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A coastal city ripe for adventure

Aqaba city breaks may conjure up images of camel rides and desert exploration, but this sun-kissed spot on the Red Sea has plenty to offer beach fans, too. As well as scenic sunbathing opportunities, Jordan’s only coastal city is a diver’s paradise, where sandy shores lead to colourful coral reefs and ethereal sunken wrecks.

Once you’ve explored the aquatic life, there’s a wealth of treasures to discover back on dry land. A wander around the quaint old town, with its archaeological remnants of centuries past, is a delight for history buffs, and the laid-back marina is surrounded by lively falafel stalls and seafood restaurants, making it a haven for those keen for a taste of the Middle East.

Aqaba is also an ideal base from which to explore the other two parts of what is known as Jordan’s Gold Triangle – the architectural wonder that is the city of Petra and the striking, otherworldly landscape of Wadi Rum, where you can enjoy canyoning, trekking and camel rides. But city breaks to Aqaba aren’t just for thrill-seekers. The relative lack of crowds means that families, lone travellers and groups can enjoy its natural wonders, multilayered history and culinary delights at their own pace.

All resorts in Aqaba

Your Aqaba questions, answered

Jordan is a scorcher in summer, with guaranteed sunshine from May to October. For less intense heat, plan your visit for some time between March and May.
To eat out in Aqaba is to immerse yourself in Jordan’s multifaceted heritage. Seafood takes centre stage in dishes that include Levantine and Bedouin flavours.
July and August are the hottest months in Aqaba, with average temperatures of 33ºC, so be sure to protect yourself fully with sunscreen. Since the city is on the coast, you'll get the benefit of some sea breezes to cool the air, but heading into the desert you can expect much hotter days and colder nights. April to June and September to November are good months to stay at the beach and play some water sports. You might run into rainy spells in December and January, but the winter months are generally a good time for inland excursions.
The Red Sea is well known to divers and snorkellers for its world of colourful fish and coral reefs. You don't have to be an expert, though, as there are plenty of beaches for swimming where anyone can explore with a pair of goggles. You'll find the water comfortably warm, even in winter, and so clear you can see plenty from the surface. Aqaba itself has a city beach, where you can swim or catch a glass-bottom boat trip. You can also take a day trip to the favoured Berenice beach or the upmarket Tala Bay resort beaches.
For a chance of seeing eagle rays, turtles and other marine life, hit the Red Sea in September, October or November when the water temperature is a comfortable 24-27˚C.
Aqaba is best known for its diving and snorkelling sites, as the Red Sea attracts thousands of expert divers to its coral reefs and sunken shipwrecks. It also offers lots of health spas that use Dead Sea mineral salts to perk you up. There's a long history here which you'll see in its varied monuments. From what may be the world's oldest Roman church, you'll also see an Ottoman castle and two huge contemporary white mosques along the waterfront. Aqaba is famous in modern times for the WWI battle featuring Lawrence of Arabia, and the parts of it filmed here.
Aqaba welcomes children and many hotels offer family-friendly holidays. The Red Sea is warm and safe for swimming, diving or snorkelling round accessible shipwreck sites. Aqaba Marine Park is a protected environment that aims to teach kids about marine conservation, while they'll also swim and scuba, go reef snorkelling and play on peaceful beaches. If you don't want to dive or snorkel, you can still see the coral reefs by taking a trip on a glass-bottom boat. The resorts at Ayla or Berenice Beach club offer water sports and children’s playgrounds.
Petra is two hours' drive from Aqaba along the main highways. You can hire a car or private taxi, but there are also plenty of organised tours available. You can choose a one-day tour of Petra or a faster one-day tour that also visits Wadi Rum. If you fancy experiencing the romance of a Bedouin camp, why not extend your tour to include an overnight stay in the desert? Alternative options are a two-hour fast bus transfer or a minibus shuttle which takes three to four hours.
From Aqaba to the Dead Sea is a good three hours by car. You can hire one, or take a private transfer. You'll probably also find tours offered by your hotel, but be prepared to add some time if it's a group. It's also possible to get there by bus, but this will take you six hours or more because there's no direct route. If you choose to drive or take a private transfer, you can include some other sites along the way.