If you are looking for the best things to do in Aqaba then you are in the right place! Thanks to the ever-increasing low-cost flights to Aqaba International Airport on the Red Sea in Jordan, more and more visitors are arriving into Jordan via Aqaba to start (or base) their time in the country. Aqaba is the perfect base for a trip to Jordan because of its year-round warm climate, its access to Petra and Wadi Rum, Jordan’s desert, its underwater marine life just off short and its beach resort options.
This post outlines the best things to do in Aqaba as well as hints at daytrips from the city. If you are specifically looking for the best Aqaba day trips, I have a post on just that!
The Best Things to do in Aqaba
Diving in Aqaba
Diving in the Red Sea is one of the best places in the world for serious divers. If diving is your thing, ensure you give yourself enough time in Aqaba to do some snorkeling. There are several dive sites. Some can be accessed by shore and some by boat. There are boats that go out to the reefs daily. Typically they leave before lunch and include lunch on the boat in between dives.
There are also lessons for beginners as well as certification programs in Aqaba.
Snorkeling in Aqaba
If you are traveling to Aqaba and not into diving then you need to book a snorkel trip. A day on one of the many boats is one of the best things to do in Aqaba . Besides enjoying time on a nice yacht or glass-bottom boat (I suggest you book a nice boat that you can move around – one that offers food etc) the Red Sea offers some of the most beautiful coral you will see anywhere in the world.
If you are visiting Aqaba with your family, once you are down this article, check out my guide of things to do in Aqaba with kids
Walking the City
The cool evenings and year round warm weather leads to plenty of locals and visitors out for evening walks. Whether it is around the shopping area, browsing the restaurants or enjoying time outside, walking the city is a popular activity in Aqaba, especially in the evening.
With few beachfront hotels, Berenice Beach offers day use of the beach and pools and a shuttle from Aqaba hotels to its location about 15 minutes out of town. With multiple pools, beach access, and lunch options, it gives visitors to Aqaba time to lounge by the pool, snorkel or dive or enjoy a private beach on the Red Sea. When someone asks what to do in Aqaba, this is always a top suggestion.
Visit the Local Beaches
If you want to know what the locals do in Aqaba, check out the public beaches. You will find picnickers, kids playing, women chatting and boat rides, parasaling and banana boat rides (From April to September). South Beach, which is a 10 minute drive from the city is a popular spot. If you do not have a car, you can wander right down to the beach in Aqaba as well.
Shopping in Aqaba
There is a little bit of shopping in Aqaba but no huge malls like in Amman. There are outdoor shops near the beach, as well as the shopping area that sells a little bit of everything. Prices in Aqaba are a bit cheaper for some goods, as Aqaba has duty – free status. Be warned that there are strict limits on how much alcohol can be taken from Aqaba without paying duty.
Souq by the Sea
On the weekends, there is a small souq with local artisans that you can browse. They also have a few snack vendors.
Eat and Drink
Aqaba has a different atmosphere than Amman. It is a vacation town, it is where Jordanians go for vacation and also where tourists find themselves. The restaurants have a less conservative atmosphere than most other towns in the Kingdom where you will see women openly smoking shisha on patios. In most of the rest of the country, you do not often see women smoking in public.
Shisha is a popular evening activity, and there are plenty of restaurants of all kinds in Aqaba. Some of the best restaurants in Aqaba can be found here. There are also plenty of places to get a drink in Aqaba.
Walk the Beach Promenade
One of the Aqaba attractions is the beach promenade. It will take you along the beach, past Sharif Hussein Bin Ali Mosque and offers plenty of people-watching opportunities.
Glass bottom boat tours
If you want to get out on the water but are not interested in getting in the water to snorkel or dive, there are daily glass bottom boat tours that can give you a glimpse into the marine life of the Red Sea from above.
Ayla is one of the newer places to visit in Aqaba as it was just constructed in the last few years. It was a multi use construction project with residential properties, commercial establishments as well as hotels, entertainment and tourist attractions. The Hyatt Regency is in Ayla and so are plenty of watersports from wakeboarding to cable skiing. Ayla is also home to Jordan’s only Golf Course.
B12 Beach Club is the entertainment hub of Ayla. With white sandy beaches, all day dining, and water sports, there is plenty to appease every visitor. While Ayla offers visitors entertainment and excitement, its modern vibe is quite different to that of Amman’s downtown.
Enjoy Aqaba Nightlife
Something that you will not find much of in Petra is nightlife, so enjoy the evening atmosphere in Aqaba. Whether it is patio dining, wandering the outdoors, watching sports on an outdoor TV with locals, shopping or watching the sun set, getting out a night in Aqaba offers a different look to this seaside city.
Sharif Hussein Bin Ali Mosque
Sharif Hussein Bin Ali Mosque is a beacon of Islamic architecture on Aqaba’s waterfront. It features the largest dome among Jordan’s mosques. The mosque was named after Hussein bin Ali who was the Sharif and Emir of Mecca from 1908 until 1917. Al Sharif Hussein Bin Ali stood against the Ottoman Empire during the course of the First World War.
