Get ready to explore the most amazing desert castles in Jordan! Prepare to be amazed by Jordan castles like Aljoun and Karak and the remote Jordan Desert Castles
When you travel to Jordan it’s easy to get pulled in by incredible attractions like the city of Petra and the martian landscapes of Wadi Rum. But this small nation has so much more to offer visitors. One of the things that had to make it into our Jordan itinerary was as many of the amazing castles in Jordan as we could. Lucky for us Jordan is a small country, so we just get a chance to see the most popular ones, we ended up getting a chance to explore all of the best castles in Jordan!
We had the added fun of traveling through Jordan with kids, so visiting castles were made that much more spectacular. I mean there is no one better to explore castles with than children. Their imagination helps light every experience on fire. So read on and discover which of the Jordan castles we thought were the most magical, which were the most mysterious, and which one of the castles in Jordan completely blew our minds.
Exploring Castles in Jordan
When we were researching our travels in Jordan, we didn’t just want to see the big places like the Dead Sea and Jerash. We wanted to make sure that we got to travel as deep in the country as possible. There were things that sat way at the top of our list of places to visit in Jordan. Visions of strolling through vast Roman ruins and riding horses along spectacular cliff dwellings filled our minds. This small middle eastern country had so much more in store for us than we expected. It turns out though that exploring the castes in Jordan was one of the most surprisingly fun things to do in Jordan.
The castles of Jordan are dotted throughout the harsh desert landscape of Jordan. They serve as a reminder of the incredible and vast history of this country. Some of the castles were desert homes to the wealthy elite. Some were Crusader castles in Jordan, home to the elite Knights Templar. Other castles in Jordan were luxurious bathhouses catering to nobility. We visited as many as possible during our week in Jordan. Here we lay out the 5 of the most incredible castles in Jordan for you!
Our 5 Favorite Jordan Castles
Qasr Kharana (Qasr Al-Kharaneh, Al-Kharaneh Castle)
Qasr Kharana is one of the most well-preserved desert castles in Jordan. Located just 55 km east of the capital city of Amman, Qasr Al-Kharaneh is a bit of a mystery to many of those who have explored it. Qasr Kharana sits on a massive plot of land just off of the highway and is one of the coolest places to visit in Jordan. At first glimpse, we thought it was a well-protected fortress designed for battle. The massively thick outer walls pocked often with what looks like archer slots give the castle an intimidating look. Inside the castle, the walls are massively thick. At some points, the walls were over 12 ft (4 meters) in thickness.
The guides at Qasr Kharana told us that the thick walls were part of a complex air-conditioning system that helped keep the oppressive desert heat at bay. The slots, too narrow to be useful for archers, were for air-flow. Qasr Kharana was built around 711 CE. This Jordan castle was likely built as a meeting place or hunting lodge for the region’s elite. Kharanah Castle may also have been a refuge for passing camel trains. While Qasr Kharana lacks the swashbuckling history of some of the other castles in Jordan, walking through the inside will no doubt transport you back through time.
Tips For Visiting Qasr Kharana
Qasr Kharana is an easy day trip from Amman. It can also be combined with many of the Desert Castles in Jordan for a full-day excursion. Here is what you need to know about visiting Qasr Kharana in Jordan.
Qasr Kharana Opening Hours: Qasr Kharana is open daily from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
Qasr KharanaEntrance Fee: The cost of entry for Qasr Kharana is JD 3.
Do You Require A Guide at Qasr Kharana?: Guides are not required at Qasr Kharana. It’s very easy to explore the grounds and the ruins on your own. There are often guides, or “Castle Experts” that might walk with you at the beginning and share the history of the castle with you. While they may not ask for money, a tip of a couple of JD is much appreciated.
Qasr Amra (Amra Castle, Qasr Aymra)
At first glance, Qasr Amra looks like it belongs on Luke Skywalker’s home planet of Tatooine. The drab exterior, made from limestone and basalt, with its domed roof had me searching the sky for a second moon and sand people. But the current Qasr Amra is actually the remnants of what was once a much larger Jordan castle. All that remains of the original castle is the foundation. And the current building is actually a hunting cabin that was part of the larger complex.
