The Ultimate 10 Day Itinerary to Jordan
Your start-to-finish guide to explore the best sites in Jordan, including Petra, Wadi Rum, Dead Sea and Red Sea.
Jordan was the first Arabic country I have visited and the trip surpassed all expectations, but it does require some pre-planning. Use my itinerary to best capture the many archeological sites, Martian landscapes and delicious foods this country has to offer – without having to rely on an organised group tour.
Jordan Itinerary Overview
|Amman, with day trip to Jerash
|Aquaba (Red Sea)
|Dead Sea & Wadi Majib
Before You Go
Ahead of starting your trip of a lifetime – read my ‘Before you go’ Guide to understand everything from the Jordan Pass, dress customs, and driving tips.
We flew directly from London to the capital of Jordan, Amman with Royal Jordanian. This was our first experience using this airline, and we were impressed by the delicious food and great hospitality. Both daily flights from the UK land very late, however, we found the queue to process visas moved quickly, and the airport was easy to navigate. We had pre-booked a hire car with Dollar, we found them to provide good service and value for money.
Day 1 – Amman, with day trip to Jerash
Having stayed our first night at the IBIS in Amman, we drove 45 minutes north to the ancient Roman city of Jerash. Here you can find one of the largest and best preserved sites of ancient Roman architecture, outside of Italy. It is also free to enter with a Jordan Pass.
Having arrived early, we could peacefully explore the theatres, temples and countless columns, ahead of the large tour buses arriving. Before visiting Jordan I hadn’t quite appreciated quite how expansive Ancient Roman influences were across the Middle-East. This fusion of cultures and religion continued as theme across all historic sites we visited. We didn’t have a map but navigating the sites was very easy, and can be done within a few hours. Once satisfied with our daily dose of culture, we stopped for a delicious first taste of Jordanian mezze at the Old Roman Restaurant, located opposite the free Jerash Visitor Centre car park.
Just after midday we drove back to Amman and checked into the Four Seasons Hotel – this was our splurge hotel of the holiday! Whilst driving outside Amman was generally very smooth and stress free, the same couldn’t be said for the capital. This wasn’t much of an issue however, as taxis only cost 2-5JD for a ride across the city. Uber is also available for a similar price.
In Amman we first visited the Citadel, a popular a archaeological site perched on a hill in the centre of the city. Whilst it was without doubt very beautiful and free to enter with our Jordan Passes, we found it to be slightly underwhelming having visited Jerash earlier in the day. It did, however, present some beautiful views of the city – and is a great alternative to Jerash should your time not allow it.
We then walked down to the hill towards the Roman Theatre and stumbled upon a lovely gallery called Amman Panorama Art Gallery. Here we found some amazing art from local artists, and purchased an abstract painting of Aqaba. Further down the road, you won’t be able to miss the towering steps of The Roman Theatre, which dates back to the 2nd Century. It is worth a visit if you have time, with the reconstructed steps making for a great spot for relaxing and people watching.
After a long day of walking, we were excited for a big dinner, and luckily Sufra exceeded all of our expectations. We chose around half a dozen dishes between us and soaked in the ambiance of the walled garden. Make sure to book a table ahead of time as it is very popular with both tourists and locals.
Day 2 – Amman Gold Souk and journey to the Red Sea
Ahead of leaving Amman, we checked out the Gold Souk district, which is made up of around 50 little stores, predominantly selling beautiful jewellery. Jordan is home to some of the best value gold globally, and we were mesmerised by the magnitude of pure gold chains, bracelets and rings in the shop windows. The shop owners take the trade very seriously, weighing the jewellery item you pick and pricing it against the market rate. We didn’t feel pressured to make any purchases and there is always room for negotiation within the price, which can make for a fun window shopping experience or great opportunity for a special souvenir.
After a quick lunch, we left for our longest drive of the trip – extending nearly the length of the country, down to the Red Sea. Jordan is almost an entirely land-locked country, apart from a small section of coast in the south. With a good playlist to keep us entertained, the majority of the drive was very easy, with the recently constructed Desert Highway offering a quick and safe route. However, as we neared the port it began to get dark and the combination of lorries and badly lit roads made for a scary final hour driving. But don’t let this put you off, the 4hr drive is fine as long as you leave with enough time to avoid driving at night!
Day 3 – Red Sea Snorkeling
We started the day with a fantastic 4 hour boat trip with the Coral Garden Diving Centre. They catered for all diving experiences – including beginnings, and were very accommodating to us who had just opted for snorkeling. Included in the 35JD pp trip was lunch, snacks and snorkel equipment, and it was also a great way to appreciate the Jordanian, Egyptian AND Saudi coastlines.
