Pack plenty of warm clothing plus a rainproof jacket for a winter vacation in Jordan. Temperatures plunge to their lowest of the year, and December sees the first significant rains of the five-month wet season. And few places—even the desert—are immune from the possibility of snow. However, there are always plenty of sunny days, and significant regional variations mean you have options, so choose your destinations wisely.
Amman—at an elevation of around 3,300 ft (1,000 m)—averages 48°F (9°C) and is often scoured by a biting wind, with some days close to freezing. Petra’s temperatures average more or less the same as Amman. However, the Jordan Valley and the Gulf of Aqaba shoreline are still reasonably warm by day (Aqaba averages 68⁰F/20⁰C), with chilly evenings. But bitterly cold weather can sweep in from the freezing eastern desert, where sub-zero temperatures at night are now the norm. The Gulf of Aqaba waters remain warm enough (average 76⁰F/24⁰C) for snorkeling and scuba diving, but wetsuits are a must.
Crowds & Costs
As you’d expect given the cold weather, most visitors stay away in December. Main tourist sites may be close to empty. Airfare and accommodation costs are thereby at their lowest—a good time for budget travelers to make hay. The exception is Aqaba, where the mild and sunny winter weather draws both international visitors and Jordanians from Amman; the prices reflect its popularity.
Where to Go
The Hammamat Ma'in thermal mineral springs and waterfalls, about 45 miles (75 km) south of Amman, are referenced in the Bible and according to legend once drew Herod to bathe in the medicinal waters. You’ll feel enervated, too, soaking as did the Romans in the mineral-rich pools (each of a different temperature) at the base of the cascades, comprising a lush canyon paradise in the hills above the Dead Sea, at 866 feet (264 m) below sea level.
December’s weather makes this a good month to focus on warm indoor venues. You don’t need to be a gear head to enjoy Amman’s Royal Automobile Museum, showcasing the late King Hussein’s personal collection of cars and motorbikes. The remarkable collection ranges from a WWI armored car used by Lawrence of Arabia to and even the futuristic Martian rover driven by Matt Damon in The Martian. Dusty rally cars attest to the King Hussein’s passion for racing (and that of his son, King Abdullah). The rev-head king’s love of speed is also attested by a 1952 Aston Martin DB2, Bugatti Veyron, Ferrari F50, and an uber-rare Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Stirling Moss, one of the fastest cars ever produced. The more than 50 motorbikes range from a Harley-Davidson Road King on which King Hussein buzzed about the desert (with Queen Noor on the back) to a futuristic Tron Legacy-inspired electric stunner.
Birders of a feather flock to the Azraq Wetlands—a watery and tiny jewel set in the north eastern desert of Jordan. Here, natural spring pools (once fed by aquifers, but now maintained by irrigation) form a precious oasis that is a stopover point for almost 300 species of migrating birds from northern Europe and Africa passing through at various times of year, including winter (December is one of the best months). Protected since 1978 as a wetland reserve by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, it spans 5 sq ml (12 sq km) and has boardwalks and hides. Bring your binoculars to get a better look at such denizens as the local desert finch, plus kingfishers, herons, avocets, and Little-ringed plovers.
What to Do
For a complete taste of Jordan’s attractions, follow the King's Highway, which runs along the spine of the central highlands above the Dead Sea rift. The meandering and sometimes narrow route—which connects Amman to Aqaba—was mentioned in the Old Testament and served as the main Roman highway for trade, and later as the Crusaders heavily fortified umbilical cord. Hence, it passes many of the top draws and is packed with Roman ruins, Crusader castles, and sites of biblical import. Major stops include Madaba for its mosaics, the Crusader castles of Karak and Shobak, plus Petra, and the spectacular Dana Nature Reserve.
Visit the rose-tinted lost city of Petra, Jordan’s foremost ancient site. In December, the crowds have yet to arrive in earnest at this stunning city of sandstone carved into the mountain in the 3rd century BC by the Nabataeans. The early morning hours will be very cold, so there's no rush to get there as early as possible. Spend an entire day exploring this treasure trove of amazing structures, hidden along hiking trails of various difficulties and distances. Photographers should stick around until sunset, when the rocks glow an incredible ruby color.
Enrich your experience and learn to cook traditional Jordanian meals with all-fresh ingredients at Petra Kitchen, in Petra. Local chefs will share their enthusiasm and joy of cooking with nightly classes, and a multi-night cooking course that includes food sourcing at local markets and a full-on experience, from the earth to the plate. Of course, you then get to enjoy the product of your labors. It’s a great option when the winter weather is inclement outside.
Christmas Day. Christmas is an official public holiday and Christians and Muslims alike get in the Christmas spirit. Malls and main boulevards are adorned with Christmas decorations.
Traveling to Jordan in December? Check out these great itineraries
Explore Jordan, Israel, and the West Bank - 5 Days. Wrap up warmly to explore Petra, then wander through 4,000 years of history in the Old City of Jerusalem, and visit Bethlehem in time for Christmas.
Active Adventure in Jordan - 5 Days. Stay warm by staying active on this outdoor-focused itinerary featuring five days exploring Jordan, from windblown deserts and living canyons to ancient cultures and Red Sea reefs.