Ultimate Family Road Trip Guide: Jordan
Why you should road trip through Jordan with your family
The Hasmite Kingdom of Jordan is a relatively small country in the Middle East with a population of circa 8 million people. The large majority of them are living in the North in and around capital Amman. The main tourist attractions are Petra, Wadi Rum, coastal city Aqaba and Amman. You can visit all the must sees in 12 days.
Is traveling to Jordan with kids safe?
Jordan is safe and quite easy to travel around. When we went to Jordan lots of people ask if that wouldn’t be dangerous with kids. But Jordan is quiet and stable and has been for years. Because of the ongoing turmoil in neughbouring countries (like Syria) and some wrong prejudices people presume Jordan is an unsafe place. That couldn’t be much further from the truth! The Jordanians are very welcoming to kids and Jordan as a whole is a great first introduction for them of the Middle East.
You shouldn’t drink the tap water in Jordan. While outdoors or in hotels you can avoid buying plastic water bottles if you bring the LARQ bottle. UV-light cleans the water in the bottle and also cleans the bottle itself after you’ve used it. Get your own LARQ bottle and always feel safe drinking water from taps all over the world.
Something to offer for every family member
Jordan offers something for everyone. With scenery changes around every corner. Picture your kids running through the red sandy desert of Wadi Rum on one day and exploring Roman ruins in Jerash on the next. And picture yourself diving in the Red Sea and living out your child fantasy of being Indiana Jones for a day in Petra.
In other words: it is impossible to be bored in this country. Ancient archeological sites in Amman’s citadel and Jerash are a must see. As is Petra, one of the seven wonders of the modern world. Sleeping in the desert for a night is an adventure you will never forget. And snorkeling and diving in Aqaba is a great end of your travels through this diverse country. Traveling to Jordan is the family experience of a lifetime!
There’s really only one negative thing to say and that is that animals like camels, horses and donkeys are merely a mode of transportation. They generally don’t receive much care and you will see emaciated animals all over and they look sad. If you only take away one tip from this post, let it be that you shouldn’t take a ride on one of the animals offered at the sights. If you’d like to know more about what not to do while traveling regarding animals, please read my blog post about animal cruelty.
Best time to travel to Jordan
The best times to visit are from April to June or September to November. Not a lot of rainfall, you avoid the scorching heat that summer has to offer and when you visit in April, May or June it will also be beautifully green. In winter it can be really cold in Jordan. In the north snowfall isn’t uncommon.
Family road trip from Amman to Aqaba
All of the sights can be reached by taking day trips from either Amman or Aqaba. But instead of basing yourself in one of those cities it’s better to move from one location to another, especially with kids. Renting a car is the best way to explore the country. Otherwise you’ll be spending most of your mornings in the car and will be exploring in the afternoons when the heat is at its peak. If you explore in the morning and drive to your next destination during the hottest hours with the AC on, it will be much more enjoyable for everyone. Make sure before booking that the rental car of your choice has AC!
With its good infrastructure a self-drive from Amman to Aqaba with your kids is very do-able. There’s no need to rent a 4wd car. Road conditions are mostly good in and around cities and along the King’s Highway, but some of the other roads can be poor, so be prepared to drive slow at some parts of your trip. Take that into account when planning your next day of driving and add an hour or so a day to your day itinerary.
Fuel is quite affordable in Jordan. There are enough fuel stops along the way, but not all stops include a restaurant of a toilet. Bring snacks along and definitely bring your own toilet paper.
Jordan Itinerary Map
Planning a family road trip to Jordan
Getting a road trip right takes some serious planning. It starts months before the trip, choosing the destination, planning the route, arranging visa, renewing passports or ID’s and checking if you need medical declarations. And don’t forget renting a car or camper and/or buying flight tickets.
Planning a family road trip can get pretty overwhelming. But don’t worry, I’ve got you covered with my eBook! I’ll be holding your hand every step of the way. Just to make sure your family road trip through Jordan will go smoothly.
Get my FREE ebook >> The Ultimate Beginners Guide: Planning a Family Road Trip
What to bring and buy for the road
You will need Google Maps a lot, so when you arrive at the airport buy yourself a local SIMcard first. You’ll need it. You can get 50gb for about €35.
When your kid(s) still need a car seat, than definitely byo. I’ve heard lots of stories about questionable quality of the car seats offered by rental companies.
Another thing you definitely have to bring along yourself while on the road is toilet paper. More often than not we had to improvise on the first two days of our trip. After that we learned our lesson. And remember, use the baskets provided for the paper and don’t flush it! Flushing it causes blockages.
How to get to Jordan
Make sure you pre-arrange your visa. Jordan doesn’t offer visa on arrival.
You can easily get to Jordan by road from Israel and back.
To get to Jordan by plane you will either fly to Amman or Aqaba. I use Expedia to book our flights and mostly the first night at a hotel. Just to settle in easily. In Jordan we choose to book all our accommodation upfront. We new how long we wanted to stay at each place and it was just easier to book all the nights at hotels around the country upfront.
