Go the long way round – King’s Highway, Jordan

If you are in a rush to get through Jordan, you should take the modern and relatively straight Route 15, better known as the Desert Highway. It will get you from Amman to Petra in around 3 hours. However, to take this road means to miss out on seeing original fragments of the Madaba Map, Moses’ resting place at Mount Nebo, Karak Castle and more. My advice would be to take the scenic route – the winding drive through valleys and over mountains is worth your time alone.

We did our King’s Highway drive in one day. It takes about six hours without stops so set off nice and early, and make sure you’ve got plenty of water and snacks. If you’d like to do it over a few days and stay over along the way, have a look at this BBC Travel piece. It is from 2012 though, so make sure you check that the accommodation mentioned is still open!

My trip down the King’s Highway was part of a road trip around the country. Head to this post to see our route, and to find out more about Jordan itself. 

Madaba Church
St George’s Church, home of the Madaba Map.

Our first stop after leaving Amman was St George’s Church in Madaba. The church itself is nice enough, but what you are really here to see is on the floor: the oldest surviving depiction of Jerusalem and the Holy Land on a map. Dating back to the 6th century AD, you can still clearly make out a number of sites including the place of John the Baptist’s baptism, Bethlehem, and the Dead Sea. (I can’t imagine that something of this historical significance would just be protected by a small chain if it was in Europe…)

Fragment of madaba map
Fragments of the mosaic Madaba Map
Inside St George's Church
Inside St George’s Church

Travel just fifteen minutes outside of Madaba and you will find your next stop – the beautiful Mount Nebo.

Mount Nebo sign
At the entrance to Mount Nebo

Mentioned in the Bible as the place where Moses was granted a view of the Promised Land, Mount Nebo is popular with pilgrims and secular tourists alike. Depending on the weather you may be able to see out as far as Jerusalem and Jericho, but at the very least you can expect stunning views of the Holy Land and the Jordan Valley.

Holy Land sign

View from Mount Nebo

The church at the top contains some beautiful floor mosaics which are very nicely curated and well worth a look.

Entry to Mount Nebo costs 2JD and isn’t included in the Jordan Pass. There’s a small shop and cafe, and toilet facilities half way up the walk.

After you leave Mount Nebo, you can visit the mosaic workshop and store close by. You’ll get to see how the mosaics similar to those in the church at Mount Nebo are made, and of course the option to buy something to take home. The tables in particular were absolutely stunning, but too expensive for us to justify. The good news is that if you do fall in love with one, you don’t need to worry about getting it home – if you buy from this workshop the Queen of Jordan will cover the shipping.

Soon after leaving this area you’ll reach the top of a valley with the Mujib Dam at the bottom of it. Make sure you get out to take pictures and enjoy this absolutely stunning section of the trip. You can even get an ‘ALDI’ price coffee and a camel scarf should the fancy take you.

View of highway
The King’s Highway running down towards the Mujib Dam

Our final stop on the King’s Highway before Petra was at Karak. We got lunch at the Falcon Rock hotel there. The views and staff were nice, but the food was overpriced and nothing to write home about (and me writing about it here doesn’t count!). After we’d eaten we headed to the real reason for stopping here, Karak Castle.

Karak Castle is 900 years old, and has a rich history which can be learned about in depth at the on site museum. Guides will offer you tours but there are plenty of signs, and if you have a guidebook or access to the internet you’ll have more than enough to be going on with.

Karak Castle

You can walk through the inside of various parts of the castle, and there are some lovely views from the top. Entry is 2JD, or free with the Jordan Pass.

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With all of our stops completed, it was time to head to Petra.

If you have any questions, want help planning a trip to Jordan, or have an idea for a guest blog please email contact@talbahtstravels.com.

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