Jordan, a country steeped in captivating tales and a tapestry of civilizations, boasts an impressive array of desert castles that dot its vast and arid landscapes. Constructed during the early Islamic period, these magnificent structures served as vital caravan stations, military outposts, and opulent retreats for caliphs and nobles traversing the desert routes. Today, they beckon travelers from around the world, inviting them to immerse themselves in the grandeur of a bygone era.
In this blog, we will embark on a virtual journey, unveiling the best desert castles in Jordan that offer a glimpse into the region's rich heritage. From the imposing walls of Qasr Amra to the sprawling fortress of Qasr Kharana, we will wander through their hallowed halls, marvel at their intricate architectural details, and learn the captivating stories that whisper from their ancient stones.
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Jordan is a Middle Eastern country located in the heart of the Levant. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, and Israel and is home to some of the world’s most impressive desert castles. These structures were built between the 7th and 14th centuries by various rulers to serve as fortresses, palaces, caravanserais, and places of worship. The region has dozens of these remarkable buildings spread across its vast desert landscape.
The most famous desert castles are located in Jordan’s eastern desert region, known as the Badia. This area is home to some of the oldest and largest castles in the country. The two most popular are Qasr al-Azraq and Qasr Kharana. Qasr al-Azraq is an impressive structure that was built by the Umayyad Caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik in 740 AD. It served as a military outpost for centuries before being abandoned in the 19th century. Today it stands as a reminder of Jordan’s rich history.
Qasr Kharana is another popular castle located in the Badia region. This castle was built around 700 AD by Umayyad Caliph Walid I and served as a caravanserai for merchants traveling through the region. It is one of the best preserved castles in Jordan and features an impressive entrance gate with three towers on either side.
In addition to these two famous castles, there are many other desert castles located throughout Jordan’s eastern desert region. Some of these include Qasr Amra, Qasr Burqu'a, Qasr Al-Hallabat, Qasr Al-Muwaqqar, Qusayr Amra, and more. These structures offer visitors a glimpse into Jordan’s past and provide insight into how life was lived during this period of time.
In total there are around forty desert castles located throughout Jordan’s eastern Badia region alone. This number does not include those that may be found elsewhere in the country such as Petra or Wadi Rum which have their own unique set of ancient structures worth exploring!
Jordan’s desert castles are truly remarkable pieces of history that offer visitors a unique insight into life during this period of time. From military fortresses to places of worship, these structures provide visitors with an opportunity to explore some of Jordan’s most fascinating sites while also learning about its rich cultural heritage along the way! So if you ever find yourself in Jordan make sure to take some time out to explore some of these incredible structures – you won't regret it!
While opinions may vary depending on personal preferences, one of the most widely acclaimed desert castles in Jordan is Qasr Amra. This UNESCO World Heritage Site, located approximately 85 kilometers east of Amman, holds a special place among Jordan's architectural treasures.
Qasr Amra, also known as the "Castle of Amra," stands as a masterpiece of early Islamic art and architecture. Built in the 8th century, this modest-sized desert castle served as a hunting lodge and retreat for the Umayyad caliphs. However, its true allure lies within its interior walls, adorned with stunning frescoes that depict a variety of scenes, including hunting scenes, celestial spheres, and even a portrayal of the zodiac.
Yes, Jordan is home to several Crusader castles that bear witness to the medieval Crusader era. These castles played a significant role in the Crusader campaigns in the region and are fascinating historical sites to explore. Here are two notable Crusader castles in Jordan:
Kerak Castle (Crac des Moabites): Located in the town of Al-Karak, Kerak Castle is one of the largest and most impressive Crusader castles in the region. Constructed in the 12th century, it served as a strategic stronghold for the Crusaders and later became a key fortress for the Mamluks. Kerak Castle boasts a formidable architectural design, with massive walls, intricate underground passageways, and imposing towers. Exploring its halls, courtyards, and underground galleries offers a glimpse into the turbulent history of the Crusader period.
