Aqaba is Jordan’s busy and vibrant port city on the Red Sea. It’s one of the most popular and important tourist destinations in the country and is best known for its spectacular, biodiverse diving sites.
One of the best things to do in Aqaba, Jordan is diving, and there are coral reefs and wrecks suitable for all abilities.
But there’s more than this too, and Aqaba has a wonderful array of ancient ruins, charming museums, bustling souks and bird watching opportunities to enjoy too.
To inspire your trip to the Red Sea, here are our favorite things to do in Aqaba Jordan.
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15 Best Things to Do in Aqaba, Jordan
1. Learn to Dive
Aqaba is Jordan’s premier diving destination – in fact, this is Jordan’s only port city – and this is one of the best destinations in the Middle East to learn how to dive.
There are a large number of diving outfits that can be found in the port and in the hotels and resorts all along the coast, and there’s good visibility and warm waters through most of the year.
This is a lovely place to learn how to dive, as the dive shops teach to a high standard and can qualify you with PADI certificates or other qualifications.
Many of the dive sites are close to shore, and the level of biodiversity in the water is wonderful.
You can also pick up many more specialities once you have your initial certificate, ranging from advanced diver qualifications to wreck diving courses.
2. Enjoy the Snorkeling
If you’re not yet qualified to dive, or don’t have the time to complete a course, then don’t worry, because you can still enjoy a large number of beautiful snorkeling sites too.
The Aqaba Marine Park is a protected area which runs south of the city, towards the Saudi Arabian border. It stretches for 9 kilometers, and much of the best coral reef in the park is waiting close to the shore.
You can find turtles, moray eels and even sharks just off the beaches, making snorkeling one of the best things to do in Aqaba Jordan.
3. Dive the Cedar Pine Wreck
If you’re a more advanced diver, then Aqaba has some speciality wreck diving sites, the likes of which you can find in few other places in the world.
The most impressive wreck dive is the Cedar Pine, an old Lebanese cargo ship which was deliberately sunk in the 1980s, on personal orders from the Jordanian king.
The king wanted to establish a rich, artificial marine environment off of the Red Sea coastline, and several decades later, that goal has been achieved.
Diving the Cedar Pine Wreck is now one of the top things to do in Aqaba Jordan and one of the most sought after dive spots in the Red Sea.
4. Dive the Tank
Another fantastic dive site that’s unique to Aqaba, is the Tank. This is quite literally what the name suggests, a sunken tank that’s become a popular underwater photo opportunity as well as a small, artificial reef.
This American tank was deliberately sunk, like many of the other ‘wrecks’ in the area, and it makes for a startling site amongst the coral.
5. Visit the Aqaba Aquarium
If diving or snorkeling isn’t your thing though, don’t worry, because you can still visit the excellent Aqaba Aquarium.
Located close to the port, Aqaba Aquarium is home to a wide variety of marine species that you will also find in the water and in the coral reefs off of the coastline.
It’s a lovely educational experience and a good way to learn more about the biodiversity of the Red Sea without ever having to get wet.
6. Aqaba Bird Observatory
But while most tourists are here to jump into the Red Sea, many more species of wildlife make their home on land too, and one of the best things to do in Aqaba Jordan is to visit the unique Aqaba Bird Observatory
Aqaba is an important stopping off point for many unique species of bird which make their migrations between Africa and Europe, as the seasons turn.
At the observatory, there’s a walking trail which makes it way through artificial wetlands designed to help protect the birds making their migrations.
It creates a place where they can be studied by scientists and viewed by bird watchers.
7. See the Arab Revolt Flag
There’s more to discover in Aqaba than the wildlife too, and you can start by taking a look at the exceptionally tall Arab Revolt Flag.
This enormous flagpole, with the unique and equally large Arab Revolt Flag at its top, is the most visible landmark in the city.
It represents the Arab nations that revolted against the Ottoman Empire during World War I, a revolt that would lead to the formation of Jordan and the creation of other nations in the Middle East.
Of course, the flag is large enough that it can be seen from across the border in Israel, which is not far away at all.
8. Explore the Aqaba Fort
You can learn more about the history of the region by taking a trip to Aqaba Fort, one of the best things to do in Aqaba Jordan.
The fort has a special place in national history because it’s here that the Arab Revolt secured a resounding victory in 1916 against the Ottoman Empire.
The fortress itself was originally built to be a Crusader Castle, before falling into the hands of the Muslim conqueror Saladin.
9. Wander the Aqaba Archeological Museum
Next to the fort, you can find the excellent Aqaba Archeological Museum. The museum is home to a wonderful array of exhibits that have been unearthed from across the region, many dating back to prehistoric times.
The building itself is just as historic as the artifacts held within, as this was the former palace of the founder of the Hashemite dynasty, the ruling family of Jordan since the nation was created after the Arab Revolts.
10. Visit the Ayla Ruins
This is an ancient city, and one of the best things to do in Aqaba Jordan is to explore the Ayla Ruins.
Located by the port, this motley collection of ruins and excavations is all that remains of the original old city of Aqaba, which has over the centuries expanded greatly along the coast.
You’ll find signboards indicating the location of the old port as well the remains of ancient streets and gates, all in the shadow of modern Aqaba.
11. Relax at Al Ghandour Beach
You don’t have to stray far from the port to find one of the best beaches along the coast. In fact, Al Ghandour Beach is just a short stroll away from the central marina along the seafront and it’s a great place to visit.
It’s a busy place, particularly in the evenings as the sun disappears and the temperatures start to cool down.
12. See the Sharif Hussein bin Ali Mosque
To learn more about Jordanian culture and the Islamic religion and tradition, then one of the best things to do in Aqaba Jordan is to call into the Sharif Hussein bin Ali Mosque.
Apart from the giant flagpole, this grand and opulent mosque is easily the most recognizable landmark in Aqaba. It quite literally gleams in the bright sunshine and its reflections can be seen from across the city.
The white mosque is dedicated to the man who started the Arab Revolts. This was the Emir of Mecca and the Great-Great Grandfather of the current Jordanian King.
The mosque welcomes visitors, but dress respectably in long sleeves and avoid prayer times.
13. Shop in the Souks
One of the best things to do in Aqaba Jordan is to visit the local Souks, or market places. These traditional bazaars trade as they have for centuries, and you can find several in the city.
The most traditional is the local fruit and veg bazaar, where locals can be found buying up food, but the most popular is the Souk by the Sea.
Held on Fridays, the bustling Souk by the Sea is aimed at tourists, but really it’s a lovely mix of old and new. You can find pop up restaurants and live music being played along the seafront.
You can also find more modern and air-conditioned shopping centers – the modern incarnation of the Souk – in the center of Aqaba too.
14. Indulge in Delicious Food and Drink
Being on the edge of the Red Sea, and within sight of Israel, Egypt, Palestine and Saudi Arabia – not to mention new influences that have arrived with the booming tourism industry.
Aqaba is a melting pot of cuisines from across the region. You can find some excellent restaurants in the city, with seafood being a firm favorite along the coast of course.
Don’t forget to try the local falafel, it’s cheap and affordable, and this Middle Eastern specialty quickly becomes addictive.
15. Take A Day Trip to Wadi Rum and Petra
If you need a break from the Red Sea or want to see another side of Jordan to the dive sites and beaches, then two of the country’s most iconic tourist attractions are within easy reach of Aqaba.
Wadi Rum, the beautiful area of desert-like landscapes, scenic canyons and Bedouin culture is just one hour away, while the historic rock-hewn pillars and caves of Petra are just a two-hour drive from Aqaba.
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