5 of the Best Things to Do in Amman (For Culture, History and Wildlife Lovers)
Visiting Jordan for the first time? Read on for essential Jordan travel tips and what to see if you only have 2 days in Amman!
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Jordan? Most people, myself included, don’t know much about Jordan beyond Petra (and The Treasury in particular). But as we found out, Amman is more than just a gateway city to the rest of Jordan, and has incredible archaeological wonders of its own to offer. If you’re visiting Jordan for the first time, make sure you set aside at least 2 days in Amman to check out these cultural, historical and wildlife attractions! Read on for 5 of the best things to do in Amman, Jordan.
Visiting Jordan for the first time? Click here for an easy 7 day Jordan itinerary or check out even more destination guides here!
Quick tips for your first trip to Jordan
- The major international airport is located in Amman – the Queen Alia International Airport (airport code AMM). It takes just under 45 minutes to get from Amman International Airport to the downtown area by car.
- You need a visa to enter Jordan, but the good news is that citizens from a large number of countries can buy a visa on arrival in Jordan for 40 JOD (approximately US$56). You can pay this fee by credit card at the airport. Alternatively, if you plan on staying in Jordan for more than 3 nights then you should consider purchasing the Jordan Pass instead for 70 JOD (approximately US$99). A Jordan Pass grants you entry into over 40 attractions across Jordan, including Petra. You have to purchase it before your trip, and your ticket will be e-mailed to you immediately after – just show your ticket at immigration as well as any attraction covered by the pass. When you exit Jordan the immigration officer will simply check if you stayed in Jordan for more than 3 nights – if so, there’s no further action needed, if not, you will be directed to an office to pay the visa fee. Considering a 1-day entry into Petra costs 50 JOD and the visa costs 40 JOD, you’ll already save money by buying the Jordan Pass even if you do nothing else in the country.
- The Jordanian Dinar (JOD) is used in the country and the rate is approximately 1 JOD: US$1.4, or 1 JOD: 1.24 Euros. When we visited, we exchanged money within the airport next to the baggage carousel, and found that the rate was more favorable there than in the arrivals hall. Cash is king so make sure you have a few small denomination notes handy for tipping.
- Stay connected by purchasing a SIM card at the airport – we went with Umniah and paid 11 JOD for 10 GB of data – the SIM card is valid for 10 days.
- Though Jordan is a Middle Eastern country, the weather in Jordan does fluctuate through the year. Don’t make the mistake of packing for the sweltering desert heat if you’re visiting Jordan in winter! Temperatures can reach over 30 degrees Celsius from May to October, and 10-20 degrees Celsius during the other months, even dipping below 10 degrees during winter in December to February.
- In general, tourism numbers in Jordan are manageable – we found that none of the attractions were overwhelmingly busy in May. The best time to visit Jordan tends to be when the weather is milder from March to May or September to November.
- Arabic is the most spoken language in Jordan, and most people, especially those in hospitality or food & beverage, speak English very well so you shouldn’t have a problem with communication.
- Dress code in Jordan – Most people in Jordan are Muslim, and we did not find that Jordan was extremely conservative. More than 92% of Jordanians are Sunni Muslims and approximately 6% are Christians. You will find that many tourists wear shorts and sleeveless tops in public, but I would recommend that as a sign of respect and cultural sensitivity that you are mindful of what you wear in Jordan. I mostly wore jumpsuits that covered my knees and shoulders, loose pants, long dresses and t-shirts. Read more about dos and dont’s in Jordan here.
Planning a trip to Jordan? Read this article for 11 things to know before you travel to Jordan!
Is it safe to visit Jordan?
“Welcome to Jordan!” At least once or twice a day, we were asked by local Jordanians if it was our first time to Jordan. We would tell them, yes, and almost every single person would excitedly say, “welcome! Enjoy your trip!” In my experience, Jordanians are hospitable, friendly, culturally open-minded, not pushy in the slightest, and very helpful. Though the country shares borders with Iraq and Syria, the country has been relatively immune to the instability plaguing the region. The U.S. advises its citizens to “exercise increased caution” and the U.K. advises against “all but essential travel” to within 3 KM of Jordan’s border with Syria. Read more about safety and security in Jordan here.
