Israel or Jordan – What is the best destination?

Israel or Jordan? Which country in the Middle East should you travel to next…? Both are internationally known as great travel destinations, offering unique experiences and landscapes, but which is the best option to travel?

We will explore everything about them, trying to figure out which is more fitting for you… Israel or Jordan? If you want to learn more about each country you’ll probably enjoy:

Both countries offer a wide range of activities for different kinds of travelers, but they are also similar in many ways. To better understand which one fits you better, we will compare them in terms of:

  • Natural beauty;
  • Landmarks and attractions;
  • Culture and heritage;
  • Beaches;
  • The people;
  • Eco-friendliness;
  • Nightlife;
  • Food scene;
  • Travel Infrastructure;
  • Travel safety;
  • Costs;
  • How Touristy;

To be perfectly honest we thoroughly enjoyed both countries, and visiting both on the same trip would be great. If that’s a possibility, go! But you should at very least have three weeks available – if you can’t continue reading.

Israel vs. Jordan – Travel

Natural Beauty – Jordan vs. Israel

Israel and Jordan are neighbors and share many geographical characteristics. They are mainly dry semi-arid countries with deserts, the dead sea, the Jordan Valley, and a coastal city in the Aqaba Gulf in the Red Sea.

However, there’s one huge difference, Israel has a long Mediterranean coast, while Jordan is almost landlocked and has vast interior desert areas, which may not be a disadvantage. It depends on what you are looking for – deserts can be outstanding.

Despite the considerable similarities, we found Jordan to be more beautiful, primarily due to the out-of-this-world setting of Wadi Rum. There are beautiful areas in Israel, but none comes close to Wadi Rum. So, Jordan gets a close win here, mainly if you are into deserts and extraterrestrial landscapes.

Israel or Jordan - What is the best destination
Stuning desert of Wadi Rum in Jordan

Which has the best attractions and landmarks? Jordan or Israel?

This is a challenging topic, and it surely doesn’t have a correct answer as it will depend on what you are looking for on this trip. Israel and Jordan share the Dead Sea and the coral reefs in Aqaba Golf; however, in both cases, it is better to visit them in Israel, as it has a better touristic infrastructure.

Both countries also have crusaders fortresses, large roman archeological sites, and slot canyons to visit:

  • Caesarea Maritima or Gerash? Gerash is larger and has more impressive buildings, but Caesarea is so nice by the sea.
  • Akko Fortress or Ajloun Castle? Akko Fortress is well-conserved and has some excellent features, but Ajloun is picture-perfect on top of a hill.
  • Red Canyon or The Siq in Wadi Mujib? The Red Canyon is fun and beautiful, but the Siq is one of the most remarkable activities we have ever done.
Israel vs Jordan
Red Canyon in Israel

However, there are also unique things that attract people from all over the world by themselves. Destinations that are unique and don’t have similar ones anywhere else:

  • Israel allows you to visit Jerusalem and the Bahai Gardens;
  • Jordan has the new world wonder of Petra and the above-mentioned Wadi Rum;

As we said, this is not an easy pick. Looking only at the landmarks and activities, I think we enjoyed Jordan a bit more, but it’s by an inch, and it will mostly depend on what you are looking for.

To have a further compression and really understand what each country has to offer, we suggest reading about the landmarks in Israel and Jordan. We have written specific articles about each:

Which country is better Israel or Jordan
Petra- one of the seven new wonders of the World in Jordan

Cultural Heritage of Jordan vs Israel

The cultural heritage of Jordan and Israel is incredibly rich. This area is one of the cradles of human civilization, home to three of the most influential religions globally and several empires.

However, Israel is unique in this regard as it is the only Jewish country in the world, and it has Jerusalem, arguably the most influential city in human history. Jordan has plenty to offer, too, there are several important religious landmarks, and it has a fascinating Arab and Bedouin culture. Yet, there are other Arab nations, many other Muslim-majority countries, and a few other countries with large Bedouin populations.

Thus, for its singularity, we believe Israel wins this round. However, it really depends on what you are looking for. If you want to experience Bedouin hospitality or the Arab world, you are obviously much better in Jordan.

Best to visit Jordan or Israel
Jerusalem in Israel – the most influential city in human history

Beaches of Israel vs Beaches of Jordan

This round has a clear winner, Israel. Both countries have beaches at their extreme south in the Gulf of Aqaba, which are similar. But, that’s all Jordan has to offer, and Israel has another much larger coast in the Mediterranean.

