Who would have thought that one of the best preserved Roman archaeological ruins in the world would be found in the Middle East? Though most of the city was destroyed by an earthquake in 749 AD, Jerash (or Gerasa as it was once known) in Jordan is a sprawling open-air museum of advanced engineering dating back to the 3rd century BC with impeccable temples, plazas, amphitheaters, gates and agoras.
The ancient ruins of Jerash are painfully underrated – many visitors to Jordan head straight to Petra, not knowing that Jerash is an equally astonishing landmark not to be skipped. If you are allergic to crowds, you’ll love the absence of hordes of fellow tourists at Jerash. Located a mere 48 kilometres north of Amman, Jerash is one of the easiest day trip destinations from the capital of Jordan.
If you are traveling to Jordan, then a Jerash day trip from Amman is one of the best things to do for archaeology buffs. Read on for what to see in Jerash, how to get around and where to stay!
Need some help planning your Jordan itinerary? Check out even more travel tips and guides here or head on over to read this 1 week Jordan itinerary!
Essential tips for your first trip to Jordan
- The major international airport is located in Amman – the Queen Alia International Airport (airport code AMM).
- You need a visa to enter Jordan, but the good news is many people can simply obtain a visa on arrival for 40 JOD (~US$56). 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 Jerash. 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.
- The Jordanian Dinar (JOD) is the local currency and the rate is approximately 1 JOD: US$1.4, or 1 JOD: 1.24 Euros. 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 in the arrivals hall and paid 11 JOD for 10 GB of data.
- The weather in Jordan does fluctuate through the year. Jerash has a hot-summer Mediterranean climate and is generally warm from May to October with temperatures reaching 25-30 degrees Celsius and above. During the other months, the temperature can dip below 20 degrees Celsius.
- In general, tourism numbers in Jordan are manageable – we found that Jerash was delightfully uncrowded. 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, understand and speak basic English.
- 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. 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 when traveling around Jordan. Read more about dos and dont’s in Jordan here.
You might also like: 11 important things to know before you travel to Jordan
Where to stay if you’re visiting Jerash
We stayed for 2 nights at the Amman Rotana, a new luxury hotel just outside Amman’s 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 valet parking. There is an outdoor rooftop pool if you feel like lounging in the afternoon, and there are several on-site restaurants within the hotel. From the Amman Rotana, you can exit pretty much straight onto the highway towards Jerash. Click here to check availability at Amman Rotana, or check out some other highly rated hotels in Amman!
Travelling to Amman in Jordan? Make sure you read my 2 day Amman itinerary here!
How to get to Jerash
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” or “Arch of Hadrian” into Google Maps. We rented a car through Budget to travel around Jordan – expect to pay US$30-40 per day, and extra for any additional drivers. You’ll need to show your local driver’s license (as well as your international license if you have one), and make sure you check the car with an attendant from the rental company to make a note of any existing scratches and damage. Pro tip: take your own photos and videos so you have a timestamped 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!
Driving between cities in Jordan is generally very manageable, and the highway and roads between Amman and Jerash 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 – so keep your eyes on the road! You drive on the right in Jordan (the steering wheel is on the left), and the speed limit generally tops out at approximately 110 KM/hour.
If you don’t plan on renting a car in Jordan, you can also get to Jerash from Amman by bus from the Tabarbour bus station – you can get there and back for under 5 JOD. Alternatively, you can also hire a private taxi to take you to Jerash, wait for you, and drive you back to Amman. I recommend asking your hotel to book this on your behalf – prices seem to range from 40-60 JOD for the return trip.
What to bring to Jerash
- A printed or e-copy of the Jordan Pass if you purchased one
- A bottle of water
- Your camera – I opted for a 24-70 mm lens and Canon 6D but your smartphone will be fine as well.
There are a handful of bathrooms and small restaurants/shops outside the South Gate of Jerash.
