Jordan definitely doesn’t fall short on tourist attractions. Some of which you’ll be familiar with, others not so much. You’ll already have the cities of Amman and Aqaba on your things to do in Jordan list. But had you thought about wandering through a ghost town, rappelling into a lava tube or forest bathing in a country known more for its red hot rocks and expansive canyons. Surprises await then, of the BEST kind.
Peer into the ancient archeological wonders of Petra - and Little Petra
As ancient sites go, Petra’s up there with the best of them. And gaining a coveted spot among the new Seven Wonders of the World has only added to its popularity. So adding the spellbinding Nabataean Arab capital to your things to do in Jordan list is pretty much a given. The rose-red rocks house a fascinating city that was carved into the stone cliffs as early as 1BC. The Treasury and Silk Tomb are impressive facades, but the real showstopper is the 4,000 seat theatre carved into the side of a mountain. And Little Petra? You’ll find that in a narrow canyon (also known as a wadi) in Siq Al Barid. Just a ten minute drive from the city, it served as the agricultural arm of the city, a suburb and possibly a place where wine was produced.
Orbzii tip: Set aside plenty of time to visit Petra. It’s not something you can cover in an hour or two – despite what some tours may offer. Expect to spend a day here – and still not see it all.
Hike to a hot spring in Zarq’a Ma’in
Prices in Amman – for just about anything, can get a little steep. So heading out into the wadis is appealing to anyone on a budget. And while the waterfalls of Zarq’a Ma’in don’t quite make the list of free things to do in Jordan, hiring the necessary guide is a small price to pay to see the wadi, hot springs and cascading falls. It’s also a popular spot for abseiling and canyoning – if you’re up for something more taxing than a riverside stroll.
Orbzii tip: Although you’d usually take your swimwear for a luxurious dip in the hot springs, female travellers are advised to keep their legs, chest and shoulders covered.
Explore a ghost town
Nothing quite gets the goosebumps flaring up like a deserted ghost town, does it? If abandoned roads, crumbling houses and tumbleweed blowing across the village square gets your travel heart soaring, head to Dana village. Tucked away in the Dana Biosphere Reserve, this small town was once a thriving community going about their daily lives in the Rift Valley. The 19th century-style rustic homes offer a glimpse into the past but, as nomads wander into snap shots of the time ravaged enclave, new life has come to the village. Animals from the surrounding biosphere have nested, fed and slept here and humans are doing the same. There’s a green eco system flourishing nearby, allowing you to snack and stay in the village as long as you like.
Rappel into a lava tube
If you’re in Amman, for the markets, Citadel and museums don’t miss the nearby city of Zarqa. Equally moochable in terms of sightseeing, the real draw here is its cave network. Tunnels go deep underground, but the only way in is to rappel through the volcanic lava tubes. Check out the volcanic formations, tick off adrenaline boost on your holiday to-do list and see a very different side to Jordan. You’ll find the Badia lava tube around 12 miles northwest of Amman.
Forest bathe in Ajloun-Dibbine
Greenery is a fairly rare commodity in Jordan – unless you’re putting a birdie on the lush and verdant course of the Ayla Golf Club. But for something a little less manicured, get your nature-loving soul to the shade-dappled tracks of the Ajloun Forest Reserve. You wouldn’t expect to find exploring a network of English oaks among the free things you can do in Jordan, but here we are., The poplars and carob trees add a distinctly Mediterranean vibe to these ecologically diverse hills. Stone marten, roe deer and wild boar forage beneath the trees – all the while keeping a wary eye out for golden jackals, hyenas, and porcupines. Wild orchids, iris and tulips add a touch of colour to the network of trails you can ramble along.
Escape the sun in Jordan’s museums
With summer temperatures peaking at 40°C, Jordan museums start to look even more appealing. UV blocking walls and blissfully cool temperatures aside, it doesn’t have to be a blisteringly hot day to explore them. Browse the oil paintings on display at the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, dig a little deeper into history at the Jordan Archaeological Museum or learn more about Bedouin culture at the Jordan Folklore Museum. Don’t miss the Royal Automobile Museum either. Far more than a well-curated set of cars for petrol heads, the museum documents the history of The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan through cars.
Tuck in on Rainbow Street
Wandering the length of Rainbow Street features on just about every ‘free things to do in Jordan’ list. But we’re going to suggest parting with some cash at Sufra. And do brace yourselves, because this is definitely on the fine dining end of the Jordanian food spectrum. Plan your appetite accordingly and prepare to tuck into mezze, saj and fukharat options that would grace the table of any Jordanian family. One of the best restaurants in the city to experience a true taste of the spice-filled, aromatic dishes that you’ll want to recreate back home. Bonus points for spotting the photo of Ainsley Harriott among the other celebrities on the restaurant’s walls.
Float on the Dead Sea
We can’t compile a list of things to do in Jordan and not include bobbing around in the serene and saline waters of the Dead Sea. Beyond the novelty floatation feels, the scenic salt lake offers beaches (more on those below), biking and boutiques selling those coveted Dead Sea spa minerals. When you’re fully stocked up on magnesium, bromine and sodium potassium, roam a little further to find Lot’s Sanctuary. An archaeologically significant site that’s been linked to everything from Bronze Age settlements to biblical links with Lot and his family. A Byzantine monastery and basilical church provide cool and shaded spots to muse over the past in.
Hit the beaches
Jordan’s almost entirely landlocked. Which makes beach life a little tricky. But the key word here is ‘almost’. In the southern tip of Jordan, there are beaches where the sand slopes into the marine life-rich world of the Red Sea. If you can’t make it that far south, the beaches on the salt lake of the Dead Sea make for a rather beautiful alternative. And, in a pinch, the riverbanks along the canyons of Wadi Mujib offer boulders to perch on, waterfalls to bathe under and hot springs to relax in.
See turtles on King Abdullah Reef
We’ve dropped the intel on Jordan’s gorgeous stretch of coastline above. And while the beaches are gorgeous, the real attraction are the turtles that swim just off shore. Hawksbill turtles hang out on King Abdullah Reef, gliding gracefully over the sponges and corals below. Scuba divers and snorkelers can hop in the water to swim over torpedo rays, parrot fish, blue spotted rays, pennant fish and fusiliers.