This southern seaport town on the Gulf of Aqaba provides Jordan's only access to the sea. It's an ancient city, with local excavations producing finds that date back to the fourth century BC. Today's visitors go there primarily for a beach holiday in the midst of scenic mountainous desert landscape and relatively inexpensive scuba diving (there are several dive centers in town). Others can enjoy deep-sea fishing and snorkeling (the Red Sea is noted for its abundance—and variety—of coral). Boat trips can be arranged to watch dolphin, flying fish and whale sharks in the Gulf of Aqaba, or you can take one of the many glass-bottomed boats for underwater sightseeing closer to shore.

After spending time on the beach, visit some historical sites, such as the oldest church building in the world (near the bus station), the Ayla archaeological zone (an early Muslim settlement; signs provide a good explanation of its history and excavation), the 12th-century Mamluk fort and the port area. Other options include watching the fish at the Aqaba Aquarium or doing a little shopping. Plan to visit in early spring or late fall—it's very hot in midsummer, and December-February is a bit cool for the beach.

A day trip from Aqaba to the Isle of Greye offers excellent swimming and snorkeling in the romantic setting of a ruined Crusader castle (be sure to take your watersports equipment with you). Wadi Rum can also be visited from Aqaba. For visitors heading to Aqaba from Amman, we recommend stopping for several hours (or overnight) in Petra.

Note: Be aware that because Aqaba is Jordan's only port, trucks barrel along the desert highway and can make driving in the area unpleasant. 175 mi/280 km south of Amman.

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