Aqaba, Jordan’s only coastal city, is a vibrant destination known for its beautiful beaches, rich history, and access to stunning coral reefs. For those pondering things to do in Aqaba, exploring the Aqaba Marine Park, a protected area offering fantastic snorkeling and diving opportunities, and visiting the Aqaba Fort, a historic fortress with a rich past, are top activities.
The city’s bustling markets and shops provide a taste of local life and an opportunity to pick up traditional Jordanian crafts and souvenirs. Nearby, the ancient city of Petra, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, is easily accessible for a day trip, offering a chance to explore its famous archaeological sites.
Beyond its coastal attractions, Aqaba is also known for its warm hospitality and delicious cuisine, with numerous restaurants serving traditional Jordanian dishes. For those seeking the best places to visit in Jordan, Aqaba’s blend of historical significance, marine beauty, and culinary delights makes it a must-visit destination.
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Attractions & Things to Do in Aqaba, Jordan
1. Aqaba Fort
The Aqaba Fort, also known as Mamluk Castle or Aqaba Castle, stands as a sentinel to Jordan’s only coastal city. It was originally built by the Crusaders and later reconstructed by the Mamluks in the 16th century. The fort has witnessed the Arab Revolt and now houses a small museum.
Travel Tip: Try to visit during the Aqaba Traditional Arts Festival to see the fort come alive with cultural performances.
2. Aqaba Marine Park
The Aqaba Marine Park is a snorkeler’s and diver’s paradise, with well-preserved coral reefs and an abundance of marine life. The clear, warm waters of the Red Sea make this an ideal year-round underwater destination.
Travel Tip: Respect the conservation efforts by not touching the corals or feeding the fish, and consider taking an eco-friendly dive tour.
3. Berenice Beach Club
Berenice Beach Club offers a luxurious beach experience with facilities that include pools, restaurants, and a variety of water sports. It’s a perfect place to relax and enjoy the Red Sea’s warm waters.
Travel Tip: Purchase a day pass which gives you access to all the beach club’s facilities; bringing your own snorkeling gear can save you rental costs.
4. Aqaba Archaeological Museum
Situated in the house of Sharif Hussein Bin Ali, the Aqaba Archaeological Museum displays artifacts that reflect the history of the region from the 7th century onwards.
Travel Tip: Due to its small size, the museum can be covered quickly, making it a good stop for those with limited time in Aqaba.
5. Souk by the Sea
This is not just a market but a lively event that takes place on Friday evenings. Souk by the Sea features local artisans, craftsmen, and food vendors.
Travel Tip: It’s a perfect place to find unique Jordanian souvenirs, but make sure to carry cash as not all vendors may accept cards.
6. Aqaba Bird Observatory
The observatory provides a sanctuary for migratory birds and offers visitors the chance to see a variety of species in their natural habitat.
Travel Tip: Bring binoculars and check the migration season to ensure the best bird-watching experience.
7. Red Sea Dive Center
The Red Sea Dive Center offers diving and snorkeling trips for all experience levels, showcasing the vibrant underwater life of the Red Sea.
Travel Tip: If you’re new to diving, consider signing up for a beginner’s course here – the instructors are known for their professionalism and safety standards.
8. South Beach
South Beach, just outside of Aqaba city, is where many of the best dive sites are located. It’s less crowded than the main city beach and offers a more relaxed atmosphere.
Travel Tip: The public beach is free, but renting a beach chair or umbrella can enhance your comfort for the day.
9. Wadi Rum
Although not in Aqaba itself, Wadi Rum is often accessed from this city and is a must-visit attraction when in the area. Known as the Valley of the Moon, this desert landscape is famed for its stunning sandstone mountains, ancient rock carvings, and dramatic sand dunes.
Travel Tip: Book a jeep tour or a camel ride with a local Bedouin guide for an authentic desert experience and consider staying overnight in a desert camp for a memorable star-gazing opportunity.
10. Yamanieh Coral Reef
Located within the Aqaba Marine Park, the Yamanieh coral reef is an excellent spot for divers and snorkelers to explore. The reef is known for its beautiful table corals and the abundance of marine life.
Travel Tip: Some areas might be delicate, so make sure to follow all guidelines provided by the marine park to avoid damaging the ecosystem.
11. Aqaba Aquarium
Part of the Marine Science Station Complex, the Aqaba Aquarium showcases the biodiversity of the Red Sea. It’s an educational stop where visitors can learn about the marine species that inhabit the local waters.
Travel Tip: The aquarium is relatively small, so it’s perfect for a quick visit, especially if traveling with children.
FAQ About Things to Do in Aqaba, Jordan
What are the must-visit places in Aqaba for first-time visitors?
First-time visitors should not miss the Aqaba Marine Park, the Aqaba Fortress, and the Aqaba Archaeological Museum. For an unforgettable experience, take a glass-bottom boat tour to explore the vibrant Red Sea coral reefs.
Can I go snorkeling or diving in Aqaba?
Absolutely! Aqaba is one of the best spots for snorkeling and diving in the Red Sea, with clear waters and abundant marine life. Popular dive sites include the Cedar Pride wreck, the Japanese Gardens, and the Aquarium dive site.
Are there any water sports available in Aqaba?
Yes, Aqaba offers a range of water sports such as jet skiing, parasailing, and windsurfing. There are numerous centers along the beach where you can rent equipment or book guided activities.
What historical sites can I visit in Aqaba?
Historical sites in Aqaba include the Aqaba Fort, built by the Mamluk Sultan Qansweh El Ghoury, and the ancient city of Ayla. The Aqaba Archaeological Museum also houses artifacts that trace the history of the region.
Where can I find the best local cuisine in Aqaba?
Aqaba’s local cuisine can be found in the restaurants that line the Corniche. Seafood is a specialty, and you should try dishes like sayadieh (fish with rice) and zarb (bedouin barbecue).
Is it possible to take a day trip to Wadi Rum from Aqaba?
Yes, Wadi Rum is easily accessible from Aqaba, and many tour operators offer day trips to this stunning desert landscape, known as the Valley of the Moon, where you can enjoy jeep tours, camel rides, and even overnight camping.
What shopping experiences are there in Aqaba?
The Aqaba Souk, or local market, offers traditional goods such as spices, textiles, and handicrafts. For a more modern shopping experience, visit the Aqaba Gateway mall.
Are there any family-friendly activities in Aqaba?
Families will enjoy the Aqaba Aquarium, part of the Marine Science Station Complex, where children can learn about the Red Sea’s marine biodiversity. The Berenice Beach Club also offers pools and water sports suitable for all ages.