The beaches in the south don’t really have sand, are extremely hot in summer, and have small coral reefs. We found the reefs to be larger and livelier on Eilat’s side.

The Mediterranean beaches in Israel are excellent, with long stretches of sand and clear water. There are lively urban beaches and secluded ones. Israel isn’t purely a beach destination, but it’s a pleasant add-on. Plus, the beaches in Tel-Aviv are some of the best urban beaches we have ever visited.

Finally, Jordan is a conservative Muslim country, and wearing revealing clothes to the beach is tricky. In Israel, there’s no such problem at all!

travel destinations Jordan vs Israel
The Mediterranean beaches in Israel

The people – Israel vs Jordan

Another easy clear victory, but not for Israel – it’s not even a contest.

Jordan people are warm, friendly, and caring and enjoy receiving travelers. Both the Bedouins and all the others. We lost count of the time he heard welcome to Jordan, even if we were dismissing them because we weren’t interested in buying anything.

Israel is very different. Israelis don’t really care for tourists or travelers. They don’t even put on a smile, and sometimes they are borderline rude. So much that we wondered… is it us or is it them? It’s them; we are not the first ones to conclude that Israelis are blunt and rude.

So, in this case, it’s not only Jordan that is good but also that Israel is bad… If warm and friendly people are essential, choose Jordan!

Tourism Jordan or Israel
View of Amman the capital of Jordan

Trash and eco-friendliness – Jordan or Israel

This is a case where neither is good… though one is much worse than the other.

So, neither countries are very clean and eco-friendly, but Israel is doing a better job with garbage disposal and cleaning up the mess. Israel is far from being a clean country. It’s embarrassingly dirty for such a developed and prosperous country. There’s lots of garbage in the cities, we see people randomly throwing things on the ground, and plastic is still overly used.

Yet, Jordan is so much worse. Unfortunately, it’s one of the dirtiest countries we have visited. The cities are full of garbage, and the closer to markets and local neighborhoods, the worse it gets. Even the fields are full of plastic. Some tourist places are cleaner, and the city center of Madaba is surprisingly neat. Even though it would be considered dirty by western standards. Jordan needs a mentality revolution about trash and plastic.

So, Israel is far from being a good example, but it’s still much better than Jordan. If this is very important to you, Israel is a better option, though it will probably shock you.

Most interesting country Israel or Jordan
The modern city Tel-Aviv the capital of Israel

Nightlife

Regarding nightlife, Israel also wins clearly, mainly because of Tel-Aviv, where there are great bars, restaurants, and parties. Tel-Aviv is also famously liberal, much more than the rest of the country, so you’ll probably fit it easily.

Jordan, on the other hand, is a conservative Muslim country. However, compared to other Muslim countries, it’s quite liberal with foreigners. Though, it is far from being a place to party. Alcohol is allowed but expensive.

So, Israel is the only option, really, if you want to party while on this trip.

Best place to visit Israel or Jordan
View of Tel Aviv Jaffa Seaside Israel

Food in Israel vs Food in Jordan

This is another topic where Israel and Jordan end up being very similar, with many similar dishes, techniques, and ingredients – which is only natural due to the geographical proximity and shared history.

Israeli and Jordan food share many dishes, as many famous dishes in Israel are of Palestine origin, or from Arab countries from which Jewish Israelis originated. Israel has some unique dishes and has plenty more and better fish than Jordan.

The most popular dishes in Israel are Falafel, Knafeh, Shawarma, Hummus, Baba Ganoush, and so on… All of these are also among the most popular in Jordan. Though, Jordan also has the Bedouin dishes, which Israel doesn’t. Things like Zarb, Mensaf, or Maqluba, are delicious and ubiquitous in Jordan but don’t exist in Israel.

As the food is so similar (and delicious), we were tempted to give it a draw, but the truth is that Jordan seems to have more food diversity and local food is also cheaper. So, we will attribute this one to Jordan.

travel to Jordan or Israel
Traditional Beduine dish – Zarb in Jordan

Travel Infrastructure

Israel is a much richer country than Jordan, and that reflects in its infrastructure – the roads are better, the attractions and visitor centers are better established, there is more accommodation diversity, and so on.

However, Jordan is far from being underdeveloped; traveling independently or on a tour is perfectly easy. It simply is a few steps behind, though it is visible that it is becoming more and more popular, with new constructions, resorts, and with many low-cost flights from Europe.

