Amman, Jordan

Best of Desert Castles Private Full-Day Tour

Rating:
5/5
(2 reviews)

Tour to the Desert Castles will allow us to go back in time to the era of military campaigns and desert warfare as you explore Jordan’s imposing desert complexes, many dating back to the first half of the 8th century. Their fine mosaics, frescoes, stone and stucco carvings and illustrations, inspired by the best in Persian and Graeco-Roman traditions, tell countless stories of life as it was during the 8th century. Known collectively as the Desert Castles, the constructions demonstrate the best of early Islamic Architectural ingenuity.

On this tour, we will visit the best of those monuments, uncovering the rich history and architecture of the Umayyad Period: Qasr Al-Mushatta, the largest of the Umayyad Palaces, Qasr Kharana, a “hotel” of the 8th century, Qasr Amra with its incredible frescoes, Qasr Azraq, where Lorence of Arabia was staying, and Qasr Al-Hallabat & Hammam As-Sarah, impressive complexes with reach history.

Departure Location
Amman, Jordan (your hotel or residence)
Departure Time
What's Included
✓ Private luxury transfer✓ Entrance fees✓ Bottled water, soft drinks, snacks✓ Coffee/tea (on request)✓ WiFi, iPhone charger, iPad with Netflix✓ Masks and hand-sanitiser
What's Excluded
✕ Professional on-site (local) guide✕ Personal expenses✕ Lunch
Tour Checklist
✓ Comfortable shoes✓ Sun hat✓ Sunblock✓ Sunglasses

Note: We will meet you at the hotel lobby or at your residence five minutes before the scheduled departure time for an introduction and small briefing. Please be on time.

After the tour, we will drive you back to Amman and drop you off at your hotel, where we picked you up or any other location specified by you, at no additional cost.

Tour Itinerary

Amman - Azraq

We’ll begin with a friendly introduction, and a small tour briefing. A detour to Starbucks to pick up your favourite coffee will take place after, on your request. From there, it’s a short drive to Qasr Al-Mushatta, our first stop in a luxury car which includes WiFi, sipping coffee and enjoying your selected snacks. Water and soft drinks are provided at no extra cost. There is also an iPhone charger, headphones and you’ll have access to an iPad with an internet connection, and Netflix.

Qasr Al-Mushatta (Winter Palace)

Qasr Al-Mushatta (Winter Palace), the largest and most ambitious of the Umayyad palaces in Jordan, and perhaps one of the most beautiful Islamic creations in terms of architectural style and decoration with a combination of Byzantine, Sassanian, and Persian influences. It is believed that the palace was intended to accommodate a large number of people, perhaps the whole Umayyad court. It was also designed for ceremonial grandiose performances as is evident in the incorporation of the throne room and basilica-like hall. Naturalistic acanthus and vine scrolls, as well as animals and figures carved in stone, all demonstrate the high-quality skills of the builders.

Qasr Kharana

80 kilometres (50 miles) East of Amman on highway 40 in an arid part of the Eastern desert, Qasr Kharana welcomes you as one of the Desert Castles in this region. The castle was built in the early Umayyad period by the Umayyad caliph Walid I whose dominance of the region was rising at the time. Here you will discover a square castle, with each side 35 m long. There are many rooms in this 2-store building, some still have decorations. I will guide you through the best-preserved and most interesting parts of the castle while explaining its architecture and history.

Quseir Amra

Quseir Amra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is situated 75 km East of Amman on highway 40. It is one of the best-preserved monuments in the Black Desert and the second stop of our tour. Its interior walls and ceilings are covered with lively frescoes, and two of the rooms are paved with colourful mosaics which is very unique for Islamic architecture. Here you will discover an audience hall with a throne alcove, a bath complex consisting of cold, warm and hot rooms and the hydraulic structures which include an elevated water tank, a masonry-lined deep well, and the mechanism for drawing water from the well into the water tank. I will also show you the best spots to take photos. After the tour, you are welcome to take a short coffee/tea break at the local Bedouin tent situated next to the visitor centre.

