Welcome to Jordan! Upon arrival our staff will meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel in Amman for the start of your trip. They'll help you settle in and introduce you to the local area.
Our Jordan sightseeing begins today with a journey north to the ruins at Pella and Umm Qais. Pella is one of the most ancient towns in the world and a favourite of archaeologists. It is exceptionally rich in antiquities, some of which are exceedingly old. Besides the excavated ruins from the Graeco-Roman period, Pella offers visitors the opportunity to see the remains of a Chalcolithic settlement from the 4th millennium BC, evidence of Bronze and Iron Age walled cities, Byzantine churches, early Islamic residential quarters and a small medieval mosque. In addition to Jerash and Amman, Gadara (now Umm Qais) and Pella (Tabaqit Fahl) were once Decapolis cities, and each has unique appeal. Our next stop, Umm Qais, is one of the most brilliant ancient Greco-Roman cities of the Decapolis. Perched on a splendid hilltop overlooking the Jordan Valley and the Sea of Galilee, Umm Qais boasts impressive ancient remains, such as the stunning black basalt theatre, the basilica and adjacent courtyard strewn with nicely carved black sarcophagi, the colonnaded main street and a side street lined with shops, an underground mausoleum, two baths, a nymphaeum, a city gate and the faint outlines of what was a massive hippodrome. In the afternoon we'll return to Amman where we'll spend the night.
After breakfast, we drive north for a full day visit of Jerash, one of the largest and best preserved Roman sites outside of Italy. It is a excellent example of Roman architecture including paved and colonnaded streets, hilltop temples, amphitheatres, spacious public squares and plazas, bathhouses, fountains and a city wall pierced by towers and gates. We continue by road to the shore of the Dead Sea where we can float and try to swim in the unique, salty waters before returning to Amman for the night.
We depart Amman for a scenic drive south along the King's Highway to Petra. The King's Highway is a slower, but much more interesting and beautiful drive than the busy Desert Highway, and during our journey we'll cross deep Wadis, drive through olive groves, and pass remote rural villages. En-route we stop in Madaba and see the town's main attraction, the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George where we'll see its famous 6th Century Byzantine mosaic map of the Holy Land and other biblical sites. We'll also enjoy great views of the Holy Land from Mt. Nebo, known as the burial place of the propher Moses.
Continuing south we cross several deep Wadis including the majestic Wadi al-Mujib, where the road winds down and down, and then back up the other side of this 1km deep canyon. Next stop is Kerak Castle, one in a chain of Crusader fortresses built across Jordan in the 12th Century on the ancient Egypt-Syrian caravan route. Built in 1132AD by the Crusader King, Baldwin 1 of Jerusalem, the castle fell to Saladin in 1188 AD. It is still a hugely impressive building with commanding views over the surrounding hills and plains.
We enjoy a full day today inside the world famous Nabatean site of Petra. Carved into the rocks and left undiscovered for centuries Petra has always been an enduring attraction for explorers. We include a guided tour of the area with plenty of free time to explore on your own. This evening you may book an optional visit to Petra for the spectacular Petra by Candlelight tour..
This morning we visit the site of Little Petra, which was a suburb of the main city and provides a great insight into the building of the larger buildings and tombs. Next we head for the spectacular desert and mountains of Wadi Rum. After arriving in Wadi Rum, we take a jeep safari through the beautiful desert scenery, seeing more of the sheer cliffs and bizarre rock formations, before finishing at a Bedouin camp located against the cliffs right inside the Wadi Rum reserve. We have the rest of the afternoon here, and you can relax in the camp, take a hike around the beautiful scenery around the camp, or enjoy an optional camel safari at sunset. We then spend a memorable night here at the camp where we enjoy our Bedouin hosts' hospitality, traditional food, and plenty of tea. You can sleep in comfortable Bedouin tents (beds and all bedding provided), or find an atmostpheric spot outside under the stars if you prefer (bring a sleeping bag).
After breakfast at the Bedouin camp we leave the spectacular scenery of Wadi Rum and start our drive back up the Desert Highway to Amman. Along the way we'll make a stop to visit Qasr Al Mushatta, one of Jordan's 'desert castles'. Qasr Al Mushatta is the largest of the Umayyad palaces in Jordan, surrounded by a square enclosing wall with multiple semi-circular towers. In its time, Qasr Al Mushatta was a showcase of early Islamic stonework and carved plaster, of which some remnants can still be seen. Most of the ornate carvings were sent to Germany by the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid as a gift for Kaiser Wilhelm and can be seen in a Berlin museum. The Palace was started by the Caliph Walid II around 743 AD but never finished. We spend some time exploring here before continuing on to Amman to explore the city.
Amman is often referred to as the 'white city' due to its facade of white limestone buildings and houses. A number of renovations and excavations have taken place revealing remains from the Neolithic period, as well as from the Hellenistic and late Roman to Arab Islamic Ages. We will visit the Citadel which houses many structures such as the Temple of Hercules, the Umayyad Palace and a Byzantine Church. At the foot of the Citadel lies the Roman Theatre, another newly restored theatre is the 500-seat Odeon that is used for concerts. If time allows, you will also pay a visit to the Jordan Archaeological Museum and the Folklore Museum. Finally we return to our hotel for our final night in Jordan.
If you wish you can extend your tour by heading to the Red Sea at Aqaba this morning for a couple of nights in a 5-star resort before returning to Amman.
Your time is free today until we transfer you to Amman airport for your departure flight. Alternatively you may wish to take one of a number of optional day trips. These include tours to Ajloun Castle, a tour of the 'Desert Castles', a visit to the Baptism Site at Bethany on the Jordan, or a tour into Israel to visit Bethlehem and Jerusalem. We can also arrange a transfer to Tel Aviv either by flight or overland for people wanting to connect this tour with our Fantastic Israel tour departure which starts on Sunday.