Are you crazy? Aren’t you scared? These were the standard comments when we mentioned to people our plans for our Jordan holidays with kids. Instead of being faced with questions such as the top things to do in Jordan, we were instead asked, “is it safe to travel to Jordan?” And even more often, “is Jordan safe to travel to with kids?”
At the time of our visit, tourism in the middle-east was still feeling the effects of the Arab spring. Yet, in the midst of all the chaos, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was an oasis of peace and stability. Jordan shares its borders with Syria, Israel and the Palestinian Territory, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq. Thus, while Jordan’s proximity to some volatile environments is true, the country of Jordan itself remains a very stable, safe, and importantly, a very welcoming country for travelers.
Why Plan Jordan Holidays With Kids?
Since our youngest son, D was born, we had been taking it easy on our family travel adventures. We went on a road trip around Eastern Canada with Christina’s sister and her family (4 adults, 4 kids in one RV for 10 days. EPIC!) and had an incredible journey to sunny shores of Cartagena and searched for hidden treasure in Bogota Colombia. However, with D on the cusp of turning 2-years-old, we decided that it was time to take advantage of our last opportunity for him to fly as a lap-child and avoid paying full airfare for him (Yes, that is taking it easy for us!). We checked our bucket list and decided that, with all the things to see in Jordan, it would be the perfect adventure travel for our family.
Our 8 Day Jordan Itinerary
Traveling through Jordan was one of the most incredible experiences of our life. We weren’t prepared for just how life-changing family travel in Jordan would turn out to be for all of us. D continues to say “Jordan is my home” to this day! Our 8-day Jordan itinerary had us walking through history. From one of the oldest continuously occupied cities in the world to one of the most awe-inspiring ruins in the world.
If you are considering traveling in Jordan with kids, don’t think, don’t wait. Just book the ticket and go. In all of my travels, I have never heard anyone say anything but the most incredible things about travel in Jordan. Jordan is a small country, so it’s very easy to explore Jordan in a week. Although I always say, why spend 7 days in a country when you can spend 8!
Jordan Itinerary Day 1: Ruins of Northwest Jordan
On the first day of our 8 day Jordan itinerary, we woke up early, had a great breakfast at the Toledo Amman Hotel. From there, our guide for our time in Amman, Qais picked us up and we made our way towards Umm Qais to explore the Ruins of Northwest Jordan
Umm Qais Roman Ruins
Lying 30 km northwest of the city of Irbid in the village of Umm Qais lies the Decapolis city of Gadara. The boys spent time exploring the shops and cobblestone roads of Umm Qais. They also loved using the abandoned Umm Qais amphitheater to star in their own play. Christina and I spent much of our time in Umm Qais marveling at the epic vistas overlooking the Dead Sea, Israel, Syria, and Palestine.
The historic Ajloun castle lies atop Mount Auf and was built between 1184 and 1188. The castle offers amazing views of the Jordan valley and three Wadis while the hallways within the castle walls offer countless nooks and crannies to explore. It is amazingly detailed and tastefully lit. Aljoun Castle was also teeming with local children outside which made visiting a thrill for our kids.
Jerash Roman Ruins
In the mountains of Gilead lie the ruins of the Decapolis city of Jerash. The remote location of Jerash, Jordan saved it from much of the raids and pillaging. As such, you can still wander among the nearly flawless towering columns that line the city. Jerash offers one of the most complete examples of a provincial Roman city. In fact, Jerash is the oldest Roman ruin that exists outside of Italy. Be sure to explore the gorgeous temple of Artemis while you’re there.
Jordan Itinerary Day 2: Mount Nebo, The King’s Highway, and Petra By Night
Mount Nebo stands 1,000 meters (3280 ft) high. According to tradition, this is the mountain from which the prophet Moses first gazed upon the Promised Land. Mt Nebo offers sweeping views of the Holy Land and its ongoing excavations are uncovering incredible remains of early Byzantine mosaics. It’s impossible to stare out from the top of this place and not be awestruck by the history and importance of this place in the hearts of so many cultures and religions.
After pulling ourselves away from Mount Nebo we made our way to the nearby city of Madaba Jordan. Madaba is often called “The city of mosaics” due to the incredible mosaic artwork has become a symbol of the city. We stopped by St. George church to see the Byzantine era mosaic map of the Holy Land. There were also incredible stops at other holy places such as the Church of the Virgin.