Inside the walls of Qasr Amra hides something truly incredible. Qasr Amra, located 131 km (81 miles) from Amman in eastern Jordan, maybe the most important of all the castles in Jordan. After walking past a bathhouse and well, we passed through the large front doors of the castle. As my eyes adjusted to the light, I was astounded by the amazing displays of art that covered the inside of the castle from floor to ceiling. Qasr Amra houses what is considered one of the most important examples of early Islamic art and architecture in Jordan.
While traveling through Jordan with kids, Qasr Amra instantly became a favorite for the boys because of the colorful art displays and the friendly, engaging guide who helped to get them involved. The Qasr Amra guide was amazing at explaining all the intricate details of this incredible place.
One of the coolest pieces of artwork in Qasr Amra was on the dome above the bathhouse. This painting is believed to be the earliest image of the night sky that was painted on something other than a flat surface.
Tips For Visiting Qasr Amra
Qasr Kharana is often combined with other desert castles in Jordan as a day excursion. It lies along the King’s Highway but is sometimes skipped due to its distance from Amman. Here is what you need to know about visiting Qasr Amra in Jordan.
Qasr Amra Opening Hours: Qasr Amra is open daily from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
Qasr Amra Entrance Fee: The cost of entry for Qasr Amra is JD 3.
Do You Require A Guide at Qasr Amra?: When we visited it seemed that guides were mandatory. There was a JD5 5 fee for the guide, but it was well worth the money. The guide’s insight into the history of Qasr Amra was unmatched and his rapport with the kids was amazing.
Kerak Castle (Karak Castle, Qasr Kerak)
Pro-Tip: Bring headlamps or flashlights with you. There are little to no lights within the castle and many of the Kerak castle tunnels are underground. Photo Credit: Visit Jordan
With one of the most active battle histories of the castles in Jordan, Kerak Castle had to make our list. This massive Crusader Castle in Jordan located in the town of Al-Karak has been the center of battles and sieges. It was occupied between its inception in 1142 CE all the way up until 1893 when it housed over 1400 soldiers.
Kerak Castle is laid out like a maze, which makes sense given its central focus in so many battles. Although much of Kerak castle has been destroyed by nearly a millennia of skirmishes, there are still many layers of tunnels to explore. The boys had an amazing time wandering through the arched pathways and partially excavated halls.
Tips For Visiting Kerak Castle
Kerak Castle is about a 1 hour and 45-minute drive (131 km, 81 miles) from Amman. A visit here is often combined with other desert castles in Jordan. Here is what you need to know about visiting Kerak Castle in Jordan.
Kerak Castle Opening Hours: Kerak Castle is open daily from 8:00 AM to 6:30 PM in summer.
Kerak Castle Entrance Fee: The cost of entry for Kerak Castle is JD 2. The entrance fee includes entrance to the Karak Archaeological Museum.
Do You Require A Guide at Kerak Castle? Guides are not required in Kerak Castle. When we visited there were guides available outside the castle gate, but it’s easy to explore Kerak Castle on your own.
Al Azraq Castle (Qasr Al Azraq, Qasr Asraq)
Not far from the Azraq Oasis is the incredible Qasr Azraq. Protected by tall walls and massive basalt doorways, Qasr Azraq was built by the Romans around 200 CE. It was heavily modified by the different armies that controlled it during its time and eventually acted as an operating base for the famous Brit, Lawrence of Arabia during the Arab revolt.
T.E. Lawrence wrote about the fortress in his book Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which helped Qasr Azraq become a major tourist attraction in Jordan. Qasr Azraq, lying about 100 km east of the capital of Amman, is one of the desert castles in Jordan. One of the rooms overlooking the main entrance was the room that T.E. Lawrence lived in during his time in Jordan.
Kids will love trying to open massive black basalt stone doors. These doors have incredible weight, yet they still swing properly (with a little effort). Near the entrance to Azraq Castle, there is a board game etched into the stone floor by posted soldiers looking to escape the boredom of sentry duty.
Tips For Visiting Al Azraq Castle
Al Azraq Castle is about 100 km (62 miles) from Amman. A visit here is often combined with other desert castles in Jordan. Here is what you need to know about visiting Al Azraq Castle in Jordan.
Al Azraq Castle Opening Hours: Al Azraq Castle is open daily from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM in summer.
