Jordan is perhaps most famous for the magical Petra, the ancient Nabatean city that is considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Petra alone is definitely reason enough to visit Jordan. However, the country has much to offer tourists, from sweeping landscapes to diverse, lively cities.
History is palpable in Jordan; there are ruined Roman cities, famous Biblical sites and Crusader castles to explore in wonder. Against the backdrop of such an awe-inspiring past, the capital city of Amman is a thriving, modern city that offers a glimpse into modern Arab life.
The landscape varies across Jordan, offering visitors blood-red desert scenes, the bright blue water at the Gulf of Aqaba and the unique charms of the famous Dead Sea. Wherever you wander in Jordan, it is sure to be a memorable trip.
Jordan’s only coastal city is Aqaba, which therefore serves as its port. Aqaba is located in the most southern part of Jordan, on the north-eastern edge of the Red Sea. As it is situated on the Gulf of Aqaba, the city is near Jordan’s borders with Israel and Saudi Arabia. The port area at Aqaba is about 5 kilometres outside the centre of the city.
The port at Aqaba is mixed-use with very few facilities for tourists, so it is best to leave the port area and head to the city centre. The port can be a maze to get around, but there is usually a shuttle bus to take cruise visitors out of the port area. It is also possible to walk, as it takes only 10 minutes to reach the port gates. At the gate, there are taxis that will take you into the city or you can opt to walk the 15-20 minutes it takes to reach the tourist centre of Aqaba.
There are plenty of facilities in Aqaba itself; visitors will find many restaurants, shops, Internet cafés and ATMs. There is also a tourist information office, which is located just behind Aqaba Castle on Prince Mohammed Street. It is open daily from 8am till 2pm.
How to Get Around
Once in Aqaba, the city can be explored relatively easily on foot. Taxis are perhaps the best option for transport, though it is advisable to agree on a fare beforehand to avoid being overcharged.
Most cruise companies will arrange a shore excursion to the tourist attraction Petra, which is usually the best way see the Nabatean city, as they will take care of transport and entrance costs. However, if you are planning to get there yourself, a taxi will take you there for around 80 JOD. It is about a two-hour drive.
Another popular tourist attraction is Wadi Rum, which is about an hour’s drive from Aqaba.
- Currency – The official currency of Jordan is the Jordanian Dinar (JOD), which is the equivalent of 10 dirham, 100 qirsh or piastre and 1,000 fulus. Notes come in 1 JOD, 5 JOD, 10 JOD, 20 JOD and 50 JOD denominations.
- Time Zone – Jordan uses Arabia Standard Time (AST), which is 2 hours ahead of Universal Standard Time (UTC). The country switches to Daylight Savings in late March, setting the clocks forward 1 hour. At the end of October, Jordan returns to standard time.
- Weather – Temperatures can vary widely around the country. In the capital of Amman, the average daytime maximum temperature is 32.5 degrees Celsius in August, the hottest month. The coolest month, January, has an average maximum of 12.6 degrees Celsius. The weather can be considerably warmer in Aqaba. In summer, temperatures can soar as high as 39 degrees Celsius.
- Petra – Petra is one of the most breathtaking sights in the world and is definitely the highlight of the region. Chiselled out of cliffs, the ancient Nabatean city is full of mystery and elaborate architecture. A guided tour is the easiest way to see the most of Petra; however, be prepared for a long day and a lot of walking.
- Wadi Rum – The striking desert scenery of Wadi Rum has been made famous by the adventures of T.E. Lawrence, or ‘Lawrence of Arabia’. It is located almost 60 kilometres north of Aqaba and can be reached by an organised tour or taxi ride. A taxi trip will cost around 60 JOD and entrance to the protected region is approximately 2 JOD, though there have been talks about raising this price. Once there, you can hike or consider booking a 4WD tour at the visitor’s centre.
- Shopping – Enjoy the duty-free zone of Aqaba and the lively, colourful markets. Wander to the Jerusalem Bazaar for Bedouin jewellery, rugs, soaps and spices; they’ll make a memorable souvenir for your time in this stunning region.