Jordan didn’t seem an obvious choice for a family holiday at first, but the more I looked into it the more curious I got. And now I agree, it’s a wonderful and incredibly child-friendly destination I can only recommend.
Our Jordan Itinerary
Most articles I read during my research suggested that it is possible to cover Jordan’s main attractions in 5-7 days. This always seemed a little hectic to me. Travelling with a toddler we wanted to avoid spending long hours in the car each day and make sure we had enough time to breathe and rest in between. This resulted in a multi-stop itinerary with relatively short journeys in between. In total we spent 10 nights in Jordan:
- Madaba – 3 nights
- Dana – 1 night
- Wadi Musa – 1 night
- Wadi Rum – 1 night
- Aqaba – 1 night
- Dead Sea – 1 night
- Amman – 2 nights
We travelled by car, which was not only easy but also part of the fun. The roads are in good condition, especially on the three main highways. The scenery is simply breath-taking. Signage is sparse but sufficient, however, I would recommend to invest in a good map or phone data in any case.
Exploring Jordan in ten days
We started our stay in Jordan in Madaba, a charming little town 20km west of Queen Alia International Airport. Madaba is best known for its rich collection of mosaics, including the spectacular Mosaic Map of the Holy Land dating back to the 6th century.
We found Madaba a great starting point to acclimatise and settle into Jordanian life. It’s friendly, lively and easy to navigate, while not too overwhelming. There are a number of wonderful restaurants, too. Check out Haret Jdoudna and enjoy meze in its cozy courtyard. Adonis Restaurant is also worth a visit, serving delicious food.
Madaba is also a good base for exploring the major attraction of northwest Jordan. From here you reach the Dead Sea in an hour, Mount Nebo in less than half. Setting eyes on the ‘Promised Land’ for the first time is breathtaking, regardless of religious conviction. Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan, roughly an hour from Madaba, is interesting but now mainly a place for people of Christian faith who wish to be baptised in this special place.
We stayed at the Saint John Hotel on King Talal Street, right in the centre of Madaba. The hotel was basic but staff were friendly and helpful. The roof terrace restaurant offered a great place to start the day, and an even better one to finish!
King’s Highway, Karak and Dana
After three nights in Madaba we headed towards our first camp experience, in the hills above the Dana Biosphere Reserve. The village of Dana sits on the edge of Wadi Dana and is roughly 200km south of Madaba.
We travelled to Dana via the King’s Highway, which is a must-see attraction in itself. The King’s Highway runs past Wadi Mujib, offering some of the most stunning views I have ever seen. Note that if you wish to hike in Wadi Mujib access is via the Dead Sea highway.
A little further south lies Karak Castle, one of the largest castles in the region which towers over the city. It is a ruin, but an impressive one. Sadly the information provided is very sparse so a visit can feel a little aimless. But, like so many places in Jordan, the views are incredible. Worth stopping for some falafel and hummus in Karak Town and wondering the narrow alleyways of the Suq.
Al-Nawatef camp lies on the edge of Wadi Dana. The accommodation is super-basic but the sunset, starry night sky and sunrise are to die for. A simple dinner and breakfast is provided on site and there are a couple of showers with running water.
Continuing south we reached Wadi Musa, the gateway to the ancient city of Petra and one of the new seven wonders of the world.
Like most places in this part of the world, Wadi Musa is very hilly and it’s worth staying nearby the entrance to the tourist site. Candles Hotel is a little outdated but perfectly located and not too pricey.
We spent an afternoon and a morning in Petra before carrying on to the Wadi Rum desert. Our stay at Candles Camp was one of the highlights of our trip and the most memorable experience for Rosie. Candles Camp is the furthest of the camps, a good 40 minutes jeep ride into the desert. The Bedouin crew prepared our meal in a traditional underground barbecue, delicious. Afterwards we spent the evening around the campfire, singing and gazing at the gazillion stars.
While there is an abundance of activities in Wadi Rum, few are suitable for under 3s, so we left the desert behind us and headed even further south the next morning.
Aqaba is Jordan’s main red sea resort and a popular diving spot. Its busy streets and restaurant chains were quite a shock after our serene night in then desert. We only spent one night here so only got a very quick impression. While the red sea was beautiful to swim in and a welcome change to the endless dust, South Beach, a divers’ and backpacker hotspot, was a little littered and disappointing. While Aqaba is a tourist hotspot it is no less conservative and it’s best for women to dress modestly to avoid unwelcome attention.
Tala Bay is a bit upmarket, with several international hotel chains located there. Its marina is the departure point of the Neptune Submarine Tour. The two hour tour in the bright yellow ‘glassbottom-boat-meets-submarine’ was a wonderful way of experiencing the underwater world of the bay with a toddler. From the underwater glass cabin we were able to spot the ship and plane wrecks stranded on the seabed and get a glimpse of the multicoloured colours and fish shoals of the red sea.
From Aqaba we took the Dead Sea highway all the way back to the Dead Sea, where we had planned a short stay at a Spa hotel. Not sure what we had expected but in reality the Dead Sea experience was hardly different from our initial visit via the public beach. Nonetheless, the pool, comfy room and glutenous breakfast buffet were welcome luxuries after several nights in basic accommodation.
Our last stop in Jordan was the capital, Amman. To save ourselves the hassle of driving in Amman (and some money) we dropped the car off at the airport and took a taxi into the city, which takes c. 45 minutes. Amman was as busy and dusty as we expected, packed with cars and people.
The main sights, such as the fantastic Citadel and Roman Theatre, are all easily explored on foot. I also loved soaking up the atmosphere in Amman’s busy Suqs.
Amman is just about manageable with a pushchair, but bear in mind the city is quite hilly and there are a few steps to climb in places.
We really enjoyed Rainbow Street, which offered a nice respite from the hustle and bustle of downtown. It has almost a European feel to it with lots of cafes, restaurants and galleries.
A little further out is the Children’s Museum which really is very good (Top Tip: Take an Uber which is available in Amman). Kids get to explore various aspects of modern life, physics, society and geology in a fun way that offers something for kids of all ages. Rosie particularly enjoyed shopping in the mini-supermarket, locking daddy in prison at the police station, playing pilot in an actual plane cockpit and printing her own souvenir money at the bank.
Our hotel (Arab Tower Hotel) was in downtown, in close walking distance to the main sights such as the Citadel and Roman Theatre. The hotel was basic but clean and the location was perfect. Disappointingly there was no restaurant on the roof top but the breakfast was the best we had in Jordan. Everyone we asked recommended the same three restaurants in Amman. Luckily they were all only a few minutes’ walk away.
- Al Quds Restaurant is famous for its traditional Jordanian mansaf – which is delicious.
- Next door is Habiba Sweets, a paradise of cakes, baklava and all sorts of sweets.
- Hashem serves some of the best falafel I have ever tasted.
In the evening we discovered the excellent rooftop bar at the Amman Pasha Hotel, just around the corner from the Arab Tower Hotel. The views over the city are stunning, there is life music, alcohol is served and there is even a little petting zoo! Perfect way to relax after a tiring day exploring the city.
Our Jordan trip finished with two nights in Amman. This ten day itinerary worked well for us, offering a good variety of places with lots to see and experience.
What do you think? Do you feel curious to explore Jordan? Was this article useful? Let me know!