Things to do in Madaba

Things to do in Madaba

Our second stop in Jordan was Madaba, a city known for Byzantine and Umayyad-era mosaics, mosques, churches, and archeological complexes. Madaba’s central location could not be better for exploring Jordan. It’s the perfect location to take in some of Jordan’s best-known sites such as the Dead Sea and Amman. These places are just one hour’s drive from Madaba. 

Most of Madaba’s must-visit places are possible to see in a couple of hours but some are beyond the city’s limits. Depending on your time you can visit the Dead Sea on a different day as we did.

In this post, we will share our favorite things to do in Madaba and its surroundings.

St George’s Church

This 19th- century Greek Orthodox church houses a treasure of early Christianity. In 1884 Christian builders came across the remnants of a Byzantine church on their construction site. Among the rubble, having survived destruction, fire, and neglect, the flooring they discovered wasn’t just another mosaic. To this day, it represents the oldest map of Palestine in existence and provides many historical insights into the region.

Crafted in AD 560, the map has 157 captions (in Greek) representing all the major biblical sites of the Middle East, from Egypt to Palestine. It was originally around 15m – 25 m long and 6m wide, and once contained more than two million pieces. Although much of the mosaic has been lost, enough remains to sense the complexity of the whole.

The mosaic map is very remarkable, although it can be hard to understand the meaning of it and recognize all the places. We recommend you to buy a small brochure with a helpful description at the ticket office.

The church is open from 8 am – 5 pm October – April and from 8 am- 6 pm May – September. The entrance fee is 1 JD per person. 

Madaba Archaeological Park l and Virgin Mary Church

This open-air museum houses a collection of ruins and fine mosaics from the Madaba area. The Church of the Virgin Mary is also included in the site. Here you will find the oldest mosaic found in Jordan and relics of Roman presence such columns. 

Archaeological Park ll – Burnt Palace 

Archaeological Park ll consists of ruins from the 6th century. Here used to stand a residential mansion, which was destroyed by earthquakes and fire. Wooden walkways will take you around the place which also consists of old Roman constructions such as water drainages or cisterns. 

The Burnt Palace was used by priests from the nearby Martyr’s Church and the main highlight here remains mosaic from Byzantine times.

Both Archaeological Park l and ll are open from 8 am – 4 pm October-April and from 8 am- 4 pm May- September. The entrance is included in the Jordan Pass. 

Church of the Beheading of John the Baptist

After some time in Madaba, you will probably notice that there are many churches in a very Islamic country. Madaba is an exception because there is a large population of Christians. 

This 20th century Roman Catholic church has been transformed into an intriguing destination for visitors and pilgrims by the restoration of the ancient sites upon which it sits. The church facade was built with stones from antiquity, and Roman columns with Corinthian capitals dot the courtyard.

The church has a museum in the vaulted underbelly, but the highlight for us was a short climb to the church’s belfry. It’s worth the effort for the best panorama in Madaba! 

The church is open from 9 am-5 pm October – April and from 9 pm – 7 pm from May – September. The entrance fee is by donation, we found 1 JD appropriate. 

Church of the Apostles 

This church contains a remarkable mosaic dedicated to the Twelve Apostles. The embroidery-like mosaic was created in AD 568 and is one of the few instances where the name of the craftsman (Salomios) is included. The central portion shows Thalassa, a female personification of the sea, surrounded by fish and slippery marine creatures. Native animals, birds, flowers, fruit, and cherubic faces decorate the corners. 

The church is open from 9 am – 4 pm October – April and from 9 am – 5 pm May – September. The entrance is included in the Jordan Pass.

Mount Nebo

Mount Nebo is one of the holiest places in the area, and even if you are a non-believer, we highly recommend you to visit Mount Nebo.

This is the place where Moses saw the Promised Land, even if it’s not true it doesn’t change the fact that the views are gorgeous.

When the weather is clear you can see the Jordan River, and also Bethlehem and Jerusalem on the Israeli side.

On the top of the hill, you will find a serpentine cross sculpture and the Moses Memorial Church with mosaics inside.

Mount Nebo is a 15 minutes drive from Madaba, if you don’t have a car you can hire an Uber like we did.

Mount Nebo is open from 5 am – 7 pm October – April and from 7 am – 7 pm November – March. The entrance fee is 2 JD.

Bethany beyond the Jordan

This is the site, archaeologist assures us, where John the Baptist preached, where Jezus was baptized, where the first five apostles met, and where, the foundations of the early Christian faith were laid. Many believe this was the place where Prophet Elijah ascended to heaven in a whirlwind. This site features Roman and Byzantine remains including churches and chapels, a monastery, caves that have been used by hermits and pools in which baptisms were celebrated, testifying to the religious character of the place. 

After buying tickets your guide will drive you to the start of the tour, the guide will walk with you to the Jordan river and explain the history of this place. 

Bethany Beyond the Jordan is easy to reach by car from Madaba, there are also a lot of organized tours that you can take. 

Bethany Beyond the Jordan is open from 8.30 am – 5 pm October – April and from 8.30 – 7 pm March – November. The entrance fee is 12 JD; local guide and shuttle bus included.

Ma’in Hot Springs

Ma’in Hot Springs or Hammamat Ma’in are the thermal mineral hot springs and waterfalls, where Herod the Great was said to have bathed in its medicinal water, and where people have come for thermal treatments, or simply to enjoy a hot soak, since the days of Rome. 

Here the water, ranging from 45°C to 60°C, tumbles off the hillside in a series of waterfalls and less assuming trickles and is collected in a variety of pools for public bathing. It contains potassium, magnesium, and calcium.

We stayed one night in the Ma’in Hot Springs Resort & Spa and highly recommend it! We loved the pool and the natural sauna, and the food was fantastic!  

How to get to Madaba

Madaba is about half an hour from Amman by car. The city is also only 25km from Queen Alia International Airport.

Busses: There are frequent minibuses from Amman to Madaba each way. The cost will be around 2JD. 

Private taxis: The cost depends on your bargain abilities but it can go from JD 8 – 12. 

Uber: The cost will be around 8 JD.

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3 Comments

  1. August 21, 2020 / 6:10 am

    Everything good! ++

  2. Martine
    August 22, 2020 / 7:43 pm

    Weeral prachtige foto’s 😲

  3. Jade
    September 23, 2020 / 3:19 pm

    Love the photos this place looks stunning

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