Madaba is Jordan’s most atmospheric and traveler-friendly city. The best things to do in Madaba include beautiful churches that provide a fascinating contrast to the numerous mosques in the country but also stunning mosaics. During our time in Jordan, we found this mosaic city to be one of the most pleasant places to visit. In this blog post, we will delve into the mosaics of Madaba and highlight other must-see attractions in the city and its surroundings that you don’t want to miss. Discover the charm and cultural treasures of Madaba, a destination that will leave you awe-inspired.
How to get to Madaba in Jordan
Madaba, situated in western Jordan, offers a picturesque setting atop a rocky plateau that overlooks the mesmerizing Dead Sea, serving as the border with Israel. Positioned just 30 kilometers south of the capital city, Amman, Madaba presents a convenient location for travelers to explore the region.
With its proximity to Jordan’s major international airport, Queen Alia Airport, which is only a half-hour drive away, many visitors opt to bypass Amman and head straight to the charming city of Madaba. The city’s favorable geographical position allows for easy access to various other attractions in Jordan.
To fully experience the wonders of this captivating country, it is highly recommended to rent a car, as public transportation options are limited. By having your own means of transportation, you can embark on a 50-minute drive to the remarkable Dead Sea or reach the heart of Amman within the same duration. Just a short five-minute drive northward lies the ancient Roman city of Jerash, ready to transport you back in time. If you venture a little further, in approximately two hours, you will find yourself in the breathtaking Dana Biosphere Reserve, offering spectacular hiking opportunities. And within less than three hours of driving, you can reach the world-famous archaeological site of Petra.
The best things to do in Madaba
Madaba is Jordan’s most captivating and welcoming city that stands out from the rest of the country. Unlike other Jordanian cities, Madaba has a predominantly Christian population, resulting in a unique cityscape with numerous churches. One of the main reasons to visit Madaba is its renowned mosaics, which alone make the trip worthwhile. Additionally, its central location makes it an ideal base for exploring the surrounding area on day trips.
#1 St. George’s Church
St. George’s Church is a prominent attraction in Madaba. This beautiful Christian church, constructed in the 19th century, offers a striking contrast to the many mosques found throughout Jordan. However, the true highlight of Saint George’s Church, also known as Saint George’s Greek Orthodox Church, lies within. Inside the church, visitors can marvel at Madaba’s most famous mosaic: a sixth-century map depicting the region, including the Holy Land. Despite some missing sections, the map still allows for the recognition of significant landmarks such as the Dead Sea and Jericho.
#2 Saint John the Baptist Church
A second noteworthy church in Madaba is the Church of John the Baptist. Although not the site of John the Baptist’s beheading, the church holds religious significance and boasts a stunning facade. Adjacent to the church is the Acropolis Museum, and climbing its bell tower rewards visitors with a magnificent view of the town.
#3 The Madaba mosaics
Madaba offers several other points of interest, such as the Madaba Archaeological Park, Madaba Archaeological Museum, and the Church of the Martyrs, also known as the Burnt Palace. These archaeological sites are home to numerous remarkable mosaics, showcasing the finest examples in Madaba. Admission to these excavations is included in the Jordan Pass, providing an opportunity to admire the city’s most exquisite mosaics.
The best things to do near Madaba
#4 Mount Nebo
When in Madaba, exploring beyond the city is highly recommended. One popular excursion is a visit to Mount Nebo. Along the way, travelers can make a stop at the religious site of Bethany Beyond Jordan, believed to be the place where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. Mount Nebo itself holds immense religious significance to Jews, Muslims, and Christians. According to Jewish tradition, Moses is buried on the mountain, while Muslims and Christians place his grave slightly west in Israel. The peak offers a breathtaking view of the area and features a large cross with a serpent sculpted by Italian artist Giovanni Fantoni.
Discover the majestic Mount Nebo, a revered mountain peak that holds immense religious significance for Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike. According to biblical accounts, it was atop this very mountain that Moses caught his first glimpse of the Promised Land. Rising over 800 meters above sea level, Mount Nebo treats visitors to a stunning panoramic view of the surrounding area.
