There's something magical about ruins.
History has seeped in through each crevice and each crumbling stone tells a hundred enchanting stories about the past.
I've always been fascinated by the beauty of those broken buildings that emit as much grandeur in their crumbling state as they used to do back in their day. Exploring ruins, touching those history-steeped surfaces, knowing more about the people who inhabited those walls when they were standing tall fills me with a sense of awe that very few things can.
So, when I went to Jordan (few years back), I was ecstatic to experience some of the most magnificent ruins all over the country! The ruins in Jordan vary in architecture & culture - from the Roman amphitheatres of Jerash to the rock-cut ruins of Petra built by the Bedouins to the holy Christian ruins at Mt. Nebo; there's a wide variety of history-rich monuments to explore and get mesmerized by. And so I thought, that these magnificent ruins deserve a separate post for my fellow travel enthusiasts & ruin-lovers out there.
1. Roman Ruins at Jerash
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Jordan, the Greco-Roman ruins in Jerash are sprawled over a wide area that can be explored by foot over 3-4 hours. The imposing Hadrian's Arch or Triumphal Arch, built AD 129, will welcome you into the ruin complex if you enter from the southern end. The central attraction of the site is the forum which is oblong in shape, with the paved limestone plaza surrounded by 56 Ionic columns that make for great photo-ops.
At one end of the forum lie the ruins of the Temple of Zeus which can be reached after a climb. Next to it is the fascinating & huge South Theatre - a Roman amphitheatre built to sit upto 5000 spectators at once! The acoustics are still impressive which goes to show the level of science that went behind these historical architecture, and the same is proved random tourists breaking out into a song at the podium or traveling musicians who might come by.
The main thoroughfare of the old city runs on one side. It is a colonnaded street that still flaunts the original paved stones over which chariots used to run back in the day. There's also a small museum which showcases the history of Jerash and has an impressive collection of old artefacts from the site.
Tickets: 8 JD or free entry if you have the Jordan Pass
Guides: You can get good guides at around 20-25 JD near the ticket counter
2. Ancient Ruins of Petra
When one says 'Jordan', the first thing that comes to mind is the famous rose-hued archaeological ruins of Petra. Built more than 2000 years ago by the Nabateans, the ruins at Petra are not only a World Heritage Site, but also included in the list of the New Wonders Of The World!
The 'Lost City of Petra' can be accessed from a 2-km pathway through narrow canyons, and the walk itself is nothing less than an adventure! The cliffs flanking the narrow path are towering chunks of sandstone that turn pink & red with the changing sunlight as the day progresses. There are horse-drawn carriages that take visitors from the main gate to the ruins for a fee, but try to walk it if you are not old or ailing. The best part is when the canyons open up to reveal the majestic ruins of The Treasury carved into the sandstone rockface in all its historic glory!
Carved directly into the sandstone mountains, the buildings in this complex are awe-inspiring & regal in a rustic way. The architecture is Nabatean & Greco-Roman in style and most of the monuments that stand tall till today are ancient tombs, already looted of their treasure by thieves in the past. Now, the entire heritage site is home to the Bedouin tribesmen & women who work as local guides, sell souvenirs, and enthrall tourists with stories of their culture & history.
We even indulged in the thrilling experience of hiking up to the cliffs for a bird's eye view of Al Khazneh (The Treasury) and it was one of our best memories from the trip. We hadn't originally planned to do the hike, hence we had to spend 4 hours climbing & trekking in long dresses & casual shoes, but if you want to go for this unique experience, then it's preferable to go dressed accordingly.
From The Treasury, you can hike up further (around 900 steps) to the top of another hill to see The Monastery or even make the uphill journey on a mule/horse.
We had a 2-day pass for Petra and I'm glad I could visit this magical place on both days to fully experience & enjoy its rich history. You can even opt for the 1-day pass if you are in the country for a short stay.
