Many of Jordan’s most popular sites are within easy reach from Amman. All six day trips are within an hour of Amman.

As with most travelers to Jordan I arrived at Queen Alia International Airport Amman. Like most visitors, I planned to visit a number of places outside Amman, including Petra. When I arrived, I had no idea that I could take day trips to many other attractions, besides Wadi Rum and Petra.

Six day trips from Amman plus a stop that you shouldn’t miss.


The ancient ruins of Jerash are located on a hill about 45 minutes north of Amman. They overlook the modern city that surrounds them. It surprised me to find out that it was not a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After all, it is one of the most impressive examples of a Roman province town ever discovered. It’s good that it isn’t a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Jerash, unlike Petra, is not overrun with tourists and vendors.

Photo by Teresa Bitler. Photo by Teresa Bitler

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The visit begins at Hadrian’s Arch (built in 129 A.D. to welcome Emperor Hadrian to the city), and continues to the hippodrome. Before COVID, my guide told me, teams would reenact the chariot race, and as many as 15,000 spectators would fill the stands. You can explore the site in any direction you choose from the hippodrome.

Spend the majority of your time in Jerash. Highlights include the South Theater where musicians play for tips and the colonnaded streets with groves carved into the stone by chariot wheels. Jerash is home to the only oval-shaped square found in a Classical era site. The best view is from the top of the Sanctuary of Zeus, where you can see the oval-shaped plaza as well as the colonnaded streets.

Photo by Teresa Bitler. Photo by Teresa Bitler

Umm Qais

The journey from Amman to Umm Qais takes around two hours, but the trip is worth it. Umm Qais, like Jerash was once a Roman city that was destroyed by earthquakes. In the 1890s a small group of people began to rebuild the ruins. Around 1500 people lived in Umm Qais at the time the Ministry of Tourism paid them to leave.

Visit the site today. It’s not as impressive as Jerash but it offers a stunning view of the Sea of Galilee and Golan Heights. Israel and Syria are also visible. Umm Qais is home to several rooms with artifacts and remnants of Roman bathhouse mosaics. It also has a rare theater facing west.

These glass vessels are displayed in the museum of Umm Qais. Photo by Teresa Bitler

Spend your first half of the day exploring the ruins and then finish your trip with a cultural event. Baraka Destinations provides olive picking, beekeeping and basket weaving as well as other hands-on experiences for $15 to 40 JD. I had a great time doing stone masonry.

Mount Nebo

Mount Nebo is a popular stop for bus tours. It’s the sacred mountain from which Moses saw into the Promised Land just before he passed away. It’s impossible not to be moved, even if you’re not a Christian or a Jew. The stone walkways leading to the Memorial Church of Moses are lined with olive trees. Mosaics cover the floor of the church. The walls and floor are painted in stone colors, but stained glass adds a splash of color.

The Brazen Serpent on Mount Nebo looks out over the Dead Sea. Photo by Teresa Bitler

On a sunny day, the Brazen serpent sculpture is located on the terrace, which offers sweeping views of the Dead Sea and Bethlehem.

Mount Nebo, located about 40 minutes from Amman, is not a full day trip. Spend about an hour at Mount Nebo, and then drive 15 minutes further to Madaba. You can eat lunch there and also see the Byzantine church ruins.


Madaba, located about 40 minutes away from Amman is famous for its mosaic tile. Most famous is the Holy Land map in the St. George Greek Orthodox Church. This Byzantine mosaic is impressive despite being roofed off and having chunks of its design missing. I was equally impressed by the ornate interior.

Photo by Teresa Bitler. In Madaba, ancient churches are decorated with mosaics. Photo by Teresa Bitler

The Madaba Archaeological Park is a short distance away and preserves many Byzantine structures and churches. It preserves the mosaic floors of their churches, which are all that is left. This area is easily accessible from the shopping street just outside the park. There are many shops selling everything from coffee to coffee drinks and t-shirts.

Bethany Beyond Jordan

Archaeologists think that John baptized Jesus at a site less than 40 minutes away from Amman. You’ll need to take a shuttle unless you’re part of a tour. It’s only a short distance from the drop-off to the pool that is believed to be the baptismal site. My guide told me that the Jordan River used to be wide enough to flow all the way up until this point 2,000 years before.

Israelis entered the water multiple times to be baptized, or even just touch it. Photo by Teresa Bitler

We then continued along the river. The wooden stairs are only a few inches wide, but they lead you to the water. A platform overlooks the water. The river is a great place to get baptized or fill a bottle of water for home. But the real attraction was the other side.

On the Israeli side of the river, dozens gathered at the large stone steps that led into the water. Some people wore white robes, and they took turns wading into the water where the reeds were removed. Some were happy to stand in the muddy waters. It didn’t matter which way I looked, the people watching was fun.

Dead Sea

It is about 10 miles away from Bethany Beyond Jordan, and an hour or so from Amman depending on your stop. You can spend a day at Amman Beach, which is located on the Dead Sea and not in Amman. A day pass can be purchased at one of the hotels in the area. For the ultimate experience, add a spa treatment that incorporates Dead Sea mud and salt at a resort spa.

Amman is only an hour away from the Dead Sea. Photo by Teresa Bitler

Tip : Do not shave for at least 2 days before you float in the Dead Sea. When the salty water comes into contact with cuts or irritations, it will cause a burning sensation. It was a hard lesson for me to learn not to allow water to drip into my eyes or to try and wipe it away. Salt stings more than shampoo.

Amman Citadel

You don’t have the time to go on a day-trip? Amman Citadel, located in downtown Amman on a hilltop, is the most popular attraction in the city. It was known as Rabbath Ammon in the Bronze Age. This translates into the ancient royal city Ammonites. It reminded of Jerash but on a smaller scale.

The Umayyad Palace is a complex of buildings with a blue domed auditorium. A Byzantine Church with mosaics and a small Museum with artifacts such as coffins and armor is also available.

Amman Citadel is home to many ruins, including the Umayyad palace. Photo by Teresa Bitler

Amman makes a great home base

You can see so many things in Jordan from Amman that I would recommend planning day trips and spending four days there. You can then move to Petra, Wadi Rum and the Red Sea. When planning your next trip, let Wander with Wonder guide you.