Shobak Castle (Montreal): Situated near the town of Shobak, this Crusader castle was built in the 12th century by King Baldwin I of Jerusalem. Shobak Castle served as a defensive outpost and a vital link between the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem and Egypt. Despite its remote location and partially ruined state, the castle retains its mystique and offers panoramic views of the surrounding desert landscape. Exploring its remnants, including its underground chambers, cisterns, and defensive structures, allows visitors to imagine the castle's former grandeur.
Both Kerak Castle and Shobak Castle provide insights into the tumultuous era of the Crusades, and their imposing structures and historical significance make them captivating destinations for history enthusiasts and those intrigued by medieval warfare and architecture.
These Crusader castles, alongside the desert castles of Jordan, offer a unique opportunity to explore the diverse historical layers of the region, from ancient civilizations to medieval conflicts, and showcase Jordan's rich cultural heritage.
Jordan is known for its impressive array of castles and fortresses, each with its own unique history and architectural style. While the exact number may vary depending on the classification and criteria used, there are several notable castles in Jordan. Here are some of the most renowned ones:
Desert Castles: Jordan is famous for its desert castles, which were built during the Umayyad period as caravan stations, retreats, and fortresses. Some prominent examples include Qasr Amra, Qasr Kharana, Qasr Al-Azraq, Qasr Al-Mushatta, and Qasr Hallabat.
Crusader Castles: Jordan is home to several Crusader castles that were constructed during the Crusader campaigns in the region. Notable examples include Kerak Castle (Crac des Moabites) and Shobak Castle (Montreal).
Ajloun Castle: Located in the Ajloun Governorate, Ajloun Castle is a 12th-century fortress built by the Ayyubids. It played a crucial role in defending the region against the Crusaders.
Amman Citadel: Situated in the heart of Amman, the Amman Citadel is an ancient site that includes the remains of various structures, including the Umayyad Palace. While not a traditional castle, it holds significant historical importance.
Aqaba Castle: Located in Aqaba, this castle dates back to the Mamluk period and served as a defense fortress for the city's port.
These are just a few examples of the remarkable castles in Jordan. However, it's important to note that there are several other smaller forts and fortresses spread throughout the country, each contributing to the rich tapestry of Jordan's architectural heritage. The total number of castles in Jordan is difficult to determine precisely, but these iconic structures provide a captivating glimpse into the country's history and cultural legacy.
There are no intact Crusader castles in Jordan. The Crusaders did not establish any major strongholds within the borders of present-day Jordan. Their presence in the region primarily centered around the coastal areas and some parts of modern-day Syria and Lebanon. However, Jordan does have impressive examples of other ancient castles and fortresses, such as the desert castles and the iconic Kerak Castle, which showcase different historical periods and architectural styles.
The best time to visit the desert castles in Jordan is during the spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) seasons. These periods offer milder temperatures and more comfortable weather conditions for exploring the desert regions.
During spring, the landscapes come alive with blooming wildflowers and vibrant colors, creating a picturesque backdrop for your castle visits. The temperatures are generally pleasant, ranging from mild to warm, allowing for enjoyable outdoor activities.
Autumn is another favorable time to visit the desert castles. The scorching summer heat starts to subside, and the weather becomes more temperate, making it ideal for exploring the castles and the surrounding desert areas without the extreme heat.
It's important to note that the summer months in Jordan, particularly July and August, can be extremely hot, with temperatures reaching well above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in the desert regions. Visiting the castles during this time can be challenging due to the intense heat and limited shade. However, if you plan to visit during the summer, it's advisable to visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon when temperatures are slightly cooler.
Overall, spring and autumn offer the best balance of favorable weather conditions and comfortable temperatures for exploring the desert castles in Jordan. Remember to check the specific opening hours and accessibility of each castle before planning your visit.
Ajloun Castle, located in the north of Jordan, is an impressive and historically significant structure. Built in 1184 AD by the Ayyubid dynasty, it was designed to protect the region from Crusader invasions. The castle sits atop a hill overlooking the Jordan Valley and is surrounded by lush green hills. Its walls are made of limestone and its towers are topped with crenellations. Inside, visitors can explore its many chambers and courtyards, as well as its two mosques.
