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 the following:
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 the:
- Natural beauty;
- Landmarks and attractions;
- Culture and heritage;
- The people;
- Food scene;
- Travel Infrastructure;
- Travel safety;
- 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 at the very least, you should 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. Israel has beautiful areas, but none comes close to Wadi Rum. So, Jordan gets a close win here, mainly if you are into deserts and extraterrestrial landscapes.
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.
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 further compress and understand what each country has to offer, we suggest reading about the landmarks in Israel and Jordan. We have written specific articles about each:
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.
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 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!
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 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 Israel is bad… If warm and friendly people are essential, choose 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, people randomly throw 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; 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.
Regarding nightlife, Israel also wins clearly, mainly because of Tel Aviv, where great bars, restaurants, and parties exist. Tel Aviv is also famously liberal, much more than the rest of the country, so you’ll probably fit in 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.
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 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.
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 underdeveloped; traveling independently or on tour is 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.
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.
Israel or Jordan – Travel costs
It may surprise you, but both countries are expensive destinations, though for different reasons.
Finding cheap accommodations in Jordan is possible 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 medium-priced or 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 do.
We will tie this, as the average numbers are very similar, though for different reasons.
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 the shoulder season. We did not feel the attractions, even the most popular ones, were overcrowded. 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.
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;
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.
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!