JORDAN IN THREE DAYS: AMMAN, PETRA, JERASH, MADABA & THE DEAD SEA
Three days in Jordan is just enough to see its main landmarks and highlights such as Petra, Jerash, and the Dead Sea.
PLAN TO SPEND A LONG WEEKEND WITH A HOME BASE IN AMMAN
If you arrive on a Friday evening and depart on Tuesday morning, spending four nights in Amman, you'll be able to maximize your time in Jordan and stay in one place without moving from hotel to hotel.
VISAS & TRANSPORTATION IN JORDAN
Visas can be obtained on arrival at the airport. Taxis are the easiest way to get around in Amman, while hiring a car with a driver is the most convenient option for day-trips. Check out our post JORDAN TRAVEL TIPS FOR FIRST TIME VISITORS for more information.
THINGS TO SEE IN THREE DAYS
Follow this sample itinerary to explore Jordan in three days including Amman, Petra, the Dead Sea, Jerash, Madaba, Mount Nebo, and Bethany Beyond the Jordan.
DAY ONE: JERASH AND AMMAN
Start your first full day of sightseeing with the Roman ruins in Jerash and explore Amman in the afternoon. If you depart around 8.30 AM from Amman, the traffic is light and you will avoid being outside during the hottest time of the day. It takes 45 minutes to get from Amman to Jerash and it is a beautiful drive through rolling hills and valleys filled with olive groves and pine forests.
ROMAN RUINS IN JERASH
Jerash is known for the ruins of the ancient Roman provincial town. The town enjoyed great wealth largely due to the area’s fertile lands and it was one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the ancient Near East. A devastating earthquake in 749AD left large areas of the town destroyed and the ruins were buried in soil for hundreds of years. Recent excavation and restoration work has revealed the town's spectacular colonnaded streets, hilltop temples, theatres, squares and fountains.
• Private half-day tour with a driver costs minimum 50JD ($70) per vehicle.
• Ticket to the Roman ruins is 12JD ($17), not including a tour guide.
• Local, licensed tour guides are available for 20JD ($28) at the entrance and it is definitely worth touring the site with a guide. There are only very few signs and descriptions at the site, and information is limited compared to the wealth of knowledge of the local guides.
• Expect to spend at least 2 hours at the site.
In the afternoon, head to Amman Citadel, the most significant landmark in Amman, sitting on its highest hill and towering over the city. There are Roman, Byzantine and early Islamic remains, a 1,700-meter wall that dates back to the Bronze Age, the iconic Temple of Hercules, built by the Romans, and the Umayyad Palace with its domed audience hall that is still in a good condition. The panoramic views from the Citadel over Amman and the Roman Theatre are spectacular.
• The Citadel is open until 5PM.
• Tickets cost 2JD and multilingual, licensed guides who usually congregate near the ticket office, are an additional JD15 per hour.
After visiting the Citadel, take a taxi to Al Balad, the oldest part of Amman in its downtown area. A good landmark to tell the taxi driver is the Grand Husseini Mosque. The busy streets around the mosque are lined with stores, coffee shops and restaurants. Enjoy a walk and discover a little more about the everyday life of the locals.
Head to Rainbow Street for dinner. Popular among tourists and locals alike, the area offers a choice of many restaurants from gastro pubs to traditional Jordanian cuisine. The most popular ones - Wild Jordan Center that has a spectacular view over the Citadel, and Sufra are very busy and require a reservation during weekends.
DAY TWO: BETHANY BEYOND THE JORDAN, DED SEA, MOUNT NEBO & MADABA
BETHANY BEYOND THE JORDAN
Pack your swimwear and crocks and leave at 8AM to start your tour in Bethany Beyond the Jordan. The site known as the baptismal place of Jesus is located 45 minutes from Amman. You will get there in time for the first tour of the site around 9AM. Since Bethany is close to the border between Jordan and the West Bank, only guided tours are allowed. After purchasing the ticket (12JD), visitors are taken by a bus to the site for a tour with a local guide.
Read more about here: DAY TRIP FROM AMMAN: MOUNT NEBO, MADABA, BETHANY & THE DEAD SEA
THE DEAD SEA
The next stop, the Dead Sea, is just a few kilometers from Bethany. Head to the Mövenpick Resort & Spa Dead Sea and get a Day Pass at the vehicle entrance. This resort offers changing facilities, towels, and outdoor showers to rinse off at 40 dinars ($56) per person and is the most reasonably priced resort that offers good quality service. The price also includes a 15-dinar food voucher and you can have a light lunch at the resort.
After lunch, head to Mount Nebo. The trip up the mountain, from 400 meters below to 800 meters above sea level through the desert landscape, takes about 45 minutes. Mount Nebo is the most revered holy site in Jodan and known as the place where Moses was buried. From the top of the mountain, one can see the panorama from Jordan River Valley and the Dead Sea to Jericho and Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. There are also remains of a late 4th century church with a magnificent mosaic-covered floor.
The last stop is 20 minutes away in Madaba or the "City of Mosaics." The most significant site in Madaba is the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George, home of the 6th century Byzantine mosaic map that shows holy sites in the area. Only part of the map has been recovered, but the original measured 16 meters by 6 meters, took six years to complete and was made from two million pieces of stone.
The cost for this private day trip is minimum 80 JD ($113) per vehicle.
DAY THREE: DAY TRIP TO PETRA
Petra is far but you can still easily visit it in one day. Leave Amman by 8AM and take the Desert Highway that will get you to Petra about 11AM. At halfway point between Amman and Wadi Musa where Petra is located, there is a large souvenir store that also sells refreshments, coffee and has decent restrooms. It is known to most drivers.
Petra is huge and it will take you at least three hours to see the Treasury, the Street of Façades, the Nabatean Theatre, the Great Temple, and the Royal Tombs. It is a long and dusty walk from the Visitor's Center to the Treasury through the narrow gorge called the Siq - over two kilometers (1.2 miles) that will take you around 45 minutes with photos stops. Walk another two kilometers to see other highlights mentioned above.
If you want to get to the Monastery as well, add a couple more hours to your tour. The total distance from the Visitor's Center to the Monastery is roughly 6 kilometers (3.7 miles). You'll have to walk back the same way.
When you arrive at the Basin restaurant you have the option to turn back or to take 800 steps up to see the Monastery. The impressive façade of Ad Deir, or the Monastery, dating from the second century, is definitely worth seeing. If you are too tired to walk, hire a donkey to take you to the top and back.
It is about a 1.5 kilometer trip up and takes almost an hour. It is hot and it is not easy. Going up and down on a donkey takes less energy, even though it is a bumpy ride and the donkeys tend to get scarily close to the edge of the rocky path. There are many reports about the abuse of animals in Petra, but the situation has gotten a lot better in the recent year. The donkeys look well fed and they can have water up at the Monastery after a strenuous climb up. If you walk, be careful around the donkeys and step aside to let them go by.
You'll be back at the Treasury about 3PM. Take a caleche up to the Visitor's Center which is now uphill. When you leave Petra, there are several restaurants close by where you can enjoy a light meal or a drink before heading back to Amman.
• Ticket to Petra is $50 ($70) per person
• The day trip to Petra is around 100 JD ($140) per vehicle