A series of vehicles driving towards a moutain in Wadi Rum, Jordan

Our Favourite Historical Places in Jordan (That Aren’t Petra)

Jordan’s ancient history is both beautiful and mesmerising.

This story was created in partnership with: Jordan Tourism Board 

Jordan is a hotbed for historical sites that will give you a rare chance to explore some of the earth’s oldest ruins and wonders. Lots of travellers visit famous Petra, but this country is rich in more ancient landmarks and heritage. That’s why we’re sharing our favourite historical places in Jordan, other than Petra, of course!

1. Amman Citadel

In general, Jordan’s capital Amman is rolling in old-world character, but the citadel in the heart of the city’s downtown is an important historical site. Located on a hilltop, the Amman Citadel towers above the city and has some genuinely iconic names associated with it: the Temple of Hercules for one. Then there’s the stunning blue-domed Umayyad Palace and am impressive 1700-metre long wall which dates back to the Bronze Age. With so many landmarks in one spot, not to mention the beautiful views over the city, the Amman Citadel is a lovely place to begin your journey through Jordan’s history.

stone ruins and pillars with a city in the backgrou
The Temple of Hercules, Amman Citadel | © Lawrence Murray/Flickr

How to visit: The Amman Citadel is open from 8 am until 7 pm on Saturdays to Thursdays between April and September and until 4 pm between October and March. The citadel is only open from 10 am until 4 pm on Fridays throughout the year.

2. Roman amphitheatre

A famous landmark in Amman, the Roman amphitheatre dates back to the reign of Antonius Pius (138-161 CE). Carved into a hill, the theatre has a seating capacity of 6000 and is built on three tiers. During the rule of Pius, the public would have sat according to hierarchy: important rulers nearest to the action, military in the middle and the general public towards the back. It is easily one of the most impressive remnants of ancient Rome in Jordan.

a series of ancient steps cut into the side of a hill
Roman amphitheatre | © Francisco Anzola/Flickr

How to visit: The best way to experience this relic is by checking out one of the concerts and cultural events that often take place here or by taking a walk through the two museums.

3. The Ruins of Jerash

Discover an incredible piece of ancient Rome in the Middle East. In Jerash, as you behold Hadrian’s Arch, you begin to understand the historical significance of Jordan. That it goes much deeper than old-world charm.

According to history books, Alexander the Great founded the city around 331 B.C., and some hundred years later came the Romans. Experts believe that there is still a lot more of this archaeological site to uncover, but the excavated ruins make for one of the best-preserved Roman towns in the world.

Along with Hadrian’s Arch, some of the top ruins to look out for are the Hippodrome (which would hold up to 15,000 spectators during sporting events), the Forum, and numerous avenues, hilltop temples and theatres.

ancient sand stone coloured pillars that are ruins
The Jerash ruins | © Falco/Pixabay

How to visit: The ruins are very accessible and only a day trip away from Amman. You can book a tour ahead of time, but lots of visitors just come and pay for entry on the day – make sure you bring cash for this. The ruins are open from 8 am to 4 pm during winter and 8 am to 5 pm during the summer.

4. Ajloun Castle

It’s always worth visiting Ajloun Castle for the views alone. It overlooks a lovely landscape, which includes the surrounding mountains and three major wadis that lead to Jordan Valley. So, along with exploring this impressive historical attraction, visitors to Ajloun Castle can also do a bit of hiking.

Also known as Rabad Castle, this 12th-century castle sits on the hilltop of Jabal Auf and has had a tumultuous past thanks to its strategic position during the Crusades. You’ll also find a museum inside which has a collection of artefacts that have accumulated over the years and can give you further insight into the castle’s history.

How to visit: The castle is just three kilometres from the town of Ajloun, you can walk or take a taxi to the ticket office. You can also get to Ajloun Castle from Jerash. The castle is open every day from 8 am to 7 pm during the summer and 8 am to 5 pm during the winter.

5. Madaba

Just 30-kilometres southwest of Amman lies the charming market town of Madaba. Visitors often come here to enjoy local street food and explore several historic sites. Madaba is renowned for its collection of Byzantine and Umayyad mosaic masterpieces. The most famous of these mosaics is an ancient map found on the floor of St George’s Church.

Believed to be created in 560 AD, the Madaba Map depicts the Middle East, and part of it contains the oldest surviving depiction of the Holy Land and Jerusalem. At one time, this mosaic had over 2 million pieces, and although much of it is now lost, you can still grasp how precious this relic is.

small pieces of tiles depicting a city
Part of a floor mosaic in Saint George Church depicting the Holy Land | © Carole Raddato/Flickr

How to visit: Look for itineraries that stopover in Madaba or plan a couple of nights here during your trip so you can spend time exploring the markets and historical sites of the town.

6. Umm Qais

The hills above Jordan Valley are home to another impressive historical place. Make sure you visit the ruins of the Decapolis city of Gadara, now known as Umm Qais. Stories from the Bible say that it was here that Jesus performed the miracle of casting the Devil out of two madmen and into a herd of pigs.

What’s unique about this ancient Jordanian site is visitors can marvel at Roman ruins alongside an abandoned Ottoman-era village. Some of the remains to look out for include a theatre, a colonnaded street, a mausoleum and a Byzantine Church.

Perhaps the most breathtaking thing of all here are the views from the rooftop which overlook not one, but three countries: Jordan, Israel and Syria.

How to visit: There are many organised tours from Amman to Umm Qais. The castle is open every day from 8 am to 7 pm during the summer and 8 am to 4 pm during the winter.

7. Wadi Rum

The Wadi Rum, or Valley of the Moon, is one of the planet’s most extraordinary ecosystems and archaeological sites. In this natural wonder, archaeologists have discovered 12,000-year-old inscriptions and petroglyphs that depict our earliest beginnings. And even the geological features of this vast red desert are as old as time. While the sandstone mountains and granite formations are perfect for nature lovers, hikers and climbers, anyone can appreciate this phenomenon. If you want to learn about what earth may have been like in the beginning, come and witness the remote and protected beauty of the Wadi Rum.

brown rock formation under blue sky during daytime
Wadi Rum | © Yuliya Kosoapova/Unsplash

How to visit: There are many ways to experience the Wadi Rum. You can start with a half-day jeep tour, but it’s also possible to camp and spend the night with Bedouin tribes and go hiking in the sand.

*Please note that for many of these attractions, during the month of Ramadan and on Fridays and official holidays, opening times can vary. Check before visiting.

Based in Toronto, Sahar is a full-time content editor for Days to Come and part-time travel junkie.

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