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Trip Report

Support Local Communities in Northern Jordan

Get off the beaten path in Jordan and explore the beautiful north of the country, supporting local communities and discovering hidden gems along the way!

  • The Oval Forum at Jerash+ 5
  • Delicious breakfast at Beit Khairat Souf.
  • Landscapes at Pella
  • Support Local Communities in Northern Jordan
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AsiaJordan5 days / June 2018

Highs & Lows

Watching the sunset over the stunning Lake Tiberias / Sea of Galilee

You may put on a few pounds from all the home-cooked food!

Itinerary Overview

When planning a trip to Jordan, most travellers make a beeline straight for Petra, but there are plenty of other places to discover, too, in Jordan that are just as stunning and provide further insight into local history, traditions and culture. 

In this itinerary we'll cover the often-forgotten highlights of northern Jordan, which are easy to reach from the capital, Amman. Take in the delights of Jerash,  Pella, Umm Quais and Ajloun, which you can easily add on to the beginning or end of your Jordan trip if you want to explore Petra and the south as well. 

We travelled in summer (very hot), we recommend travelling in Jordan between March - May if you can for the best weather. 

  • 1 Night: Jerash
    Historical ruins
  • 1 Night: Tabqet Fahel
    Homestay experience, Pella ruins (Tabqet Fahel)
  • 2 Nights: Umm Qais
    History, Food, Community Tourism
  • 1 Night: Ajloun
    Nature reserve & history
Jerash - Historical ruins

Jerash Historical ruins

Jerash - Historical ruins - The Oval Forum at Jerash
The Oval Forum at Jerash
Jerash - Historical ruins - Delicious breakfast at Beit Khairat Souf.
Delicious breakfast at Beit Khairat Souf.

An easy drive from Amman, you'll find yourself in the city of Jerash within 2 hours or so. 

Once one of the cities of the Decapolis (Gerasa), the ruins of Jerash can't fail to impress, as you take in the colonnade and amphitheatre and get a sense of this city's former prestige. Be left in awe by the stunning Oval Forum and Colonnaded Street. 

Explore the ruins here and wonder about the life that was once lived in these ancient cities that were so advanced for their time.

When your stomach starts to growl, head over to the womens’ cooperative Beit Khairat Souf – at this cooperative the women are involved in an array of environmental projects, from sustainable farming and re-forestation, to producing home-made jams, herbs, spices and other handicrafts that are for sale in their shop, and they run a cafe too. Call ahead to check they are open for breakfast / lunch.

Tabqet Fahel - Homestay experience, Pella ruins (Tabqet Fahel)

Tabqet Fahel Homestay experience, Pella ruins (Tabqet Fahel)

Tabqet Fahel - Homestay experience, Pella ruins (Tabqet Fahel) - Landscapes at Pella
Landscapes at Pella
Tabqet Fahel - Homestay experience, Pella ruins (Tabqet Fahel) - House of the Artist - Beit Al Fannan
House of the Artist - Beit Al Fannan
Tabqet Fahel - Homestay experience, Pella ruins (Tabqet Fahel) - Breakfast with a view
Breakfast with a view

About three hours north of Amman, and a 1.5 hour drive from Jerash along the River Jordan valley, sits the small village of Pella (Tabqet Fahel). Despite holding a unique proposition to visitors, hardly any outsiders make it here. The ancient city of Pella was one of the cities of the fabled Roman Decapolis, and is one of the only places in the world to have shown evidence of continuous settlement for the last 6000 years. Perhaps it’s the next Petra-in-the-making, but for now Pella sees under a thousand visitors per year.

Our stay was at the only tourist accommodation around, at Beit al Fannan. Baraka Destinations have taken over a former artist’s house complete with terraces, day bed and amazing views out over the rolling hills of Pella towards the Jordan Valley. 

Set up over 3 floors, the house has been lovingly decorated to include plenty of creative touches, and there’s even a mini-artists studio to help awaken your creative side. The family next door serve as caretakers for the B&B, and we enjoyed one of the most delicious breakfasts ever with views out over the Pella ruins and surrounding countryside. 

If you visit during spring, the surrounding lands are filled with wild flowers. 

Umm Qais - History, Food, Community Tourism

Umm Qais History, Food, Community Tourism

Umm Qais - History, Food, Community Tourism - null
Umm Qais - History, Food, Community Tourism - null
Umm Qais - History, Food, Community Tourism - null

An hour’s drive from Pella, or two hours away from Amman, lies the quiet town of Umm Qais. Home to a record number of PHD graduates (no one could tell us quite why), Umm Quais lies close to the border with the Palestinian Territories / Israel and the Golan Heights area (Umm Qais is safe and peaceful to visit, travel advisories can be found here).

We stayed at Beit al Baraka which is a warm and welcoming bed-and-breakfast located in the heart of the small town, before setting out to discover the surrounding countryside and meet some friendly locals. We started with lunch at Galsoum’s Kitchen where we cooked upside down chicken and rice (Maqloubeh) under her careful supervision (and encouragement!). 

We cycled in the summer heat with our ex-miliatary turned cycling enthusiast guide along quiet roads out of Umm Qais and out to stunning view points over the Golan Heights.

Umm Qais is an often forgotten gem of a town right up in the far north west of Jordan, overlooking the River Jordan valley. Home the ancient ruins of Gadara, we spent several days here exploring the old town, cycling around the nearby countryside, learning to cook Jordanian specialities and visiting local families through our hosts at Baraka Destinations who run the charming Beit al Baraka guesthouse. Sitting above the ruins and watching the sunset over the River Jordan and Sea of Galilee was one of the most beautiful moments on our entire Jordan trip.

Beit Al Baraka can organise lots of different activities here which all support local community members and grassroots tourism organisations - from cycling tours, to bee keeping workshops, to cooking classes. 


Ajloun - Nature reserve & history

Ajloun Nature reserve & history

Heading back towards Amman, Ajloun is a nice town to stop off in and boasts a castle (unfortunately closed during our visit) and a beautiful forest reserve with is one of Jordan's premier forest reserves. 

Once you've explored the castle, we recommend spending most of your time at the Forest Reserve. The Ajloun Forest Reserve which is home to a beautiful visitor centre and restaurant. The restaurant has a terrace with views out over the reserve, and also runs cookie-making demonstrations (yum). The menu includes lots of fresh, organic options (ingredients grown on site).

There are cabins you can stay in on site (or else you can just come here on a day trip), and there are plenty of different hiking trails throughout the reserve. 

Q & A

  • What would you have changed?

    If you have more time on your hands, Pella, Umm Qais and Ajloun are the perfect spots to just relax for a few days - we didn't have as much time as we would have liked.
  • Anything go wrong during the trip?

    You will need to have your own rental car for this trip or better - a car and driver - as the roads are not so well signposted and are not as good as the highways in other parts of the country.
  • Restaurant recommendations?

    You'll find the best food at peoples' homes - arrange additional meals at Beit al Baraka (Umm Qais) and Beit al Fannan (Pella) if you can. The Umm Qais Rest House has some of the best views in town of the ruins and lake at Umm Qais which you won't want to miss.
  • Packing tips?

    Depending on the season you're travelling in, the weather can be hot, warm or cold in the north of Jordan. If you're travelling in spring or autumn, pack layers including a warm sweater and jacket, and good shoes/boots for hiking.
  • Transportation Tips?

    You'll need a car for this trip - either a self-drive rental car or a car and driver / taxis.