Some last notes before launching into this itinerary. This trip can be done in 8-10 days. But when traveling with children it’s important to have some breathing room and some chill moments in and around the pool or the sea. That’s why we did this trip in 12 days. Travel at your own pace!
Support the locals
This is the ideal moment to visit Jordan, because tourism is slow due to tensions in adjacent countries. You’ll help out the locals by spending your money locally and avoiding western branches like McDonalds.
You will be relatively alone at most sights and you will be safe while checking them out. So let’s get to the most fun part of this post and dig into the ultimate family road trip Jordan with an itinerary from Amman to Aqaba.
Starting in Amman or Aqaba?
This ultimate family road trip guide of Jordan covers everything in between Amman and Aqaba. Amman is the capital of Jordan and if you came here by plane, you’ve most likely arrived at the Queen Alia International airport of Amman. The only other option is Aqaba. The start of your road trip can be either one. But my tip is to start in Amman. That way you’ll end the trip with a short beach vacay in Aqaba.
To get into Jordan you need a tourist visa. You have to arrange this before traveling to Jordan. Jordan doesn’t offer visa on arrival. But I have the ultimate travel tip for you! But a Jordan Pass while still at home.
The Jordan Pass offers you hassle-free entry to about 40 sites in Jordan, including most of the sites part of this road trip guide. It also waives any tourist entry visa fees if you purchase the Jordan Pass before arrival to Jordan and stay a minimum of 3 nights. I highly advise you to go for the Jordan Explorer package, because this includes two consecutive day visits to Petra.
The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities website sells the Jordan Pass, available in 3 packages.
Can we skip to the good part? Heck yeah! Here’s the ultimate family road trip guide: Jordan.
Take sometime to get used to the sounds and smells of a different culture. We stayed in Amman for two nights. In Jordan’s capital you’ll experience all traditional and cultural aspects of the Middle East but with a modern twist.
While here, you should definitely visit the Amman Citadel, the souqs in downtown Amman and the Al Hussein Public Park.
We really enjoyed Amman, maybe also because it was our first time ever in a Middle Eastern city. It could be a slight culture shock for the kids. The smells, the clothing, the language and the bustling traffic: it’s all very different from Europe or Northern America. Just don’t overdo it on your first day and they’ll ease into it easily.
Time for some amazing historical sites. Just a few hours from Amman. It’s time to check out some desert castles. Around 750 AD the rulers in the majority of the Middle East were the Umayyads. They built lots of desert castles and 1200 years later some of them can still be found in Syria, but the majority of them can be found in Jordan.
Calling them castles isn’t very accurate though, as most of them were agricultural bases or caravansarais. Two of them are very much worth your time.
You can find Qasr Al-Kharanah about 60 km from capital Amman. This desert castle was never a castle to begin with. It appears to have been used as a caravansarai. It was build in 710 AD (as that’s the year that you can read in the graffito in one of the upper rooms). The building is a square with a large open area in the middle and small corner towers. It’s a two level building made of limestone. The building suffered damage from earthquakes but was restored in the late 70s.
If you enjoyed Qasr Al-Kharanah, you will definitely enjoy this qasr. It was built around the same time as Al-Kharanah but used for a different purpose. It was a hammam. This building is very well-preserved and you will find lovely murals inside the reception hall and the bath complex. It is no surprise that this complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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Next on this ultimate family road trip guide of Jordan is natural phenomenon: the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth on dry land. You can dip into the Dead Sea while in Jordan. It’s not only accessible from Israel. It’s such a weird feeling to float in this salt water lake. A fun activity for the whole family.
Be careful if you have wounds somewhere on your body, because it will sting! Otherwise just let go of control and lie down. The floating is really fun. It was a really clear day when we visited it and we could see Jericho and Jerusalem on the other side of the lake.
We also saw loads of people using the mud from the lake and grease themselves with it. We didn’t try it ourselves, but it’s supposed to help calm down psoriasis and reduce back pain. Lots of people with sensitive skin visit the Dead Sea every few years, because it really helps reduce their skin problems. You can even buy the mud in the stores around the Dead Sea for a pretty penny. I even saw it on Amazon once.
Jerash is a place that makes you wonder why not more people know about it. It’s one of the most well-preserved Roman cities in the world. It really resembles Turkey’s Ephesus only in better state. Mainly because they restored parts in the 70s of last century. We spend a whole morning there and loved it.
Roman chariot races for the kids
As soon as you enter you’ll be entertained by men who re-enact a Roman chariot race in full attire. A great start to get the kids interested and keep them interested for the remainder of you visit. My then 10yo voted for Jerash as the best thing to do in Jordan as a kid. So it should definitely be part of this ultimate family road trip guide of Jordan!
On a hot day wear a hat and sunglasses and bring lots of water, because there are little places with shade on site.
According to the bible this is the place where Moses first laid eyes on the promised land, just before he died. If you are a believer this is a place you want to visit. Pope John Paul II has done so before you. But for us atheists this place is a must-see because of the view. It’s a panorama of the Holy Land and the valley of the River Jordan. When we were there we had a clear view and saw Jericho and Jerusalem from afar.