One of the notable features at the summit is a striking large cross adorned with a serpent, a masterpiece crafted by the renowned Italian artist Giovanni Fantoni. This symbolic artwork adds to the allure of the site and serves as a powerful testament to the historical and spiritual importance of Mount Nebo.
While Jewish tradition holds that Moses was buried on this sacred mountain, both Muslims and Christians believe that his final resting place lies slightly to the west in Israel. Regardless of the exact location, the profound connection to Moses and the significance attributed to Mount Nebo make it an essential pilgrimage site for followers of these three major religions.
#5 The Dead Sea
The Dead Sea is located not far from Madaba, so if you’re looking for a budget-friendly option to stay near the Dead Sea, you may consider taking a day trip from Madaba to this famous attraction. Spanning an impressive 1,020 square kilometers, the Dead Sea occupies a vast area between Jordan, Israel, and Palestine. It is the lowest-lying body of water on Earth and holds the title of the lowest point on the Earth’s surface. With a salt content of around 33%, the Dead Sea owes its name to the fact that no living organisms can survive in its waters. Due to its high salt concentration, it is impossible to sink in the Dead Sea, allowing you to effortlessly float on its surface, an unparalleled experience.
While we believe that spending a night near the Dead Sea is the most enjoyable way to truly immerse yourself in this unique place, it is not essential. Apart from the private beaches of the resorts, you can also visit a public beach with an entrance fee or opt for the free beaches south of Wadi Mujib (location beach and location beach) or purchase a day pass to access the resort facilities. Keep in mind that the public and free beaches may be less pristine, with a higher likelihood of debris and litter. Therefore, don’t expect a relaxing day on a pristine sandy beach, but you can still have a remarkable experience of the Dead Sea in these areas.
#6 Main Hot Springs
Another attraction to visit from the city is the Ma’in Hot Springs, offering a stunning retreat at one of Jordan’s most beautiful accommodations. The Ma’in Hot Springs resort, designed in an oasis style, features a thermal pool and a spa situated directly beneath multiple hot waterfalls. Surrounded by mountains, Ma’in Hot Springs is conveniently located just a 40-minute drive from Madaba. Even if you’re not staying at the exquisite resort, you’re welcome to visit as a day guest and indulge in the warm springs, picturesque waterfalls, or treat yourself to a relaxing spa treatment or massage.
#7 Wadi Mujib
In just over an hour’s drive from Madaba, you’ll arrive at the stunning Wadi Mujib Canyon. In a country known for its deserts, rocks, and the salty Dead Sea, water activities and impressive hikes through nature might not be the first things that come to mind. However, at Wadi Mujib, you’ll find exactly that. We embarked on the Siq Trail, a thrilling adventure that takes you through a canyon filled with water. As you make your way through the Wadi Mujib Gorge, you’ll encounter small waterfalls and rapids along the way. The entire journey, including climbing, swimming, wading, and returning to the starting point, takes approximately two hours. It’s an unforgettable experience!
If you prefer guided hikes, the Mujib Biosphere Reserve offers several beautiful trails. The Ibex Trail, lasting 3-4 hours, takes you through picturesque landscapes. The Canyon Trail, a 4-6 hour hike, concludes with a section through the Siq Gorge. For those seeking a more challenging adventure, the Malaqi Trail, lasting 7-8 hours, is a demanding option.
#8 Roman city of Jerash and desert castle of Aljoun
From Madaba, we also ventured to the northern part of Jordan, where we explored the Roman city of Jerash, the authentic town of Salt, and the desert castle of Aljoun. In our opinion, Jerash is one of the most captivating attractions in Jordan. Similar to Petra, it is a lost city, but unlike Petra, it was not built by the Nabateans, but by the Romans.
The ancient Roman city of Jerash was once located in a remote corner of the Roman Empire, yet it stood as one of the ten largest cities in the entire empire. It boasted dozens of temples, two theaters, a vast oval plaza, communal baths, long colonnaded streets, impressive arches, aqueducts, bridges, and squares. Much of this grandeur remains intact, making Jerash one of the best-preserved Roman ruins outside of Italy.