October half term in Jordan

If you want to see an entire country in less than two weeks, if you love history, if you want sun and sea and a World Wonder…… then Jordan is the country for you!

We’d not planned to go to Jordan but we were looking for something a bit more adventurous than a package holiday but still with a travel company and we found Jordan. We travelled with Stubborn Mule, an adventure travel company for families and had the most epic week. Stubborn Mule works with Atlas Travel who are a local company to arrange all aspects of your trip.

Below is our itinerary and the logistics of the trip with a 9 year old.

Day 1

Fly Heathrow to Amman. We flew Royal Jordanian, there were some terrible reviews online for them but the flight was fine and a lot cheaper than the BA flight at the time of booking. The flight arrives very late at night but the Atlas representative whisked us through the visa queue and passport control and off to our hotel.

Hotel – Toledo, Amman.

A nice but basic hotel. The room was clean and comfortable and the breakfast and dinner buffets had lots of choice.

Day 2

Ajloun Castle – This is a restored and well preserved castle. It was interesting to look around although there wasn’t much information. There was a fun photo opportunity where you could dress up as a Sultan and have your photo taken in front of the castle. We also drank cardamon coffee and mint tea and one of the stands outside which was delicious.

Jerash – This was the surprise of the holiday. I knew that it was a Roman Ruin but had no idea of the scale of the site or how impressive it would be. The site has history dating back to the Bronze age and has been inhabited throughout several important historic periods. The Roman city was destroyed and buried during an earthquake and is still being discovered today. You can walk down the Colonnaded (main street) and see the groves left by the Roman chariots. There are 2 amphitheatres as well as a temple and mosaic remains.

We had an official guide who spoke excellent English and really brought the city to life through his descriptions of what life would have been like.

Note – there isn’t much shade at the site so if you go in the summer months it will be very hot.

Amman Citadel – Again a really important historic site at the centre of downtown Amman. This site has been occupied by many civilisations since the Bronze age and there is evidence of buildings temples and statues, some restored and some in their original state. Again we had an official guide who took us around the site and explained the various buildings and ruins.

Amman Amphitheatre – This Amphitheatre dates back to the Roman period when the city was known as Philadelphia. The theatre is still used today for performances and festivals and seats 6000 people. We were there at sunset and it certainly is very impressive and a good workout walking up to the top!

Hotel – Toledo

Day 3

We drove South from Amman to Petra stopping at the following sites.

Mount Nebo – Over 700 feet above sea level, Mount Nebo is said to be the place that Moses was granted a view of the promise land and has amazing views of the Dead Sea and out towards Bethlehem and Jerusalem. There is a church and a small museum at the top.

Tree of Life Mosaic School – This is a government sponsored foundation that works with people with disabilities to teach them a craft . The mosaics are unbelievably detailed and beautiful and they also have a shop selling handmade crafts and souvenirs which is cheaper than most of the tourist shops.

Madaba – Madaba has a church that contains one of the oldest mosaic maps in the world. There’s not much else to see in the church but it’s worth a visit if you are driving past.

Shawbak Castle – Shawbak is a castle built by the crusaders and is still being restored. There is no signage at all and although there are some fences you are mainly left to climb over the scaffolding and ruins to your hearts content. Watch out for the Smallest Hotel in the World on the drive up.

Hotel – Petra Palace Hotel. This was a bit of an experience as it’s quite a dated hotel, although it was clean and the beds were comfortable. It’s a large hotel but there was hardly anyone staying there and on the first night we were the only people in the restaurant. It had a very eerie vibe to it. The second night was much busier and less eerie.

Day 4


This was the main reason for our visit to Jordan and it didn’t disappoint. You can find a blog post specifically about Petra here.

We spent about 6 hours at Petra during the day, the first part with an official guide seeing the main area and the last couple of hours hiking up to the Monastery. I would highly recommend getting a guide and there is so much history to learn and so many carvings or important areas that we would have missed if we were just exploring by ourselves.

We then went back to out hotel for a couple of hours and Pip and I had a massage and Turkish bath at Yokhor Turkish Bath before going back in the evening for Petra by Night. Petra by night is stunning and so atmospheric to walk through the Siq by candlelight. It was a long day and a lot of walking (12 miles in total) but worth doing it by day and by night.

Day 5

Wadi Rum – We did a 4×4 tour of the dessert with our guide Abdullah who took us to see some of the locations that have been used in films such as Star Wars, Aladdin, The Martian and Lawrence of Arabia. We climbed on to rock bridges and Pip adventured up various rocky hills. As is usual for the Bedouins, we stopped midway through the drive to light a fire and drink sage tea. In the 2 hours we were there we saw one other vehicle, it is such a massive place but so quiet and peaceful.