And while you’re up there visit the Moses Memorial Church where you’ll find beautiful mosaic floors.
Dubbed as Jordan’s Grand Canyon, King’s Highway is a road that you wish could go on forever. Now, although it’s high on my bucket list, I haven’t been to the Grand Canyon yet, but I can understand the resemblance after seeing lots of pics of this American highlight.
It really is a sight for sore eyes so make sure you don’t fall asleep during your car ride on this highway. I mean, if you’re not the driver ;). There are a few roadside stops where you can admire the view. Just hold onto your kids, because there are no fences to keep them from falling down or running back onto the road.
In al-Karak you will find a crusaders castle called Kerak. The castle isn’t in the best of states, which is why UNESCO decided that it wouldn’t become a World Heritage Site, because other crusader castles are better preserved. Still it is a great place to visit and fantasize about all the things that happened there.
The highlight of Jordan if you ask most kids who’ve visited the country. And rightly so. Make sure you don’t leave Wadi Rum out of your itinerary. You can book an excursion online or at the starting point of your self-drive.
Driving through the desert of Wadi Rum in a 4WD is one of the most liberating things ever. Such a beautiful and peaceful place to be. Not only the drive was amazing, but pausing in the middle of the desert in front of a limestone mountain as our backdrop, while our Bedouin guide made us a cup of tea right then and there was so nice and really a once in a lifetime experience.
Zarb and desert camping
After these fantastic day activities we arrived at a Bedouin camp. Ok, ok, not a real one, I’m very much aware of the fact that we were at a tourist trap. But I deliberately booked it, because we really wanted to spend the night in the desert. It started out with a great traditional dinner. The flavours where amazing, even the rice was a real treat, the way it was prepared with all the herbs in it. We also had Zarb, a Bedouin bbq, which means they cook the food underground in an earth oven. After this gorgeous dinner we danced under the stars and us adults smoked from a water pipe (when in Rome….).
After a nice evening our 4WD drove us deeper into the desert in the dark and that was magical. We entered our tent and put on some extra layers and fell into a very zen deep sleep. Waking up the next morning at 6am we were fully rested and relaxed and it was absolutely one of the most beautiful places we ever woke up in.
The absolute highlight of this ultimate family road trip guide of Jordan is a world wonder: Petra.
The town itself is nice, but extremely touristy and your starting point to the ancient ruins, with loads of hotels to choose from. This is your starting point for a multi-day excursion to Petra.
With all the hints of treasure hunters you can give your kids while wandering around, they will feel like Indiana Jones and will have no problem with this activity.
The Nabataeans found themselves a place concealed from the world and turned it into one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The changing of colors of the rock formations into different shades of rose-red (hence the nickname) takes your breath away.
This starts when you enter the city through the 1.2 km long Siq with it’s high walls and very narrow pass. With every turn in the pass you wonder if that is going to be the moment that you get your first peak at the Treasury. The moment you sneak that first peak you are in love. It’s so absolutely beautiful! Make sure you go there as early as you can. You really don’t want to be one of the many ants swarming the place. It will take away part of the magic.
After seeing the Treasury your journey through the rest of this great city is just starting. Make the most of your day roaming around the lower levels and add the High Place of Sacrifice to your day. From there you’ll get rewarded with a breathtaking view over the city.
Petra By Night
For the most magical experience and a true Arabian night (picture Aladdin and Yasmine on their magic carpet ride) visit Petra at night.
When you walk through the Siq there are about 1500 candles lit along the way and it’s magical and serve as a passage way right up to the Treasury and you can admire it in the dark with all those beautiful lights on around you. They’ll play live traditional music while you sit in the sand and enjoy the view.
Petra By Night info
Tickets are available for Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. You do need to have a Jordan pass or a normal daylight ticket to be able to buy tickets to Petra by Night. 17 JD for everyone ages 11 and up. The show starts at 8.30pm. The whole experience takes two hours, so keep that in mind when deciding if this activity is a good fit for your kids.
On the second day pass the Treasury and walk to the other side of Petra and walk up to the amazing Monastery and after that walk through the street of facades one last time and check out the theatre before you leave this ancient city.
This city is very much focused on sea activities. Aqaba is the place to be for a dive or a snorkel and it’s very beautiful underwater. The sea food is also to die for here, so make sure to have a little taste of that.
When in Aqaba don’t forget to visit the Johud Al-Alayi Bazaar (Women’s Bazaar). This bazaar opposite the city’s visitors’ centre helps woman. Three times a week this bazaar is open and local woman sell their beautiful handmade work, like scarfs, dresses, jewellery and soap.
Spend some time relaxing in this city at sea or at your hotel’s pool. Go on a glass boat tour that will take you to a quiet beach to hang out in the sun for a while away from the busy city. The ultimate vacay after your trip.
And with that we’ve concluded this ultimate family road trip guide of Jordan.
I hope this Ultimate Family Road Trip Guide to Jordan with kids inspires you enough to buy plane tickets and hop on a plane to this beautiful country. And if you do, please let me know what you think afterwards.