November 21, 2014

Mosaics, Fireside Meals and Daytrips of a Lifetime in Madaba, Jordan

Managing a multi-day stopover in Madaba on your way to Petra means amazing mosaics, dinner at the atmospheric Haret Jdoudna and quite possibly crossing a number of daytrips off your personal bucket list. Known throughout Jordan as the City of Mosaics, Madaba is near a number of cultural attractions worthy of a daytrip. Follow these tips to affordably enjoy the destination to its fullest.

The Hotel Mariam brings affordability to Madaba’s boutique hotel scene.

For the roughly $30 USD per night that we paid to stay at the Hotel Mariam during our time in Madaba, Jordan, we received a complimentary breakfast, pleasant room with a private bath, spacious common area and superior service when it came to booking day excursions. The hotel boasts a pool, internet and a restaurant on site. While we found the separate internet charges and restaurant menu to be a bit pricey, everything else there was a superior value.

Take a drive to the Dead Sea.

While you can certainly spend a small fortune to stay overnight at one of the resorts on the shores of this scientific wonder, purchasing a day pass is much more affordable. You can bob buoyantly, shop for Dead Sea salt spa products, enjoy the breeze and pick up large salt crystals as souvenirs. It’s also a picturesque spot to curl up under an umbrella with a book.

Mount Nebo is an easy morning excursion from Madaba.

Recognized by both Judaica and Christianity as the spot where Moses first saw the Promised Land, Mount Nebo is the proverbial stone’s throw away from Madaba. There’s a memorial church, paved walking path with commemorative statue, and an outlook area with a monument or two. The view and on-site mosaics are worth a visit, even if your chosen faith doesn’t recognize this location as a heritage site. It’s easily included on a full-day itinerary with the Jordan River and the Dead Sea.

Machaerus makes for a contemplative archaeological excursion.

The site of an ancient fortified castle that was once the home of Herod the Great, Machaerus is the traditionally-accepted site of the beheading of John the Baptist. With a commanding view of the Dead Sea, and quietly serene location, a slow walk up the ramp to the remaining ruins of Machaerus is a contemplative experience regardless of whether you are visiting the site for spiritual or archaeological reasons.

Madaba is known for its mosaics for a reason.

For travelers who will always go the extra mile to experience a quality mosaic, the city of Madaba will not disappoint. The Madaba mosaics at St. George’s Orthodox Church are perhaps the most famous, but there are others worth checking out, including those at the city’s archaeological park. Some of the examples you’ll see here are comparable to those in Venice or Pompeii.

The Jordan River is also a popular daytrip from Madaba, Jordan.

Of particular interest to those who practice Christianity, the Jordan River is visited by tourists on both sides of the border. Thousands-of-years-old baptismal ruins have been uncovered in the area, and modern-day ceremonies are performed in the waters as well. For those who aren’t members of the faith, it’s still an interesting excursion.

If you’re staying in Madaba, you NEED to have dinner at Haret Jdoudna.

On the fanciness scale, Haret Jdoudna ranks around mid-range. On the atmosphere scale? Top o’ the charts. If possible, try to grab a table by the fireplace or one of the pillow-laden lounge areas. When we took our tour of Jordan, it was a bit cold and – believe it or not – snowy. So arriving early and lounging on pillows next the fireplace for a few hours was high on our priority list. The restaurant is housed in one of the historic buildings in Madaba, has a wine selection – unusual in the area – and serves killer food.

Madaba, Jordan is worth more than a drive by. Especially if any of the day excursions listed above are on your life list. If your vacation schedule permits, plan a few days to swing by and see all that the city has to offer in terms of nearby cultural attractions. From there, you can explore some of the other destinations Jordan has to offer, such as Wadi Rum, Amman or Jerash.


Photo Credits: These pictures from Madaba, Jordan were photographed by members of the Trek Hound team. To use these and other images for online publications, you can access them through a creative commons agreement at our sister website, Pictures of Travel Places.