So, Israel wins this topic, and it’s a better option if you prefer a more developed tourism industry.

Best conditions Israel or Jordan
Roads in Israel- Nagev

Travel Safety – Israel and Jordan

Due to their location, geopolitical instability, and recent conflicts, both Jordan and Israel are constantly on the news. However, we should note that these are arguably the two safest countries to visit in the region.

To better compare the safety of each country, we will use the safety index of travelsafe-abroad.com. So,

The main difference between the countries is that Israel is much safer for women travelers. That being said, when we visited either of them, we always felt safe and had no problems.

Anyway, Israel wins this round, as it is generally a bit safer than Jordan (and much safer than most people think), particularly for women solo travelers.

travel tips Jordan or Israel
Dead sea beach in Israel

Israel or Jordan – Travel costs

It may surprise you, but both countries are expensive destinations, though for different reasons.

It is possible to find cheap accommodations in Jordan if you don’t mind roughing it up a bit. We did it, and it was fine. Local food is inexpensive, and everything else is either medium-priced or very expensive. Attractions, tours, and activities are very expensive, particularly Wadi Rum, Petra, and Wadi Mujib. They are incredible but costly. The Jordan Visa costs almost 60 USD per person… Tip: You can buy the Jordan pass to reduce costs a bit.

Israel is an all-around expensive country. Apart from local street food, everything is expensive. Accommodations, rentals, fuel, tours… Attractions are less costly than in Jordan, but that’s only because they are extraordinarily pricey in Jordan, not because they are cheap in Israel. Finding affordable accommodations in Israel is also more challenging than in Jordan.

So, including everything expenses but the flights, our average costs were:

  • Jordan – 75 USD per person per day, traveling a couple;
  • Israel – 76 USD per person per day, traveling as a couple;

In both cases, we traveled independently for a similar number of days (though we did a tour in Wadi Rum); we stayed in cheap hostels and guest houses and tried to eat locally, and often street food. Yet, they are some of the most expensive destinations we have ever been to. It may be possible to reduce these numbers, but it’s not easy, and it will probably mean skipping a few things that you should.

We will give this a tie, as the average numbers are very similar, though for different reasons.

Tourist attractions Jordan or Israel
Bedduin camp in Wadi Rum Jordan

Tourists

Both Jordan and Israel are pretty popular among travelers and have been increasing their popularity in recent years (excluding covid, obviously). In 2019, Israel received 4.6 million international arrivals, while Jordan received 4.5 million.

We have traveled to both countries in shoulder season. We did not feel the attractions were overcrowded, even the most popular ones. On the other hand, lesser-visited attractions were terrific to visit as they had few people.

So, it’s another tie here; it’s a minimal global difference that can change yearly. It’s way more important when you travel than if you are going to Jordan or Israel.

travel coast Israel vs Jordan
Fantastic Siq trail in Wadi Mujib in Jordan

Jordan or Israel Travel – Our Verdict

Looking at this mathematically, Israel won 6 rounds, Jordan won 4, and there were two ties. However, we strongly suggest you don’t look at it in these terms. You should choose a destination based on what you are looking for and your type of traveler.

So, you should visit Israel if you:

  • Want to go to the beach;
  • Are into Jewish culture;
  • Are traveling for religious reasons;
  • Want to party and experience nightlife;
  • Are looking for well-developed infrastructure;
  • Safety is a big issue for you, mainly if it is a woman traveling solo;
  • Want a more liberal culture;
Jordan or Israel travel
West Bank Jerusalem Israel

On the other hand, you should go to Jordan if you:

  • Want to experience Arab and Bedouin Culture;
  • Want to experience the desert;
  • Don’t mind not drinking alcohol;
  • Are looking to the most beautiful settings;
  • Want the most impressive landmarks;
  • Crave for the best food at reasonable prices;
  • A friendly people.
The next travel destinations Israel and Jordan
“The Monastery” in Petra Jordan

Neither is a good option if you don’t want to spend money and are on a tight budget and if eco-friendliness is important to you.

In hindsight, Jordan and Israel are neighbors that sometimes look like they are a world apart. Israel is more developed and liberal, but it is also less friendly. Yet, looking at things closely, they share a lot of common traits in food, history, natural settings, and even some landmarks (other landmarks are significantly different).

Now you just need to choose which things are more important to you!