Tickets: If you are staying overnight in Petra - 50 JD for 1 day, 55 JD for 2 days, 60 JD for 3 days
If you are a day visitor in Petra - 90 JD
Guides: 50-100 JD depending upon what monuments you want to cover
3. Ruins of Ajloun Castle
One of the biggest & most fascinating castles situated in the Northwestern part of the country, this majestic fortress commands a stunning view of the Jordan valley. You can easily walk through the ruins and explore the various parts of the castle on your own as there is not much to be explained or pointed out by guides. The castle itself is situated on top of a hill and you've to trek up if you are walking from Ajloun. We had a car which took us right up to the visitor's centre though.
The crumbling facade of the castle & the broken towers lend an aura of rustic appeal to these 12th century ruins. The medieval Arab military architecture makes this castle an interesting tourist attraction. The ruins are well-preserved and perfectly safe for exploration even without guides or local help.
The fascinating maze of galleries, chambers, steep staircases & arched doorways make this castle an interesting destination for tourists. The view from the top or any of the towers is mesmerizing to say the least. Built atop the ruins of a monastery in the 12th century, these ruins are must-visit if you are exploring the Jerash & Ajloun region of Jordan.
Tickets: 3 JD, free for Jordan Pass holders
4. Christian ruins at Mt. Nebo
Holy ruins frequented by Christian pilgrims, Mt. Nebo is the place where Moses is said to have seen the Promised Land. Ancient remnants of a Church & a monastery can be seen at the top of the mountain where Moses is rumored to have been buried. Pilgrims flock to the summit where the Moses Memorial Church stands tall, with a modern chapel built on top of the ruins of the ancient Byzantine church.
The fascinating remains of the biblical structures can be seen, preserved by the modern outer structure of the renovated buildings - you can ogle at intricate mosaic floors dating back to 1400 years, marvel at the beauty of gorgeous stained-glass windows and get impressed by the well-preserved excavated ruins strewn around the complex.
Even if you are not someone who is interested in holy pilgrimages or historical sites, you can still enjoy the stunning panoramic view of the Dead Sea & the Desert of Judah from the top of the mountain.
Tickets: 2 JD
5. Roman ruins at Amman Citadel
These fascinating ruins that occupy the highest hilltop in Amman, the capital city of Jordan, date back to the Bronze Age! It's spread over a wide area on the peak of the city's biggest hill, and the view from the top is stunning - you can look down upon a panoramic expanse of downtown Amman and its same-colored buildings.
The most prominent feature of these ruins are the Roman pillars of the Temple of Hercules which still stand strong & victorious through hundreds & thousands of years of history. You can walk around and explore the ruins, and even check out some of the underground caves/hideouts if you are feeling adventurous.The Citadel also houses a small but impressive Archeological Museum, behind which lies another attraction - the Umayyad Palace. The ruins of these 8th-century royal & residential buildings have been excavated by archaeologists since the 1920s. You can see the majestic domed audience hall and an ancient cistern that used to be the source of water supply for the area in days of yore.
It's preferable to take a taxi up to the citadel and for women pant is preferred as outfit, as the walk up and down can be pretty steep & tiring.
Tickets: 2 JD or free entry if you have the Jordan Pass
Guides: Knowledgeable guides available for around 15 JD near the ticket counter
You can definitely plan your next trip to Jordan (once international travel becomes safe once again) - if you have any concerns about safety or security of visiting such a country, rest assured, we did a girls trip and not for one moment did we feel unsafe or at risk.
This country is largely dependent on tourism for its economy, and they have been hit badly due to the pandemic (as a lot of other tourism-based countries). So, you can do your bit in helping this beautiful country get back on its feet - and have a safe trip yourself as this offbeat country will surely not have big tourist crowds like some other popular destinations!
Make sure you check out my post on 5 Things You Must Do In Jordan while planning the itinerary. It talks about some of the offbeat experiences that you might miss out on generally. You can hit me up on Instagram - @styleprism - or email me on email@example.com with any other queries you might have regarding travel to Jordan. I'll definitely try to help out however I can!
Here's hoping this year is nothing like the last one and we get back to traveling more & more soon!!!
Happy New Year!