What's your favorite weekend activity? Hiking? Swimming? Sightseeing? No matter الهواية المفضلتك ("your favorite hobby"), there are SO many places to see in Jordan that are only a day's trip away from Amman! Here's a list of my favorites from my semester (in no particular order because they're all amazing):
1. Umm Qais
Umm Qais is an ancient city in Northern Jordan that was a member of the ancient Decapolis (“Ten Cities”). Umm Qais has several thousand years of history in its ruins including structures from the Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines. Following the Umayyad conquest of the area, an earthquake destroyed the town, leaving it mostly uninhabited. Travelers can take part in 2 tours at Umm Qais. I recommend doing both on the same day: first, tour the ancient ruins located near the entrance of Umm Qais, then take the "eco-hike" through the old orchards of olive trees to a lookout point where you can see the Sea of Galilee, the Golan Heights, and (on clear days in the winter) Mt. Hermon in Lebanon!
- Distance from Amman: 2 hours (118 km)
- Highly recommended you hire a guide (they are usually available at the entrance)
Madaba is a small city south of Amman. Here, you can see famous sites like the Madaba Mosaic Map in St. George's Church and the Madaba Archeological Park. A trip to Madaba can also be paired with an excursion to Mt. Nebo, which is not far from the city. The easiest way to get to Madaba is by bus from Tarbarbor Bus Station.
- Distance from Amman: 45 minutes (31 km)
- A guide isn't needed to tour the city or nearby Mt. Nebo, but the guides at the Archaeological Park are extremely knowledgeable.
Al-Salt (السلط; pronounced and often romanized as As-Salt) was once the capital of the area of Transjordan. In contrast to Amman, much of the architecture in Al-Salt is from the Ottoman period. Al-Salt is probably my favorite city that I visited in Jordan. As you walk around looking at the architecture, it's like taking a step back in time. Some key sites to visit in Al-Salt include the Abu Jaber House, the Al-Qala’a Lookout, and the Al-Salt vegetable market.
- Distance from Amman: 28 minutes (18 km)
- Take the bus from Sweileh Circle for 0.50 JD
4. Wadi Mujib
This place is for all the thrill-seekers. Wadi Mujib is a nature preserve near the Dead Sea that allows visitors to hike up a water trail (Siq Trail) to a waterfall! The Siq Trail is only open from April 1st to October 31st. For those in Amman in the Fall (like me), I recommend hiking the Siq Trail in early September while the weather is still warm. Unfortunately, I don't have any photos from my hike on the Siq Trail because of the risk of ruining my camera, but you can find photos online that show parts of this amazing trail.
- Distance from Amman: 1 hour and 15 minutes (80 km)
- The Siq Trail requires you to be able to swim, but it's not very physically demanding
- Bring a waterproof GoPro or similar camera if you have one! This is an amazing place for videos!
- It's best to take a guide on the Siq Trail. Inquire about one with Wild Jordan or the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature.
Jerash is one of the largest sites of Roman ruins outside of Rome itself! In this ancient city (nicknamed "The City of Columns") you can walk down streets and through gates that stretch back millennia. Like Umm Qias, Jerash (then called Gerasa) was part of the Roman Decapolis. While in Jerash, be sure to see the amazing oval forum and the Temple of Artemis. There's very little cover, so if you're there in summer, be sure to bring sunscreen and sunglasses!
- Distance from Amman: 45 minutes (50 km)
- Ajloun Castle is not too far away and can easily be included in this trip
- Be sure to ask a guide about the moving columns at the Temple of Artemis!
A final note that this list is by no means exhaustive, and sometimes the best trips are to places you discover on your own. Happy exploring in Jordan!