With its well-preserved archeological sites and out-of-this-world desert scenery, Jordan serves as a safe haven in a region filled with turmoil. Spend a few days in the country getting lost through the labyrinth that is Petra, stargazing in a hot tub in the middle of a desert, and floating in the what many consider to be the world's most famous salt lake. The itinerary below was what we used for a three-day layover in the country after a visit to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Some members of our group opted to spend an extra day in Amman, and I know other people choose to spend two full days in Petra instead of one. You may want to consider these options if you have the flexibility to extend your stay in Jordan.
A passport and a visa are required for entry into Jordan. Jordan issues visas to US citizens for a fee at most international ports of entry and at most international land border crossings upon arrival. As of August 2020, the visa costs 40 JOD ($56.50) for a single entry, 60 JOD ($85) for two entries, and 120 JOD ($170) for a multiple entry visa. US citizens are typically given visas that are valid for 30 days. Note: Visas are not issued upon arrival at the King Hussein/Allenby Bridge land border crossing.
Everyone in our group purchased the Jordan Pass — something I would advise others to purchase before arriving in Jordan if they plan on visiting Petra. The pass comes at three different price points depending on how many days you want to spend in Petra - one, two, or three. Prices start at 70 JD ($98) for the Jordan Wanderer pass. This covers the cost of the single entry visa (40 JD), one day in Petra (50 JD), and the entrance fee for 40 other attractions.
The official language of Jordan is Arabic, but English is widely spoken in the cities and tourist hubs. You may find that French, German, Italian, and Spanish are also spoken in the tourist-heavy regions.
Since 1950, the Jordanian dinar (JOD) has been the currency of Jordan. The Jordanian dinar is divided into 10 dirhams, 100 qirsh, or 1000 fulus. As of August 2020, $1 USD = 0.71 JOD and 1 JOD = $1.41 USD.
Getting around Jordan is fairly easy. Rent a car at the Queen Alia International Airport or hire a driver to take you around Jordan. We opted for the driver, but I know many people who rented a car and said that driving around the country was fairly easy — just be vigilant when driving in Amman as the traffic rules are different than what many US citizens are accustomed to.
Re-discovered in 1812 by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt and named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, the ancient Nabatean city of Petra is considered to be Jordan's most treasured attraction. The "Rose City" is known for its sandstone cliffs with carved facades and novel water management system. Petra served as a trading post for the Nabateans, an indigeneous Bedouin tribe, until it was abandoned in the early 8th century A.D. The History Channel provides a nice guide that gives a high-level view of Petra's history. Feel free to read up prior to your visit so you have some context as to what you are looking at!
I highly recommend hiring a tour guide at the entrance to Petra to get a glimpse into the ancient city's history. They can share stories about how the structures were built and provide insight into how the Nabateans lived. Hire a guide that will at least take you all the way to the Roman Theater ruins. From there, you can continue to ad-Deir, also known as "The Monastery," on your own if you wish. The Monastery was likely carved out of the surrounding rock in the mid-first century BC. It can be reached by climbing up an 800-step path that takes an average person 40-45 minutes. Once you reach the Monastery, you can grab a cup of tea and enjoy the views of the Wadi Araba valleys and gorges. If you are a major history buff, you may also want to consider spending an extra day or two in Petra so that you can visit some of the lesser known monuments and ancient ruins at a relaxed pace.
The dramatic vistas of the Wadi Rum desert provide Mars-like backdrops for many popular movies including The Martian, Red Planet, and Star Wars: Rogue One. This desert is worth spending at least one day and one night in. I highly recommend booking a “bubble hotel" for one night in advance of your trip for an unforgettable experience. Our group stayed at the Wadi Rum Bubble Luxotel where they organized a jeep tour for our group in the afternoon as well as a very informative stargazing session after dinner - both were additional costs. Our jeep tour was 3 hours long (which was more than enough time for our group), but there are options to take tours up to 7 hours long. We spent 1.5 hours at the stargazing session. The formal session is about an hour long, but once it concludes, you can linger around to ask the guide any additional questions, take additional photos, or simply enjoy the stars without any light pollution. Dinner and breakfast the next morning are included. Be sure to bring warm clothes as it can get quite cold in the desert after the sun sets. The hotel also provides each guest with a warm robe.