Jordan is a desert kingdom, which has been attracting tourists, traders, diplomats and refugees for 2,500 years. For anyone interested in ancient civilisations and the lands of the Bible, Amman is an essential stamp in the passport. After the heat and dust of Wadi Rum and Petra, there’s welcome relief in the laid-back Mediterranean resort of Aquaba and the saltier pleasures of the Dead Sea.
If the only sight worth seeing in Jordan were Petra, it would still be reason enough to put the country near the top of every traveller’s must-see list. But in a week – or even less –you can experience Mediterranean resorts, desert camps, Dead Sea escapes, sacred Biblical sites and the traces of every ancient civilization, major and minor.
There are cities in the Middle East richer in tourism sites than Jordan’s capital, Amman – though the museum at the Amman citadel Jabal al-Qal'a, dominated by the Temple of Hercules, is a time capsule of the great ancient civilisations. Otherwise, Amman is changing fast, with the downtown Abdali complex promising a little piece of Dubai-style swankiness - but you can still get a traditional Middle Eastern feast for just a couple of dinars.
Whether it’s on foot or on horseback, by day or candlelight, your first sight of Petra, the hidden Nabatean city located 140 miles (around a three-hour drive) from Amman and carved into the mountains of southern Jordan, is not an experience that’s easily forgotten. The desert expanse of Wadi Rum, four hours south of the capital, is the other main draw – whether for adventure sports enthusiasts, hikers (the famous Burdah Arch and Jebel Umm Adaami, the country’s highest mountain, are there to be climbed) or those in search of T.E. Lawrence’s authentic Arabia. But don’t forget the Dana Reserve Biosphere and its archaeological treasures – from ancient copper mines and Byzantine churches to Neolithic villages and a Roman aqueduct.