Nestled between high desert mountains and the idyllic gulf, Aqaba is Jordan’s (and much of the Middle East’s) most flourishing ocean-side getaway. With a laid-back vibe and a fascinating past, Aqaba is an aquatic wonderland that will linger with you long after leaving.
Delve into the excavation site where human remains dating back nearly 6,000 years were found at Tal Magass and Hujayrat Al-Ghuzlan. Sail on over and book yourself a day-cruise out to the Pharaoh’s Island and explore through Saladin Castle. Or take a snorkel over the lush coral reef down on Barracuda Beach,then sway your way into hammock-fuelled bliss. Whatever you want to do, Aqaba will let you keep up with the Jonses – whether it’s Indiana at the archaeological sites, or that nice couple on the beach towel next to you!
Aqaba’s Top 10
10. Aqaba Gateway Dine, drink and dance your way into the moonlight at this brilliant hub of restaurants and bars.
5. Aqaba Marine Park See under the Red Sea with a glass-bottomed boat tour. The more adventurous can take a dive!
9. Noor al-Hussein Foundation Shop Feel all warm and fuzzy when you pick up a few handicrafts. All profits go towards helping marginalised Jordanian communities.
4. Ayla Ruins The city that once stood in the centre of Aqaba, the ruins of Ayla date back to the seventh century.
8. The House of Al Sharif Hussein Bin Ali Once home to the leader of the Arab Revolt (and great-great-grandpappy of the current king), it is full of traditional wares to check out.
3. Aqaba Archeological Museum As Aqaba was once a major trading centre, there is an abundance of fascinating coins and pottery, and some fantastic Roman inscriptions.
7. Aqaba Mountainside Rent a dune buggy and go flying up and over sand dunes under the mighty Aqaba Mountains.
2. Aqaba Bird Observatory Aqaba is smack bang in the middle of a major bird migratory route. If you’re here in spring or autumn, get your binoculars out for a grand show.
6. The Purpose Church Vatican, shmatican! Although only ruins, this aptly named structure from the third century is thought to be the oldest purpose-built church in the world.
1. Aqaba Castle Make the pilgrimage to this old 16th century military fort, which was also used as an inn (an excellent combo) overlooking the sea.
- Hamam Turkish Bath –This Middle-Eastern version of a sauna was built by the Romans.
- Aqaba Castle – Built originally by crusaders in the 13th century, this fortification was renovated by the Ottomans.
- Aqaba Museum – The collection includes artefacts from archaeological excavations and old coins from Iraq and Egypt.
- Ayla – The ruins of the city’s medieval port, which once received international trade.
- Jordan Experience – A multimedia presentation explaining the history and culture of the country.
Aqaba Art & Culture
- Middle East Distant Heat Festival – Annually held on July 31 and August 1, locals and visitors celebrate with electronic dance music.
- Nyazi Tours – They can take you to see the antiquities in the surrounding desert on hikes or in jeeps.
- Petra – Visit this ancient, abandoned city that lies hidden in the desert of Jordan.
- Aqaba Arts and Culture Festival – See jewellery and traditional clothes at this annual gathering in January.
- Aqaba Cultural Centre – A gallery mostly devoted to exhibitions of the visual arts in Aqaba.
- Sam’s Jewelers – Buy traditional Jordanian necklaces at this family endeavour.
- Redwan Bookshop – Novels, newspapers and guidebooks are available at this excellent store.
- Noor al-Hussein Foundation Shop – Traditional Jordanian designs and jewellery are sold here.
- Safeway – This supermarket is less than a kilometre from the Princess Haya Hospital.
- Human Supermarket – Considered the best Jordanian supermarket in Aqaba.
Gay & Lesbian Aqaba
- Golden Tulip Hotel – This gay-friendly lodging is situated on a street lined with restaurants and discos in Aqaba.
- Corniche – Gay cruising openly occurs along this strip in the downtown area.
- Friends – This bar is not designated as gay, but is a fun spot for stiff drinks.
- Baranda Lounge – This cool bar is not designated as gay, but it offers a relaxed vibe with a nice patio.
- Kempinski Hotel – Relax on this private beach area with lots of amenities, including sun beds, towels and jet skiing.
- Ali Baba Restaurant – This is a popular restaurant serving Jordanian cuisine.
- Sindbad – A variety of cruises are offered, including a two-hour sunset outing in Aqaba.
- South Beach – This strip of shoreline is popular with locals and tourists as well.
- Royal Aero Sports Club of Jordan – Tours of the landscape surrounding the city are given in airplanes and hot-air balloons.
- Neptune Boat – This specially designed submarine will take you to see underwater sights off the coast.
- Red Sea Tours – The tours offered here are at budget rates compared with the other agencies.
- Take an inexpensive, one-hour dive off the coast of the city at the PADI Dive Centre.
- Visit undersea gardens and shipwrecks with assistance from the Aqaba International Dive Centre.
- Go on a half-day snorkelling trip into the Red Sea with the staff from Sindbad.
- Relax and watch football on the big screens at a pub known as Rovers Return in Aqaba.
- Play volleyball or just watch a game at Barracuda Beach.
Bust out your patriotic pants for Aqaba’s Independence Day celebrations in May.
Also in May is the spectacle under the stars of the annual Full Moon Desert Marathon.
Like nothing you’ve ever seen before, make sure you check out the annual Wadi Rum Camel Race in August.
For a desert dance festival that will impress even the most hard core of party-junkies, fist-pump your way over to the Distant Heat Festival in August.
Tuck in your napkins and get ready for the ‘Big Feast’ at the Eid Al Kabeer in November.
When To Go
Spring in Aqaba is the best time to visit, especially in April when the flowers are in bloom and the sun is shining on your newly tanned face.
Summer and winter in Aqaba are the biggest extremes in weather, from frosty snow to scorching humidity. Make sure you pack appropriately!
With a little light-hearted negotiation, taxis are an efficient and inexpensive way to get around.
Buses are also an excellent way to travel. Knock on the window with a coin when you’re ready to get off.
A really beautiful way to check out the coastline is to stretch the old legs…
3 hotels in Aqaba, JO
Set close to city's popular hotspots such as Aqaba Castel, Dream Mall, Royal Yacht Club, Days Hotel Aqaba features modern rooms, quality accommodation and pleasant service to provide an enjoyable... More
With easy access to the private beach and cool water sports, the InterContinental Aqaba offers luxurious accommodations and convenient facilities for a memorable stay. GeneralHaving a capacity to... More