6 Day-Trips from Amman, Jordan

Written by Teresa Bitler

January 6, 2023
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You don’t have to leave Amman to see many of Jordan’s top sites. These 6 day trips are all roughly an hour from the city’s capital.

Like most visitors traveling to Jordan, I arrived at Queen Alia International Airport in Amman. And like most, I had an itinerary full of destinations outside the nation’s capital, including Petra. I didn’t realize when I landed that, except for Petra and Wadi Rum, I could visit many attractions on day trips from Amman.

Here are six day trips you can take from Amman, plus one stop you won’t want to miss while in the city.


About 45 minutes north of Amman, the ancient ruins of Jerash sit on a hill overlooking the modern city surrounding it. I was surprised to learn it wasn’t a UNESCO World Heritage Site, considering it’s one of the best examples of a Roman provincial town discovered to date. But that’s a good thing. Unlike Petra, Jerash isn’t overrun by tourists and vendors.

Ruts left by chariots on Jerash's colonnaded street near Amman.

You can see the ruts left by chariots on Jerash’s colonnaded street. Photo by Teresa Bitler

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Visits begin at Hadrian’s Arch, built in 129 A.D., to welcome Emperor Hadrian into the city, and then they continue to the hippodrome. My guide told me that, pre-COVID, teams reenacted the chariot races, and up to 15,000 spectators once filled the stands to watch. From the hippodrome, you can choose which direction to explore the site.

Plan to spend most of your day in Jerash. Highlights include the South Theater, where musicians often play for tips, and the colonnaded street with groves worn into stone from chariot wheels. Jerash boasts the only oval-shaped plaza found at a Classical-era site. I recommend climbing to the top of the Sanctuary of Zeus and looking across the oval plaza and up to the colonnaded street for a picturesque view.

The Nymphaeum is just one of the sites in Jerash near Amman.

The Nymphaeum is just one of the sites in Jerash. Photo by Teresa Bitler

Umm Qais

It takes about two hours to get from Amman to Umm Qais, but it’s worth the journey. Like Jerash, Umm Qais was once a Roman town leveled by a series of earthquakes and abandoned. Eventually, in the 1890s, a small community began rebuilding over the ruins. Roughly 1500 people lived at Umm Qais when the Ministry of Tourism paid the residents to move.

Today you can visit the site. While it’s not nearly as impressive as Jerash, it has outstanding views of the Sea of Galilee, Golan Heights, Israel, and Syria. Umm Qais has several small rooms filled with artifacts, a rare western-facing theater, and the remnants of mosaic floors from Roman bathhouses.

The museum at Umm Qais displays artifacts like these glass vessels.

The museum at Umm Qais displays artifacts like these glass vessels. Photo by Teresa Bitler

Spend the first part of your day touring the ruins, then end your visit with a cultural experience. Baraka Destinations offers olive picking, beekeeping, stone masonry, basket weaving, and other hands-on activities for $15 to $40 JD. I tried my hand at stone masonry and had a fabulous time.

Mount Nebo

The sacred mountain where Moses looked into the Promised Land before he died, Mount Nebo, is a favorite stop with bus tours. Even if you don’t adhere to the Jewish or Christian faith, it’s hard not to be impressed. Olive trees line the stone walkways that lead to the Memorial Church of Moses, where mosaics decorate the floors. Stained glass gives a pop of color to the otherwise simple, stone-colored walls and floors.

The Brazen Serpent sculpture on Mount Nebo overlooks the Dead Sea.

The Brazen Serpent sculpture on Mount Nebo overlooks the Dead Sea. Photo by Teresa Bitler

Outside, the Brazen Serpent sculpture stands on the terrace overlooking the Dead Sea, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem on a clear day.

Located about 40 minutes outside of Amman, Mount Nebo isn’t a full-day trip. Plan to spend about an hour here, then drive another 15 minutes to Madaba. There, you can have lunch and see the ruins of Byzantine churches.


