Jordan's Wadi Rum

Top 10 Historical Highlights of Jordan

The ancient Kingdom of Jordan has been captivating travellers for centuries, and it shows no signs of slowing down. The friendly Middle Eastern country is brimming with sacred sites and breathtaking and mysterious relics of the past. It has been home to some of mankind’s earliest settlements and villages, and many of the world’s great civilizations can still be seen today. Roman amphitheatres, crusader castles, and Christian mosaics set against magical desert landscapes make Jordan one of the most unique and dazzling places in the world.

Jordan has a tradition of welcoming visitors, and a new stream of luxury hotels in Ammam, Petra, Aqaba, and the Dead Sea make visitors feel even more at home. The beauty of Jordan’s treasures and the splendour of a land steeped in history, combined with a modern, vibrant culture, make it an alluring destination to explore in combination with neighbouring Israel, or all on its own.

Suggested Itinerary:
18-Day Ancient Civilizations

Here are Jordan’s must-see historical sites:

The ancient city of Petra is carved into the massive red mountains that surround it, and is one of the great wonders of the world. As the capital city of the Nabateans, Petra served as an integral trade junction that linked Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Greece, and Rome. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is among the world’s most famous archaeological sites for its combination of ancient Eastern traditions and Hellenistic architecture. Visitors won’t want to miss the Al Kzahneh, the city’s most elaborate temple, carved out of a sandstone rock face and standing 43m high.

Camels in front of Treasury Building, Petra
Camels in front of Treasury Building, Petra

Amman, the capital city of Jordan, is home to almost half of the country’s population, as well as Roman ruins, friendly nightlife, ancient souks, luxurious hotels and modern shopping malls. Travellers are welcomed by the multi-cultural, friendly, and hospitable people of Amman.

Ampitheatre in Amman
Ampitheatre in Amman

Wadi Rum
Remember the film “Lawrence of Arabia?” It was partially filmed in the stark Wadi Rum desert. Also known as The Valley of the Moon, Wadi Rum offers travellers an escape from the ordinary and a space for solitude. With vast open desert and rock formations that reach heights of up to 1,750m, Wadi Rum is a natural paradise for hikers and mountaineers.

Take a camel ride through Wadi Rum
Take a camel ride through Wadi Rum

The ancient city of Jerash houses some of the best preserved Roman architecture in the world. Located 48 kilometres north of the capital Amman, Jerash was once a city of great wealth. Now a modern city bursting with colourful fruit stalls, passing through Jerash’s ancient city boundaries gives an amazing glimpse into ancient life under the rule of an emperor.

Ancient ruins of Jerash
Ancient ruins of Jerash

Mount Nebo
Located 10 kilometres northwest of Mabada, Mount Nebo has long held significance as a place of religious pilgrimage. Christian tradition tells of Moses being buried on the mountain, although the exact location of his burial is unspecified. The summit of Mount Nebo offers a magnificent view of the Holy Land and the scenic valley of the River Jordan.

Mount Nebo lookout
Mount Nebo lookout

Famed for its preserved coral reefs and unique sea life, this ancient Red Sea port city is home to the Mameluk Fort, used as a khan (travellers’ inn) for pilgrims on their way to Mecca. The beautiful fort is marked with various inscriptions marking the latter period of the Islamic dynasty. In Aqaba, visit ancient, mud-brick Ayla (Ancient Church), which is the oldest, purpose-built church in the world. Aqaba also hosts the house of Sharif Hussein Bin Ali, the great grandfather of King Abdullah II.

Seaside view of Aqaba and the Red Sea
Seaside view of Aqaba and the Red Sea

Venture back to the time of the Crusades with a trip to Ajloun Castle, a stunning Islamic fortress located on the top of a mountain. The castle is a fascinating maze of passages and levels, and offers wonderful panoramic views of the Jordan Valley and the highlands of north Jordan. The castle is one of the best preserved and most complete examples of medieval Arab-Islamic military architecture in the world.

Inside Ajloun Fortress
Inside Ajloun Fortress

The King’s Highway
The trip south from Amman along the 5,000-year-old King’s Highway is one of the most memorable journeys in the Holy Land. Take a road trip of epic proportions as you pass a string of world-class ancient sites. The 335km (207 mile) King’s Highway winds its way past prehistoric villages from the Stone Age, biblical towns, Crusader Castles, Christian Byzantine mosaics, Roman fortresses, and the rock-cut Nabataean capital of Petra. The highway passes through different ecological zones of the country, including forested highlands, open farmland plateaus, deep ravines, the edge of the Eastern Desert, and the warm Gulf of Aqaba.

Travel through massive canyons on the King's Highway
Travel through massive canyons on the King’s Highway

“The City of Mosaics” is home to the famous 6th century mosaic map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. With two million pieces of coloured stone, the map depicts hills and valleys, villages and towns as far as the Nile Delta. Hundreds of beautiful mosaics from the 5th through the 7th centuries are scattered throughout Madaba’s churches and homes.

Madaba's Mosaic Map
Madaba’s Mosaic Map

Um er-Rasas (Kastrom Mefa’a)
This archaeological site started as a Roman military camp and grew to become a town from the 5th century. It contains remains from the Roman, Byzantine, and Early Muslim periods (end of 3rd to 9th centuries AD) and a fortified Roman military camp. The site was declared a World Heritage Site in 2004.

Roman ruins at Um Ar Rasas
Roman ruins at Um Ar Rasas

Suggested Itinerary:
7-Day Discover Jordan

Share with friends and family
Default image
Kirsty Perring

Africa Experts Product Manager – Although British born and now Toronto based, Kirsty grew up in South Africa and is completely passionate about all things Africa. She finds it hard to choose a favourite destination, but lists Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, and Botswana as some of the most special places she has visited, and feels it’s not just about where you go and what you see, but who you get to experience it with. Kirsty is always up for an adventure and will try anything once. As such, she has para-glided in South Africa, zip lined in Mauritius, dived the Red Sea, hot air ballooned in Egypt, and even swam in the Okavango Delta. Next on Kirsty’s bucket list is to climb Kilimanjaro!

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Get the latest travel trends & hear about the best deals on vacations around the world.

If you’re a Globetrotter, these are the newsletters for you!

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x