Leaving Madaba, we began our Jordan road trip towards the legendary Kings Highway. Just South of Madaba off the old King’s Highway sits Karak Castle. Karak castle sat within the Biblical Kingdom of Moab and dates back to 1142. The upper levels offer spectacular areas to explore while the lower level offers vast, dimly lit vaulted rooms and corridors. The lower levels have long, dark tunnels that are amazing for exploring.
Pro-Tip: Bring headlamps when you’re exploring the castles of Jordan. There are few to no lights and there are many underground tunnels to explore.
Shobak Castle is one of the lesser-visited Crusader castles within Jordan. Many tour operators skip it due to it being slightly off the beaten path. That’s a shame because Shobak Castle offers one of the most exciting exploring opportunities of all the castles in Jordan. Shortly after you enter, be sure to check out the long, winding tunnel (located at the base of a nondescript set of stairs) and see if you can reach its final destination.
Petra by Night
We arrived in Petra early evening on a Monday. This meant that we still had time to catch Petra by Night. Petra By Night is when the Siq path to the Treasury in Petra is lit by candlelight. It was incredible finding ourselves staring at the stunning Treasury building while Bedouin singers and musicians entrance you with their magic. The boys struggled to stay awake through the performance. Instead, they were lulled to sleep by the incredible sounds of the Bedouin flutes.
Jordan Itinerary Day 3: Lower Petra and the High Place of Sacrifice
The Treasury building in Petra is the face of Jordan tourism and it is by all means as spectacular as you can imagine. However, Petra as a whole is actually a huge 60 square kilometer city. And there is so much more to see in Petra than just the Treasury. We put aside 2 of our 8 days in Jordan so that we could see as much of this World Wonder as possible.
On our first day in Petra, we explored the various caves of lower Petra including the Tomb of the Roman Soldier and the other fascinating homes and tombs. We also made the journey to the High Place of Sacrifice, which offers sweeping views of Lower Petra. The High Place Of Sacrifice also offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of Petra as a crucial Silk Road trading city.
Jordan Itinerary Day 4: Petra Monastery and Upper Petra
Our second day in Petra brought us up to the top of the 850 steps that lead to the Petra Monastery. The boys and Christina rode donkeys, while I trudged behind carrying our gear on foot (I wasn’t comfortable putting all that weight onto a poor donkey). The Petra Monastery may be the most awe-inspiring building within the bounds of the city of Petra. In fact, The Petra Monastery may be one of the most incredible buildings in the world!
Located near the end of an hour climb, 220 meters above the floor of the city, you can relax and sip Bedouin tea or on some mint lemonade while gazing upon the building’s facade. This day also had us exploring the Roman Nymphaeum and the fascinating colonnaded street. Later in the day, we were invited by our guide back to his home for some mint tea and conversation with his family. This gave our boys some much-needed playtime with the local youngsters.
Jordan Itinerary Day 5: Little Petra, Wadi Rum
The 5th day of our 8-day Jordan Itinerary was packed. We had planned to visit Petra’s little sister, Little Petra the previous day, but were hindered by a movie being filmed at the site when we arrived. Instead, we spent the afternoon lazing in the pool of our Wadi Musa hotel The Amra Palace International Hotel. The next morning we woke and drove nine kilometers north of Wadi Musa and the Lost City of Petra towards the Petra suburb commonly referred to as Little Petra.
Little Petra is more than just a tiny version of Petra. It has it’s own small version of the Siq as well as similar facades carved out of the sandstone cliffs. But many of the ruins in Little Petra are in much better condition. Some even still have the original intricate paintings on the walls and ceilings. Be sure to trek up the rocks of the canyon at the end of the town for sweeping views and include a visit to the local shops for some tea.
Glamping In Wadi Rum
Also referred to as The Valley of the Moon, Wadi Rum is the largest Wadi in Jordan. Here we were immersed in the nomadic Bedouin culture at the Wadi Rum Night Luxury Camp. We rested by the fire with an epic view of the stars. The night was perfect, with traditional Bedouin meals cooked in pits beneath the desert sand. Wadi Rum Jordan is also a key part of the famous Lawrence of Arabia adventure. And we found numerous sites and scenes from his experiences in Wadi Rum while we were there.
