: Amman… and Home.
After a restful night’s sleep, it’s time to make your way home. An hour drive from the Dead Sea will bring you back to Amman and Queen Alia International Airport.
Most U.S. flights depart in the early afternoon, so be sure to arrive with plenty of time for your flight. If you arrive early, look back over your photos – Jordan is unforgettable, but they’ll be the best souvenir you have!