Amongst the coral reef and plane(!) wreck, we swam alongside lion fish, eels and a very friendly pufferfish. Unfortunately a lot of the coral was badly bleached, so don’t expect Finding Nemo levels of vibrant colours and biodiversity. But nonetheless, we had a fantastic time and devoured the delicious onboard BBQ.
When staying at the Red Sea we stayed in the Grand Tala Bay Hotel, which is part of a group of hotels 15 mins drive south of Aqaba town. This was one of the cheaper stays of our holiday, and we got what we paid for. Other hotels within Grand Tala Bay however appealed more, and we had a lovely meal watching the sun set over the marina, at De Soto Restaurant (although far from an authentic Jordanian meal!).
If you are looking for a shorter Jordanian holiday, I would skip Aqaba (the Red Sea), as the experiences and sites available here are not unique to the country, and you will find better diving sites elsewhere.
Day 4 – Wadi Rum 4×4 Tour
After spending a couple of hours relaxing by the Red Sea we drove to the Wadi Rum Desert. This desert is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to some of the most spectacular landscapes I have ever seen. There are many camps in the desert, making choosing where to stay difficult. We opted for the mid-priced Hasan Zawaideh Camp, with the private 4hr 4×4 jeep tour and camel ride package.
Without a doubt, the next 24hrs were the highlight of our trip. Our 4×4 guide expertly navigated the Martian-like landscapes, showing us rock bridges, a mushroom shaped rock formation, cave and even a Bedouin water well. Guides are also very happy to take photos and ours generously gave us a chance to drive the jeep – which was a rusty first attempt at left hand drive for me!
Our guide finished the tour by taking us to a viewpoint to watch the sunset – with no roads, people or animals in sight it truly felt as though Earth was a million miles away. A moment I will never forget.
In the evening we gathered around the firepit to indulge in a huge BBQ spread with the other guests. The meal was cooked using the Zarb method, which consists of digging a large pit in the sand, lighting coal and wood, and placing the food on top to cook. This authentic Bedouin style of cooking has been used by nomadic herders for centuries, and made the delicious selection of meat and vegetables feel even more special.
We didn’t miss the opportunity for stargazing, and were even able to see Jupiter. Would recommend downloading a stargazing app to help make out the constellations and planets.
Day 5 – Camel Rides and Petra
We started the day very early because sunrise was recommended as the perfect time for our camel ride. When we set off it was pitch-black, and it was a surreal moment trekking off into the desert on a camel, with only the moonlight to see. Despite his broken English, our tour guide did the most amazing job teaching us about the camels and taking lots of photos. He even lit a little fire for us and brewed some traditional Jordanian coffee – which turned out to also be a hit with the camels!
Excited for the next step of our journey, we set off to Petra. Petra is one of the 7 Wonders of the World, and is what Jordan is most famous for. It dates to around 300BC and is made up of tombs, temples, and caves all carved into the pink sandstone cliffs. It is spread over a huge site, with 10+ different trails, which made us thankful for our two day pass.
At the visitor centre you can collect a map of the site which has details of the different trails and their difficulty. They recommend hiring a guide for all trails outside of the main Treasury Trail, however, this really isn’t necessary. The trails are relatively well signposted – and you are never too far from other tourists or a friendly bedouin.
We had enough time in the afternoon to visit the main Treasury site as well as complete the Place of High Sacrifice trail. Walking at a relatively fast pace this took us around 4 hours, although if we had just stuck to the main Treasury trail it would have been much quicker.
In the evenings you may choose to experience ‘Petra by Night’ which runs every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, costing 17JD pp. This gives you a unique opportunity to see the rock city by candlelight – and something I would recommend if you only have 1 day/night in the area. For us, 2 full days of hiking around the site was plenty of time to have spent at this world wonder, and reviews of the hoards of tourists made it less appealing!
The site of Petra is shared with many working animals including horses, donkeys and camels. The horses stationed at the main entrance transport tourists from the visitors centre to the Siq entrance (about half way to the Treasury). These horses are relatively well looked after and the rides are in theory included within the ticket price. Having said this, I would advise against accepting a ride as you will inevitably be hassled for a tip once you have disembarked – and the alternative is an easy 1 mile walk. Further into the site you will see donkeys which should be avoided at all costs. We saw these sad looking donkeys transporting a few tourists up the 800 stairs up to the Monastery Trail whilst getting whipped with metal chains. This is very cruel to the animal and unsafe for other visitors trying to navigate the narrow passages. Avoid.
In the evening we dined at the Beit Al-Barakah Restaurant, and couldn’t recommend it more. We were served a spread of mezze and for main I tried Mansaf, the widely recognised dish of Jordan, which consists of lamb, rice and fermented yogurt – delicious!!
