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.
Itinerary / 7 DAYSPLAN YOUR TRIP
DAY 1Arrive in Amman
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.
DAY 2Explore Amman and Jerash
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.
DAY 3Madaba and Mount Nebo
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.
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.
DAY 5Wadi Rum
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.
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.