Approximately 40 minutes from Amman, the town of Madaba is known for its mosaic tiles. The most famous is the map of the Holy Land in the St. George Greek Orthodox Church. Roped off with chunks missing from its design, this Byzantine mosaic map is nevertheless impressive. The ornate interior of the church itself equally wowed me.

Mosaics decorated the walls and floors of ancient churches in Madaba near Amman.

In Madaba, mosaics decorated the walls and floors of ancient churches. Photo by Teresa Bitler

A short walk away, the Madaba Archaeological Park preserves several Byzantine churches and structures. Or, I should say, it preserves their mosaic floors, which is mostly all that remains. You can breeze through this area while shopping on the street outside the park. Storefronts there sell everything from mosaics to t-shirts and coffee drinks.

Bethany Beyond the Jordan

The site where archaeologists believe John baptized Jesus is less than a 40-minute drive from Amman. Unless you’re in a tour group, you’ll have to board a shuttle to the baptismal site. From the drop-off point, it’s a short walk to the pool, thought to be the actual site. My guide explained that 2,000 years ago, the Jordan River was wide enough that it would have flowed to this point.

People entered the water at multiple points to be baptized or touch the water near Amman.

On the Israeli side, people entered the water at multiple points to be baptized or touch the water. Photo by Teresa Bitler

We continued to the river’s edge. A platform looks out over the water, and a wooden staircase measuring only a few feet wide takes you into the water. You can get baptized here or fill up a bottle with water to bring home, but for me, the real show was across the river.

On the Israeli side, dozens of people gathered on the wide, stone steps leading into the water. Some wore white robes and took turns wading in where the reeds had been cut away. Others were content to stand foot-deep in the muddy water. Either way, I enjoyed the people-watching.

Dead Sea

The Dead Sea is less than 10 miles from Bethany Beyond the Jordan and about an hour from Amman, depending on where you stop. On a day trip, you can float on the water at Amman Beach (located on the Dead Sea, not in Amman). You can also purchase a day pass from one of the local hotels. Add a spa treatment incorporating Dead Sea mud or salt from a resort spa for the full experience.

Floating on the Dead Sea.

You can float on the Dead Sea an hour or less from Amman. Photo courtesy of Teresa Bitler

Tip: Don’t shave (legs, arms, or whatever) for at least two days before floating on the Dead Sea. The salt in the water will burn when it comes in contact with any cuts or skin irritations. Also, I learned the hard way not to let water drip into your eyes and certainly don’t try to wipe it out of your eyes. The salt stings worse than any shampoo ever has.

Amman Citadel

Don’t have time for a day trip? The Amman Citadel is located on a hill in downtown Amman and is arguably the most important attraction in the city. Dating back to the Bronze Age, it was originally known as Rabbath Ammon, which translates to the ancient royal city of the Ammonites. It reminded me a bit of Jerash, only on a much smaller scale.

Highlights include the Temple of Hercules and the Umayyad Palace, a building complex with a blue-domed audience hall. There’s also a Byzantine church with some mosaics, and a small museum with artifacts, including coffins, armor, and statues.

The Umayyad Palace.

The Umayyad Palace is just one example of the ruins at the Amman Citadel. Photo by Teresa Bitler

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Amman is a Great Home Base

While based in Amman, you can see so much of Jordan that I recommend spending four days in the city and planning day trips to the surrounding area. From there, you can move on to Petra, Wadi Rum, and the Red Sea.  Let Wander With Wonder be your guide when planning your next trip to the Middle East.

You don't have to leave Amman to see many of Jordan's top sites. These 6 day trips are all roughly an hour from the city's capital.


6 Day-Trips from Amman, Jordan

Written by Teresa Bitler

Teresa Bitler is an award-winning travel writer whose work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, American Way, Wine Enthusiast, and AAA publications. She’s also the author of two guidebooks (Great Escapes Arizona and Backroads and Byways of Indian Country) and a contributor to Fodors Arizona & The Grand Canyon. While Teresa would never miss a must-see attraction, such as the Statue of Liberty in New York City, her favorite travel experiences are the unexpected ones: KoolAid with a Hopi medicine man, lobster prepared by a local on a Belizean beach, or a ride in a World War II-era bomber.

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