Jordan’s prime attraction is Petra, an unforgettably dramatic 2000-year-old city carved from sandstone cliffs in the south of the country. Its extraordinary architecture and powerful atmosphere imprint themselves indelibly on most visitors’ imaginations.

There is a wealth of other historical sites, outstanding among them the well-preserved Roman city of Jerash, but also including Umm Qais, set on a dramatic promontory overlooking the Sea of Galilee, and Madaba, which has the oldest known map of the Middle East, in the form of a Byzantine mosaic laid on the floor of a church. After the Muslim conquest, the Umayyad dynasty built a series of retreats in the Jordanian desert, now dubbed the “Desert Castles”, including the bath-house of Qusayr Amra, adorned with naturalistic and erotic frescoes. Centuries later, the Crusaders established a heavy presence in southern Jordan, most impressively with the huge castles at Karak and Shobak. The Arab resistance to the Crusader invasion left behind another fortress at Ajloun in the north.

Jordan is part of the “Holy Land”: its religious sites include the Baptism Site of Jesus on the banks of the River Jordan, and Mount Nebo, from where Moses looked over the Promised Land. John the Baptist met his death at Herod’s hilltop palace at Mukawir after Salome danced her seductive dance. Nearby is Lot’s Cave, where Abraham’s nephew sought refuge from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Your most abiding memories of a visit are likely to be of Jordan’s varied and beautiful natural environment. With its sheer cliffs and red sands, austere Wadi Rum – where David Lean filmed Lawrence of Arabia – presents the classic desert picture of Jordan. Less well-known are the gentle northern hills around the Ajloun forests, hosting walks through flower-strewn meadows and cool, shady woodland. In the south, tranquil Dana overlooks a swathe of territory from verdant highland orchards down to the sandy desert floor, offering a memorable hideaway at the Feynan Ecolodge. The protected Wadi Mujib is a giant canyon, 4km wide at the top, that narrows to a high, rocky gorge carrying a fast-flowing river down to the salty Dead Sea, an inland lake too buoyant for swimming but perfect for floating, your body supported by the density of the salty water. Last but not least, Jordan has some of the world’s best diving and snorkelling in the coral-fringed Red Sea off Aqaba.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Jordan features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Video: 5 reasons to hike the Jordan Trail

Video: 5 reasons to hike the Jordan Trail

Despite being a safe country with no shortage of breathtaking historical sites, friendly people and some of the world's most stunning wilderness, Jordan is ofte…

23 Jan 2018 • Colt St. George videocam Video
Rediscovering Jordan: why the time to go is now

Rediscovering Jordan: why the time to go is now

It’s one of the world’s top adventure destinations – and one of our top 18 places to visit in 2018 – and yet, in recent years, tourists have been es…

22 Jan 2018 • Sarah Reid insert_drive_file Article
12 of the most beautiful places in the Middle East

12 of the most beautiful places in the Middle East

The Middle East is a paradox. Located at the cultural crossroads between east and west, the region nowadays tends to make headlines for all the wrong reasons, b…

16 Nov 2016 • Gavin Thomas insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right