5 best road trips in Jordan

Exploring Jordan on a road trip affords you access to places unreachable by public transportation, giving you the freedom to choose your own adventure along the way rather than being tied to the timeline of a set tour. 

But driving in Jordan also often means interpreting unwritten rules of the road while navigating congested streets. And for those who would rather leave the driving to someone else, there are plenty of other ways to get around Jordan too, from bus rides to hiring a driver. 

Here are five of our favorite road trips in Jordan, including one-day, two-day and 10-day routes. We’ve also included a variety of activities to bring you closer to this country’s land, people and culture. Because most visitors to Jordan fly into Amman, we’ve included road trips that start in the capital and nearby Madaba.

Architecture of Amman, the capital and the largest city of Jordan
You can start your road trip in Amman, Jordan’s capital and one of the oldest cities in the world © Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock

1. Jordan’s northern route

Best road trip for history and culture
Amman–Amman; 250km (155 miles); allow two days

This two-day road trip starts atop Citadel Hill in the heart of Jordan’s capital. Amman is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world (excavations at the Citadel have unearthed artifacts from as far back as the Bronze Age), and you can still see evidence of the Umayyad, Roman and Byzantine periods – along with sweeping city views – from this hilltop vista.

Leave Amman behind and head for the rolling hills of northern Jordan, stopping by Ajloun Castle for panoramic views of the countryside. Sit down to a home-cooked meal at a local restaurant in Orjan before heading to Umm Qais.

Spend the afternoon touring the Greco-Roman ruins of Gadara, and when you’re ready for a break, grab a seat on the outdoor patio of Umm Qais Resthouse, located on a hill within the archeological site. If you time it right, you can catch the shifting sunset colors over the Golan Heights and the Sea of Galilee. 

On day two, try an immersive activity with Baraka Destinations, such as beekeeping, foraging, cycling, basket weaving, or hiking in Yarmouk Forest Reserve or another nearby trail – then refuel at Galsoum’s Kitchen, the home of a local chef in Umm Qais.

The second part of the day is dedicated to Jerash, home to one of the best-preserved Roman cities in the world and the halfway point on your drive back to Amman.

Planning tip: Signage is limited at Jerash, so it’s best experienced with a guide who can provide cultural and historical context while leading you around the extraordinary ruins. 

People bathing in the Dead Sea in Jordan
Float in the waters of the Dead Sea and enjoy a spa treatment nearby © Pavel Savchuk / Shutterstock

2. Driving to the Dead Sea

Best one-day road trip from Amman 
Amman–Dead Sea; 68km (42 miles); allow 3–5 hours

This road trip from Amman offers desert views along a stretch of the scenic King’s Highway and a nice reward at the end: a therapeutic session at the Dead Sea. Detour to Madaba to check out Byzantine-era mosaics that show the oldest known map of Palestine on the floor in St George’s Church.

Be sure to make the drive up Mt Nebo – where it’s believed Moses saw the Promised Land before he died – for a view of the Jordan River Valley, Dead Sea and beyond. On a clear day, you may spot Jericho and Jerusalem in the distance. You can also see remnants of preserved mosaics in the presbytery at the summit. 

Continue on to the Dead Sea, where a handful of hotels await, offering a range of spa treatments as well as access (for overnight and day pass guests) to mineral-rich mud and salty water.

View of from Mt Nebo, Madaba, Jordan, with undulating mountains stretching out into the distance.
Jordan’s Mt Nebo is where Moses is said to have seen the Promised Land © Julie Mayfeng / Shutterstock

3. Madaba to Dana Drive on the King’s Highway

Best road trip for castles, canyons and culture
Madaba–Dana; 206km (128 miles); allow one day

Although the King’s Highway (Highway 35) has been an important trading route for millennia, it isn’t necessarily the quickest. But that’s also what makes it special. Drivers looking for a direct route to southern Jordan tend to take the Dead Sea Highway (Highway 65) or the Desert Highway (Highway 15). But those looking for a scenic drive choose the King’s Highway.