Al Azraq Castle Entrance Fee: The cost of entry for Al Azraq Castle is JD 3.
Do You Require A Guide at Al Azraq Castle? Guides are not required in Al Azraq Castle. When we visited there were guides available outside the castle gate, but it’s easy to explore Al Azraq Castle on your own.
Aljoun Castle (Ajjun Castle, Qasr Ajlun)
Built on the summit of Mt ‘Auf in 1188, Aljoun Castle offers incredible views of the Jordan Valley. Aljoun castle was in a strategic place for defending against attacks from the Crusaders. Aljoun Castle is the most popular of all the castles in Jordan due to its proximity to Amman. The interior is lit in many places by colorful accent lighting, and the rooms have been almost entirely excavated after earthquakes in 1837 ad 1927.
The Aljoun castle grounds have well-maintained bathrooms and amenities. This is a luxury compared to some of the more remote desert castles in Jordan. Although you can reach Aljoun castle by walking, the climb is very steep. If you aren’t driving in Jordan, it’s worth the small amount (JD1-2 each way) to catch a taxi to the entrance.
Facts About Visiting Aljoun Castle
Because of its location close to Amman and the ruins of Umm Qais, visiting Aljoun Castle is easy to do. But there are a few things to about visiting Aljoun Castle before you go.
Aljoun Castle Opening Hours: Aljoun Castle is open daily from 8:30 AM to 6:30 PM.
Aljoun Castle Entrance Fee: the cost of entry for Aljoun Castle is JD 3.
Do You Require A Guide at Aljoun Castle?: Guides are not required at Aljoun Castle. It’s very easy to explore the grounds and the ruins on your own. There are guides available near the entrance if you would like to learn more about the history of Aljoun Castle.
Located just an hour from Amman, Qasr al-Hallabat was once a mosque that included an advanced water system and a bathhouse. This abandoned Umayyad complex got its start as a Roman fort but was eventually abandoned in 749 AD. Incredibly, the vibrant and detailed mosaic floors and Greek inscribed walls remain in phenomenal condition.
This is one of the more off-the-beaten-track desert castles in Jordan and rarely gets visitors. But it does have a small visitors center that was established by the Spanish Archaeological Mission. This small castle on the Eastern Desert Loop is worth the typical 30-minute visit.
Tips For Visiting Qasr al-Hallabat
Qasr al-Hallabat is an easy day trip from Amman. It can also be combined with many of the Desert Castles in Eastern Jordan for a full-day excursion. Here is what you need to know about visiting Qasr al-Hallabat in Jordan.
Qasr al-Hallabat Opening Hours: Qasr al-Hallabat is open during daylight hours.
Qasr al-Hallabat Entrance Fee: The cost of entry for Qasr Kharana is JD 3. Technically this desert castle should be included with the Jordan Pass, however, the staff at the entrance might “forget” this.
Do You Require A Guide at Qasr al-Hallabat?: Guides are not required at Qasr al-Hallabat. It’s very easy to explore the grounds and the ruins on your own. There are often guides, or “Castle Experts” that might walk with you at the beginning and share the history of the castle with you. While they may not ask for money, a tip of a couple of JD is much appreciated.
A mile down the road from Qasr al-Hallabat is a sister site to the castle. Hammam as-Sarah is easy to miss, but this bathhouse is one of the oldest remaining pieces of architecture in Jordan.
The hydraulic system runs along the ruined garden wall and well. It only takes a few minutes to visit, but it’s worth the extra drive to get here.
Tips For Visiting Hammam As-Sarah
Hammam as-Sarah t is an easy day trip from Amman. It is good to combine this with a visit to nearby Qasr al-Hallabat.
Hammam as-Sarah Opening Hours: Qasr as-Sarah is open during daylight hours.
Hammam as-Sarah Entrance Fee: There is no cost to visit Hammam as-Sarah
Do You Require A Guide at Hammam as-Sarah?: Guides are not required to visit Hammam as Sarah.
The final stop on our tour of the incredible Jordan castes is Qasr al-Mshatta. This 8th-century palace complex is located 30 km from Amman on the north side of Queen Alia International Airport. The castle, which was created for Caliph Al-Walid II between 743-744during his brief reign (743-744).
