From the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Petra and Wadi Rum to golden beaches and crystal-clear seas, Aqaba makes a great base for exploring Jordan’s treasures and experiencing the Red Sea’s waters and marine life. Here’s how to get the best from three days in this conveniently located city.
Set on the Red Sea’s northern tip, Aqaba is ideal for accessing two of Jordan’s biggest highlights—Petra and Wadi Rum. Book a day trip to either, or combine them into one long but unforgettable day. History aficionados should opt for a group or private tour to Petra: the rose-red rock city carved by the long-ago Nabataeans. View its 2,000-year-old Treasury, Roman Amphitheater, and tombs with a guide for historical perspective. If scenery tempts you more, choose a half-day or day trip or overnight camping excursion to Wadi Rum: a desert mountain wilderness with ancient inscriptions, rock formations, Bedouin settlements, and sites associated with Lawrence of Arabia. Tours typically include a 4WD safari around the gorges and dunes for a touch of adventure.
Catch your breath today and enjoy Aqaba. Blessed with long beaches and reef-rich waters, it’s tailor-made for sunbathing and water sports. Admire exotic fish and corals on a snorkel or scuba dive at Aqaba Marine Park, join a snorkel cruise to coral-fringed Pharaoh Island, or take a glass-bottom boat to see the underwater world from above. Alternatively, explore Aqaba Fort (aka Mamluk Castle), the medieval fort captured by Lawrence of Arabia and his Bedouin army in 1917. Other nearby draws include the towering Aqaba Flagpole and Aqaba Archaeological Museum. Later, hit the Old Town for shopping and dinner, snapping up souvenirs before savoring the day’s catch at one of the popular fish restaurants.
Use today to visit Petra or Wadi Rum, whichever you didn’t see the first day. Alternatively, head to the Dead Sea to float in its salty waters, indulge in a mud bath, and bask in its famous mineral spa treatments, or seize the opportunity to visit neighboring Israel on a private day trip. Pass the Dead Sea en route to Jerusalem to see the Western Wall and Church of the Holy Sepulchre, before potentially adding a visit to Bethlehem. Lastly, if time allows, while away the evening in Aqaba with dinner, shopping, and a seafront stroll. On Fridays, don’t miss the Souk by the Sea: a mini food-and-music festival staged on the corniche.