We explored nearby sites including massive natural stone bridges, raced up and down red sand dunes, and watched the setting sunlight the martian landscape of Wadi Rum on fire in a bright red glow. To this day, our Jordan Wadi Rum experience remains one of the warmest memories of my travel life.
Jordan Itinerary Day 6: Beach Life in Aqaba
Riding Camels Through Wadi Rum
We spent a lazy morning at our Wadi Rum desert camp. Dining on a late breakfast before one of C’s favorite experiences in Jordan, riding camels. Our eldest son had been begging to ride a camel since we had arrived in Jordan, and in Wadi Rum we got to spend some time riding these amazing animals back towards the entrance to the conservation area. Sitting atop these gentle giants with the towering red rock mountains surrounding us was unforgettable.
SCUBA Diving In The Red Sea
From Wadi Rum we made our way to the beach town of Aqaba. Aqaba offers a dramatic step away from the hustle and bustle of every day Jordanian life. Unlike the desert towns of Jordan, Aqaba is lush, green, and very posh. When we arrived, the surroundings left no doubt that this is a popular vacation town. However, unlike many tourist destinations, Aqaba is widely visited by the locals during vacations and holidays. It offers quick stops to Israel and Palestine as well as Egypt and many come to swim, snorkel or SCUBA dive the spectacular waters of the Red Sea.
Our hotel in Aqaba, the luxurious Radisson Blu Hotel was amazing. While the kids spent some time at the hotel’s kids club getting their faces painted and playing games, Christina and I joined the Sinbad Dive Club for some underwater adventures in the warm waters of the Red Sea.
Jordan Itinerary Day 7: Bethany-Beyond-the-Jordan and The Dead Sea
Bethebara or “House of the ford” is the place that the New Testament lists the spot where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. While the Jordan river has since been diverted a hundred feet away, you can still see the marble stairs on which Jesus was claimed to have descended to the waters. Walking further will bring you to the banks of the Jordan river where you can dip your toes in the River Jordan. As we sat there with our feet in the river, we were within reaching distance of the Palestine West Bank where a large church stands.
On the Palestinian side of the river was a mass baptism taking place. Sitting there as a family with our toes in the muddy waters of the Jordan, taking in the spiritual event was incredible. The smiling faces of the Palestinians as, one by one, they were dunked beneath the waters of the Jordan was infectious and helped cast aside stereotypes that are often given to Palestine.
Floating in the Dead Sea
Although a visit to the Dead Sea is possible as a day trip from either Amman or Aqaba, we chose instead to stay in the luxurious Kempinski Hotel on the shores of the Dead Sea. There is no doubt that the town caters to tourists. And there is a notable Western atmosphere within the resorts such as the Kempinski. We found great music, delicious local food, everywhere we went. The food was so good that I put together these incredible Jordanian recipes that you can enjoy at home. And the dress of those visiting was far more liberal than in much of this conservative country.
The countless pools of the Kempinski Ishtar offered us a chance to relax. And when we were finished, we bathed in mud, and Christina and I washed in the gravity-defying waters of the Dead Sea. At approximately 244 meters (800 feet) below sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest place on the surface of the Earth.
There is a myriad of minor castles and fortresses scattered across the desert in eastern Jordan. Most of these castles were built between 660 and 750 AD in the Umayyad dynasty. A visit to some of the desert castles of Jordan offered us impressive examples of early Islamic art and architecture. While some of these castles are known for their spectacular mosaics, others hold more historic importance, both ancient and in more recent times.
We followed in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia and got lost in the Desert Castles of Jordan. On this day we visited UNESCO world heritage Amra Palace, Qasr Kharana, and Qasr al-Azrak.
The Amman Citadel sits at the center of the city of Amman Jordan. And with evidence of civilization dating back 7,000 years, it is one of the oldest, continuously occupied places on earth. We explored the soaring columns of the temple of Hercules and marveled at the statue’s hand. All that remains of the once 30 ft. statue of this Greek demi-God. We toured the Amman Citadel, stopping occasionally to pick fresh figs from the trees scattered throughout the site.
What is the Best Time to Visit Jordan
Jordan is a destination that can be experienced year-round. However, the time of year you visit Jordan can set the tone of your travels. Jordan is very mountainous, and its topology ranges from the lowest place on the surface of the Earth in the Dead Sea (~800m below sea level) to up to 1500m above sea level.