After dark, the pristine white structure is a beautiful sight to see as you stroll around Aqaba.
Day Trip to Petra
A day trip to Petra is totally doable and one of the popular things to do when staying in Aqaba. I have an entire post about the best Aqaba to Petra tour options if you want someone else to take all of the planning out of your day trip. You can also read my post about getting from Aqaba to Petra to get more details and plan your day.
But you do not need to take a tour to visit Petra if you want to do it on your own. There are lots of other ways to see Petra. After you decide how you are going to arrange your visit, read this guide to visiting Petra.
One of the popular ways is to rent a car in Aqaba and drive to Petra for the day. It takes about 2 hours to drive to Petra and there is free parking across the street from the visitors center (close to the Petra Moon hotel). Petra opens at 6am so you can get an early start if you pick up your rental car the night before. Expect to pay 25-35 JD for a car for one day (24 hours).
Get Your Guide: One Day from Aqaba to Petra
This tour includes pickup from your hotel in Aqaba and transport to Petra and back to your Aqaba hotel. It includes entrance fees into Petra as well as a lunchbox. It includes a Tour Guide, but it does not say on the tour whether the guide will accompany you all day on the bus or just in Petra.
This tour includes hotel pickup and transport to Petra and back to Aqaba at the end of the day. It includes a local guide in Petra for 1.5 to 2 hours and lunch. It also includes entrance to Petra. It is a private tour and available for 2-6 passengers.
This tour looks great for passengers arriving for the day into Aqaba Port. Your driver will pick you up for the two hour drive to Petra, possibly stopping along the way for bathroom breaks or to visit local shops. Lunch is included as is a 2 hour tour guide in the site. Check to ensure entrance to Petra is included as it is not mentioned in the itinerary and entrance to Petra is JD50 per person.
Tours by Locals: Private Guide One Day Petra Tour
With a tour like this, you know exactly who your guide is and can read reviews. Ensure you read what is included as I am not sure whether or not a single day entrance to Petra is included. The tour mentions a JD40 surcharge but this might just be for one day visitors to Petra who have to pay JD90 instead of JD50 to visit Petra if they are not spending the night in Jordan.
Day Trip to Wadi Rum
A day trip from Aqaba to Wadi Rum is the second most popular day trip. The Jordan desert of Wadi Rum is an otherworldly landscape that needs to be seen to be believed. as described by T. E. Lawrence, it is “vast, echoic and godlike.” See the stunning landscape from the back of a 4×4 vehicle, sip sweet Bedouin tea by the fire, climb sand dunes for epic views and watch the sunset from the back of a camel. There is plenty to do on a day trip from Aqaba to Wadi Rum and it can be done by renting a car or taking a private tour.
READ MORE: How to Get from Aqaba to Wadi Rum
Check Out these Day Trip Option
Viator: One Day Aqaba to Wadi Rum
This 6 hour private tour hits all of the highlights of a visit to Wadi Rum including a 2 hour Jeep tour, enjoying sweet bedouin tea with locals and the option to add a camel ride before you bid farewell to this beautiful part of the world.
This 8 hour private tour offers a longer 4×4 ride including visiting some of the rock bridges. It also includes lunch at a Bedouin camp. It has great reviews and you are sure to enjoy the desert landscape as you spend an epic day visiting this UNESCO site in Jordan
Get Your Guide: Aqaba to Wadi Rum Tour
Travel by private vehicle to Wadi Rum where you will transfer to a 4×4 Jeep to experience the dramatic landscape of Wadi Rum. This is a quicker day and does not include lunch.
Day Trip to the Dead Sea
A visit to the lowest place on earth is on every Jordan bucketlist. With a day trip from Aqaba to the Dead Sea you can experience driving through much of Jordan’s landscape until you reach the famous lake in the Jordan valley. After floating and relaxing in the most mineral rich waters on Earth, drive back to Aqaba for overnight.
If the thought of over 3 hours driving each way is a little much, there are private tours to the Dead Sea from Aqaba. They will take care of the driving, offering stops along the way and will drop you off to enjoy the Dead Sea and resort amenities and then bring you back to Aqaba for the night.
Day Trip Option:
Get Your Guide: One Day from Aqaba to Dead Sea and Wadi Mujib
This tour will take you to wadi mujib and then to the Dead Sea. It includes a buffet lunch as well as access to a 5* hotel pools and their private beach.
This private tour is popular for cruise ship passengers and the pickup and drop off are right at the port. You will visit the Dead Sea in an air-conditioned vehicle and return to the port before the ship departs.
READ MORE: Options on getting from Aqaba to the Dead Sea whether car, bus, taxi or rental car.
All three of these day trip options are listed in my popular post on the best daytrips from Aqaba. Click to read more about your daytrip options as they are popular things to do in Aqaba.