The castle's main entrance is a large gatehouse with two towers on either side. This gatehouse was built to protect the castle from attackers, as well as to provide access to those who wished to enter. Inside the gatehouse visitors can find a small courtyard with a fountain in the center. This courtyard leads into a larger courtyard surrounded by four towers and walls that reach up to 20 feet high. The four towers are connected by arched passageways that lead into other parts of the castle.
The castle also includes two mosques - one for men and one for women - which were used for prayer during times of war or peace. Inside these mosques visitors can find intricate stonework and colorful tiles on the walls and floors. The inner chambers of Ajloun Castle also contain artifacts from its past, including coins from different eras and pottery fragments that date back centuries ago.
Ajloun Castle was strategically placed atop a hill so that it could be seen from miles away in order to provide early warning of approaching enemies or invaders. It was also designed with defense in mind; its walls were thick enough to withstand most siege weapons while its towers provided an elevated view of any potential threats on the ground level below. Furthermore, Ajloun Castle had several underground tunnels connecting it to nearby villages so that food supplies could be brought in during times of siege or attack without being detected by enemies outside the walls.
Today, Ajloun Castle is a popular tourist destination in Jordan due to its historical significance and impressive architecture. Visitors can explore its many chambers and courtyards, marvel at its intricate stonework, admire its crenellated towers, learn about its past through artifacts found inside, or simply take in the breathtaking views of the surrounding hillsides from atop this ancient structure. Whether you're looking for an adventure or simply want to experience some history first-hand, Ajloun Castle is definitely worth a visit!
Shobak Castle, located in the heart of Jordan, is a stunning example of a Crusader castle. Built in 1115 by Baldwin I, the first King of Jerusalem, this impressive fortress was designed to protect the city from Muslim forces. With its thick walls and towers, it was able to withstand many sieges over the centuries. Today, Shobak Castle is a popular tourist destination and an important part of Jordan's history.
The castle is situated on a hilltop overlooking Wadi Musa, which is also known as the Valley of Moses. From this vantage point, visitors can take in stunning views of the surrounding area. The castle itself is made up of two distinct parts: an inner citadel and an outer wall that surrounds it. The inner citadel has four towers that are connected by a square wall and two gatehouses. Inside this inner citadel are several rooms that were used for storage and living quarters for soldiers who guarded the castle.
The outer wall encircles the entire castle and contains numerous towers that were used to monitor enemy activity from afar. This wall also contains two large gates that allowed access to the inner citadel when needed. In addition to these features, Shobak Castle also has several secret passages throughout its walls that allowed soldiers to move around without being seen by enemies outside the castle walls.
The interior of Shobak Castle is just as impressive as its exterior walls and towers. Inside are several rooms with high ceilings and intricate carvings on their walls and ceilings. There are also several courtyards where soldiers could relax during their down time or practice their combat skills in preparation for battle. The most impressive feature inside Shobak Castle is its grand hall which was used for banquets or meetings between important figures such as kings or generals from different armies.
Shobak Castle has been well-preserved over the centuries due to its strong construction materials and strategic location on a hilltop overlooking Wadi Musa Valley below it. Despite numerous sieges throughout its history, Shobak Castle still stands today as one of Jordan's most iconic landmarks and a popular tourist destination for visitors from all around the world who come to marvel at its grandeur and learn about its fascinating history.
The Umayyad Palace, located in the ancient city of Amman, Jordan, is a stunning example of Islamic architecture. Built in the 8th century by the Umayyad Caliphate, it was one of the most important political and religious centers of its time. The palace is a sprawling complex made up of several buildings and courtyards that are connected by a series of arched passageways. The palace is made from local limestone and features intricate carvings and ornate decorations that reflect its importance to the Umayyad dynasty.
