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The perfect Jordan itinerary for first-time visitors

Red Sea

 This past April, I crossed a country off the top of my bucket list that had been there for a long time: Jordan. My friend and I followed a Jordan itinerary that’s popular with travelers coming over from Israel to see Petra and Wadi Rum, Jordan’s most famous sites. 

While we had a great time, there were a few things I wish we had done differently. I thought I’d lay out our itinerary below, along with the changes I would make if I were to do the trip again. Read on for a revised version of our Jordan itinerary that would make the perfect intro to the country for new visitors!

THE PERFECT JORDAN ITINERARY FOR FIRST-TIME VISITORS

Wadi Rum desert

OUR JORDAN ITINERARY

DAY 1

After flying from Tel Aviv to Eilat in Israel, we crossed into Jordan via the Yitzhak Rabin/Wadi Araba border crossing, which is the closest one to Petra and Wadi Rum and also sees significantly less traffic than the King Hussein Bridge/Allenby Bridge crossing to the north. While we got there decently early in the morning, we knew it was too late to go into Petra without running into hoards of crowds, so we didn’t go straight there. Instead, we took a cab from the border to nearby Aqaba, a city on the Red Sea.

I knew we wouldn’t be able to do much in the way of sightseeing with our luggage in tow, so a week or two before our arrival, I contacted the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Aqaba to see if we could store our things for the day and use its pool for a few hours. I wasn’t sure it would work, but as a Hilton Diamond member, I figured it was worth a shot.

Plant
DoubleTree Aqaba pool
Salad and fries
DoubleTree Aqaba rooftop bar

Turns out, it was! The concierge there couldn’t have been nicer and was happy to grant my request. We spent four hours or so lounging and eating lunch by a beautiful infinity pool until it was time to head up to Petra. We arranged a pickup through our hotel, the Petra Marriott Hotel, and arrived in time for sunset. Afterward, we headed into Petra for Petra by Night, an event that happens outside the famous Treasury every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday at 8:30 p.m. 

Sunset behind mountains

DAY 2

We woke up bright and early to beat the crowds to Petra, arriving around 6 a.m. At the visitors’ center, we hired a guide who took us on a three-hour walk through the ancient city. By the time we finished, the sun was getting intense, but we pressed on. We did the two-hour round trip hike up to the Monastery—an absolute must—and tried to start the hike up to a viewpoint near the High Place of Sacrifice, but the sun was too hot and we didn’t have cash for more water, so we returned to the hotel.

Petra Treasury
Petra cave dwelling

After we collected our things, the same driver we’d had the day before picked us up and took us back down to Wadi Rum, where representatives from our desert camp accommodations—Memories Aicha Luxury Camp—were waiting to collect us. We piled in and drove out to camp, where we had some downtime to explore before heading out to watch the sun set over the desert. 

That night, we enjoyed a Bedouin fest and did a guided stargazing trip in the desert. It was magical!

Memories Aicha Luxury Camp tents

DAY 3

After checking out of our camp, a guide took us on a four-stop tour of the Wadi Rum desert. We saw dunes, rocky overlooks, ancient pictographs and plenty of camels. 

If I’m being honest, there’s not too much to do out in Wadi Rum, and by this point we had done it all. We met up with our driver and went back to Aqaba early to cross the border and catch an earlier flight back to Tel Aviv from Eilat. 

Wadi Rum desert

WHAT I’D CHANGE ABOUT OUR JORDAN ITINERARY

First and foremost, we needed an extra day in Petra. The city is absolutely huge, and there’s so much to see. Combine that fact with the intense heat, and it’s easy to see why two days are better than one: You can get an early start each day to beat the heat and the crowds, and then spend sunny afternoons by the hotel pool. Doing it this way would have made the whole trip more relaxing (not to mention provided better photo ops!). 

Also, if we’d planned better, we could have made time for a snorkeling trip in the Dead Sea on our first or last day. The area offers world-class snorkeling and scuba diving, and you can easily jump on a half-day tour. 

I would also recommend arriving at Wadi Rum earlier than we did. By the time we got there, the evening tour had already left. Instead, we did the tour the next morning, but it was less temperate and lighting was harsh for photos. Plus, by that point, we were sluggish, sandy and ready to pack it in after a whirlwind few days and head back to Israel.

Outdoor table and couches
Camels

THE PERFECT 4-DAY JORDAN ITINERARY

With those changes in mind, here’s the itinerary I would propose for a quick trip to Jordan:

DAY 1

I recommend either starting or ending your trip (or both!) in Aqaba if you want to see the Red Sea sea life! Arrive early enough to do a half-day snorkeling or scuba diving excursion before heading to Petra. Make sure to time your trip appropriately if you want to catch Petra by night on your first day!

DAY 2

Head into Petra early for a tour and then relax back at home. Enjoy the desert sunset, incredible food and Jordanian hospitality!

DAY 3

Take this morning to do additional hikes or find additional viewpoints that your tour didn’t cover. After lunch, head to Wadi Rum for some desert glamping. Catch the sunset desert tour if you can!

DAY 4

Leave Wadi Rum and head to the airport. If you’re heading to Amman, it’s a bit of a trek at over four hours driving. If you’re heading to Israel and have some time to kill, though, try hanging out at the DoubleTree Aqaba pool!

For more on how hotel status can score you great perks, check out the 52 Cities free resource library or register for an upcoming points and miles masterclass.

DoubleTree Aqaba pool

WHAT TO ADD FOR A LONGER JORDAN ITINERARY

I didn’t do the Dead Sea on this trip because I’ve been on the Israel side, but if you’ve never done it, you can’t leave the area without going in! You float naturally thanks to the sea’s high salt content, and there is nothing in this world like the feeling of extreme buoyancy you’ll experience. 

The Dana Biosphere Reserve is a complex environment housing hundreds of rare plant and animal species, and it’s definitely worth a stop. 

This trip also didn’t bring us as far north as Amman, but it’s a city I’m very interested in checking out next time, in part because it’s home to some amazing Roman ruins. Outside Amman itself, you can also find Roman ruins in places such as Jerash. 

Looking for more Jordan info? Check out this post on crossing the Israel-Jordan border at Wadi Araba or read about glamping in Wadi Rum

Hope this post helps with your Jordan itinerary planning! What other questions do you have about visiting Jordan? Let me know in the comments! >>

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The perfect four-day Jordan itinerary
The perfect four-day Jordan itinerary
The perfect 4-day Jordan itinerary for first-time visitors

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