The north of Jordan

From Amman the whole of the north of Jordan can be reached within a few hours drive.  Ruined Roman towns, castles and important Christian sites are just a short distance away. I will tell you about the places I visited  so you can see if they interest you. If you don’t have much time you could visit all these places within a day.  But if you have time you might prefer to take two or three days and spend an afternoon at the Dead Sea too.

Umm Qays

The most northerly site I visited was the ruined Roman town of Umm Qays. The theatre and the main street are reasonably well preserved as you can see from the photos below.

roman theatre at umm qays jordan

the main street at the Roman town at Umm Qays

The best thing I liked about the site was the view over the Sea of Galilee and across to the snow on the top of the Golan heights. It was exciting to be close to the Sea of Galilee that I had read about in the Bible. It is a real place not just a myth! The photo below shows the Sea of Galilee viewed from Umm Qays. You can also look into Syria to the north-east. My driver assured me that this area was safe.

sea of galilee

Ajloun Castle

Mid-way between Amman and Umm Qays you can find Ajloun castle. Built by the nephew of Saladin it is much smaller than Kerak castle but well preserved. If you like castles it is well worth a short stop.

ajloun castle on top of hill in the distance

stone stairs within Ajloun castle


Close to Ajloun is the site of Jerash. This huge Roman site is the largest and best preserved Roman town outside of Italy. It is really impressive. You can understand why it is called the Pompeii of the East. You enter the site through Hadrian’s Triumphal Arch below.

Then you pass along the length of the circus and arrive at the theatre.

roman theatre at Jerash in Jordan

Next to the theatre are the remains of the temple of Artemis which would have dominated the site.

remains of the Greek temple at Jerash in Jordan

Moving on you find the Oval Plaza which is particularly striking. It reminded me of the Piazzo in front of St Peter’s in Rome.

Oval plaza at Jerash in Jordan

You can then follow the main streets past the huge fountain to the arch at the far end. Jerash is one of the group of ten Roman cities forming the decapolis which were built following the Roman invasion in 63BC. Amman and Umm Qays are also in this group of Roman cities but the remains at Jerash are by far the most impressive.  When Jesus was preaching in the area Jerash must have been a thriving Roman city.

Bethany on the Jordan

Bethany on the Jordan is believed to be the site where Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist. Today it is in the no man’s land between Jordan and Israel. From a distance there is nothing visible other than a number of churches. A bus takes you from the car park to the baptism site and the river Jordan.

orthodox church with dome at bethany on the jordan

The precise spot where Jesus was baptised is marked and covered by a roof to protect it.  Today it is a short walk to the Jordan River as the path of the river has moved with time. Many people come to immerse themselves in the river. However you can see, from the state of the water in the photo below, why I was happy just to wash my feet.

river jordan near where jesus was baptised

Mount Nebo

Mount Nebo is the place where Moses looked out to the promised land. If you stand on Mount Nebo you can look to the Dead Sea and into Israel beyond.

dead sea from mount nebo

You can visit the remains of a Christian church here built in the 4th century.

remain of the church on the summit of mount nebo

Many well preserved mosaics are on display.  I like the mosaic of the hunting scenes below.

Mosaic of hunters, lions and bears