The main entrance to the palace is through a large gate known as the Gate of Qasr al-Mushatta. This gate leads into a large courtyard with an open-air pavilion in its center. The pavilion is surrounded by several smaller courtyards, each with its own purpose. One courtyard was used for public ceremonies while another was used for private gatherings. In addition to these courtyards, there are several other buildings within the complex including a mosque, an audience chamber, and a library.
The most impressive building within the palace complex is undoubtedly the Great Hall of Justice. This hall served as both an administrative center and a court room where important decisions were made by the Umayyad rulers. It features two levels with an elevated platform at one end where members of the court sat while proceedings were held below them. The walls are decorated with intricate carvings and mosaics depicting scenes from Islamic history and mythology as well as scenes from everyday life in 8th century Amman.
Another interesting feature of the palace is its extensive water system which included fountains, pools, canals, and aqueducts that supplied water to all parts of the complex. This system was essential for providing water to residents during times when rainfall was scarce or nonexistent in Amman’s desert climate.
Today, visitors can explore this ancient palace and marvel at its grandeur and beauty while learning about its history and significance to Islamic culture during this period in time. The Umayyad Palace stands as a testament to Jordan’s rich cultural heritage and provides insight into how life was lived during this era in history. From its impressive architecture to its intricate water system, it’s no wonder why this magnificent palace continues to draw visitors from around the world each year!
Al Azraq Castle, or Qasr Azraq in Arabic, is a castle located in the eastern part of Jordan. It was built in 1237 by the Ayyubids and is one of the few surviving examples of early Islamic military architecture. The castle has been a witness to many battles and has been used as a fortress for centuries.
The castle is made up of two main sections: an inner and an outer wall. The inner wall is made up of four towers connected by thick walls and surrounded by a moat. Inside the walls are several buildings, including a mosque, barracks, and stables. The outer wall is made up of four towers connected by thick walls and surrounded by a ditch filled with water.
The castle was used as a military base during World War I and II. During World War I it served as an Ottoman garrison and during World War II it was used by the British forces to defend against German attacks. In addition to its military significance, Al Azraq Castle also served as an important trading post on the ancient Silk Road between China, India, and Europe.
Al Azraq Castle is one of Jordan's most important historical sites and has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985. The castle has been restored several times throughout its history but still retains much of its original structure. It stands today as an impressive reminder of Jordan's rich history and culture.
Visitors to Al Azraq Castle will find plenty to explore within its walls. Inside there are several buildings that have been restored to their original condition, including the mosque, barracks, stables, storehouses, kitchens, baths, guard rooms, watchtowers, courtyards, gardens, wells and cisterns. There are also several artifacts from different periods throughout history that can be seen inside the castle walls such as pottery shards from different eras along with coins from various civilizations that have passed through this region over time.
The most impressive feature at Al Azraq Castle is its surrounding landscape which provides visitors with stunning views of the desert landscape surrounding it on all sides. Visitors can take in breathtaking views from atop one of the towers or simply wander around the grounds admiring its beauty from below while learning about its history along the way.
Al Azraq Castle stands today as a testament to Jordan's long history and culture while providing visitors with an interesting look into life during different periods throughout time within its walls. Whether you're looking for stunning views or interesting historical artifacts this castle is sure to provide you with both!
Hammam as-Sarah is a traditional public bathhouse located in the city of Amman, Jordan. It is an iconic landmark that has been around for centuries and is still popular today. The bathhouse is a place where people can go to relax, socialize, and enjoy some traditional Jordanian culture.
The Hammam as-Sarah was built in the late 16th century by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. It was originally used by the Ottoman Empire as a public bathhouse for its soldiers and citizens. Over time, it became a popular spot for locals and tourists alike to come and enjoy the traditional atmosphere of the Hammam.
The building itself is quite impressive with its ornate decorations and intricate designs. The walls are covered with tiles depicting scenes from ancient times, while the ceiling is adorned with colorful mosaics that depict various aspects of Jordanian culture. The main room of the Hammam consists of two large pools filled with hot water that are used for bathing. There are also several smaller rooms that contain steam rooms, massage tables, and other amenities such as showers and changing rooms.