Qasr Azraq

Qasr Azraq is often included on day trips from Amman to the Desert Castles, along with Qasr Kharana and Qasr Amra, both east of the capital and reached via Highway 40. The settlement was known in antiquity as Basie and the Romans were the first to make military use of the site, and later an early mosque was built in the middle. Its strategic value came from the nearby oasis, the only water source in a vast desert region. Here you can explore most of the castle, except for some sections closed for visitors. During the Arab Revolt, T.E. Lawrence based his operations here in 1917–18, an experience he wrote about in his book Seven Pillars of Wisdom. The connection to “Lawrence of Arabia” has been one of the castle’s major draws for tourists. I will take you to the room he occupied and tell you his story and the history of the castle.

Hammam As-Sarah

Hammam As-Sarah is considered one of the important monuments, built during the early Islamic era. It brings out most of the Islamic building features used in that period. The complex was attributed to the caliphate of Al-Walid bin Abed al-Malik (705- 715) in analogy with the bath complex of Qasr Amra. Smaller than the Amra baths the attractive limestone building has been partially restored. Its plan, like Amra, consists of 3 principal elements: The Audience Hall, The Bath Complex, and The Water System. We will discover the complex together and all its elements before going to our last stop of the tour - Qasr Al-Hallabat.

Qasr Al-Hallabat

Qasr Al-Hallabat is perhaps one of the most representative and important sites in the Near East to understand the socio-political and cultural changes that took place in the transitional period from Late Antiquity to Early Middle Ages that gave birth to Islamic culture. It is also one of the largest of the Umayyad Desert Castles. Originally Al-Hallabat was a small Roman fort built to protect the Via Nova Trajana, the Roman road stretching from Bosra to Aqaba established after 106 A.D. It was enlarged and transformed into a fort with four corner towers in the fourth century AD. The main building is 44 meters on a side, with four large rectangular corner towers, originally three stories high, with narrow slit windows. An adjacent rectangular mosque contains inscriptions dated stylistically to the first century of the Islamic era. We will take time to discover this spectacular monument, its rooms with mosaic floors, multiple inscriptions and decorations.

Zarqa - Amman

We will drive you all the way back to Amman and drop you off at your hotel, where we picked you up. No doubt after a satisfying and inspiring few hours in the Black Desert and Jordan’s most famed Deset Castles.

Photo Gallery

Additional Info

  • This is a private tour/activity. Only your group will participate
  • Travelers should have a moderate physical fitness level
  • Not wheelchair accessible
  • Infants must sit on laps

Cancellation Policy

You can cancel up to 24 hours in advance of the tour for a full refund.

  • For a full refund, you must cancel at least 24 hours before the tour’s start time.
  • If you cancel less than 24 hours before the tour’s start time, the amount you paid will not be refunded.
  • Any changes made less than 24 hours before the tour’s start time will not be accepted.
  • Cut-off times are based on Jordan’s local time.
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What our customers say

5.0
5/5

29 reviews

Molly H
5/5
Fantastic Experience With Alex!
I highly recommend hiring Alex as a guide! I went on two tours with him—the desert castles tour and the Qasr-Al-Abd tour—and both were fantastic. I have been on a number of other tours in Jordan and can tell you that the level of service Alex provides is truly exceptional compared to other operators. If I ever find my way back to Jordan, I will be sure to hire Alex again.
Written July, 2022
Peter P
5/5
We loved it!
We went on this tour to see Desert Castles and Alex was very kind to show us around and explain the history of each castle (actually not all of them are castles, some are baths, other hotels and so on) and showed us the most interesting futures which we wouldn’t notice otherwise :) Qasr Amra was our favourite due to the very interesting frescoes and Qasr Hallabat has very interesting wall-writings from the Roman and Islamic Periods. We were happy the snacks were included as well as cold water! Lunch was fantastic as well. I highly recommend this tour with Alex.
Written April, 2022

from $129 (92 JOD)

Fixed price per group (1-3 travellers)

Free cancellation
Up to 24 hours in advance

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Tour Price: $129 (92 JOD)
Tour Price: $129 (92 JOD)
Tour Price: $129 (92 JOD)

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