Jordan’s one of the most accessible and friendliest countries in the Middle East.
Jordan’s one of the most accessible and friendliest countries in the Middle East. Only five hours direct flight from the UK, it’s where to see the ancient city of Petra and the Wadi Rum desert within easy travelling distance of Red Sea beach resorts. Family holidays with older kids and teenagers can be packed with experiences and younger children love the sunny weather and easy going Jordanians.
Direct flights from the UK to Amman all year round take just five hours.
Aqaba on the Red Sea has temperatures of 30˚ and rising from May to September. Winter temperatures are seldom less than 20˚.
Jordan’s compact size and specialisation in adventure tourism makes it ideal for longer, multi-centre family holidays.
Many areas of Jordan’s legendary rose-red desert are accessible on day trips from the Red Sea coast and Amman.
Jordan has five UNESCO World Heritage sites including the ancient desert city of Petra which was also designated one of the World’s Seven Wonders in 2007.
Jordan’s Dead Sea coast, along with several of the Middle East’s loveliest spa resorts, is slightly over an hour’s drive from Amman.
One of the most progressive Middle East countries, Jordan is warmly welcoming to families and an astounding holiday for older kids and teens.
Where to go
Aqaba, Red Sea
Dead Sea Coast
Petra can be your only reason for visiting Jordan, but travelling to Jordan and not seeing Petra is unthinkable. This is the ancient capital of the Nabataean Arabs, calmly abandoned in the 7th century and known only to desert Bedouin until Swiss explorer Johannes Burckhardt rediscovered it in 1812. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and, in 2007, was designated one of the Seven Wonders of the World alongside icons like Machu Picchu and the Great Wall of China.
The spectacularly preserved Treasury, revealed after walking through an immense natural corridor of soaring cliffs at the entrance to Petra, is the image everyone has of the city. But there dozens of incredible archaeological sites in the complex so, although you can ‘do’ it in a day from Amman or Aqaba, plan to stay longer.
There are ten exceptional hotels round Petra, built specifically for the site and designed to complement the desert setting and counterbalance its extreme environment with extreme luxury.
Various visitor experiences include Petra by Night; the Candlelit Contemplation of the Treasury; Bedouin cookery classes; sunset vigils at Queen Rania Al-Abdullah Park; camel trains across the desert; traditional markets; Turkish Baths; and guided hiking and walking tours.
Petra is 240km south of Amman and 120km north of the Red Sea resort, Aqaba.
Aqaba, Red Sea
Aqaba on the Red Sea coast is a good choice for beach holidays within easy travelling distance of Jordan’s most monumental sites. It’s a colourful, low-rise resort with dozens of public and private beaches scattered along one of the Middle East’s best protected marine reserves.
Jordan’s top diving and snorkelling area thanks to the Aqaba Marine Reserve, protected since 1974 and liked for accessible wreck sites.
Sandy, uncrowded public beaches with kids playgrounds and activities are flawlessly maintained and relaxed fun for families.
Good for international resort hotels on private beaches with water sports, diving schools and kids clubs.
Petra is less than one hour and 30 minutes drive from Aqaba and the resort borders the southern edge of UNESCO World Heritage Wadi Rum.
Once visited, never forgotten, is the usual reaction to Wadi Rum. It’s one of earth’s loveliest and most accessible desert landscape, famous for red sands, dramatic rock formations and the Bedouin who have made their lives here for millennia. This was the desert T. E. Lawrence, AKA Lawrence of Arabia, wrote of in the Seven Pillars of Wisdom (one of Rum’s many imperious mountains is named after the book). You can 4×4 self-drive here, but it’s not advisable with kids.
Wadi Rum’s southern fringe is less than 45 minutes from Aqaba and there are dozens of different tours and adventure from half-day visits to desert camping experiences.
One of Jordan’s five UNESCO World Heritage sites, Wadi Rum’s carefully protected. Over the past two decades, indigenous wildlife has been reintroduced and there are now free-roaming herds of Arabian Oryx thriving in certain areas.
Don’t miss: the sunset sites; Burdah and Um Frouth Rock Bridges; Burrah Canyon; the Nabatean Temple; Khazali Canyon; Wadi Rum petroglyphs.
Dead Sea Coast
Jordan shares the Dead Sea with Israel and staring across still waters towards Jerusalem’s lights in the evening is just one incredible moment here. At 400m below sea level this is the lowest lake on earth, dense with salts and minerals and encrusted with glittering crystalline deposits. It’s not a beach holiday as you know it but, like Petra, it’s a phenomena not to be missed.