The Hammam as-Sarah offers many services to its customers including massage therapy, body scrubbing, facial treatments, manicures/pedicures, waxing services, hair styling services, and more. All these services are provided by experienced professionals who use traditional techniques to ensure customers receive a relaxing experience.
In addition to its services, the Hammam also offers a variety of cultural activities such as music performances by local musicians or belly dancers performing traditional dances from around the region. Visitors can also take part in workshops on traditional crafts such as pottery or basket weaving.
Qasr Amra, also known as Qusayr Amra, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the eastern desert of Jordan. It is one of the best-preserved examples of early Islamic art and architecture in the world. Built in the early 8th century, Qasr Amra is an impressive example of Islamic art and architecture from the Umayyad period. The site consists of a large palace complex with several buildings, including a bathhouse, mosque, and residential quarters.
The main structure at Qasr Amra is the palace complex, which was built for hunting and entertainment purposes. The palace is made up of several interconnected buildings that are surrounded by walls and towers. The most impressive feature of the complex is its large central courtyard which contains a pool and fountain. This courtyard was used for entertaining guests and hosting parties. The walls of the courtyard are decorated with intricate frescoes depicting scenes from nature, such as animals and plants.
The most famous feature of Qasr Amra is its bathhouse. This building was used for bathing purposes as well as social gatherings. Inside the bathhouse are two large rooms with intricate mosaics on their walls and ceilings depicting scenes from Greek mythology, such as Hercules fighting a lion or Dionysus riding a panther. These mosaics are some of the oldest surviving examples of Islamic art in existence today.
The mosque at Qasr Amra is another impressive structure at this site. This building was built to serve as a place for prayer for those who lived in or visited the palace complex. The mosque has an open courtyard surrounded by four columns that support an arched roof above it. Inside this courtyard are two mihrabs (niches) that were used to indicate which direction Muslims should face when praying towards Mecca during their daily prayers (salat).
In addition to these structures, there are also several residential quarters located around the palace complex at Qasr Amra which were used by those who lived there or visited it regularly during its heyday in the 8th century CE. These residential quarters were made up of small rooms with simple furnishings such as beds and tables where visitors could rest or eat while visiting this impressive site.
Qasr Amra is an incredible example of early Islamic art and architecture that has been preserved over time due to its remote location in Jordan’s eastern desert region. Its impressive palace complex, bathhouse, mosque, and residential quarters make it one of the best-preserved examples of Umayyad architecture in existence today - making it an important part of Jordan’s cultural heritage that should be appreciated by all who visit it!
Qasr Kharana, also known as Qasr al-Kharanah, is a desert castle located in the eastern part of Jordan. It is one of the most important and well-preserved monuments in the region, and its history dates back to the Umayyad period (661–750 CE). The castle was built by Umayyad Caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik (724–743 CE) as a caravanserai along the ancient trade route between Damascus and Iraq.
The castle is a square building with four towers at each corner, and it stands on a small hill surrounded by an artificial moat. It has an impressive entrance gate that leads to an inner courtyard with two large halls. Inside these halls are stone benches, walls decorated with stucco reliefs, and a small mosque. The walls of the castle are made of limestone blocks and mud brick, and they are decorated with geometric designs.
The most striking feature of Qasr Kharana is its unique architecture. It combines elements from both Islamic and Byzantine styles, such as pointed arches, domes, and decorative stucco work. This combination of styles gives the castle its distinctive character. The interior walls are covered with intricate geometric designs that were created using colored stones and tiles. These designs are believed to have been inspired by Persian art from the Sassanid period (224–651 CE).
Qasr Kharana is also known for its defensive features. The walls are thick enough to withstand artillery fire, and there are several loopholes in them which were used for shooting arrows at attackers. There is also a secret tunnel leading from inside the castle to outside so that people could escape in case of attack.
Today Qasr Kharana is a popular tourist destination in Jordan due to its historical significance and unique architecture. Visitors can explore the interior of the castle as well as climb up to one of its towers for a panoramic view of the surrounding desert landscape. There is also an onsite museum where visitors can learn more about this fascinating monument’s history and see artifacts found during excavations at Qasr Kharana over the years.
