When my husband and I traveled to Jordan, we thought we were prepared to delve into a country and culture completely new to us. However, the realization that no amount of research can hold a candle to actually being there quickly set in. From our delightful interactions with the people we met to our unforgettable adventures, we took great joy in the discovery process.
I’m sharing what we learned in the hope our experiences will encourage you to journey to Jordan with confidence and a sense of wonder.
Pro Tip: The best times to visit Jordan are in the spring and fall. Outside the holy month of Ramadan is a good time.
A considerable portion of our Jordan experience was generously hosted by the Jordan Tourism Board. However, all opinions are entirely my own.
1. Jordan Is Safe
Despite its location in a volatile part of the world, At no time did we feel unsafe anywhere in Jordan. Yes, Jordan shares borders with Syria and Iraq, but it also shares borders with friendlier neighbors like Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Think of Jordan as a good family living on the edge of a rough neighborhood. Jordan’s military and security forces work hard to ensure violence doesn’t spill over its borders. Security is a priority, and although the presence of law enforcement is unobtrusive, it’s definitely there.
2. Jordan Requires A Visa And You’ll Want A Jordan Pass
Gaining entry to Jordan isn’t difficult. However, if you want to stretch your Jordanian dinars (JDs) a lot farther, consider pre-purchasing a Jordan Pass, which includes your required visa and admission to many of the country’s attractions.
How To Get Your Jordan Pass
Purchase your Jordan Pass from a secure website in advance of your trip. The pass will then be emailed to you. Print it out, and make sure to bring it with you.
Each Jordan pass includes free entry to over 40 attractions and free downloadable digital brochures. If you download your Jordan Pass before entering the country and stay at least three nights and four days, your tourist entry visa fees will be waived.
Pro Tip: You will need time to explore Jordan’s wealth of history, culture, and stunning scenery. We spent an entire week and it wasn’t nearly enough.
3. Jordan Is A Feast For The Senses
Jordan consists of many complex layers. You can do your research and come away with what amounts to a view through someone else’s window. To truly experience Jordan, you have to walk through its welcoming door with your senses leading the way.
Jordan’s landscapes are varied and breathtaking. It is a country with endless square miles of sand. It also has bustling cities, rolling hills, fertile fields, rugged mountains, rivers, and the Dead Sea. Photographers and outdoor enthusiasts will find numerous opportunities to enjoy Jordan’s magnificent scenery.
On our first morning in Amman, we took a walk to familiarize ourselves with our surroundings. Traffic noise and birdsong punctuated the city soundscape. What stopped me in my tracks was the call to prayer resonating throughout the city from a transmitter at Amman’s main mosque. The disembodied voice filling the air was so hauntingly beautiful in its reverence, I had to let it envelop me.
Soft, subtle fragrances wafted from shops selling spices. Baking bread beckoned us from bakeries while the smell of fried falafel switched on the hunger pangs to the point where resistance was futile.
Jordanian cuisine was a treat for the taste buds. Freshly prepared salads of all varieties, eggplant, pita, hummus, falafel, and other Middle Eastern delights wooed us with distinct flavors, textures, and that special something that makes it all uniquely Jordanian. Confections consisting of seeds, nuts, dates, figs, honey, and sometimes herbs made us realize chocolate isn’t all that big a deal.
From handcrafted clothing and jewelry in markets to ancient carved stone at UNESCO World Heritage sites, let your fingers be a gateway to Jordan’s artistic, cultural, and historic treasures. Oh, and when your fingers are acquainting you with the texture of a camel’s hide, keep away from its head, or you may end up with a face full of camel spit.
4. Jordanians Are Friendly And Charming
My husband and I had met people from Jordan here in the U.S. and found them interesting and personable, but we didn’t have any idea what to expect from Jordanians on their turf. So, the first time one of many strangers said, “Welcome” in a voice that sounded like he meant it, we were dumbfounded.
