Aqaba (tours to Petra), Jordan cruises
Aqaba port guide
Aqaba is Jordan’s only coastal city, its location between Asia and Africa provided a vital trading hub for thousands of years. Today the city has a unique feel - with bustling souks and burnt orange mountains more typical of inland Jordan, alongside all the charm of a seaside town. With neighbors that include the Mars-like landscapes of Wadi Rum and the UNESCO City of Petra, Aqaba completes the 'golden triangle' of tourism in Jordan. Restaurants are lively with fresh fish and beautiful coastal views while shopping in the Old Town’s souks provides ample opportunity to flex your bartering skills.
Top landmarks and sights in Aqaba
Magnificent sandy beaches and fabulous coral reefs may be Aqaba’s calling card but the town’s incredible heritage and archaeological significance means there's no shortage of history to discover.
Also known as Aqaba Fortress, this impressive structure is one of the most popular attractions in Aqaba. Walk in the footsteps of ancient conquerors and historical rulers as they whisper their tales of triumph within the stone walls. Once used as a travelers' inn for Muslim pilgrims on the road to Mecca, the fortress went on to fall under the control of several Arab dynasties, as well as the Turkish Ottoman Empire before being ousted during the Arab Revolt in 1916. Today, the fortress stands as a testament to hundreds of years of military significance.
Sharif Hussein bin Ali Mosque
Sharif Hussein bin Ali Mosque is a revered tribute to Sharif Hussein bin Ali's legacy during the Great Arab Revolt. Here, you’ll witness the largest dome amongst Jordan’s mosques, set amongst pristine white walls and towering minarets. Inside, the mosque showcases meticulous calligraphy and intricate glass windows, offering visitors a captivating glimpse into Jordan's rich cultural heritage. Enjoy a moment of quiet reflection as you stroll through the elegant interiors, catching a glimpse of local life at its most tranquil.
Great Arab Revolt Plaza
A place of historical significance, the Great Arab Revolt Plaza lives up to its name, marking the spot where the revolt against the Ottomans began in 1916. It was here that the forces of the Arab leader Al Sharif Hussein bin Ali fired the first shots that signalled the beginning of the uprising. Today, the plaza is a reminder of this turbulent period in Aqaba’s history, where a flagpole bearing the flag of the Arab revolt stands tall and proud.
The ruins of Ayla
Take a glimpse into the past and uncover the mesmerising ruins of Ayla. These ancient ruins offer a unique look at the ancient early settlement of Ayla, the first Islamic City outside of the Arabian Peninsula. Dating back to 650AD, the city served as a prime location for pilgrims on the road to Mecca and the Holy cities. Today, little remains of this prosperous city, but the ruins that do remain transport you back to some of the most formative years in Arab culture and history.
Things to do in Aqaba
While there is no shortage of historical sites and cultural beauty to explore within the city of Aqaba, it also serves as a gateway to discover a plethora of breathtaking sights and experiences around the region.
The salmon-tinged Wadi Rum, famously used by the famous British officer Lawrence of Arabia as a base for his Bedouin tribes during WWI, lies just 35 miles from the city. Today, the site serves as one of the most famous in Jordan. Often referred to as the “Valley of the Moon”, this lunar landscape is home to dramatic mountain ranges and deep chasms and can be explored on foot, by jeep, or from the back of a camel.
Traveling 80 miles brings you to the UNESCO World Heritage site, Petra, one of the most visited places in the Middle East. Entry to the red-rose city, famously described as “half as old as time” is via a mile-long winding gorge known as the Siq, and once inside the experience of walking the carved sandstone buildings is simply otherworldly.
Snorkel in the Red Sea
Explore the Red Sea's vibrant marine life and coral reefs on your cruise to Aqaba. Dive beneath the azure waves where an underwater wonderland awaits, with countless species of sea life and colorful corals peppered across the sea bed, many of which can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Sites like Cedar Pride Shipwreck and Japanese Gardens are popular among divers.
Aqaba Archaeological Museum
The former home of Sharif Hussein bin Ali, the Aqaba Archaeological Museum is a treasure trove of historical wonder. Home to a fascinating range of artefacts, each excavated from sites within the Aqaba district, the museum offers a unique glimpse into the past. History buffs will discover items dating from between the mid-7th century BC to the beginning of the 12th century AD, including ceramic and steatite vessels excavated from Islamic Ayla.
Cunard Shore Experiences
Uncover the beauty and mystery of this breathtaking region on a Cunard Shore Experience. Explore the hidden secrets of one of the world’s most mesmerising wonders on a tour of The Lost City of Petra, or dive beneath the waves as you come face-to-face with captivating sea life during a Red Sea Snorkelling excursion. Explore the other-worldly sands in the Wadi Rum desert and the mysteries it holds on a Wadi Rum Desert 4x4 Adventure, or take things easy and soak up the glorious Middle Eastern sunshine as you relax on the beach.
Eating and drinking in Aqaba
Old-style spots serving up traditional Arabic coffee and Jordanian pastries stand side-by-side with cool modern cafés in Aqaba. Choose from an eclectic mix of restaurants offering refined Jordanian and European cuisine, or simply sit back and enjoy a pre-dinner aperitif, freshly-pressed juice or shisha in one of Aqaba's many lounges and bars. A selection of hot and cold mezze (small sharing plates) such as hummus, tabbouleh and foul (pronounced fool) make an ideal light lunch or starter. For something more substantial, the local delicacy Mansaf (lamb stewed in fermented yoghurt) will reward your palate with an authentic taste of Jordan.
Shopping in Aqaba
With its lively markets and atmospheric souks, shopping in Aqaba is an experience to savor. If your port call keeps you in Jordan late, be sure to visit Souk by The Sea – a vibrant evening market that takes place seasonally on Fridays. Over fifty artisan producers showcase their wares here alongside vendors selling food and drink. Bargaining is practiced, so don’t be shy about negotiating the seller down (the first price offered is rarely final). Gold and silver shops are also common in Aqaba; the exquisite workmanship is typically done by hand. At such stores, purchases are priced according to weight, and each shop should have a set of finely balanced scales accordingly.
Getting around, Aqaba transport
The city itself is very navigable on foot, but taxis are plentiful and are often the most popular way to get around the city or to the nearby sites, with standard yellow taxis alongside blue and green cars.
If you’re looking for more of a taste of local life, a public bus system is cheap and efficient and stops at or close to many of the top attractions.
Aqaba port facilities
Aqaba’s port is largely commercial, so there is no designated terminal or tourist information desk. Free shuttles are available and will transport cruise passengers to the downtown Aqaba area which is around 15 minutes away.
Aqaba quick tips
The official currency in Aqaba is the Jordanian Dinar (JOD). ATMs are widely available, and major credit cards are accepted in most hotels, restaurants, and shops. It's advisable to have some cash on hand for smaller establishments and markets. The US dollar is also commonly accepted. Tipping in Jordan isn’t customary, however, a small tip of 10% for guides, taxi drivers and restaurant staff is always appreciated for excellent service.
Aqaba experiences a desert climate, with hot summers and mild winters. From June to September, temperatures soar, often exceeding 40°C. It's incredibly sunny with minimal rainfall, making it ideal for beach activities and water sports. Between December and February, temperatures range from 15°C to 25°C. While the days remain pleasantly warm, evenings can get cooler, so packing a light jacket or layers is advisable.