The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan may not be the first place you think of for a fun family vacation, but trust me, you should put it on your list. This small country in the Middle East is very family-friendly and has tons of incredible sites and activities on offer.
Last year, Chet and I explored the ancient Nabatean ruins of Petra. But a return trip this year showed me that there’s plenty more for families to explore here than Petra. Here’s my first pass on 5 family favorites. (There may be another one later – it took me a long, long time to narrow this list down to just five).
I’ll start with Jordan’s most famous son. This archeological park in the Wadi Musa is incredible and worth every rave it has received. Kids will have a blast exploring the vast expanses of the park, hiding in caves and wandering among the ruins. Add in the donkey races, camel rides and Bedouin hawkers and you have yourself a magical place like nowhere else on Earth. It shouldn’t be missed.
2. The Roman Army and Chariot Experience, Jerash
Watch chariots race, taking hairpin curves at top speed, at the ancient Hippodrome in the famed Roman city of Jerash! Now, I’m not usually a re-enactment kind of gal. The kids love ‘em but I’m usually left a little cold.
But the Roman Army and Chariot Experience at Jerash not only offers kids plenty of fight and race action but a lot of accurate Roman history about how Roman Soldiers and Gladiators lived and fought as well. And when you are married to a professional soldier, getting those little details right saves you from lots of eye-rolling and snide comments when your kid just wants to get lost in the moment.
3. Explore the Dana Biosphere Reserve
The Dana Biosphere Reserve is full of Roman ruins, gorgeous scenery and welcoming Bedouin villages. And to explore it, a stay at the Feynan Eco-Lodge is fantastic for families. Spend your days exploring the valley on foot while Bedouin guides point out local flora and fauna. And then feel good about staying at this one-of-a-kind Eco-Lodge where your kids can sleep out on under a canopy of a million stars (or in candlelit rooms), see how the local Bedouins live and learn more about protecting Jordan’s environment.
4. Camp out (and dance!) in the Wadi Rum
Wadi Rum may be most well known as one of T.E. Lawrence’s favorite desert hangouts. This vast and breathtakingly beautiful desert landscape has to be seen to be truly believed. Visitors can pitch a tent themselves among the mountains and sand dunes but my favorite way to experience it is with Captain’s Desert Camp.
After a day’s hike or racing around the desert in 4-wheel-drive vehicles, the whole family can enjoy a night in the desert Bedouin-style. Enjoy local cuisine around a desert campfire with a little live traditional music and dancing – then sleep in a comfy, cozy Bedouin goat-hair tents. It’s something neither you or your kids will soon forget.
5. Float on the Dead Sea
The Dead Sea is under consideration to be named one of the new natural wonders of the world. And for good reason – this huge, historical salt lake in between Israel and Jordan is renowned for its landscape and its health benefits. But the real fun? No one can sink in this body of water – and, believe me, I tried. Your kids will enjoy sliming themselves with the lake’s mud (good for the skin and the soul!) and then bobbing around in the water like a human intertube.
Even if you aren’t into the idea of relaxing in a big salty sea, all of the nearby resorts have pools a-plenty to splash and swim in. It’s a perfect place for the family to relax, unwind and just enjoy the sunshine for a few days.