A guide to visiting the Crusader Castles, Jordan

Jun 9, 2020 | Asia, Global travel, Jordan

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(Last updated on: 06/06/2020)

There are various Crusader castles around the world. These are, as the name suggests, castles that were founded or occupied during the Crusades. The castles can be found in the Middle East and the Eastern Med, as well as in Poland and some of the Baltic states.

Some of the best crusader castles to visit are in Jordan. We visited the castles as part of our two week Jordan itinerary and absolutely loved them. There were not many (as in, like maybe two or three?!) tourists and it felt like we had found some real hidden gems.

But because not many people visit the crusader castles in Jordan, there isn’t a great deal of information about them online. So, here is everything that I learnt about the Crusader castles in Jordan.

A brief history of the Crusader castles in Jordan

There are five Crusader castles across Jordan. They were mostly built during the 12th century, and served as important parts of the Crusades. These were a series of religious wars that took place in Europe and western Asia between the 11th and 17th centuries.

They were considered, by those participating, to be a penance which would bring forgiveness for any sins they had confessed.

The Catholic Church supported (and sometimes even directed) the Crusades.

Learn more about the Crusades here.

Crusader castles were used for battles and sieges, executions and attacks – they were an important part of the wars, and many still stand today. 

The five Crusader castles in Jordan

If you are planning a trip to Jordan, then considering visiting one or more of the Crusader castles.

Depending on where you are staying, there will likely be one within easy driving distance – or perhaps consider an organised tour, such as this one.

The six Crusader castles in Jordan are:

  • Ajloun Castle
  • Al-Habis
  • Kerak Castle
  • Montreal
  • Vaux Moise

Carry on reading for a guide to visiting each of the Crusader castles!

Ajloun Castle

Ajloun Castle, Jordan

Located in the Mount Ajloun district of northwestern Jordan, Ajloun Castle was built by the Ayyubids in the 12th century. The name comes from the mountain, of course, which is named after a Christian monk who lived there during the Byzantine era. Ajloun Castle was actually built on the grounds of a ruined monastery.

The castle is opened for visitors. Many tourists in Jordan head here, as it is one of the most famous Crusader castles. There is a museum inside, home to many artefacts showcasing the long history of the area. 

Entry to the castle is 3 J.D. This is roughly $4.25 or £3.25 – so it’s really reasonable. The castle is around 1.5 hours from Amman by car, or 40 minutes from Jerash. If you have hired a car for your trip to Jordan, then it couldn’t be easier! 

Al-Habis

Crusader castles
We had a great time exploring the grounds of Petra

When visiting Jordan, you’re probably going to visit Petra. It is high on everyone’s bucket list!

And there you will find Al-Habis, one of Petra’s “High Places”. Here there are the remains of one of Jordan’s Crusader castles! While it isn’t the most impressive castle, the views are incredible. And if you’re visiting Petra anyway, it’s worth a look!

A one-day pass to Petra is 50 J.D, for two days it is 55 J.D and a three-day pass is 60 J.D – it is fairly pricey, but it’s a world famous archaeological site that is definitely worth the cost. You can reach Petra by bus, car or taxi. Take the JETT bus from Amman at 6.30am, the bus from Aqaba at 8.30am or arrange a taxi/guided tour if travelling from Jerash.

Kerak Castle

Crusader castles

In al-Karak, a city in west-central Jordan, you’ll find Kerak Castle. This was a stop that we took when we were doing a road trip along the Kings Highway (which I would absolutely recommend, by the way). We thought this castle was particularly impressive and we were the only tourists there!

Karak Castle is one of the larger Crusader castles, and the city is famous for it. The castle isn’t in the best condition, but does offer an interesting insight into the history of the Crusades.

The best way to reach the castle and the city itself is by car. Many people visit Kerak Castle on their way to other destinations throughout Jordan. The area is a 2.5 hour drive from Jerash, just under two hours from Amman and almost three hours away from Aqaba.

On a clear day you can see from the castle all the way across the Dead Sea to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. It costs just 2 J.D to visit the castle. Worth noting is that Kerak Castle was involved in a terrorist attack in 2016, so check local travel advice when planning a trip.

Montréal

Montreal Castle, Shoubak

Built in 1115, Montréal has never been fully excavated. The ruins are known as Shoubak, after the modern town in which they are located – this is part of the Ma’an Governorate in the south of Jordan. Famous for the fruit farms around the area, there is no doubt that the castle is also a popular part of their history.

It costs just 1 J.D to visit Montréal Castle. It is another of the Crusader castles that is perfect to visit if you are passing the area en route to another destination. However, at 2 hour and 40 minutes from Amman, 3 hours 20 from Jersah and just over 2 hours from Aqaba, it likely isn’t worth the dedicated journey. Petra is only forty minutes away, though, so it’s worth combining the two if you have some extra time.

Vaux Moise

Vaux Moise, Jordan

This is one of the smaller Crusader castles in Jordan. Created as an outpost of the aforementioned Montréal Castle, and is around 30km north. It is located in Wadi Musa (Valley of Moses) so again it’s not too far from Petra. If you do have some spare time it is one of the lesser-visited castles which is interesting to see!

The lesser-known Crusader castles

Jordan is a country that is full of surprises! On our last day of our tour we set off in the car to the desert area not far from Amman, where we were staying.

Close to the borders of Syria and Iran, there are a number of small desert castles. You will need a car to reach them or to book a tour, because they are in pretty remote locations. But once you reach them they are something very special!

Many of these desert castles have UNESCO site status. They provide some information about why they are there, but not a lot- so they do keep you guessing a bit! Nonetheless, they are spectacular to visit and make for a wonderful day trip from Amman.

Crusader castles
The desert castles close to Amman

So there’s everything you need to know about visiting the Crusader castles across Jordan. They’re a fascinating bit of history and many offer fantastic views to boot. Whether you choose to visit Jordan as a family, a group of friends or as a couple, it is one of the most interesting countries worldwide. 

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Hi, am Dr Hayley Stainton

I’ve been travelling, studying and teaching travel and tourism since I was 16. Through Tourism Teacher I share my knowledge on the principles and practice of travel and tourism management from both an academic and practical perspective.

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