Antiquities of Jordan
Discover the natural and archaeological wonders of Jordan
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This tour is specially designed for a small group of 16 to 24 Smithsonian travelers and offers outstanding travel value. Prices include airfare, airline taxes, fuel surcharges, and departure fees.
Jordan offers visitors a dazzling diversity of ancient sites and great natural beauty, as well as a tradition of warmth and hospitality. Join us to experience ancient and modern Jordan, beginning in Amman, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Here you’ll enjoy a guided tour of its bustling streets and meet local residents during a private lunch in a family’s home. Travel north through scenic pine forests and olive groves to Aljoun, stopping en route at the preserved Roman city of Jerash where you’ll witness a spectacular battle reenactment of fighting gladiators and chariot racing.
Marvel at the architectural feats of the Nabataeans, who carved their buildings into the rose-red cliffs of Petra, a World Heritage site. Enjoy two full days to explore Petra’s dramatic Treasury, monastery, 3,000-seat theater, colonnaded streets, rock-cut tombs, and shrines. In the nearby shadow of Wadi Rum’s otherworldly rock formations, a Bedouin driver takes you on a jeep ride through the sweeping desert expanse, where you’ll stay overnight in a private tented camp. And at the Dead Sea, a site of much historical, spiritual, and geological importance, you can allow the water’s restorative powers leave you feeling renewed and refreshed as you conclude your journey. Limited to 24 participants.
Day 1- 2 — Depart the U.S. and arrive in Amman, Jordan
After a connecting flight in Istanbul, arrive in Amman late this evening and transfer directly to your hotel.
Day 3 — Amman
After this morning’s briefing about the journey ahead, set out on a “behind the scenes” walking tour to get acquainted with this lively Middle Eastern capital. Meet locals engaged in nature conservation at the Wild Jordan Centre then visit the Ottoman-style King Hussein Mosque rebuilt in 1924 on the site of an ancient temple. Continue through the busy streets and vegetable markets near the Nymphaeum fountain (ca. 191 ce); the 6,000-seat Roman Theatre (ca. 170 ce) still used today; and the Citadel, offering excellent city views. After lunch in the home of a gracious Amman family, return to your hotel mid-afternoon. Tonight enjoy a welcome dinner at a local restaurant. (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Ajloun, Jerash
Today travel north through scenic pine forests and olive groves to the town of Ajloun, site of the well preserved Qalaat Errabadh (“Hilltop Castle”), built in 1184 for protection from the Crusaders, with grand views of the Jordan Valley. Continue on to the Roman ruins of Jerash, dubbed the “Pompeii of the East” for its splendid state of preservation. After lunch together here explore the colonnaded streets, theaters, churches, and temples that comprise the largest Roman site outside Italy. (B,L)
Day 5 — Amman, Petra
Traveling from Amman to Petra today, stop en route in Madaba, “City of Mosaics,” known especially for the Byzantine-era mosaic map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. See this ancient relic covering the floor of a church here then continue on to the important pilgrimage site of Mt. Nebo, where Moses is believed to have been buried overlooking the Jordan Valley. Visit Mt. Nebo’s 4th- and 6th-century Byzantine churches, and maybe catch glimpses of Jerusalem rooftops in the far distance. From Mt. Nebo proceed to the imposing 12th-century Crusader castle at Shobak, one of Jordan’s most important early sites. Early this evening we reach the “Lost City” of Petra. (B,L,D)
Day 6 — Petra
A UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World,” the archaeological site of Petra fills even seasoned travelers with jaw-dropping wonder. Set out this morning to explore this “rose-red city half as old as time,” a collection of red-hued temples, tombs, civic buildings, an entire city carved into the sheer rock face of the Sharah Mountains by the Nabataeans more than 2,000 years ago. Having prospered from antiquity to the Byzantine era, Petra then was “lost” to all but desert dwellers until its rediscovery in 1812 by a Swiss traveler. Entering through the Siq, the long, narrow rock chamber that betrays no hint of the splendor inside, spend the day exploring Petra: the dramatic Treasury (a key backdrop in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), the Monastery, 3,000-seat theater, colonnaded streets, rock-cut tombs, and shrines. (B,L)
Day 7— Petra
Return to the ruins at Petra this morning for further touring together. This afternoon is at leisure for independent exploration or to relax by the hotel pool or in the spa. Dinner tonight presents a special opportunity to prepare a typical Jordanian meal alongside local women and a chef at Petra Kitchen, where the furnishings, décor, and tableware all are handcrafted by Jordanian artisans. (B,D)
Day 8 — Petra, Wadi Rum
This morning visit nearby Al Beida (“Little Petra”), an ancient suburb whose ruins of tombs, temples, houses, and waterways carved directly into the rock walls resemble those at Petra itself. It was here during antiquity that caravans from Jerusalem and the Phoenician coast would travel to trade, and sometimes to settle, before continuing on to Petra. Following your tour stop for lunch at a local restaurant then begin the two-hour drive south to Wadi Rum, the dramatic landscape of pink and white sands, pre-historic valleys, and towering sandstone monoliths rising from the desert floor. This is the homeland of the once-nomadic Bedouin, who now live in protected villages. And it was here that British army officer T. E. Lawrence and Prince Faisal bin Hussein set their headquarters during the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire in 1917 – and where filmmaker David Lean shot parts of his 1962 epic Lawrence of Arabia. Late this afternoon embark on a sunset Jeep ride in the starkly beautiful moonscape that stands empty and silent, timeless and isolated. Dine and sleep tonight at Wadi Rum in a comfortable private tented camp. (B,L,D)
Day 9 — Wadi Rum, Dead Sea
Believed to have been the site of five biblical cities, including Sodom and Gomorrah, the Dead Sea boasts a legacy of historical, spiritual, and geological import. This salt lake lying between Israel to the west, Jordan to the east ranks as the world’s deepest hypersaline lake and second-saltiest body of water. Learn about this rare geographic phenomenon at the Dead Sea Panorama, a geological museum with magnificent views of the Dead Sea and the hills beyond. Reach your hotel early afternoon; you’re free to “float” in the therapeutic waters or enjoy the hotel’s spa facilities. (B)
Day 10 — Dead Sea, Bethany Beyond the Jordan
The Bible comes to life on today’s excursion to the Baptism Site at Bethany Beyond the Jordan, the area along the Jordan River where John the Baptist lived and Jesus was baptized. Since 1996, archaeologists have unearthed 20 churches, caves, and baptismal pools dating from the Roman and Byzantine periods. This afternoon is at leisure; tonight gather for a farewell dinner at the hotel. (B,D)
Day 11 — Depart for the U.S.
Depart this morning for the Amman airport and your connecting flights to the U.S. (B)