Private Tour: Desert Castle Tour of Eastern Jordan from Amman
The region is strewn with the famous desert castles — many within a 15-minute drive of each other — that hark back to the days of the Umayyads. Hear fun historical facts about the dynasty, the first Muslim rulers of the Arab kingdom during the 1st century, and learn about their pleasure palaces, opulent spas and hunting houses.
After roughly 2.5 hours on the road, your first stop is Qusayr Amra, a UNESCO World Heritage site and highlight of any trip to the region. Once an Umayyad hunting hideaway, the impeccably preserved castle is now best-known for its 8th-century frescoes that depict hedonistic scenes of nude women, wine and wild times.
Ask your driver to recommend a nearby eatery for lunch, if you wish, and take a break to enjoy some food at your own expense. Then, continue to Qasr Kharana, the imposing 2-storey fortress that sits in the center of a vast and open plain. Believed to have been built on Roman foundations, the structure resonates with intrigue and Mesopotamian, Arabic and Greek influences are all apparent inside its walls.
The final stop of your tour is at Qasr al-Azraq, on the outskirts of Azraq town. Famously the headquarters of TE Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), the building was previously used as a hunting lodge by the Umayyads, and later fortified as a defense against the Christian Crusaders. Gaze in awe as you explore the setting, and discover its courtyards, towers and mosque.
If you would prefer to visit another castle in the area at your own expense, simply let your guide know. The itinerary is flexible and can be tailored to your interests. After your final castle visit, relax on the journey back to Amman and finish with a hotel drop-off.
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- Hotel pickup and drop-off
- Transport by air-conditioned minibus
- Private driver
- Admission to Qusayr Amra, Qasr Kharana and Qasr al-Azraq
- Local guides
- Entrance fees to additional castles
- Food and drinks
- Gratuities (optional)
- Confirmation will be received at time of booking
Reviewed by: Mark W, USA, August 2011
For this tour, a driver takes you from your hotel out to the three sites and pays admission. You're generally on your own to tour the actual sites (guides can be hired, but you really don't need them).
My driver was prompt, spoke English well, and I enjoyed the conversation with him along the way. He did tour the sites with me, though technically he wasn't a guide. I had plenty of time at each site - I actually got 5 hours for the price of 4.
I suspect that the differing reviews depend on the luck of the draw with the driver. In any event, the sites themselves are worth spending the morning visiting, and it's a chance to see a different side of Jordan.
And where else are you going to get a picture showing the distances to the Saudi Arabia and Iraq borders?
Reviewed by: Giovanni S, Italy, May 2009