Known as the “Cradle of Civilization,” the small country of Jordan is a popular destination for faith-based tours of the Middle East. It’s home to some of the oldest Christian communities in the world, their presence dating back to the 1st century AD.
Here are some of the most important religious sites to visit in Jordan.
This 3,300 foot mountain is said to be where Moses gazed down over the Promised Land. Since the 4th century A.D., it has been a site of Christian pilgrimage for those wanting to walk in his footsteps. You can reach Mount Nebo from the town of Madaba in about 10 minutes by car.
From the peak of this mountain, you can see an incredible view stretching all the way to the Dead Sea, Jerusalem and beyond. You’ll also find a statue of Moses, as well as a church and a collection of stunning excavated mosaics dating back to the 6th century. There is an active monastery there today, which is open to visitors.
Bethany Beyond the Jordan
Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bethany Beyond the Jordan is a very important religious destination in Jordan. It is believed to be the place where John the Baptist performed the baptism of Jesus.
This intriguing site features Byzantine and Roman ruins, including the remains of chapels, churches and even a monastery. There are a series of caves and pools where the baptisms were carrying out.
Many generations of hermits, monks, and priests have lived here and have left behind testimonies of their religious activities.
Umm Qais, a town located north of Amman, was once known as Gadara. It was one of the most vibrant ancient Greco-Roman cities of the Decapolis. It was positioned in a very strategic location in ancient times, right at the confluence of several key trading routes connecting Palestine and Syria.
According to the bible, this is the place where Jesus cast out the Devil from a madman and into a herd of pigs. The pigs then ran down the hill into the Sea of Galilee and drowned.
The town rises 518 meters above sea levels and with stunning views of Lake Tiberias and the Golan Heights, it’s one of the best vantage points in northern Jordan.
The Dead Sea and the Cave of Lot
No trip to Jordan is complete without the experience of floating in the Dead Sea. It’s the lowest point on the planet and it has a salt level nearly 10 times higher than any oceans around the world. This will give you the amazing ability to float effortlessly in these salt-saturated waters.
The Dead Sea is the setting for the tale of Lot, one of the most dramatic stories in the Bible. Lot’s wife was transformed into a pillar of salt for going against God’s will. Lot and his two daughters escaped to a cave located by the Dead Sea, near the town of modern day Safi.
When you visit the town of Safi, you’ll find a monastery and church dedicated to Lot, constructed near the cave where he and his daughters took refuge.
This fortified Roman garrison contains 16 Byzantine churches and the site has been allied to the biblical settlement of Mephaat (from the Book of Jeremiah).
It is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site, due to its important ruins dating to the early Muslim, Byzantine and Roman periods. When it comes to religious sites to visit in Jordan, it’s a truly impressive example.
One of the most spectacular sights in Umm ar-Rasas is the mosaic floor of the Church of St. Stephen. It was created in the year 785 AD and is the largest and best preserved mosaic floor in all of Jordan.
It depicts a number of hunting and fishing scenes, as well as important cities of the region including Philadelphia (Amman), Madaba, Gaza and Jerusalem.
This fortified hilltop overlooks the Dead Sea and is thought to be the location where John the Baptist was imprisoned and executed. According to the bible, he was imprisoned for two years and his execution took place in 32 AD, before the Passover. It is one of the most important religious sites to visit in Jordan.
The story goes that Princess Salome danced before her stepfather, King Herod, at his birthday party. He was so enamoured by her dance that he offered to grant her anything she desired. After conferring with her mother, Herodias, Princess Salome asked for the head of John the Baptist on a platter.
Why? John the Baptist angered Herodias earlier. He said that her marriage to Herod was not legal, because she had previously been divorced. So, Herod must follow through on his promise and John the Baptist is beheaded.
In addition to the original ruins of the fortress foundations, you can also find five full columns here. An archeological team found them lying on the site and reassembled, re-erected and reinforced them.
Tips for Visiting Religious Sites in Jordan
What should you know before visiting religious sites on your travels in Jordan? Here are some helpful travel tips. (If you’re visiting with your kids, check out these family travel tips.)
- Whenever possible, visit sites early in the morning before the day becomes too hot and crowded.
- Consider hiring a private guide from a local university. Many of the history and religion professors will know the destinations well. Plus, they will be happy to earn a bit extra.
- Be sure to get travel insurance before you go on your trip! It’s important to be protected in case you lose your luggage, get ill or need to cancel your flight.
- Always dress appropriately. Cover your legs, arms and chest when visiting churches, monasteries and other important religious sites.
- Wear sturdy footwear, as the trails and paths at these archeological sites can be uneven.
- Bring lots of water with you so you can stay hydrated in the desert heat.
- Carry your wallet or your purse in a front pocket and avoid carrying too much cash and valuables in public.