Jordan is a year-round destination – but despite its small size, you’ll find wide variations in climate, often reliant on the topography: Amman, Petra and Wadi Rum all lie well over 800m above sea level, Dana and Ajloun are even higher (up to 1500m), whereas the Dead Sea lies 400m below sea level. The same January day could have you throwing snowballs in Ajloun or topping up your tan on the Red Sea beaches.
The best time to visit Jordan is spring (March–May), when temperatures are toasty but not scorching, wildflowers are out everywhere (even the desert is carpeted), and the hills and valleys running down the centre of the country are lush and gorgeously colourful. The worst of the rain is over by March, though it doesn’t entirely peter out in Amman and the hills until late April. Humidity is pleasant everywhere, and low, clear sunlight draws a spectacular kaleidoscope of colour and texture from the desert rocks. There’s only one drawback – a desert wind, loaded with dust and grit, which blows regularly each spring or early summer out of the Arabian interior. It’s known across the Middle East as the khamseen (“fifty”), after the fifty days it traditionally persists (although in Jordan it rarely lasts longer than a few days), and can darken the sky and raise the temperature by 10°C, coating everyone and everything in a layer of sand.
In summer (roughly June–Sept), Amman can sizzle – up to 40°C in the city centre – though it’s a dry heat, rarely uncomfortable, and the hills catch some cooler breezes. Temperatures at the Dead Sea and Aqaba, though, have been known to top 45°C, with Aqaba in particular suffering from an intolerable hot wind that makes you feel like you’re basting in a fan-assisted oven. High, hazy light flattens the brown landscape and bleaches any beauty out of the desert. Copy the locals, and treat the hours between noon and 3pm as a time to snooze in the cool indoors.
Typical autumn weather (mid-Sept to mid-Nov) mostly passes Jordan by, with only a few weeks marking the shift out of high summer – if you catch it, this can be a lovely time to visit. The first rains fall in early or mid-October, making the parched countryside bloom again and temperatures drop to more manageable levels.
In winter (roughly Dec–Feb), Amman can be desperately chilly, with biting winds sweeping through the valleys, rain showers and even snowfall, although the sun is still never far away. With short days and freezing nights, Petra winters can be taxing; exceptional lows of -8°C have been recorded. Rum is more temperate, but Aqaba makes a fine retreat, with sunshine and warmth even in the depths of January (average Red Sea and Dead Sea water temperatures vary little either side of a balmy 24°C all year).