If you are visiting Jordan, you should stay at hotels with a visible security presence, be alert to possible threats (especially at tourist locations and religious sites) and monitor local and social media for updates.
Visiting Jordan during Ramadan
Ramadan is a holy month observed by Muslims. The dates of observance varies according to the Islamic lunar calendar. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, and alcohol is not sold (except in some larger hotels and restaurants). Some places may switch to a special Ramadan menu, and shops and even tourist attractions may close early. As a sign of respect, you should try to avoid eating and drinking (even water) in public.
How to get around Amman
We rented a car to travel around Jordan – expect to pay US$30-40 per day, and extra for any additional drivers. We hired our trusty Toyota through Budget – their team were extremely friendly and helpful, and the best thing is that there is a very low excess (AKA deductible) of 350 JOD as their cars already have a basic level of insurance. The car itself was a little scratched up but had low mileage, and it meant that we didn’t stress out about accidentally dinging it or attracting any unwanted attention.
You’ll need to show your local driver’s license, and they might ask if you also have an international license. I would highly recommend Budget. Make sure you check the car with an attendant from the rental company to make a note of any existing scratches and damage, and take your own photos and video so you have a record in the event of any disputes. Click here to check for current car rental rates!
Looking for the best prices for rental car companies around the world? Click here to book your rental car ahead of your trip. Bookings can be cancelled or amended if your plans change!
When you visit Amman, I would recommend that you leave the car parked at your hotel, and take an Uber everywhere instead. That way, you don’t have to worry about parking, and driving within Amman can be fairly hectic. Ubers are aplenty in Amman, and fares are dirt cheap!
Driving between cities in Jordan is generally very manageable, and roads are in good condition. You should, however, know that no one seems to follow speed limits and there are lots of hidden speed bumps and the occasional pothole. You drive on the right in Jordan (the steering wheel is on the left), and the speed limit tops out at approximately 110 KM/hour.
There are minimal tolls, and navigation is easy in Jordan, you’ll just want to make sure that you have a local SIM card and access to Google Maps. We found that Google Maps was pretty accurate when looking up directions in Jordan, and you can also download areas ahead of time and use it without an Internet connection.
Where to stay in Amman
We stayed for 2 nights at the Amman Rotana, a new luxury hotel just outside the city centre. The slick modern hotel has beautiful rooms with a view of the city from above, a fantastic bathroom complete with a rain shower and free parking (as well as valet!): can you see why it’s one of the best 5 star hotels in Amman?
There is an outdoor rooftop pool if you feel like lounging in the afternoon, and there are several on-site restaurants within the hotel. My only suggestion would be to book a room rate that includes breakfast, as the breakfast buffet was fairly expensive. Click here to check availability at Amman Rotana, or check out some other highly rated hotels in Amman!
The best things to do in Amman in 2 days
Wondering what to do in Amman? Though it is a fairly small city there are a handful of places to visit in Amman that you won’t want to miss. The ruins in Amman date back to when the region was first conquered by Alexander the Great, then later on when the Romans ruled for approximately 4 centuries. You can easily spend 2 or 3 days exploring Amman; if you’re short on time, keep reading for the top things to see in Amman if you only have 48 hours in the city!
1. Explore Amman Citadel
The Citadel is one of the best places in Amman for history lovers. Located high on a hill in downtown Amman, the citadel overlooks the old city and dates back to approximately 1600 B.C. It’s one of the most incredible archaeological sites in the country and deserves to be on every Jordan itinerary.
Make sure you see the Temple of Hercules and see the giant hand of what is believed to from a statue of Hercules, tour the on-site archaeological museum to see excavation findings and treasure, visit the Umayyad Palace and Byzantine church, and stop by the panoramic viewpoint.
