Connect with the Culture and History of Jordan

A man leads a camel in front of a building carved into a cliffside.

Few destinations have histories as rich as Jordan does. In a single week, you can stand atop the same peaks that Old Testament prophets did, follow in the footsteps of ancient Greek settlers and Roman soldiers, and conquer the ramparts of Crusader castles. You’ll have opportunities to admire the architectural wonders of Petra, the capital of the Nabatean kingdom, and later Muslim palaces. All of these experiences, as well as some non-history excursions like a Jeep safari through the stunning desert landscapes of Wadi Rum, are included on Insight Vacations’ seven-day Jordan Experience itinerary.

What makes this experience even more unique is that you’ll have chances to engage with residents along the way. You’ll explore not just Jordan’s history and its natural beauty but also learn about the lives of the country’s citizens today. The trip will allow you to learn firsthand about initiatives that use tourism to improve the situations of locals, and you’ll hear them talk about it while sharing a meal under a star-filled desert sky.

A camp in a canyon


A Night in the Desert

At Sun City Camp in Wadi Rum, you can sleep under the star-filled night sky of the Jordanian desert in either a futuristic geodesic dome or a traditional Bedouin tent.
Insight Vacations: The Art of Traveling in Style


Insight Vacations

For more than 40 years, Insight Vacations has offered travelers deeper, more enriching experiences; not just meeting local people, but joining them for unique opportunities to share their stories, passions, customs, and expertise. Insight Vacations takes you to places that you otherwise wouldn’t get to if you traveled independently. With an Insight Travel Director leading every small group, customized coaches (with Wi-Fi where available), and all hotel tips, taxes, and other charges included in your vacation package, you’ll be free to focus on what matters—appreciating and connecting with the local culture.
Ruins in front of a dense city.

DAY 1Arrive in Amman

You’ll land this morning in Jordan’s capital and be met by a representative from Insight Vacations for the transfer to the 292-room Amman Marriott Hotel. Located in Amman’s financial district, this is a convenient base for exploring a city that was (like Rome) originally built on seven hills (it has expanded to include closer to about 20). You can spend some downtime at the hotel, enjoying its two pools, spa, and fitness center, or having a drink or meal at its two restaurants and three bars and lounges.

If you’re up for wandering, Amman may strike you as a surprisingly contemporary city in an ancient land. There’s been a settlement here since antiquity—when it was known as Philadelphia—but the city rose to a new prominence in 1921, after it became the capital of Jordan. One way to experience its contemporary side is through its art scene in Jabal al-Weibdeh, a neighborhood with small galleries, studios, and the exhibition space Darat al Funun.

Nearby, the Wild Jordan Center is a good place to stop for a late lunch or snack. The café is owned by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, and you can learn about projects throughout the country that protect wildlife and encourage ecotourism ventures. (The Amman Marriott is a partner of the society, and a portion of your stay will benefit its programs.)

At the end of your afternoon exploring, return to the Marriott for a dinner, where you’ll meet your travel director and the other members of your group to learn more about plans for the week ahead.
A row of columns lined with yellow wildflowers

DAY 2Explore Amman and Jerash

Today you’ll jump into Jordanian cuisine with an authentic lunch at Vait Khayra Souf. But you’ll start with breakfast at your hotel and work up an appetite as you tour Amman’s historic sites. First up is the Amman Citadel, the walled fortress atop the tallest of the city’s many hills. While much of Amman was built in the 20th century, its roots date back to the Bronze Age, and every civilization that has ruled the city has left its mark. The Temple of Hercules and the amphitheater—along with its smaller sister, the Odeon—are the most notable landmarks left by the Romans, while portions of an Umayyad palace remain from the days when that caliphate ruled the Muslim world.

You’ll continue on to the Jordan Museum, a vast archaeological museum that opened in 2014. The many layers of Jordan’s history can be hard to follow, but your Insight travel director can help guide you through more than a million years of history. Your guide will also steer you to the most important artifacts, like some of the Dead Sea scrolls housed here.

Your next stop will be at Iraq Al Amir, a village to the west of Amman. Here, you’ll meet with representatives from the Women’s Cooperative, an organization that’s provided training to women in some 150 villages throughout Jordan. They learn to make and sell traditional crafts at the gift shop, helping to preserve local handicrafts while providing income to rural families.

The women of the cooperative, which is located in 10 historic farmhouses, will share the history of the organization: founded in 1993, it’s the oldest such cooperative in Jordan. You’ll see pottery, weaving, and paper- and soap-making workshops, then have an opportunity to purchase unique handcrafted souvenirs like ceramic dishes inspired by the fruits that grow in the village’s orchards or a traditional olive oil soap.

The final stop today is the town of Jerash, roughly an hour north of Amman. The earliest signs of human settlement at Jerash are from around 3200 B.C.E., but the so-called “city of a thousand columns” is best known for its Hellenistic and Roman theaters, temples, baths, and other buildings. You can enter the city through the 43-foot-tall triumphal arch erected for an earlier visitor, Emperor Hadrian, and wander the ruins of the temples of Zeus and Artemis. The latter is famous for its “whispering columns,” where, if one stands in the middle of the temple and whispers, the sound is amplified as it reverberates throughout the space. You can follow in the footsteps of Roman settlers by visiting the unusual oval-shaped forum or by walking a portion of the Cardio Maximus, the city’s major Roman road. Despite a devastating earthquake in the 8th century C.E., the ruins at Jerash remain the most extensive and best-preserved Roman ones outside of Italy.
A T-shaped sculpture at sunset

DAY 3Madaba and Mount Nebo

This morning you’ll say goodbye to Amman and head south to Mount Nebo, one of the holiest sites in Jordan. It was here that God showed Moses the land of Canaan, which the prophet would never enter. From its peak, at an altitude of 2,330 feet, it’s possible to see the Jordan River, Jericho, and, on especially clear days, as far as Jerusalem.

