28 May North Jordan Travel Tips + Photos
My impression of North Jordan:
North Jordan has a lot of gems that are often overlooked. It has one of the largest and best preserved ancient Roman sites in the world, rolling hills that are part of Rift Valley (if you go at the right time, these hills are covered with wildflowers, fig trees, olive trees), and a historic Islamic castle that is regarded as one of the best preserved medieval Arab military architectures. Click here to see my photos of Northern Jordan.
How many days to spend?
Unless you are a major Roman-ruins or castle enthusiast, you can see all of the main sights in a day-trip from Amman. I did a 1-day organized tour with a tour company and found it to be a great way to see the north.
Northern Jordan is near the Syrian border. Is it safe to go there?
Absolutely! North Jordan, like the rest of the country, is very safe.
Travel Tip: One thing I recommend is that when you go to the north, take your passport with you. There is a military presence in the area and do they check for ID, however, they are not very strict about. I had left my passport in the hotel on the day I went but they were OK with letting me go after showing my Jordan Pass.
Jerash – the ancient city of Jerash, which was continuously inhabited for 6,500 years, is the top highlight of North Jordan. There is a lot to see here, including Hadrian’s Arch, Hippodrome, Temple of Artemis, Oval Plaza, and my favourite, The Cardo, a 600-metre colonnaded street running the length of the city, etc.
Jerash Travel Tip: The entire Greco-Roman complex is massive. You could easily spend half-day exploring this vast ancient city complex. If you are pressed for time, however, you can see it in about 2 hours, which is what I did. If you go on a hot day, make sure to take all the necessary precautions (hat, sunscreen and water). Especially take water because you cannot buy it within the complex itself).
Jerash Travel Tip: Do yourself a favour, hire a guide. There is so much history here and a guide will give a good understanding of this ancient city. You can hire an official professional guide for a very reasonable price just before the entrance, where you show your tickets.
Umm Qias – second most interesting place to see in the north. The main attraction here are the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Gadara. Gadara was part of the Decapolis, a collection of 10 cities in the Levant (or the ‘Middle East’) part of the Greco-Roman Empire. The Romans conquered the Levant around 63 B.C., and Gadara was likely founded by the Greeks during the 4th century B.C.
Umm Qias Travel Tip: These ruins are much smaller than Jerash so keep your expectation in check. Also, the area is not marked well, though it is easy to navigate yourself. You don’t have to worry about getting lost or missing anything. Just a heads up: when you walk past the big columns along the main path, the columns will start to peter off (see ‘Trail of columns’ photo on the left). Though there are some remanents of columns, there is nothing special to see beyond this point. I recommend turning around and exploring other parts of Umm Qais.
Umm Qias Travel Tip: Because it is much smaller and most of the sites are ruins, you don’t need to hire a guide. Simply walking amongst the ruins will evoke a feeling of life centuries ago. I highly recommend coming here before going to Jerash, otherwise, these will feel small and bit disappointing.
Umm Qias Travel Tip: Go on a sunny day! If it raining or cloudy, wait. Part of what makes Umm Qais special is where it situated. From here, you can see 3 borders of three countries: Syria, Israel and Palestine. You can also see Golan Heights and the Sea of Galilee. You don’t want to miss this really cool vista!
Ajloun does not have the wow factor of Jerash or Umm Qais but is still worth a visit. The main draw is the Ajloun Castle, a 12th-century Muslim castle sitting on top of a hill. The castle was built by the Ayyubid Dynasty and enlarged by the Mamluks in the 13th century.
Ajloun Travel Tip: My recommendation is that you first go to Umm Qais, then Ajloun and end with Jerash. One good thing about putting Ajloun in the middle is that inside of the castle is cool. So after being out in the sun in Umm Qais, and before heading out in the sun again at Jerash, it is nice to break up the day with a visit to Ajloun, which most of the time you will spend inside the castle.
Ajloun Travel Tip: Inside of the castle is quite sparse. Hiring a guide is not necessary. However, the inside of the castle is beautifully lit and makes for great photo opportunities. The view from the top of the castle is quite nice too.