Plan to spend approximately 2 hours walking around Amman Citadel, and bring a hat as there is little to no shade.
Entry is included in the Jordan Pass or costs 3 JOD for foreigners. Check the official opening times here as it varies throughout the year.
2. Visit the Roman Theatre
After visiting Amman Citadel, walk downhill for approximately 10 minutes to get to the Roman Theatre. The restored Roman Theatre dates back to the 2nd century AD when the city was known as “Philadelphia”. It dominates the landscape of the old city of Amman and the massive theatre can seat around 6,000 people. You can also check out the smaller Odeon theatre right next to this landmark. Entry into the Roman Theatre costs just 2 JOD and is also included in the Jordan Pass.
Pro tip: Visit the Citadel before the Roman Theatre so that you can walk downhill, not uphill!
3. Discover Jerash
If you have a full 2 days in Amman, then a Jerash day trip from Amman is one of the best things to do for archaeology buffs. The Roman ruins of the city are one of the best preserved ruins in the world, and the city is packed with temples dedicated to Greek gods, theatres, gates and agoras.
At the main entrance, you’ll see the South Gate and the City Wall, a monumental arch that stands at the southern entrance to the city. The gate later became a part of the 3.4 KM-long city wall that was constructed in the 4th century AD after a group of looters burned large parts of the city.
As you walk in, you’ll find yourself in the Oval Plaza, built to connect the main street of Jerash (or Gerasa as it was known) with the Sanctuary of Zeus. The plaza and columns were probably built in the 2nd century AD, and paving came later around the 4th century AD.
Make your way down the Cardo, or main street, and you’ll hit the Propylaeum of the Sanctuary of Artemis on your left. Worshippers would cross a bridge before approaching this gateway and taking the magnificent stairway towards the temple itself. Artemis was the patron goddess of the city, and the Sanctuary of Artemis may have been built on top of an earlier necropolis on the orders of Hadrian.
Keep heading north and you’ll reach the gigantic North Theatre which once staged music and poetry recitals. The odeion dates back to 165 AD or so and was reduced to ruins by an earthquake in 739 AD.
After visiting the North Theatre you can circle back and see the even larger South Theatre which can accommodate 3000 specatators. Right below the theatre stands the towering Great Temple of Zeus built in 162/163 AD. It overlooks the Oval Plaza. Though some columns still stand, the temple was taken apart in the 5th century AD and became a quarry of materials used to construct churches in the city.
Finally, exit through the South Gate and walk towards the Hippodrome where chariot races used to take place, before seeing the 11-metre high Hadrian’s Arch which was built to honor the visit of Roman Emperor Hadrian. Read more about visiting Jerash here!
You can get to Jerash from Amman by car, it will take just 45 minutes to get there with on-site parking or roadside parking. Just input “Jerash Museum” into Google Maps. The ticket costs 10 JOD and is covered by the Jordan Pass. We spent approximately 3 hours walking through Jerash, just make sure you wear plenty of sunscreen and a hat, and bring a bottle of water as there is little to no shade. There are some public bathrooms outside the main entrance if nature calls.
You might also like: Is the Jordan Pass Worth Buying?
4. Tour the Al Ma’wa Sanctuary
If you are visiting Jerash from Amman, make sure you also visit the Al Ma’Wa for Nature and Wildlife Sanctuary. This is one of the best Amman day trips for animal and wildlife lovers, and is only 20-30 minutes away from Jerash by car.