Day 6 – Petra Treasury Trail
In Petra we stayed at Petra Farmhouse, which is just out of the city centre. Really lovely little BNB, with friendly hosts – liking the company of cats, however, is a necessity as there are hundreds! Staying outside of the centre isn’t a problem as there is a large free car park by the Petra Visitors centre, just behind the Movenpick Hotel.
For our second day in Petra we took the free shuttle bus from the Visitors Centre to Little Petra. As the name suggests, it’s got it’s own smaller version of the Treasury but with many less tourists! From here we did the ‘backdoor’ trail to the Monastery. The Monastery is another monumental facade and chamber built out of the cliff, but over twice the size of the Treasury and much more remote. The backdoor trail took us a 6km walk across rough terrain to reach a 900 step assent. The climb up these stairs presented amazing view of the surrounding landscapes and we didn’t encounter many other visitors on this route. Personally, I am not much of a hiker and with the sun beating down, this was hard work – see aftermath of hike below.
But don’t panic! Little did we know, there are 4×4 drivers and even a free shuttle from Little Petra who can drop you off at the stairs – to skip the first section of walking. Unless you really love walking and you have plenty of water, be good to yourself – take the ride.
The 900 stairs took us about 1hr, and it was a great feeling of awe and relief when we colossal monument peeked into view above the hills. The cafe opposite the Monastery offered a perfect spot for a well-earned lunch, with far fewer tourists than we encountered at the Treasury.
We made our way back to the Visitors Centre via the main Monastery Trail which was largely downhill, and only took us 2.5hrs. On the way out we passed the Cave Bar which is one of the few establishments to have an alcohol license, so we dropped in for the most refreshing glass of cold wine I’ve ever had.
Day 7 – Kerak Castle and the Dead Sea
On the way to the Dead Sea we stopped in Kerak, home to a large medieval castle with fascinating history. The castle, which is included in the Jordan Pass, was a maze of dimly-lit hidden rooms and impressive stonework. Worth a visit if you have time and passing through, but would avoid walking through the town if you are a woman – this was the only place I was made to feel very uncomfortable during this trip.
And now was our time to relax – we had made it to the Dead Sea. At 430m below sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest place on Earth – and is a perfect spot to cool off after the heat of the desert and hiking of Petra. We coated ourselves with a thick layer of rich, black mud which was provided in basins on the beach. This mud is said to have healing properties due to its high mineral content and after letting it dry and washing it off in the sea, our skin had never felt softer.
What I hadn’t anticipated though, was the discomfort the incredibly salty water can inflict on any small cuts, blisters or insect bites. Little wounds I wasn’t even aware of were abruptly brought to my attention by the salty waters. Whilst it was a surreal feeling floating in the sea, and a great spot for pictures – reluctantly the stinging sensations cut my swim short!
The Dead Sea itself is only really accessible from the private beaches in the resort hotels along the seafront. We stayed at the Movenpick which was perfect – lovely pools, luscious gardens, delicious breakfast and world-class service.
Day 8 – Mujib Biosphere water trail
The adventures of the Mujib Biosphere, which boarders the Dead Sea, are a relatively well kept secret of Jordan travel. It is a haven of biodiversity across rugged mountains, dissected by majestic red sandstone canyons, holding fast-flowing rivers. The Siq Water Trail (open Apr-Oct) offers an unbeatable perspective to appreciate the beauty of the canyon and power of the water. Costing 21JD, this activity isn’t included in the Jordan Pass, but for us, this unforgettable experience was priceless.
As we ventured up the river walking turned into wading, wading turned into swimming, and swimming turned into clambering as we pulled our way up the biblical currents to reach a cascading waterfall. The aquatic setting offered a fantastic contrast to the dust and sand landscapes earlier in the holiday, and we had just about recovered enough for another physical challenge.
Top tips – don’t bring anything with you (hats, water bottles, sunglasses, cameras etc), as at times you will completely submerged in the river. Dry bags are a must if you want to bring your phone for photos; luckily you can hire them from the reception, unluckily they cost a small fortune (10JD). Bring one with you if you can, and don’t forget to wear activewear, trainers and arrive early to avoid the queues. Unsurprisingly, moderate upper body strength and fitness is required, and there are no helmets provided – so worth keeping this in mind.
Day 9 – Dead Sea Relaxation
We were so thankful for a final day of relaxation at the Dead Sea to complete our Jordanian adventure. A slow paced day surrounded by the mineral rich waters (and unfortunately lots of annoying flies), offered an opportunity to reflect upon the many natural and ancient wonders we had the fortune of exploring and the amazing people we had met along the way. Jordan’s astounding landscapes, rich culture and fascinating history make it one of my top travel destinations – and one I’d encourage for any bucket list.
Day 10 – Airport bound
A sad goodbye to Jordan – London here we come!
Prepare for your trip
Before embarking on your trip, read my ‘Before you go Guide’, so you can be best prepared for your upcoming adventures.