If you want to go from Amman or the Dead Sea to the south of Jordan, you can choose from three different routes. One of the options runs through the middle of the country. This is the longest route, but also definitely the most beautiful. This route is also called the King’s Highway. With stops like Madaba, the Grand Canyon of Jordan, the Wadi Mujib dam and Al-Karak Castle, this route is well worth the extra travel time. The terminus of the King’s Highway is Wadi Musa. This is the village where the entrance to the absolute highlight of Jordan is located; Petra. Below you can read all about the best stops along the King’s Highway.
The route from North to South Jordan
When you travel through Jordan you usually start in Amman, the capital of the country. During this tour you certainly don’t want to miss Petra and Wadi Rum. To get from Amman to these sights in the south of the country, you can take three different roads. The fastest option is highway 15. This is a newer highway where you will arrive at the new destination within about 3 hours. The second option is highway 65. This highway is located along the western border of Jordan and takes you directly to the Dead Sea, among other things. Both routes are fine for traveling from North to South Jordan, but neither are particularly interesting and there isn’t much to see along the way.
The most beautiful route runs through the middle of the country, between highway 15 and 65. This route is the slowest route due to the differences in altitude, but it is also definitely the most beautiful. This route is also called the King’s Highway.
Make sure you leave early in the morning, because without stops it will take you at least 5 hours on this route. We chose to travel from Amman to the Dead Sea, and then drive the King’s Highway from the Dead Sea a few days later.
Our first stop on the King’s Highway is Mount Nebo, after climbing quite a bit from the Dead Sea. Mount Nebo is known as the place where Moses looked out over the Promised Land. Now you will find a church and beautiful views of the area. In good weather you can even see the Dead Sea and Israel.
The next stop on the King’s Highway is Madaba. The city itself is relatively small, but is mainly known for the Sint-Joriskerk. In this church you will find an ancient map of Palestine; a mosaic made with more than two million stones. This is even the oldest map of Palestine which is very detailed. For example, several cities and roads are visible, and you can easily recognize the Dead Sea and Jerusalem. For just a few JOD you can see St George’s Church and map.
After Madaba we drove to the Grand Canyon of Jordan. This gigantic gorge is definitely worth a visit. From several places along the route you can stop well at small (coffee) places. There you can put the car aside, get out and enjoy the spectacular view. Of course you can also enjoy a cup of typical Jordanian tea here. From the highest viewpoint you can also see the entire route that you are going to follow. You can also see the Wadi Mujib dam.
Wadi Mujib Dam
When you start the descent from the viewpoint of the Grand Canyon, you can already see the Wadi Mujib dam and the reservoir behind it. After you are completely down again, you even drive over this large dam. After driving over the dam, you will climb up into the mountains once again, taking in stunning views of the dam and parts of the Grand Canyon along the way.
When we were there, however, it had been extremely dry for a long time, so that almost no water flows through the dam and the reservoir was very small.
The next stop along the King’s Highway is Al-Karak Castle. This castle is huge, has no less than seven floors and is built on top of a large hill. The castle is several centuries old, but is nevertheless still in good condition. You can walk around the various halls and through the underground corridors. You also have a beautiful view of the green surroundings from the castle. For just a few JOD you already have access to this castle. You can park just around the corner from the castle, but you will also find several (free) parking spaces throughout the town.
The last real stop on the King’s Highway that we made is Little Petra, also called Siq al-Berid or Triclinium. The area a few kilometers before you arrive at Little Petra is really beautiful. Little Petra is, as the name suggests, a small version of the wonder of the world Petra. Here you will also find a gorge after which several (smaller) buildings have been carved out of rock. We found Little Petra very special, and therefore recommend visiting it before your visit to Petra.
We then ended our route in Wadi Musa; the village where the entrance to the wonder of the world Petra is located. We absolutely recommend that you spend the night here in the area. This way you can set off early the next day to discover the wonder of the world. We visited Petra for one day and thought this was the absolute highlight of Jordan.
After Wadi Musa, the King’s Highway continues for a bit. You will drive this last part of the King’s Highway when you leave for the Wadi Rum desert, and it also has beautiful views along the way.
Driving the King's Highway in multiple days
We chose to visit all these sights in one day. We left really on time from the Dead Sea and were only quite late in the evening at our hotel in Wadi Musa. You can of course also choose to drive this route in two or more days. Especially if you also want to see Shobak Castle and Dana Nature Reserve, for example. You could then spend the night near the Dana Nature Reserve, a beautiful nature reserve. Here you can also make fantastic hikes, after which you can quietly continue the last part of the King’s Highway.
Tips for driving on the King's Highway
Driving a car in another country can sometimes take some getting used to, especially when you choose routes where you defy mountain passes. Nevertheless, we found driving on the King’s Highway very doable. Below you will find a number of tips to drive safely and comfortably on the King’s Highway:
- Fortunately, the road signs are all in both Arabic and English. Nevertheless, we recommend that you use a navigation system. A TomTom can be a good solution here. But the offline version of Google Maps or the maps.me app is also useful.
- The King’s Highway is not the fastest route, so it is smart to write out your route in advance (including coordinates), and then navigate step by step. This way you prevent the navigation from sending you back to highway 15.
- Opt for a rental car with a little power. Because you drive over mountain passes, you sometimes encounter spicy hairpin bends. Even in villages you sometimes come across a steep street.
- There are many speed bumps on all roads throughout Jordan, even on the highways. Pay attention to this while driving, because they are not always well indicated in advance, and you really don’t want to drive over a speed bump at 60 km / h.
- Before you go to Jordan, purchase the Jordan Pass. In addition to the cost of a visa, the Jordan Pass also gives access to many attractions, including Petra and Wadi Rum. On the King’s Highway, this pass gives you free access to Al-Karak Castle and Shobak Castle.