Hotel – Mazayen Rum Camp. There are lots of camps in Wadi Rum some with bubble tent options as well as traditional Bedouin tents. Our bubble had two slightly larger than single beds and a camp type bed for Pip.

We climbed up to the highest point in camp and watch the sunset over the desert and made it back in time to watch our dinner being dug up from an underground firepit. After the most amazing buffet there was Bedouin dancing around the fire and a chance to star gaze with no light pollution whatsoever.

Day 6

Up before dawn for a camel ride to watch the sunrise and drink more tea before returning to camp for breakfast.

From Wadi Rum we drove to Aqaba for a couple of days in a resort on the Red Sea. Before checking in we visited the Port of Aqaba and took a glass bottomed boat ride around the coast of Jordan. From this point you can see Jordan, Palestine and Egypt. Saudi Arabia is visible from a little further down the coast. The glass bottomed boat was a great experience as you not only get to see fish and coral but also a tank and an airbus! There are options to dive around both these sites if you are a diver. Whilst on the boat we were treated to what looked like Jordan’s answer to the Red Arrows practising above us.

Day 7 and 8

Movenpick Tala Bay – A great spot for 2 days relaxation by the pool and beach. The resort is modern and has several pools, jacuzzis and children’s areas as well as a beach. The hotel was fairly quiet so we were always able to get a sunbed and a table at breakfast or dinner. The entertainment team were organising some activities for children but Pip opted to just go down the waterslide 8723976489 times. There is a dive centre on site and Pip did a Bubble Makers session in the pool to introduce her to scuba diving.

We ate in the Italian restaurant both nights, there is also a dinner buffet option but as we had had that for just about every other meal we decided against it, and at the pool bars during the day.

Tala Bay is about 15 minutes drive from Aqaba and there is nothing there but hotels, there is a shuttle that will take you in to Aqaba if you want to explore.

Day 9

A long drive back from Aqaba to the Dead Sea.

Hotel – Dead Sea Spa.

The hotel has pools as well as a small beach on the Dead Sea where you can cover yourself in mud and float in the salty water. The hotel again was basic but comfortable and the evening and breakfast buffets were good.

Day 10 

Fly Amman to Heathrow, Royal Jordanian. Again the flight was fine although it was the worst vegetarian meal I have ever had on a plane, a plate of vegetables and rice, on an actual plate!! Disappointing as the meal on the way out which was a paneer curry was one of the best I have had.

We arrived home shattered but we packed so much in to just over a week. I would thoroughly recommend Jordan as a family holiday destination, everyone was so friendly and the level of hassle in markets and tourist sites was less than we have experienced in other countries. Pip enjoyed everything but did complain a little about the history overload at the beginning of the holiday so we could have maybe balanced it out a bit more.

The logistics:

Money – The currency is Jordanian Dinar but US dollars are also accepted in most places. You will need plenty of small notes for tips.

Tipping – Tipping is expected in most places although we were never hassled for it. We had some excellent service and we were very aware that the travel industry in Jordan has really suffered over the last 18 months so we were happy to tip generously where we could.

Language – Most people we met spoke English to some degree and we tried to pick up a few words of Arabic. It was hugely helpful to have a driver who was able to sort out any problems for us.

Getting about – We had a driver but did meet others that had hired a car and getting around in Jordan seems to be reasonably easy. The speed bumps on the motorways are something you would need to look out for as they are not sign posted and are the same colour as the road. Driving in Wadi Rum would also be fun as there are no tracks once you have left the road, you just need to know where the camp is and head in that direction. Most of the roads were fairly quiet except the middle of Amman which was like rush hour traffic in any city would be.

Safety – Jordan is a really friendly country and we never felt unsafe. Everyone in Jordan seems to love kids. Jordan is a bit like the Switzerland of the Middle East, there maybe unrest in the countries around Jordan but it’s sitting there right in the middle not getting involved.

Official Guides – I would highly recommend getting an official guide at the historic signs as there is very little signage and you would miss so much without one. Also having an official guide stops you being bothered by everyone trying to give you a guided tour for tips or trying to sell you something.

Weather – We were in Jordan at the end of October and the weather was beautiful. It was about 25 degrees Celsius every day, so warm but not too hot. The morning in the dessert was chilly but soon warmed up after the sun had risen. I found the pool at Aqaba too cold to swim in but Pippa was fine. The sea was still warm though.

In conclusion, Jordan is a fabulous, family friendly destination. What are you waiting for?

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