Amman is a great base to discover the north of Jordan. Many sights and cities are only a short distance away and make great day trips from Amman. So, if you prefer to stay in the same hotel for the majority of your holiday in Jordan, book one in Amman. And once you are done with your sightseeing in Amman, head to one or all of the amazing places described below.
The entrance fees for most places on this list are included in the Jordan Pass, so make sure you buy it before you leave home.
While there are many day trips to Petra from Amman, I would advise against it. There is much more to see in Petra than you can fit into half a day. And, the best times are in the morning and late afternoon, when there are no day tourists around and you have the place almost to yourself. So, plan 2 or 3 days for this amazing place and check out my posts about hikes in Petra and tips about visiting Petra.
Day trip to Jerash from Amman
Jerash is one of my favourite places in Jordan! I was lucky enough to be there during a gorgeous sunset, but even without that perfect light, I would have loved it just as much. It is definitely one of the must-visit sites in Jordan!
So if you only have time for one day trip from Amman, choose this one! You can combine it with Umm Qais and Ajloun, but it will be a long day and you might be over looking at Roman Ruins by the time you get to Jerash.
Jerash was part of the Decapolis and from the 1st century AD very prosperous. This is reflected in the many magnificent buildings, of which surprisingly much can still be seen.
Despite several earthquakes, many columns still stand on the great oval and along the main street.
You really get a feel for the city it once was, as many of the ruins are in good condition and the modern city was built across the river. The Nymphaeum and the Temple of Artemis are my favourite buildings. But the theatres and triumphal arches are also very impressive.
You should plan at least 2-3 hours here, especially if you like taking photos. The best light is in the late afternoon.
In summer, Jerash hosts a music festival here with many local but also international artists.
Day trip from Amman to Ajloun and Umm Qais
The fortress of Ajloun dates back to the time of the Crusaders, but was built by their Jordanian enemies, allegedly commissioned by Saladin himself. It overlooks beautiful mountains and valleys and is definitely worth a visit.
Interestingly, the fortress was attacked and partially destroyed by the Mongols in 1260. It has been extended and rebuilt several times over the centuries, which can be seen in the walls and gates in many places.
The Roman ruins of Umm Qais, also known as Gadara, date from the 3rd century BC to the 8th century AD, when an earthquake devastated the region.
Under the Romans, it was part of the Decapolis (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dekapolis) and was heavily developed and fortified to counter the Nabataean empire, with their capital city of Petra.
Today, many structures can still be easily recognised, on the main street you can even see the traces of the wheels of the old horse-drawn carriages. There are remains of several temples, a nymphaeum and 2 theatres. The site is quite extensive, and you should plan a couple of hours to explore everything without stressing.
There is a viewpoint from which you can see the Sea of Galilee, the Golan Heights and parts of Syria. If the weather is good, you can supposedly even see as far as Lebanon.
Day trip to the Desert castles from Amman
Why the buildings are called desert castles is a little unclear. In fact, only one is actually a fortress of sorts.
The Qasair Amra is a small but very beautiful building that was probably used as a kind of hunting lodge. There is a large hall with fantastic frescoes on the walls. When I was there, there was a team of Italians restoring the frescos to their original vivid colours.
Attached to it is a Roman bathhouse with wall paintings and probably the oldest image of the star constellations in a dome. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985.
There is a museum in the entrance area with some interesting information.
The Qasr Kharaneh is most likely an old caravanserai for the traders who travelled on this route. It was built in the 7th century and has survived in relatively good condition. You can visit the rooms on 2 floors and marvel at the detailed decorations.
I tried to imagine what it must have been like to finally arrive here after days or weeks on camels through the desert. To sleep with a solid roof over your head. And to know that Amman is only a few days’ journey away.
Azraq means blue in Arabic and refers to the oasis in the neighbourhood. The Qasr is an old Roman fort with interesting architecture. The arches that support the ceilings are all just stuck together without mortar or the like and have held for many centuries. In the centre of the courtyard there is a mosque, probably built by the Ummayads.
Also interesting, Lawrence of Arabia set up his headquarters here for a while.
Day trip from Amman to Madaba, Mount Nebo and the Dead Sea
This one is my second favourite of the day trips from Amman. It is a nice combination of culture and nature and the drive from Amman is just beautiful.
Madaba is famous for its well-preserved mosaics, including the most famous, which shows a map of the Middle East from Lebanon to the Nile Delta and from the Mediterranean to the Eastern Desert. It can be admired in St. George’s Church.
More mosaics can be found in the Madaba Archaeological Park, which is also well worth a visit.
But the city offers more than this. Madaba is small enough to just walk around and get a little lost. There are many small shops where you can buy some souvenirs, have a cup of tea and chat with the owners.
Mt. Nebo is supposedly the place where Moses first saw the holy land and also where he died. There is a church with great mosaics and the view over the Jordan Valley is fantastic.
The Dead Sea sets records, the lowest point of the earth’s land mass and also one of the saltiest seas in the world.
When choosing a company to go on a day trip to the Dead Sea, check if they include access to a public or private beach and if the fee is included.
The experience of floating on the water like a balloon is quite interesting. But also, much more uncomfortable than one might think. After the bath, you can rub yourself with the black mud that the spas at home sell for expensive money. There are also showers on the beach to rinse it off again, but beware, salt water comes out here too.
Day trip to As Salt from Amman
As Salt is a cute little town with a long history dating back to the Iron Age. Nowadays it is a very untouristy town with good museums and a nice heritage walk that takes you to the sights.
I really liked it here, unfortunately I didn’t have that much time as it was just a stop on the way to the Dead Sea. But I can well imagine spending a little longer here.
Day trip to Petra from Amman
And if you are really short on time and want to go to Petra for a day, check out these tours:
Hotels in Amman
Before choosing your hotel in Amman, think about how you will get around. If you prefer to walk everywhere, definitely book something in Downtown. From everywhere else you will need wheels, either a rental car or taxis.
The Amman Pasha Hotel is pretty basic but in the perfect location just across the street from the Roman Theatre.
More Jordan posts, that you will find interesting:
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