What to wear to Jerash
The pathways and cobblestone roads within Jerash can be pebbly, uneven and dusty in areas, but there aren’t too many inclines or uphill slopes. Unlike Petra, you will be fine if you wear sandals (instead of hiking/walking shoes) as it is fairly flat and you won’t spend more than 2-3 hours in Jerash.
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 you are mindful of what you wear in Jerash and Jordan as a whole. I wore a linen (i.e. breathable) jumpsuit that covered my shoulders and knees. As there is minimal shade from the heat and sun you should also wear a hat and sunscreen to protect your skin.
What to see in Jerash
The size and preservation of the city of Jerash is somewhat reminiscent of Ephesus in Turkey, and many also draw comparisons with Pompeii in Italy even though Jerash was never buried by a volcanic eruption. It was, however, buried in sand which has contributed to its fairly pristine preservation and outstanding condition.
Entry into Jerash is covered by the Jordan Pass; if you do not have one, then admission costs 10 JOD (approx US$14) for all foreign visitors which includes the Jerash Archaeological Museum. Your Jordan Pass will be checked at the South Gate, or you can purchase your ticket from the ticket booth.
Jerash opening hours are 8 AM to 4 PM during winter, 8 AM to 8 PM during summer, 8 AM to 3 PM during the month of Ramadan and 9 AM to 4 PM on Fridays and official holidays. You should plan on spending no less than 2-3 hours exploring the ancient city of Jerash on foot. Though there is a booth where you can hire a local guide, there are detailed signs at each of the landmarks with Jerash explaining the history, architecture and significance of the monuments. Here are the top places to visit in Jerash!
1. The South Gate and the City Wall
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.
2. Oval Plaza
As you walk in, you’ll find yourself in the Oval Plaza, built to connect the main street of Jerash with the Great Temple of Zeus. The plaza and columns were probably built in the 2nd century AD, and paving came later around the 4th century AD.
3. Sanctuary of Artemis
Make your way down the Cardo, or main street, still paved with the original stones. The 800-metre-long Cardo takes you towards 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.
A nymphaeum is an ornamental fountain often found in Roman cities. This particular one dates back to 191 AD, when water once flowed through seven carved lion’s heads into basins along the sidewalk – from here, the water would cascade through drains into the city’s sewage system.
5. North Theatre
Keep heading north and you’ll reach the gigantic North Theatre which once staged music and poetry recitals and hosted city council meetings. The odeion dates back to 165 AD or so and was reduced to ruins by an earthquake in 739 AD. Though the theatre originally only had 14 rows of seats, it was doubled in size to accommodate up to 1600 spectators in 235 AD.
5. South Theatre
After visiting the North Theatre you can circle back and see the South Theatre which could seat 3000 spectators and was built between 90-92 AD. This theatre is known for its outstanding acoustics, allowing speakers in the middle to project their voices through the entire auditorium.
6. Great Temple of Zeus
Right below the South Theatre stands the towering Great Temple of Zeus built in 162/163 AD. It overlooks the Oval Plaza and features some intact columns as well as some that have toppled over, showing you the massive scale of each of the building blocks. The temple was taken apart in the 5th century AD and became a quarry of materials used to construct churches in the city.
The large oval is where chariot races used to take place in the city’s heyday. This massive arena was constructed sometime between the 2nd to 3rd century AD and could seat 15000 spectators at a time for chariot races and other sports.
8. Hadrian’s Arch
The Roman Emperor Hadrian visited the city of Jerash in 129 AD, and the citizens built this massive monumental arch to honor his visit. If you’re looking for beautifully preserved archaeological ruins that provide a glimpse into life within an ancient empire, add Jerash to your Jordan itinerary, pronto!
Ready to book your visit to Jerash? I recommend staying at the Amman Rotana, one of the best luxury hotels in Amman. Click here to check availability at Amman Rotana, or check out some other highly rated hotels in Amman!
I hope you found this guide to Jerash helpful. Are you planning a trip to Jordan? Read more destination guides here!
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