The Qasr al-Mshatta complex was never fully completed. Much of the intricate designs are still in place on the walls and columns throughout the site. However, the most spectacular piece, the palace’s facade was removed and is now on display at the Pergamon museum in Berlin, Germany.
Tips For Visiting Qasr al-Mshatta
Qasr al-Mshatta t is an easy day trip from Amman.
Qasr al-Mshatta Entrance Fee: There is no cost to visit Qasr al-Mshatta
Do You Require A Guide at Qasr al-Mshattaa?: Guides are not required to visit this Jordan castle.
Now It’s Your Time To Visit These Jordan Castles
There is so much more to this small nation than meets the eye. Have you ever been to Jordan? What is your favorite castle to visit?
Jordan offers some of the most incredible landscapes and historical experiences in the World. So there’s no surprise it’s becoming more and more popular for family travel. So if you’re looking for things to do in Jordan with kids, I hope this has helped you out. Feel free to drop any questions or comments below. I always answer them.
If you’re interested in exploring more Jordan experiences, check out our Jordan family travel blog right here.
If you’re passionate about family travel, head on over to our Family Travel Support Group on Facebook. It’s a fantastic community of parents who love travel. We share experiences, knowledge, and the lessons learned along the way. You can also sign up for our newsletter to keep in the loop about new family travel adventures.
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Monday 9th of August 2021
It is 'Ajlun' not 'Aljun' . Though, Nice picks! Thanks for suggested some hidden gems. There's also Um Qays, not a castle, but it definitely deserves a visit. It's an ancient city like Jerash, but with different scenery and stones. Cheers!
Tuesday 10th of August 2021
Thanks for catching that!
Saturday 5th of June 2021
Thank you for highlighting yet another intriguing and wonderful attraction in Jordan.
Having been born and raised there, and as I do speak Arabic, I only have one suggestion to make... Please RRRolll your RRRR when pronouncing Kharana (KhaRRRana) (as in Qasr KhaRRRana). Otherwise everybody is gonna think you're talking !
(If you don't believe me, look up the meaning of the word "Khara"... Then consider that adding the "-na" at the end, usually adds in the "our" to whatever reference it is added to. So "Khara-na" literally means "our sh....". In written Arabic, and to emphasize the pronounciation of the letter R, you might often notice that there is an accent symbol written atop the r in Arabic. I describe it as a "3 laying on its back". It is used when emphasis on a particular letter is to be made when pronouncing it).
Cheers to all and safe travels...
Monday 7th of June 2021
Noted! And after a little research, you’re right. Dropping the ‘na’ at the end of Kharana would drastically change that word! ?
Thursday 15th of November 2018
Such a great guide! I'm in the process of planning my 15 day trip to Jordan, where I'll be driving all around the country. And, day 1 is visiting the desert castles in the east. Thank you for saying if guides are necessary or not (as I know there are hiking trails in the country where guides are mandatory). Was parking easy for all of the castles in this post (I will be hitting all of them)? I read that driving in Aljoun can be hairy. Is it ok driving in there or is it better to park on the outskirts and take a taxi to the castle? Thank you so much for sharing!
Thursday 15th of November 2018
Sounds like you are going to have an incredible adventure in Jordan! Parking was easy for all of the castles ... except for Aljoun :) It is at the top of a steep hill and the roads are very narrow. You would definitely be better off paying a couple of JD for a ride to the castle.
Friday 9th of November 2018
There are so many castles in so many different forms, shapes, and sizes all around the world. More I travel, more I appreciate diversity and imagination used to build these structures. Amra Castle, indeed, looks like it belongs in Tatooine. At the same time, it also seems… homely? Perhaps, it’s due to the combination of soft earthly colors and rounded shapes that somehow manage to look non-threatening. Thank you for sharing lesser-known wonders of Jordan.
Tuesday 6th of December 2016
I have never been to Jordan and I think I love Qasr Aljoun Castle the most. :) Btw, I only ever heard of Petra and no castles at all, this is totally a new information for me. Love seeing your photos with your kids, too!
Tuesday 6th of December 2016
I'm glad we could help introduce some of Jordan's other amazing attractions. And don't forget to check out the Wadi's when you visit!