You’ll need plenty of warm clothes for Jordan in January. Don’t be fooled, just because it’s in the supposedly warm-to-hot Middle East. Amman’s mid-winter temperature averages just 50°F (10°C), with many days significantly colder due to biting winds. It can even snow! The eastern desert will be equally cold, if not more so, and the mountain zones also considerably colder, with guaranteed frost at night. Petra, for example, averages a high of only 51°F (10°C) and an average low that hovers around freezing this month.
If this all sounds too chill, ponder the south: Aqaba averages a relatively balmy high of 68°F (20°C) by day, with chilly evenings. And the Jordan Valley also tends to be warmer than Amman.
January is also the wettest month of the year in all parts of the country, with the northwest receiving the lion’s share.
Note that although hotels and other public facilities usually have heating, many homes and older buildings do not.
Crowds & Costs
What crowds? While Jordan has plenty to recommend it in January, most visitors stay away. In fact, January shows the lowest number of arrivals of any month of the year. Airfare and accommodation costs are thereby also at their lowest—a good time for budget travelers to make hay.
The exception is Aqaba, where the pleasant winter weather draws both international visitors and Jordanians from Amman; its popularity is reflected by higher prices.
Where to Go
January’s weather makes this a good month to focus on cultural venues, and there’s plenty in Amman to satisfy the culture vulture—from the 2,000-year-old Citadel, with its Roman temples and Umayyad Palace, to the spectacular Jordan Museum, and the more prosaic hum of mosques and the hubbub of souqs.
One good thing about the winter rains is that they clean the air, so sunny days are crystal clear. Head to Mount Nebo (2,330 ft/710 m) for sensational panoramic vistas over the Jordan Valley and Israel. Explore the church, with its beautiful mosaic murals, atop the mountain. And the nearby town of Madaba entices with its excellent La Storia religious and folklore museum and its Christian Church of St George.
For a tad warmer weather, head to the Dead Sea. At 1,410 ft (430 m) below sea level—the earth’s lowest point—it’s significantly warmer than the rest of Jordan in January. And the water temperatures are even warmer than the air in winter and perfect for floating or swimming. But many hotels on the Dead Sea shores have heated pools, plus spas.
What to Do
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.
Many Jordanians escape the cold and occasional snows of the north by soaking up the sun's rays along the shores of the Gulf of Aqaba, where scuba diving and snorkeling are sensational in Aqaba Marine Park, part of the larger Red Sea Marine Peace Park. You’ll need a wetsuit at this time of year (water temperatures average 72°F/22°C in winter).
To stay warm, stay active. Don a warm, rainproof jacket, and hike the desert trail from Little Petra to Petra. Rated among the top hikes in the world by National Geographic, the 50-mile (80 km) trek through rugged and beautiful desert and mountain landscapes begins in the Dana Biosphere Reserve, crosses the vast arid expanse of Wadi Araba, then climbs into the Sharah Mountains to spill you out at Petra via the lesser-traveled back door.
Arbor Day. Celebrated on January 15, this 3-day holiday (introduced in 1939) sees thousands of Jordanians pick up their shovels to plant trees. The date palm is the preferred tree for its religious significance during Ramadan.
Traveling to Jordan in January? Check out these great itineraries
Dana to Petra Trek – 7 Days. The epic trek from Dana to Petra, rated one of the world’s best hikes by National Geographic, takes you through many of Jordan's distinct landscapes and major archeological sites.
Active Adventure in Jordan: Wadi Mujib, Petra, Wadi Rum, Aqaba - 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.