Through a partnership between the Princess Alia Foundation and Four Paws in 2011, Al Ma’wa for Nature and Wildlife was established in order to provide a regional solution for rescued wildlife. Here’s a quick intro from their website: “There are two entities under this project, namely the New Hope Centre, located in Amman, and the Al Ma’wa Wildlife Reserve, in Jerash. The New Hope Centre serves as the main veterinary clinic, quarantine and rehabilitation facility for all confiscated and rescued wildlife. Animals admitted to the New Hope Centre receive immediate medical care and undergo the rehabilitation programme. Where animals who cannot be sent to their country of origin or released into the wild, they find a permanent home in Al Ma’wa for Nature and Wildlife, which is a space of 70 hectares. Species-specific enclosure ensure the animals have enough space and appropriate conditions which best suit their natural needs.“
The New Hope Centre is not open to visitors, but Al Ma’Wa recently opened to visitors in October 2018. It is currently home to 4 bears, 2 Asian black bears, 2 Syrian brown bears, 23 lions and 2 Bengal tigers. The majority of their animals were rescued from local poorly-run zoos in war-torn countries and the illegal animal trade. Animals are returned to their native country if they can be returned to the wild (such as these African lions who were returned to a big cat sanctuary in South Africa) and animals are desexed when they arrive so they do not breed into captivity.
You can e-mail Al Ma’wa ahead of time to schedule a 1-hour tour of the sanctuary for 12 JOD per person, and you can watch the animals lounge in their extremely spacious enclosures – some of them even have their own pools so they can cool off on a hot day, and covered feeding/sleeping areas for them to rest. There is little to no human interaction with the animals so do not expect a zoo-like environment – if the animal doesn’t want to be seen, you won’t see them from the dense shrubbery in their enclosures. Each enclosure is 1 hectare as a base, and an additional 1/2 hectare is allocated for each animal in there – i.e. 4 lions will share a 3 hectare enclosure.
5. Visit the King Abdullah I Mosque
Unfortunately we ran out of time to visit, but the King Abdullah I Mosque is one of the most important religious sites in Jordan. Built as a memorial by the late King Hussein to his grandfather, the blue-domed mosque is an iconic landmark in Amman that can host up to 10,000 worshipers. It is one of the few mosques which openly welcomes tourists to visit, though you must dress appropriately (long trousers for men, and women must cover their heads, arms and legs). If you are visiting this mosque, don’t interrupt or pass in front of a Muslim praying. Read more tips on visiting religious sites in Jordan here.
Where to eat in Amman
Wild Jordan – A popular restaurant with an outdoor terrace for those balmy nights.
Cantaloupe Gastropub – A rooftop bar and restaurant with a Western menu and views for days. The staff are extremely friendly, and there are 2 outdoor bar areas for you to choose from. Definitely one of the best rooftop bars in Amman if you want a glass of wine overlooking the city.
Majnoon Qahwa – One of the best cafes in Amman with a spacious lounge area and delicious flat white coffees. They also have a selection of brunch items and sandwiches if you’re a bit peckish.
Where to go after Amman
Traveling through Jordan for a few more days and don’t know where to go? Amman is a great launchpad to kick off your Jordan itinerary.
You can travel from Amman to Petra in 3-4 hours by car, or head towards the Dead Sea from Amman in under an hour. Wadi Rum is just under 4 hours away as well. If you only have 1 week in Jordan, head on over here to read my 7 day Jordan itinerary, or read my travel guide to visiting Petra.
Ready to book your stay in Amman? I recommend staying at the Amman Rotana, one of the best luxury hotels in the city. Click here to check availability at Amman Rotana, or check out some other highly rated hotels in Amman!
Heading to Jordan? You might also find these guides helpful:
- Planning a trip to Jordan? Read this first for the top things to know before you travel to Jordan
- Consider purchasing the Jordan Pass if you are exploring the country and visiting multiple heritage sites. Here is my Jordan Pass review
- Not sure where to start and where to go? Click here for an easy 7 day Jordan itinerary
- Head on over here for a detailed guide on what to see in Jerash
- And here is my guide to visiting Petra
- Thinking about visiting Egypt as well? You might want to check out this 2 week Egypt + Jordan itinerary for some ideas
I hope you found this Amman 2 day itinerary helpful. Are you planning a trip to Jordan? Comment below with any questions and I’ll do my best to answer them!
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