You’ll then continue on to Madaba to visit the 19th-century Church of St. George. The main attraction here is the Madaba Map, a 6th-century mosaic discovered during the construction of the building. It’s one of the oldest existing maps of the Holy Land, portraying the entire region from Jordan in the north to Egypt in the south.

Your last stop will be your hotel for the night, the Petra Marriott. Located on a hilltop, most of the 100 guestrooms have stunning views of the Petra Valley below. Depending on how late in the day you arrive, you may want to take a swim in the outdoor pool or skip straight to dinner at either of the two restaurants, both of which overlook the valley. However, you may want to take it easy: The next day will be full of adventure as you explore a new wonder of the world—the ancient, rose-colored sandstone city of Petra.
Camels rest outside a building carved into a cliff

DAY 4Petra

The fourth day of your Jordan itinerary is devoted to one of the world’s true wonders: the ancient city of Petra. The English poet John William Burgon described Petra as “a rose-red city half as old as time,” and you may find yourself also inspired to put pen to paper, whether to write some lines of verse or make some sketches of this magical place. Alternatively, just make sure you have lots of memory space available for photos.

Relatively little is known about the Nabatean people who made Petra, or Raqma (in Nabatean), their capital. For centuries, these traders prospered while evading enemies and rivals by slipping into the folds of the gorges of a remote desert valley. Petra’s monumental structures—temples and tombs—were carved into the red sandstone.

After about the 13th century, Petra was forgotten by the outside world, until European archaeologists began excavating it in the 19th century. Despite Petra’s worldwide fame, its remote desert location can make visiting still feel like stumbling upon a lost ancient wonder. You’ll enter the site through the long narrow gorge named the Siq, which ends at the most iconic building in Petra, the two-tiered façade of the Treasury, which stands over 130 feet tall. You’ll also visit the amphitheater, which had room for over 6,000 spectators and many of the ancient tombs of the Nabatean traders.

You’ll end the day with a dinner under the stars at a Bedouin camp—one of the unique opportunities to connect with local culture, in one of the world’s most historic and stunningly beautiful settings on Earth. The menu varies, but you can expect authentic, traditional dishes like mansaf (lamb cooked in yogurt) and kabsa (an aromatic rice dish with cardamom, cinnamon, and other spices), all served with sweet hot tea. Your hosts—members of the Ammarin tribe who have lived in this part of Jordan since the early 19th century—will be just as interesting as the food.
An ATV drives through the desert

DAY 5Wadi Rum

While Petra is Jordan’s most famous manmade wonder, Wadi Rum is its most spectacular natural one. Though sometimes translated as “valley” or “ravine,” a wadi is more of a seasonal gully or wash—a specific type of valley created in a desert setting by the forces of seasonal rivers or occasional flash flooding. You’ll explore this majestic part of Jordan on a Jeep safari, which will allow you to experience the serenity and grandeur of Wadi Rum with some solitude as well.

The arid landscape of Wadi Rum, with its dramatic sandstone outcroppings, manages to both embody the typical desert landscape that many of us imagine while at the same time looking entirely otherworldly. It has played the part of Mars in a number of films, and if you choose to stay in one of the geodesic domes at Sun City Camp tonight, it’s easy to imagine that you’ve arrived at a space station on the red planet.

The camp also has 30 traditional Bedouin tents, if you’d rather keep it old-school. Whichever option you chose when it comes time to sleep, you’ll first enjoy a traditional Bedouin feast under a desert night sky filled with countless stars.
A camp of tents in a valley

DAY 6Shobak

Early risers can stretch with some sunrise yoga at Sun City Camp before returning back north towards Amman. On the way, you’ll stop at Shobak Castle, which looms dramatically over the surrounding plain. The castle is also known as Montréal, the name given to it by the man responsible for its construction, Baldwin I. He was the first king of Jerusalem, a Crusader state that lasted from 1099 to 1291 (though it didn’t control Jerusalem itself for that entire period).

Much of what can be seen today dates not from the Crusader period, but from later additions in the 14th century, when the area was controlled by the Mamluk dynasty that ruled over Egypt and Syria from the 13th to 16th centuries. As you explore the fortifications from both periods, you’ll see the unique mix of European and Middle Eastern motifs and design that characterized Crusader settlements and outposts. Your guide will point out the chapel, the catacombs, and even an underground system of secret passages leading to a spring.

After your visit to the castle, you’ll return to Amman and spend a final night in the Amman Marriott. You’ll have the remainder of the day free if you want to revisit any of the stops from the beginning of your trip—perhaps to dive deeper into some of the galleries at the Jordan Museum—or get to know another neighborhood of the city.
A castle on a hill

DAY 7Return Home

After breakfast this morning at the Marriott, Insight will transfer you back to the Amman airport for your flight home. In less than a week, you will have explored Greek, Nabatean, Roman, Crusader, Umayyad, and Mamluk sites. You will have met women using handicrafts to empower other women and Bedouin tribesmen keeping alive an ancient way of life. Needless to say, the week might feel like a whirlwind. If you find yourself wanting to experience it all more slowly, or if you want to explore other aspects of Jordan’s rich past and its exciting present, you are always welcome to return. We expect that this trip may end up being merely your first visit
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Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East