Madaba isn’t on everyone’s Jordan itinerary, but it should be!
We spent an afternoon in this ancient city that is somewhat off the typical tourist trail. I loved how it wasn’t rammed with tourists and it had a really authentic Jordanian feel to it. It also had some really cools sites to see!
In this blog post I will tell you all about visiting Madaba including why you should add it to your Jordan itinerary and the logistics when visiting.
What is Madaba?
Lying 19 miles southwest of Jordan’s capital, Amman, is the ancient town of Madaba. It is somewhere drenched in history and beautiful archaeology, and it’s well worth a visit if you’re travelling to Jordan.
Madame is most well-known for the Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics found across the city, especially a mosaic map of the Holy Land from the Byzantine era. This can be found inside the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George.
Today, Madaba has a population of around 60,000. It is twinned with Bethlehem (Palestine) and Denton (Texas), and excavation by the University of Toronto has been ongoing since 1996.
If you want to visit Madaba, then Amman is a great starting point. The Queen Alia Airport (AMM) is around 20 miles from Amman, and you can access the airport from many European, American and Middle Eastern cities such as Baghdad, Paris, Chicago and Dubai.
It takes between 45 minutes and an hour to drive from Amman to Madaba. We hired a car from the airport, which is a great idea if you are more of a DIY traveller or planning a road trip around Jordan, like we did. It’s also great value for money if you plan to travel around a lot. We got a great price with Europecar. The quickest way to drive Madaba from Amman is via Route 35.
If you are staying in Amman and want to take a day trip to Madaba, there is a bus that leaves from Tabarbour bus station, and goes directly to Madaba. This takes around an hour, and costs the equivalent of £2 GBP.
Staying in Aqaba instead? It’ll take you around 4 hours to drive to Madaba, but you can find somewhere to stay nearby to make the trip more worthwhile. Drive via the Jordan Valley Highway and Route 65. There is no direct bus route from Aqaba to Madaba. You can get as far as Abdali by bus (this takes 5 hours and will cost you at least £8 GBP) then travel the rest of the way by taxi. Or, you can travel from Aqaba to Amman and follow the above steps instead!
What is there to see in Madaba?
As mentioned above, the town is pretty famous for its mosaics. Not only is there the impressive map of the Holy Land, but you’ll also be able to see hundreds of other mosaic artworks scattered throughout the homes and churches in Madaba.
In the Church of the Virgin and the Apostles, as well as in the Archaeological Museum, you’ll find mosaic masterpieces that display flowers, fish, plants, exotic beasts, animals, mythological scenes and everyday life. There are scenes of hunting, fishing and farming all made out of mosaics.
Did you know: the Madaba Map contains over 2 million individual tiles!
Madaba Archaeological Park is definitely worth a visit at only 3 JD per person. Half of it is associated with the Virgin Mary Church, and half with the Burnt Palace/Martyrs Church. It doesn’t take too long to get around it, but there is an excellent selection of mosaic artwork from the area. There is also information and guides to tell you exactly what you’re looking at!
There are plenty of other churches and historical sites in the area, such as the Memorial Church of Moses, Umm ar-Rasas, Khirbet al Mukhayyat and many more. We really enjoyed just walking around and looking at all of the ancient buildings.
Did I mention that there aren’t so many tourists at Madaba? Well, that was made clear to me when I arrived and was surrounded by people wanting to take photographs with me! I felt like a local celebrity!
From the town of Madaba, you’ll have easy access to Mount Nebo. This is where Moses was shown the Promised Land, as the story goes. The views are spectacular! You can see the Dead Sea, the Jordan Valley, Jericho, Bethlehem and even Jerusalem on a clear day. It gets cold up there on windy days, but other than that it’s well worth the short journey out of town.
For something other than mosaics and history, head to the Ma’in Hot Springs. Around half an hour out of town, they definitely provide something a bit different. It is a natural spring, and there this fantastic spa & resort on site offering treatments and a relaxing place to stay. This is especially nice if you’re on a road trip around Jordan, and are looking for somewhere to chill out undercharge your batteries. The waterfall itself gives excellent massages!
What’s the weather like?
Madaba can get fairly cool in the winter, and quite warm in the summer. However, the temperatures aren’t too extreme. The winter sees lows of 1-2°C, but highs of 13-15°C – while the summer months see lows of 12-14°C, with highs of 32-33°C.
It’s worth checking the weather just before you visit – especially if you plan on going up to Mount Nebo, where the harsh winds can seem quite cold. You might want to pack your warmer gear!
Where to stay
There are hotels and apartments available in Madaba. Here’s a selection to help you find the right one for you…
Near the St. George Church, you’ll find the Madaba Hotel. There are dormitories as well as twin and triple rooms, all with shared bathrooms. There’s free WiFi and free parking, and an outdoor seating area for relaxing of an evening. Airport transfers can be arranged, and previous guests really praise the location and how good the hotel is for the price.
If you’re after something a bit more spacious, perhaps if you’re travelling as family, have a look at this luxury apartment. It has three bedrooms and sleeps six; there’s free WiFi, and a garage for parking if need be. With a kitchen to cook meals at your own leisure, a garden for relaxing in and the St. George Church only a mile away, this is a great option if there’s a gang of you travelling to Madaba!
For a full range of accommodation options available on your travel dates in and around Madaba use the search box below.
And there you have it – plenty of information to help you plan the perfect trip to Madaba, Jordan. It’s well worth checking out the City of Mosaics, as it’s called, and as it’s not too difficult to get to from other areas of Jordan it should definitely be on your bucket list.