Planning two days in Aqaba? An ideal jumping-off point for day trips to Petra and Wadi Rum, Jordan’s only port city also serves up a bustling Old Town and the beaches, cruises, and water sports of the Red Sea. Here’s how to get the best from 48 hours in Aqaba.
Make full use of today by booking a private or group tour to one of Jordan’s nearby UNESCO World Heritage Sites or even farther afield. Most visitors head for the ancient rock city of Petra or the Wadi Rum desert of orange-hued mountains, but other options include the Dead Sea and even Jerusalem.
If you’ve picked Petra, spend the best part of the day admiring its relics and facades—hand-cut by the ancient Nabataeans. Walk through the Siq canyon to the Treasury, Amphitheater, and Roman ruins—all ethereally beautiful—and hear their backstories. If you’ve chosen Wadi Rum, meanwhile, rumble through its gorges by 4WD before hikes to see its rock bridges, ancient carvings, and springs.
Wadi Rum takes on a special beauty at dusk and after dark, and some tours are timed to catch the sunset or include an overnight stay in a tented desert camp. If you’re back in Aqaba tonight, however, slow the tempo with supper in the Old Town and an amble along the starlit corniche.
Devote your second day to Petra or Wadi Rum—visiting the sight you didn’t cover yesterday—or focus on Aqaba’s attractions. Visit 16th-century Aqaba Fort, also called Mamluk Castle, from which Lawrence of Arabia ousted the Turks in 1917, and see the huge seafront Aqaba Flagpole, one of the world’s tallest.
Lounge on one of Aqaba’s beaches this afternoon, or crank up the fun with a snorkel cruise to Pharaoh Island, a glass-bottom boat ride, or a scuba dive in the reefs of Aqaba Marine Park.
Tonight, hit Aqaba corniche to watch the sun disappear behind Egypt’s Sinai Mountains across the water. Then, hunt for last-minute gifts such as ceramics and spices in the Old Town before dinner at a traditional restaurant.