The view of the Dead Sea from Mukawir Castle (known variously as Machaerus, Qala’at Al Meshneq and the Castle of Herod the Great) alone makes it worth the detour from the King’s Highway and because you’ll be off the beaten path, you might have the site to yourself. Stop by the Bani Hamida Weaving Project to purchase some handmade souvenirs, or book a workshop in advance and learn to make your own.

Add a splash of adrenaline on a guided canyoning tour at Wadi Mujib before making your way back toward the King’s Highway and a visit to the highly explorable Karak, one of the Levant’s largest crusader castles. Plan to reach the village of Dana before sunset. Sipping shai (tea) while looking out over the Dana Biosphere Reserve is the perfect way to end the day. 

Camel rider in Wadi Rum desert in Jordan
Drive past rust-colored dunes in Wadi Rum on an off-road adventure © Herre van der Wal / Lonely Planet

4. Into the sands of Wadi Rum

Best for an off-road adventure
Wadi Rum Village–desert camp; 70–100km (44–62 miles); allow two days

Travelers with experience off-roading can give true desert driving a try with this Desert Eyes self-drive excursion. Follow the Bedouin guide’s lead as you travel from Wadi Rum village along rust-colored desert tracks and dunes to a remote campsite, stopping along the way to appreciate the natural rock bridges, jagged cliffs and lunar-like landscapes of this breathtaking place. Spend the night sharing stories and a Bedouin barbecue around the campfire before falling asleep under the stars.

Whether you want a half-day jaunt or a multiday adventure, this trip is customizable. Distance, stops and duration can be determined when booking, depending on your interests. 

Planning tip: You’ll need a 4WD vehicle and appropriate off-roading insurance for this experience. If you prefer the passenger seat, book a guided Wadi Rum 4WD tour.

5. All of Jordan, from north to south

The best ultimate 10-day road trip
Umm Qais–Aqaba; 595km (370 miles); allow 10 days

If you have 10 days in Jordan, this route offers the ultimate road trip itinerary for experiencing the country’s highlights, from north to south. It’s also a great way to get the most out of the Jordan Pass. 

Spend the first two days hiking forested trails, wandering the Roman ruins and engaging with locals through immersive activities in Umm Qais and Jerash. Afterward, give yourself at least 24 hours in Amman to check out the ancient sites and array of artisan shops and art galleries while tasting your way around the city.

Marvel at the preserved mosaics in Madaba (or book a workshop and make your own) en route to the Dead Sea. Stay overnight so that you can soak in the mineral-dense water, indulge in a spa treatment and rest up before heading to southern Jordan. 

Take the King’s Highway to Karak Castle and enjoy the dusty desert scene on your way to Dana. Spend the night here to fully experience its slower pace, unique ecosystem, rugged terrain and Bedouin hospitality. Book a guided hike in the Dana Biosphere Reserve, the largest nature reserve in the country and one of the best places to hike in Jordan.

If you’re planning to stay at Feynan Ecolodge, you can still make a side trip to Karak when traveling from the Dead Sea (though given the lodge’s location you’ll continue on to Feynan on Route 65 rather than the King’s Highway).

Give yourself a full day for trekking the trails and visiting the stone-carved tombs of UNESCO-listed Petra before continuing on to Wadi Rum, where you can hike the dunes and overnight in Bedouin camps. Cap your 10-day Jordan journey off with some underwater adventures in the seaside city of Aqaba.

Before you hit the road…

Here are a few things to keep in mind before embarking on a road trip in Jordan:

  • Drive during the day. Since some roads don’t have street lights, it’s safer to avoid nighttime driving altogether.
  • Use GPS. Some parts of Jordan have limited signage, and roads sometimes have multiple names (or none at all!). You might not always have a cell signal, so be sure the map app you use will work if your phone is offline. 
  • Fuel up. Although Jordan is a small country, there are stretches of road outside the major cities without many gas stations.
  • Don’t forget to travel with food and water. Desert conditions can be extreme, and if you do have any car troubles, you don’t want to be stranded without supplies.

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