Amidst the growing nervousness among travelers regarding the Middle East, you might be surprised to know that Jordan is a cosmopolitan treasure, fast becoming a must on bucket-lists.
It’s free of the high-profile political unrest of its notorious neighbors and during the Arab Spring of 2011, the government implemented important reforms, amending the constitution to, in the words of the Prime Minister, “strengthen democracy and provide Jordanians with the dignified life they deserve.” The country also implemented far reaching safety measures and has a military that’s considered one of the best trained security forces in the entire region, having received specialist training from both the United States and Israel. The result is that Jordan today is a progressive, trend-setting destination with incredible food, beautiful places to stay and some of the greatest archeological treasures on the planet.
Its capital city, Amman, is a perfect mix of old and new — a vibrant cultural hub that dates back over nine thousand years and also houses Jordan’s lively social scene. With Jordan being a reasonably small country, staying in Amman also allows you to explore everything the country has to offer while always having the excitement of the city to come back to.
So here’s our guide to the best of Amman that highlights what you must see while staying here:
How to Get There
Getting to Jordan from the US is surprisingly simple with most major airlines flying in and of Amman daily. Typically you will have one layover in Europe — commonly Paris or Frankfurt. In order to enter Jordan, visitors need a passport that is valid for at least six months as well as a visa that is obtained simply upon arrival at the airport at a cost of 40 Jordanian Dinar, which is around 57 US dollars.
WHERE TO STAY
THE FOUR SEASONS: If you are going to stay at a Four Seasons anywhere in the world, then stay here. While there are many places to stay in Amman, this is the best in the city for many reasons. The elegant property is situated in an ideal location, surrounded by the rolling Seven Hills of Amman, and is the perfect home base for experiencing Jordan in style. With a selection of restaurants — and a new one in the works — all overseen by executive chef Chuck Kazmer as well as a fantastic outdoor bar, spa, two swimming pools and a gym, this property has everything you need and more.
THE INTERCONTINENTAL: Reasonably priced and situated near both the ancient and the more modern areas of the city and containing five different places to eat, The Intercontinental is also a top choice while visiting Amman.
WHERE TO EAT
SUFRA: If you ask any locals where to eat, then you’ll more often than not be directed here. For a true taste of Jordanian cuisine, this place is hard to beat. The Mansaf — a traditional Jordanian dish — is out of this world. The menu is carefully designed to bring together the very best of Jordanian culture and the outside terrace is just beautiful. Situated on the vibrant Rainbow Street, Sufra is a must do while you’re in Amman. (Tel: +962 6 461 1469)
FAKHR EL-DIN: Another must while staying in Amman is this gem. Set inside a beautiful old house that used to belong to Jordan’s first Prime Minster, this restaurant serves some of the best Lebanese food you’re likely to find outside Lebanon itself. The original style of the house has been maintained to preserve its heritage and beauty.
WHERE TO EXPLORE
Amman is city you can definitely explore on your own, but there are also many tour companies offering superb itineraries. One that remains on the forefront and known for their extremely high level of security, expertise and quality of guides is Abercrombie and Kent. Their deep-rooted connection to the countries they choose to operate in, their choice of staff and itinerary options make them the ideal partners for planning a trip.
JERASH: Situated just north of Amman is the jaw-dropping ancient city of Jerash. This vast Greco-Roman ruin is one of the world’s most striking historical sites with settlements dating back to the Bronze Age. Walking through the pillar-lined roads, amidst the temples and amphitheaters, it’s impossible not to see the ancient city as it once was, coming alive around you. A definite must see!
The Citadel: Perched on the highest hill in Amman, and occupied since the Bronze Age, the citadel is a wondrous place. A wall that’s 1700 meters long surrounds it and the view is breathtaking. You can wander the grounds and admire the palace and other historical ruins for hours.
PETRA: Only a few hours drive from Amman, this one needs little introduction as it was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Petra is absolutely amongst the most important and impressive historical sites on the planet and while most people will recognize the iconic image of the vast temple carved out of the rock itself, many don’t know that this is just the beginning. Hidden in the middle of a desert canyon is an entire ancient city that sprawls well beyond the iconic “Treasury.” Be prepared to spend an entire day at the very least exploring this hidden wonder and if you have the time, the Petra by Night experience is breathtaking.
WADI RUM: Situated three and a half hours south of Amman is the protected desert area of Wadi Rum. A place of immense natural beauty, this vast desert was used by Ridley Scott to double as Mars in his hit film The Martian, and it’s clear to see why. The dramatic red sandstone and sprawling vistas are a true natural wonder. Archeological discoveries in the area indicate there have been human settlements here for over twelve thousand years. There are a number of camps set up throughout the desert that allow the adventurous traveler to spend the night beneath the blanket of perfect stars (although, it’s really more “glamping” than camping…).
THE DEAD SEA: Despite the name, the Dead Sea is in fact a salt lake bordering Jordan, Israel and the West Bank. Only two hours by car from Jordan and located at more than four hundred meters below sea level – it makes an amazing day trip or one night getaway. It’s at the lowest point on earth – and because of this it gets very hot! The water itself is famous for its extremely high salt content making it easy to float effortlessly. The best way to experience the Dead Sea is to cover yourself in the mineral rich mud of its banks and float your cares away. There are plenty of hotels around the waters edge to fit all budgets. Don’t leave Jordan without having this experience, as it is unlike anything else!