The King’s Highway in Jordan is a historic road that runs from the north of Jordan to the south and is dotted with significant landmarks, biblical sites, and stunning viewpoints. When on a road trip through Jordan, there are two main roads to choose from. A typical highway crossing the country from the north to the south is called the Desert Highway (Highway 15). There is also a highway covering the country along the shores of the Dead Sea (Highway 65). However, there is also a more scenic route, called the King’s Highway (Highway 35). Driving this route will take you longer, but the views are amazing. Here’s a guide to driving the King’s Highway in Jordan, including the best stops along the way.
The King’s Highway is 280 kilometres long and is known for its stunning scenery, with mountains, valleys and canyons. The King’s Highway ranged from Madaba to Petra and covers several tourist attractions on the way. We decided to only drive parts of the King’s Highway, as driving the King’s Highway takes way more time than using the Desert Highway. Therefore, we decided to cover the King’s Highway from Dana to Petra but left after visiting the main viewpoints. Nevertheless, I would advise driving part of the route and visiting the several sights along the route (of which some can also be reached from the quicker highways).
Overall, driving in Jordan feels relatively safe. It was pretty busy in Amman, but the highways are very calm and the King’s Highway felt pretty safe to me. Of course, you need to be careful with all the switchbacks and the locals feeling comfortable speeding up more. Make sure to fuel up before entering the King’s Highway, as there won’t be many fuel stations along the route, except for some of the towns.
Madaba is a city located in central Jordan, known for its stunning Byzantine-era mosaics. It’s a must-visit stop on the King’s Highway and the perfect starting point. The Madaba Map is the oldest known geographic floor mosaic and many other impressive mosaics, including those found in St. George’s Church. We walked around at visited one of the museums and had some lunch. For me, spending 2 to 3 hours in Madaba was enough.
After visiting Madaba, make your way to Mount Nebo, where Moses is said to have seen the Promised Land. Mount Nebo is an important pilgrimage site for Christians. From the summit of Mount Nebo, you can take in breathtaking views of the Dead Sea, the Jordan River, and the surrounding landscape. The Moses Memorial Church is also located on the summit, and it features beautiful mosaics and ancient artefacts.
When following the King’s Highway from Mount Nebo down, you will run into Umm Ar-Rasas and Kerak Castle. We only had the chance to visit Umm Ar-Rasas, as stopping at Kerak Castle took too much time and we wouldn’t have arrived in time in Dana.
I also have to say, that we were quite underwhelmed by Umm Ar-Rasas. I would advise you not to visit mid-day, as there are no places in the shade and it can be very hot! (When we visited it was 33 degrees, even though it was only April). If you are into history, these sites are worth visiting, however, if you are looking for great viewpoints and picture-perfect places, you can skip Umm Ar-Rasas and Kerak Castle.
As we didn’t want to arrive too late in Dana, we had to speed up a little bit and focus on the best viewpoints to be found at the King’s Highway before heading to Dana Nature Reserve. The most famous viewpoint can be found between Umm Ar-Rasas and Kerak Castle. The best-known viewpoint is the Wadi Mujib Panorama. The exact stop on Google Maps can be found here. This was also our favourite viewpoint along the way. We also quickly stopped at the Grand Canyon viewpoint, which you can find here. After this viewpoint, we left the King’s Highway to take the quicker route to Dana, as it is still a 2-hour drive from the last viewpoint.
As we drove to Petra after a full-day hike in Wadi Ghuweir, we decided to take the quickest route and not drive the King’s Highway to Petra. However, the final stretch of the King’s Highway leads you to the most famous site in Jordan: Petra. Along the way, you still have the option to visit Little Petra (located close to the Petra back entrance). We decided to skip Little Petra due to time constraints and also felt that we could better spend a bit more time and arrive early in Petra. I would 100% advise you to stay in Petra (check out the best hotels here!) for a minimum of 2 nights and explore Petra with my 2-day itinerary.
All in all, it is definitely worth driving parts of the King’s Highway. I would especially advise you to drive the King’s Highway between Umm Ar-Rasas and Kerak, as this is one of the most scenic parts including the best known view points. If you would like to save some time, you can also drive highway 15 or 65 to reach your destination. Nevertheless, the stops mentioned in this blog are worth visiting!
Do you have any other questions regarding the King’s Highway or do you feel not all important points are mentioned? Don’t hesitate to reach out.