The best time to visit Jordan is usually considered to be in the spring (March-May). During this time, temperatures can be hot, but the oppressive heat of the summer hasn’t yet descended. This is also when the most plant life is sprouting, dotting the mountains and valleys with colorful wildflower blooms. During the summer, the temperatures in Amman can reach a stifling 45° Celsius at times. Although the heat is dry, so temperatures are more manageable.
Autumn is also one of the best times to visit Jordan. There are cooler temperatures, and the heavy rains usually don’t occur until the end of October. Winter in Jordan, on the other hand, can be downright chilly with temperatures in Petra often dipping below freezing. However, if you are visiting the resorts of Aqaba on the shores of the Red Sea, temperatures rarely fluctuate from their comfortable average of 24° C.
How To Experience Family Travel in Jordan
Jordan is an exceptionally easy country to travel in. Not only is Jordan safe to travel to, but Jordanians are incredibly warm, welcoming and most have a deep love for children. In fact, traveling with children in Jordan is one of the best ways to meet people. But be warned ahead of time. Jordanians tend to be very “handsy” with children. It is common for locals to touch hair, cheeks, faces, and bodies of children. We never experienced this to the point of discomfort. However, we have spoken to family travelers who had more touching than they were comfortable with. If you or your children feel uncomfortable, just say so. Most people will be very understanding and offer you your space.
If you plan on bringing your children to Jordan, prepare for a wonderful ride. Children within this small country are celebrated and universally loved. It isn’t rare for mothers in Jordan to bear 4 or 5 children, and in a country in which polygamy is legal and a Muslim man may have up to four wives, this means large families.
Cribs were never difficult to obtain in hotels, and unlike many countries without child-seat laws, most rental and tour companies have large stocks of child-seats. What was obvious during our journey, however, was the different views of gender roles. I was constantly being complimented on the fact that I took such wonderful care of my children simply because I was a male who would actually change his baby’s diaper.
Is it safe to visit Jordan with children?
Jordan boasts one of the lowest crime rates in the world, and it is not rare for children to walk, unaccompanied, for long distances to their schools. In fact, if you carry your children, you may sometimes be asked: “Why don’t you let them walk?” Jordanians are generally open, honest and invite great conversation.
Driving in Jordan
Jordan is a fairly easy country to drive in. Beyond the capital of Amman, which experiences a great deal of traffic, and can seem a bit chaotic, the rest of Jordan offers excellent highways, little traffic, and beautiful scenery. Most rental companies have car seats available for children, and apart from some of the back roads, most roads and highways in Jordan are in excellent shape.
Hiring a Driver in Jordan
One of the most popular options for travel in Jordan is hiring a driver or a local tour company. For our Jordan holidays, we contacted the highly recommended tour operator Jordan Select to help us plan our trip. Besides the obligatory visit to Petra, we also wanted to see the capital, Amman, ride a camel in the Wadi Rum desert, dive the Red Sea, go on a pilgrimage to Bethany-Beyond-the-Jordan and float in the Dead Sea. The children also wanted to explore as many castles and ruins as we could fit into our schedule. Iris, from Jordan Select, worked with us to build an itinerary that fulfilled all the requests of every member of our family. So, off to Jordan, we went!
How To Prepare for a Jordan Vacation
One of the most difficult aspects of traveling within Jordan, especially during the summer months is the extreme heat. It is not rare for temperatures to reach beyond 40°C in the middle of the day. So, ensure you bring wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, strong sunscreen and carry lots of water to avoid dehydration and heat exhaustion.
Water in Jordan is deemed safe to drink. However, children can be more vulnerable to stomach upsets. So it never hurts to keep them drinking bottled or filtered water to avoid issues. If you are traveling during the winter months, make sure to bring jackets and warm sweaters, gloves, and hats while in the mountains. If you are traveling to the Red Sea, bring t-shirts, shorts, and swimsuits. And don’t forget the sunscreen!
Jordan holidays offer a myriad of adventures for children, including exploring castle ruins (make sure to bring headlamps so they can see in every nook and cranny), running up and down giant sand dunes, building castles on the beautiful beaches and lizard spotting. In Jordan, lizards are everywhere. These, combined with the ample opportunities for donkey, mule, horse and camel rides can help make any trip to Jordan an adventure for children of all ages.
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