Overwhelmed with Planning a trip to Jordan?
Want to skip all of the planning and access my detailed Jordan Itinerary and Guide? I have been to Jordan several times and after being asked again and again for suggestions, not only did I build this website but I created an interactive PDF guide to help you plan the best trip to Jordan! It includes an interactive map, multiple itineraries for up to 10 days and as little as three days and plenty of practical information about renting a car and driving in Jordan. Get the guide by clicking the button below.
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Where to Stay in Aqaba
Movenpick Aqaba is a five star resort and located right in the heart of Aqaba. It offers beachfront, swimming pools and is right in the middle of the city.
Movenpick Tala Bay is also a five star resort but it is located in nearby Tala Bay. If you want to be out of the city and really feel the resort life, consider booking this, or any of the other beachfront hotels in Tala Bay. With that being said, it is a 15 minute drive into Aqaba from Tala Bay. Most hotels offer car and shuttle services if you are visiting without a car.
Hyatt Ayla is just 2 minutes by taxi from downtown Aqaba. Located in Ayla, a purpose-built community inside Aqaba it offers several pools and a lagoon-style beach club to enjoy sandy shores and the red sea.
Cloud 7 Ayla is perfect for families looking for a residence-style accommodation. It is right in the marina village of Ayla (just 2 minutes by Taxi from downtown Aqaba) and has full kitchens and living rooms. These condo style accommodations are perfect for families wanting a little more space and even come with washing machines in the rooms! Just outside the residences at cloud 7 there are restaurants and bars and beautiful views.
DoubleTree Aqaba is centrally located close to shopping and restaurants.
My Luxury Hotel is a midrange hotel that recently had a brand new renovation. It is centrally located and has a pool.
The best budget accommodations are typically hotels that you can walk up or call and book. They are rarely bookable online.
Safety In Aqaba
Overall, Jordan is safe and welcoming to tourists. Common sense goes a long way, whether home or abroad. Pickpocketing is rare and tourist scams are not common practice. Have a read of my post “Is Jordan Safe” so you are aware of local customs, culture and what you do want to watch out for.
5 Things to Bring with You to Jordan
Appropriate clothing is the most important thing to bring to Jordan with you. Depending on the season, your wardrobe is going to be quite different as wet and cold winters mean that you will need winter coats. When planning your trip to Jordan, check out what to wear in Jordan.
I have always been a guidebook person and physically having that book in your hand as you plan your day, in addition to blogs like this one, can help immensely. Pick up a Lonely Planet Guide to Jordan (or the kindle version) before your trip to Jordan.
Whether you want to keep the sun off your head or want to show a little modesty, a scarf goes a long way in Jordan any time of the year. You can bring one with you or pick up one when you arrive, but don’t leave your hotel in the morning without it! It can serve as a hat to keep the sun off your head and neck in the summer and can add some warmth in winter and can offer modesty to cover shoulders for women.
A Grayl Water Bottle is something I recommend for every traveller, not just those going to the Middle East. Some people say the water is safe to drink from the tap, others say it is not; it is not something I am going to chance. And Jordan has a HUGE garbage problem. The streets, the forests and even the desert are littered with plastic bottles.
If you consider drinking at least 1-2 big water bottles a day while you are there, think of how much plastic that creates when every visitor and the population’s 9 million people do the same. With a Grayl, you can filter any tap water (or actually any water source) and have clean drinking water in seconds. Since most people travel with water bottles already, consider one like this with a filter so that you are not just pouring from big water bottles to small. It might sound expensive, but when you compare it to spending a few dollars per day on water while you travel (and do not forget how expensive the water is inside airports), you will pay for this very quickly.
An inexpensive Universal Travel Adapter is another must for Jordan. You will find an assortment of 220V plugs, from European 2 pin, another style of 2 pin and UK Plugs. While European 2 pin is most common, it is best to carry one of these adapters with you. With a handy USB input, you do not need to bring your plugs from home.
Kleenex or Wipes are another thing to put on your list. Jordan’s public washrooms (and even restraint or hotel lobby washrooms can often be unstocked. Unless you are good with a bidet sprayer, bring yourself some kleenex or wipes just in case! You will find that most washrooms in tourist sites and rest stops have an attendant that will give you toilet paper and paper towel for a small tip. Usually, half a dinar is fine.
In Jordan, the plumbing is not set up to handle toilet paper. Every bathroom (even hotels) you should use the garbage can beside the toilet for your toilet paper and any sanitary products.
Travel Insurance for Jordan
There are a few other things to think about when it comes to travel. The first thing is travel insurance. Whether it is an emergency room visit for something as simple as strep throat, or an emergency appendix surgery, or an unfortunate moped incident things do go wrong when people travel everyday.
I highly suggest travel insurance and a good policy. I personally never travel without it, and I even checked into my policy about care for my children if I am ever in an accident or hospitalized. There are just too many things to think about.
You can find out more information and buy your travel insurance here.