Expect exquisitely beautiful spa resorts and about every soothing, restorative treatment imaginable involving Dead Sea muds and salts.
The buoyant water’s not for swimming but floating effortlessly in it never gets old for kids.
The sea salt is intense so be careful with younger kids; avoid too much contact with eyes; don’t stay in the water for long periods and make sure no one has even the smallest cut or graze – salt in wounds is painful.
Hammamat Ma’in is the most popular Dead Sea family resort in Jordan.
Most UK flights arrive in the Jordanian capital, Amman. It’s one of the friendliest and most relaxed cities in the Middle East, easy to get around and even an overnight stay with older kids and teenagers is worth considering.
Don’t miss: the Roman Ruins; cafés and bars in Western Amman; the bustling downtown district for souks, mosques, coffee shops and atmosphere.
Travel from Amman to the rest of Jordan is easy to arrange and the city’s under two hour’s drive from Petra.
What to do
The Desert City of Petra
Even in a country overflowing with ancient monuments and staggering archaeological sites, nothing compares to Petra.
Wadi Rum Visitor Centre
Explore the desert landscape which inspired Lawrence of Arabia and is now a UNESCO World Heritage environment and one of the most adventurous experiences on earth.
Aqaba Marine Park, Red Sea
One of Jordan’s best protected marine environments where kids can learn to scuba, go reef snorkelling, swim, play on the peaceful beaches and learn about some of the Middle East’s most successful conservation projects.
Madaba & Mount Nebo Tour
The city of Madaba is famous for its unique collection of Byzantine floor mosaics and Mount Nebo is reputed to be the site of Moses’s Tomb. A half-day tour from Amman with an English speaking guide is fascinating for older kids.
Cedar Pride Wreck Site, Aqaba
The most famous wreck site in Jordan is marked with a buoy, kids can snorkel around and it’s a favourite with divers.
Wadi Rum Camping
Spending a night (or two) in a traditional Bedouin camp on one of earth’s most beautiful deserts is an unforgettable experience for kids.
Amman Waves Waterpark
Jordan’s first ever waterpark isn’t in the same league as Asia or the US’s aquatic giants but lush gardens, beautifully cared for pools and charming team more than make up for any lack of extremes.
Wadi Rum Hot Air Balloon Flights
One of the loveliest balloon flights in the world slowly sails across Wadi Rum at dawn so kids can see the desert’s astonishing features emerging into daylight.
Dana Biosphere Reserve
The only environment in Jordan which covers all four of the country’s eco-systems. If kids want wildlife, this is the place: 450 species of mammal alone have been recorded across Dana.
Petra by Night
One of the most memorable ways to experience the majesty of Petra is to see the city illuminated by thousands of candles. A spectacle in every way with traditional Bedouin music, dancing and performance.
Educational value for kids
Jordan’s a lively and adventurous country for kids. It also has some of earth’s greatest monuments so don’t miss: the Pillars of Hercules; Gerasa’s Arch of Hadrian; Qusair Amra; Kerak of Moab; Amman ancient Roman Theatre and Odeon.
According to the Old Testament, 817m high Mount Nebo is where Moses and his people discovered the Promised Land. The site’s just over an hour’s drive from Amman.
The Dead Sea is really a large lake and sits at 400m below sea level, the incredibly buoyant waters and crystallised salt formations are awesome discoveries for kids.
The only inhabitants of Wadi Rum are Bedouin, take a guided tour of this phenomenal desert where kids can learn the customs and traditions of the ancient tribal people.
If you only see one museum in Amman, make it The Jordan Archaeological Museum. Not only is it in the city’s imperious Citadel (great views) it has the lion’s share of protected art and artefacts excavated from ancient sites across the entire country.
Souk Jara in Amman is one of the most vibrant and colourful in the country, gentle bartering’s encouraged and Jordanian’s are a delight with kids.
The excellent Aqaba Marine Reserve visitor centre is where kids can find out about Red Sea conservation projects and local marine life.
Getting around with kids in Jordan
There isn’t anywhere in Jordan you can’t see as part of a guided tour, they’re great value and all include transport from hotels or resorts. If you want to self-drive, hire a 4×4: most of the country’s roads are good, but there are areas which will be more challenging than you’re used to. Don’t lose sight of how close you are to the desert and keep water in the car and paper maps as back up – phone signals aren’t reliable.