During our visit, we encountered Jordanians who were kind, generous, interested in our well-being, and delightfully chatty. Of all of Jordan’s many treasures, its people are the most valuable.
Pro Tip: We learned from a friendly cab driver that although free speech is alive and well in Jordan, there is one important caveat. You can criticize the government to your heart’s content, but insulting the king or members of the royal family could get you arrested or even land you in jail.
5. Jordan Is Rich In Not-To-Be-Missed Wonders
My husband and I spent every day of our remarkable Jordan visit drinking in some of the most stunningly beautiful, historically fascinating, and mind-boggling venues in the world. There was far more than we could experience in a week, but we did manage to do the most spectacular sites justice.
The only downside was that all the sites we visited were impossible for someone in a wheelchair or with mobility challenges to navigate. For all the wonders Jordan has to offer, most are accessible only to those who are ambulatory.
Perched upon the highest hill in Amman, this site displays structures and artifacts from the Roman, Byzantine, and Muslim periods. A guide isn’t necessary, but we hired one and didn’t regret it.
This Roman city was discovered 70 years ago beneath a sandy-covered plain. We spent hours wandering through this incredible outdoor museum gaping at the ruins of ancient structures and marveling at them, surprised that they were there at all.
This town is host to some of the most stunning mosaics in the world. If you only have time to see one mosaic, make it the magnificent Byzantine map which includes ancient Jerusalem, located on the floor of the Greek Orthodox Church.
One of Jordan’s most famous archeological sites, it is the sight everyone comes to see, and for good reason. We spent three days absorbed in Petra’s breathtaking beauty and historical wonders. We had a superb guide with us the entire time and I recommend you hire one as well. A professional guide will give you insights and information you won’t find on the internet or in guidebooks.
We spent the last night of our Jordan visit in a Bedouin camp. The three traditional and delicious meals we enjoyed were just what the doctor ordered after two treks into the desert, bouncing around in the back of a pickup truck, and gazing at extraordinary rock formations and a magnificent sunset.
Pro Tip: Public transportation options are limited, so to get the most out of your time in Jordan, you will need to rent a car.
6. Carefully Research Your Accommodations
When researching accommodations, we were in a somewhat unique position because of my guide dog. For our first two nights in Amman, we found an Airbnb room in the apartment of a woman from France who taught at the international school and loved dogs.
On our first day, we walked to the offices of the Jordan Tourism Board to see if someone could recommend a service dog-friendly accommodation near Petra. We left with a hotel reservation located within walking distance from Petra’s main gate and the services of a phenomenal guide for the three days we would be at the site.
7. Jordan Is A Muslim Country
The national religion of Jordan is Islam, and you will see it practiced openly everywhere you go. You will hear the call to prayer five times a day. You will see men prostrated on prayer rugs in public places. You will see some fully covered women, many wearing hijabs, and others with no head covering at all. You will find many businesses closed on Friday, Islam’s holy day. If all this seems strange, remember what you see is entirely normal for the people of Jordan.
How To Be A Respectful Tourist
Although the majority of Jordanians are deeply religious, they are not hostile to non-Muslims. We found people we met happy to answer questions about their beliefs, and we learned a lot.
A Little Consideration Goes A Long Way
The first time we saw several men near the entrance of a building engaged in prayer, we weren’t sure what to do. So, we walked quietly past them and continued on our way. We got it right, the next time we encountered a similar scene, we felt comfortable knowing the correct thing to do.
Use Common Sense In How You Dress
Modesty in dress is important in Jordan, especially for women. This doesn’t mean you have to be covered from head to toe, but leave the tank tops, mini skirts, and short shorts at home. Also, pack a head scarf and a shawl to cover bare arms when visiting a mosque.
Pro Tip: Remember you are a guest. The Jordanian people are deeply committed to religious and family values. They welcome those who want to share their country’s diverse beauty and rich history. Show respect and interest in them and their culture, and your enjoyment of Jordan will increase tenfold.