Qasr Kharana is truly one of Jordan’s most remarkable monuments; it stands out among other castles in the region due to its unique combination of Islamic and Byzantine architectural styles as well as its defensive features which make it an impressive example of military engineering from centuries ago. Its long history spanning many centuries makes it an invaluable part of Jordan’s cultural heritage that should be preserved for future generations to enjoy and appreciate!
Qasr al-Hallabat, or Qasr Hallabat, is an ancient archaeological site located in Jordan. It is located about 35 kilometers north of Amman, the capital of Jordan. The site is a fortified palace and settlement that dates back to the Iron Age. It was built by the Nabataeans, a nomadic people who lived in the area during the 1st century BCE.
The site consists of a large rectangular walled enclosure which was used as a defensive structure and as a palace. Inside the walls are several buildings including a temple, an administrative building, and residential structures. The walls are made of mud brick and have been preserved in excellent condition.
The most impressive feature of Qasr al-Hallabat is its impressive gatehouse. The gatehouse consists of two towers connected by an arched gateway. The towers are decorated with carvings and inscriptions which depict scenes from everyday life in the ancient city. This is one of the few surviving examples of Nabataean architecture in Jordan.
Inside the walls, there are several other structures including a bathhouse, cisterns for collecting water, and storage rooms for food and other supplies. These structures were used to support daily life within the palace complex.
The site also contains several tombs which were used to bury important members of society such as kings or high priests. These tombs have been well-preserved and provide insight into burial practices during this time period.
Qasr al-Hallabat has been studied extensively by archaeologists since its discovery in 1887 by Charles Warren and Claude Conder during their survey of Palestine and Transjordan (modern day Israel). Since then it has become one of Jordan's most important archaeological sites due to its importance as an example of Nabataean architecture and culture from this time period.
Today Qasr al-Hallabat is open to visitors who can explore the ruins and learn more about this important archaeological site from knowledgeable guides who can provide more information about its history and significance to Jordan's past. It is also possible to take guided tours around the site which offer insight into how life was lived at this ancient palace complex so long ago.
Qasr al-Hallabat is truly an amazing archaeological site that offers visitors an incredible glimpse into life during the Iron Age in Jordan's past. Its impressive gatehouse, well-preserved structures, tombs, and other features make it one of Jordan's most important archaeological sites that should not be missed on any visit to this part of the world!
Qasr al-Mshatta is a magnificent palace located in Jordan, just south of Amman. Built in the 8th century, it is one of the most impressive examples of Umayyad architecture in the world. From its grand entrance to its intricate mosaics, Qasr al-Mshatta is truly a sight to behold.
The palace was constructed during the reign of the Umayyad caliph al-Walid II and served as a winter residence for him and his court. It is believed that construction began around 744 AD and was completed shortly before his death in 745 AD. The palace covers an area of about 40,000 square meters and includes an outer wall, inner courtyard, and various chambers.
The most notable feature of Qasr al-Mshatta is its grand entrance gate. This gate stands at an impressive height of 12 meters and features two towers on either side with intricate carvings on their façades. The gate also features a large archway which leads into the inner courtyard. This courtyard is surrounded by a number of chambers which were used by the court during their stay at the palace.
One of the most impressive features of Qasr al-Mshatta are its mosaics. These mosaics are made up of thousands upon thousands of small pieces of colored glass and stone that have been carefully arranged to create intricate patterns and images. These mosaics can be found throughout the palace including on walls, floors, ceilings, and even some furniture pieces. They depict various scenes from nature such as birds, plants, animals, and even people playing musical instruments or engaging in activities such as hunting or fishing.
Qasr al-Mshatta has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985 due to its immense cultural significance and beauty. It serves as an important reminder of Umayyad architecture from centuries past and stands as one of Jordan’s most popular tourist attractions today. Visitors can explore this ancient palace for themselves by taking guided tours or simply admiring it from afar for its stunning beauty.
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