The Kingdom of Jordan is rich in heritage, but is also one of the most progressive states in the Arab world thanks to its free trade agreements with the US and the European Union. A mix of arid plateau, Mediterranean climates, oases, forests and arable land, the country boasts spectacular scenery wherever you go. Some of the best-preserved ancient sites anywhere in the world are found in Jordan, attracting millions of visitors every year. If you’re thinking of taking a trip to Jordan, here are some places you absolutely must work into your itinerary:
The Dead Sea
The Dead Sea sits on the border between Jordan and Israel, and its shores are the lowest elevation of land anywhere in the world. The water itself is one-third salt, giving it a high density which means swimmers actually float in the water. In addition, it is so rich in minerals that the water is used for many herbal products, and people suffering with conditions such as psoriasis and osteoarthritis have enjoyed beneficial therapy in the waters.
The Dead Sea is therefore a great place to base yourself as you explore the rest of Jordan and there are some great hotels, such as the Kempinksi Hotel Ishtar.
This year sees Jordan celebrate 200 years since the ancient city of Petra was rediscovered, adding extra significance to what is already Jordan’s most popular tourist destination. The city was established as early as 312BC by the Nabataeans serving as a fortress and a base to control commercial routes passing through the area. It has been a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985, with the group describing it as “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage “.
Jordan is home to numerous places mentioned in the Old and New Testament of the Bible, including the brook where Jesus was baptised, the Mukawer fortress where Herod beheaded John the Baptist and the mountain top where Moses cast eyes on the Promised Land.
For marine life, the coral-filled Gulf of Aqaba is a real treat and is a haven for diving enthusiasts, while the crystal-clear waters ensure perfect conditions for underwater photography. The Azrak Wetland Reserve is home to a wide variety of bird species, while the vast Dana Nature Reserve captures Jordan’s rugged scenery beautifully, from the 1,800-metre Sharaa Mountains in the east down to the dunes at Wadi Araba at sea level.
The capital city Amman is also worth at least a day of your time, as it may give you something of a surprise. It is a modern and culturally diverse city that is far removed from the typical clichés of the Middle East and is split into two parts, the urbanised poor in the east and the leafy residential districts, trendy cafés and bars, and impressive art galleries of the western half. Both make up what is a tolerant and outward-looking city.