Amman to Jerash: a day trip guide
This post is about how to get from Amman to Jerash in Jordan. Jerash is famous for its beautiful Greek and Roman ruins. Only 50 kilometers north of Amman it makes for one of the most interesting and budget friendly day trips from the capital.
While many sights around Amman require your own transport, getting from Amman to Jerash is quite easy. With public minivans running frequently from Amman to Jerash there really is no need for an expensive tour.
Why visit Jerash
Jerash is home to the ruins of the city of Gerasa that was built by Alexander the Great. Although it were the Greeks that made the foundations of the ancient city, it was soon taken over by the Romans. Under Roman rule, Jerash grew into a prosperous trade city with close links to nearby Amman and As Salt.
It’s the Romans that built most of the archeological wonders of Jerash. The Byzantines and the Umayyads followed, each adding their own influences. It was an earthquake in the year of 749 that changed the course of history for Jerash. Most of the city was destroyed and the beautiful Roman structures were lost under the sand for centuries.
Jerash was left largely abandoned until exiled Circassians from Russia were settled in the area. In the 19th century a german archeologist found the ruins and realized its historic importance. Excavations work began and uncovered one of the largest and best preserved Roman ruins in the Middle East.
I visited many other Roman Ruins during my travels such as Baalbek in Lebanon, but I must say that Jerash left a deep impression on me. I even liked Jerash more than the ruins in Rome itself.
Things to do in Jerash
Nowadays Jerash is also a modern city that sprawls east of the archeological excavations. The Roman ruins are still the main attraction though. There is not much else to see in the newer part of town, except for a small bazaar and some budget restaurants. It’s probably for the best, because the Roman ruin complex is so large that it could easily take up 3 to 4 hours of your time.
I definitely spent much more time in Jerash than I thought I would. With frequent breaks from all the walking I spent most of my afternoon exploring the different structures in ancient Jerash.
You will enter the archeological complex through the impressive Hadrian’s arch. It was built in the year 129 to welcome Roman emperor Hadrian. It is one of the largest arches within the former Roman empire
After Hadrian’s arch lies the hippodrome. This large open field was the city’s sporting venue where people could watch gladiator fights and chariot rides. The hippodrome could have up to 15,000 visitors.
Forum & Temple of Zeus
After Hadrian’s arch, the next main sight that will for sure impress you is the forum or oval plaza. This circular square is lined with 56 columns and could hold up to 3000 people. The Forum is actually best appreciated from the Temple of Zeus that lies on a hill right next to it. It’s a bit of a steep climb, but with nice views over the oval plaza as a reward.
Southern & Northern Theatre
There are two theatres in Jerash. The largest is the south theatre near the temple of Zeus that was used for creative performances. Therefore the acoustics are wonderful. The northern theatre is slightly smaller and was used for important government meetings. Both offer nice views over the old and new city if you climb to the top.
The Cardo Maximus is the straight 800 meter collonaded street that runs from the oval plaza all the way to the northern theatre. It was the city’s main street and there used to be more than 500 columns. Although not all columns are still there, it remains impressive to see and it makes it easy to navigate around.
After the Forum it is best to follow the Cardo Maximus. The first side trip from the main street will be the Nymphaeum. This was the city’s public fountain that was richly decorated with lion heads sprouting water among others. It’s name suggests that it was dedicated to the Greek water nymphs.
Behind the nymphaeum are the ruins of several churches, but not much remains of them and they do require a bit more imagination. What makes them interesting to explore are that there are some remnants of the mosaic floors that once decorated the churches in Jerash. The ones in the ruins of the Byzantine church is the largest and best preserved.
If you are interested in Byzantine era mosaics I can recommend a visit to Madaba. An ancient market town just south of Amman.
Temple of Artemis
The Greek goddess of Artemis was the patron goddess of Jerash. Therefore it is no surprise that the temple of Artemis was among the most beautiful in Jerash. It’s 12 original columns still surround the temple today.
How to get from Amman to Jerash
Getting from Amman to Jerash is easy, but consists of several steps. The first step is to get to Tabarbour bus station in the north. From downtown Amman it is a 30 minute drive by taxi. This should cost no more than 4 JD if you use a taxi hailing app such as careem or uber.
From Tabarbour bus station there are frequent buses to Jerash. Ask a bus driver rather than a taxi driver where the bus leaves. Taxi drivers will approach you first and might tell you there is no bus. Buses are definitely there and leave once full. I left within 15 minutes. A bus ticket for Amman to Jerash costs 1 JD and the journey takes 45 minutes.
Insider tip: The bus station is a good place to stock up on water and snacks for the day. There are some cafes at the ticket office in Jerash as well, but they are a bit expensive.
Insider tip 2: Don’t go all the way to the bus station in Jerash, but ask the driver to get out at the Hadrian’s arch that becomes visible on your left hand side when you come from Amman. Cross the street and follow the side street that after a few minutes will lead you to the ticket office and a handicraft village.
Getting back to Amman
Jerash has 2 bus stations. One big bus complex is behind the ruins and has buses to other places in the Jordan Valley such as Ajloun and Irbid, but not Amman. It’s a bit of a walk as you cannot exit the complex at the northern gate, so you need to walk all the way back to hadrian’s arch and then follow the main road back up north.
Buses to Amman leave from a less obvious bus station 300 meters south of the ruins. When you leave the main entrance at the handicraft village walk back to the main road. Then go to the right and walk down past the playground till the junction.
If the bus driver hasn’t already spotted you and is shouting whether you need to go to Amman, then cross the street and wait at the corner for the bus.
Amman to Jerash travel tips
The entrance fee to Jerash is 12 JD, but you get free entrance with the Jordan Pass.
What to bring to Jerash
When exploring Jerash, you will be walking a lot in the sun and there is not that much shadow. Bring good walking shoes, enough water and some sunscreen.
Places to stay in Jerash
If it comes to places to sleep, you are better off in Amman. Amman has plenty of places to stay. Cliff hostel and the Jordan Tower hotel are long standing backpackers favourites. For slightly more comfort you also have the Zaman ya Zaman boutique hotel and the boutique hotel Amman. All of these are in the center of Amman within walking distance of the Roman theatre and Al Balad downtown for Amman’s best restaurants.
Places to eat in Jerash
If it comes to places to eat it is also hard to compete with the great food in Amman. However, if you are really hungry there are a couple of restaurants. Near the entrance there is the Fairouz Cafe and Cafeteria that is a great place for drinks and snacks. For a cheap meal I headed to Cheesy Grillz on the main road near the entrance for a delicious shawarma.
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