If you are planning a visit to the Middle East and are wondering if you should visit Jordan or Israel, this post has everything you need to know to help you decide (or help you squeeze in a visit to both countries!). Jordan and Israel both offer natural wonders and share the lowest point on earth. They both make up the “Holy Land” although Jerusalem boasts the most important religious sites in the world (for more than just Christians) and a more lively nightlife. Jordan’s historical sites from Petra to Jerash get the nod for unforgettable ruins and its people are among the most welcoming in the world.
Whether you choose to visit Jordan or Israel (or decide to squeeze in both), you will no doubt return home with countless memories of your vacation and plenty of stories to tell.
Should you Visit Jordan or Israel or Both?
Otherworldly landscapes and history await visitors to Jordan. With a visit to Petra as Jordan’s biggest draw, visitors can spend days exploring this massive site before moving on to nearby Wadi Rum, Jordan’s red sand desert, where you feel so far away from Earth, and the pulse of major cities, that it is impossible to not be awe-struck by the stunning scenery.
Bedouin hospitality takes center stage in Jordan, where even strangers on the street, genuinely wish foreigners welcome to their country and they are proud that you have chosen to come visit.
Jordan is the perfect country for an adventurer. Whether hiking, experiencing Arab culture, learning new cuisines or seeing ancient sites, the country is littered with things to do. On a 7 day Jordan tour, it is possible to experience Jordan’s main highlights, but an ideal itinerary is 10 days to see everything that it has to offer.
Fascinating and contrasting feelings and sights await those who visit Israel. Whether it is the via Dolorosa, the Western Wall, or the Dome of the Rock, there is an indescribable feeling inside one of the holiest places in the world.
A melting pot of cultures can be seen as Jews, Christians and Muslims live in close proximity to each other and interact on a daily basis. Be prepared for modern nightlife in Tel Aviv, diverse landscapes and beautiful beaches as Israel borders the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, and the Dead Sea.
How are Jordan and Israel the Same?
There are several similarities between the two Middle Eastern nations. I have put a few of them in this list below:
- Both Jordan and Israel are relatively small countries with Jordan covering just over 89000 square kilometers and Israel covering just 22000 square kilometers. Jordan is much larger than Israel, but overall, both are small when compared to their neighbors.
- Both border the lowest point on earth, the Dead Sea
- Both have ports on the Red Sea, as well as beach resorts
- Both have significant historical and cultural sites
- Both make up the “holy land” when referencing biblical stories
- Both offer Mediterranean dishes and popular items such as falafel and hummous.
- Although Jordan and Israel have a similar climate, Jordan is more mountainous and it is cooler in Amman in winter when compared to Tel Aviv.
- Both countries have a large English speaking population, especially in the hospitality industry
How Are Jordan and Israel Different?
While these two nations share borders, bodies of water and climate, there are quite a few differences between the two countries. Here are a few differences between Jordan versus Israel:
- Entry visas for Israel are free for most countries, where Jordan charges JD40 / USD$ 56 for a one month, single entry visa.
- Jordan and Egypt have very different demographics, as Jordan’s population is primarily Arab and Muslim (with a Christian minority), Israel is a melting pot of Jews from all over the world, with Arab Muslims as a minority
- Israel offers a vibrant nightlife and bar scene where in Jordan, night clubs are almost non-existant and many restaurants do not serve alcohol.
- While Jordan has more significant historical ruins (Petra and Jerash to name a few), Israel has the most important religious site (Jerusalem)
- Hospitality comes naturally to Jordanians and it starts right at immigration, where suspicion and questioning is common at immigration into Israel. With that being said, Israelis are very friendly people, but their security force has a no-nonsense attitude whereas Jordanian security forces are friendly and approachable
- While both Jordan and Israel offer access to the Dead Sea, Jordan has more beach resorts that have beach access
How to Visit Both Jordan and Israel
It is quite common for visitors to the Middle East to visit BOTH Jordan and Israel. In order to just hit the highlights of both countries, you need a minimum of 10 days. I tend to suggest 10 days in EACH country just scratches the surface of the main sites, but with limited holiday-time, visitors want to get the most bang for their buck.
With that in mind, there are quite a few tour operators who cater to this type of traveller.
This 15 day G Adventures tour covers everything you want to see in Jordan and Egypt and does not rush visitors through either country. If gives you ample time in Jerusalem, and includes a visit to Bethlehem and the Dead Sea. It then moves to Jordan where you visit Petra, Wadi Rum and Jerash.
If you are planning on visiting both countries independently, consider reading my guides on how to get around. One of the popular ones is how to get from Amman to Jerusalem.
Top Tours in Israel
If you have decided you want to visit Israel, I have posted some popular itineraries below.
G adventures Israel 8 Days
Although I have never taken a G Adventures tour, everyone that I know who has, has nothing but rave reviews! G Adventures prides itself on using local hotels and services that directly benefit those who call Israel home. This tour uses 70% local services.
This Israel tour offers a glimpse into the North as well as time in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Bethlehem. It includes a dip in the Dead Sea and also a visit to a local Druze village.
Top Tours in Jordan
If you have decided that you want to visit Jordan, check out tips for choosing a Jordan tour. popular itineraries are also below.
G adventures Classic Jordan 8 Days
This tour of Jordan prides itself on 100% of the services being locally run. Whether it is the hotel, the guide or the local team on the ground, they are all Jordanians living and working in the country.
What you will not see on a G Adventures Tour in Jordan is 5 Star household named hotels such as the Marriott or Intercontinental. This also means that you are most likely staying in mid-range accommodations.
I like that this tour gives you an overnight in a bedouin camp in Wadi Rum and plenty of time to see the highlights of Jordan. Their max group size is 15 and their departures are guaranteed, even if it does not sell out. Singles do not pay more to travel on G Adventures tours but will be paired up with another same-sex solo traveller. If you want your own room on this tour, there is an optional single supplement.
I do not like that you are responsible for getting to Jordan and getting to the start point on this tour. This means you need to pay for your visa (JD40) and get to the hotel. BUT it does offer the opportunity to come earlier and explore on your own, or come over from Israel by land before the tour starts.
Top Things to Bring with You to Jordan or Israel
- I have always been a guide book 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 Lonely Planet Guide to Israel (or the kindle version)
- 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. It is also important to dress modestly in Old Jerusalem and a scarf comes in handy. 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.
You can read my post on What to wear in Jordan (What to Pack for Israel is coming soon!)
- 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.
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 those in Israel or Jordan 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.
- Kleenex or Wipes are another thing to put on your list. Jordan’s public washrooms (and even restaurant 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.
- Motion Sickness Pills might be needed if you are prone to motion sickness and plan on traveling by bus or in the back of the car while in Jordan or Egypt. There are many windy, hilly and bumpy roads in Jordan. Sea Bands might work for you if you are prone to motion sickness.
Travel Insurance for Israel or 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 every day.
I highly suggest travel insurance and a good policy when you are visiting Jordan or Israel. 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.