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While you are in the country, the Roman ruins of Jerash are an absolute treat for any ruin junkie. The city of Jerash is located approximately 50km (35miles) north of Jordan’s capital Amman and is certainly worth a trip out of the city.
Getting to the Ruins of Jerash - Amman to Jerash
There are a variety of ways to get to the ruins of Jerash from the city of Amman. It’s super easy to get to either via public bus or car. If you’re going by car, take Route 35 out of the city. The drive will take you less than an hour.
If you are going by public bus, then take a taxi to North Bus Station, from there get the collectivo. If you arrive early on in the day you won’t have to wait long for the bus to fill up.
Whichever way you travel to the ruins of Jerash, I suggest starting early to miss the crowds and heat of the day. Also, it allows for a much more leisurely pace to view the archaeological site.
The Ruins of Jerash - AKA 'Pompeii of the East'
On first impressions, you’ll see why the Jerash ruins have been dubbed ‘Pompeii of the East’. If you’ve never visited Pompeii in Italy, I highly recommend it. The ill-fated city was decimated by a volcanic eruption in AD79 when Mount Vesuvius erupted. True, the Jerash Roman Ruins weren’t obliterated and then buried by the pyroclastic blast of a volcano but, the layout and features of Jerash ruins have a lot in common with Pompeii.
While eavesdropping into a group tour I was smugly amused to overhear one of the guides call the ruins of Jerash the ‘Pompeii of the East’. Kudos to me for knowing my history shit
So, yes, Jerash is similar to Pompeii with its grand columns and beautiful cobbled streets, minus the ashen ghostly figures to look at.
How much does it cost to visit Jerash?
Entry to the ruins of Jerash is 10JD, (approx £11 /$14) you’ll also be given a fairly decent map of the archaeological site. There are a handful of information boards dotted about the main points of interest but they are a little weathered and faded in places.
If you’re after more self-guided info, then there is a fairly informative on-site museum containing artefacts, maps, videos and further details about the Jerash ruins.
Private tour guides are available to hire, they are often milling about outside of the museum. These are great if you really want to delve into more depth and find out more about the history and gritty details surrounding the ruins of Jerash.
Things To See At The Ruins Of Jerash
The main highlights and what everyone rushes to see are – The Oval Forum, Colonnaded Street, Temple of Artemis, and the Arch of Hadrian.
History of Jerash in a Nutshell
- Historically known as Gerasa, the Greco-Roman ruins of Jerash are said to be founded by Alexander the Great.
- With the exception of Italy, Jerash is considered to be one of the most immense and well-preserved sites outside of Rome.
- The site is still undergoing excavation. Renovation projects of the Jerash ruins started in the 1920s and are ongoing.
What to pack when you visit Jerash ruins.
The site of the Jerash Roman ruins is large and fairly open, so take plenty of water and wear sunscreen, there is next to no shade at the site.
Wear decent shoes too, it’s quite amusing watching (in particular) fashionistas arriving in their ridiculous heels. The ground is uneven and cobbled – it’s an archaeological site! so just leave the strappy sandals, stilettos and flip flops at home. I wore tennis shoes – I was fine in this. But please, don’t be that idiot with regards to footwear.
Wear sunglasses too – even if it’s slightly overcast the stone is light in colour so the sun reflects off it. Alternatively, take a cap or hat with a wide brim.
There are only limited places to get food inside the ruins of Jerash, so pack plenty of snacks if you are planning on visiting for the whole day.
Want to know what to (and what not to) wear in Jordan? < —- Check out this article.
Things To Do In Jerash
Arrive early, the archaeological ruins of Jerash open at 8 am, if you leave it until 10 am the place will be heaving with coachloads of tourists on large scale tours. It was blissful being at the site when it was near empty. If you want to get photos with no one else in them, now is the time to do it.
With the minimal bit of signage and information on the boards at main points of interest, twinned with the map you are given on entry it’s pretty easy to navigate yourself around the site and work out what you are looking at.
Hadrian's Arch or the Triumphal Arch & Hippodrome
Hadrian’s Arch dates to 129AD and was built to commemorate a visit from Emperor Hadrian. This and the nearby Hippodrome are the first things you’ll see. The Hippodrome hosted chariot racing in front of an audience of 15,000 – they do re-enactments here which can be booked via Jordan official website.
The Colonnade Forum
Follow the old City walls along to the main archaeological site. Just before you get to the arch and on the right-hand side is the visitor centre. Enter the arch and walk up to the iconic Colonnade Forum.
This forum was one of my highlights when I visited the ruins of Jerash. Here you’ll find 56 columns surrounding the open oval forum. It’s huge, approx 90m x 80m the limestone cobbles link to the Cardo Maximus. Getting to Jerash early in the day meant I had the place pretty much to myself, later in the day the forum is filled with tour groups. It’s certainly didn’t have the same feel, sharing it with hundreds of people.
Cardo Maximus or the Colonnaded Street
Head out of the Colonnaded Forum and follow the cobbled stones to the Cardo Maximus or the Colonnaded Street. This 800m stretch of road links the North Gate to the Colonnade Forum. It’s still paved with the original stones, so yes it’s uneven but it’s pretty cool to see the wear and tear from the centuries of use – check out the gentle grooves where chariots would once have ridden.
Hisotrically, a Nymphean is where the townsfolk got their water from. Although there’s not much in terms of water here anymore, you can still make out the foundations of where the fountains and water for the city would have come from. This would have been quite something back in Roman times.
You can’t miss this, the Propylaeum is a massive decorative gateway and staircase leading up to the Temple of Artemis. The size of this Propylaeum defines how important the Temple of Artemis would have been at the time. It’s big!
For an idea of scale – check out the two people at the bottom of the stairs and then compare them to the two little people right at the top of the stairs!
Temple of Artemis
Although what remains doesn’t resemble much of a temple, what stood here in its heyday would have been something impressive! The Temple of Artemis is situated at the top of The Propylaeum and looks down on the ruins of Jerash.
Artemis was the patron goddess of the city, and this temple was dedicated to her. Not much of this impressive temple remains. This is due to its dismantling in subsequent centuries so the stone could be used as building materials in from 386AD for new churches.
What the North Theatre lacks in size compared to the South Theatre, it certainly makes up for it in charm. I actually preferred this theatre with its pretty doorways and coloured tiled floor. There are also lots of cute carvings on the walls and seating if you look carefully. Originally built in 165AD and fully restored, this was one of my favourite spots in Jerash.
If you like theatres and colosseums, then you’d love the ones in Amman.
Temple of Zeus
Similarly to the Temple of Artemis, not much remains of this temple (build about 162AD). The Temple of Zeus suffered the same fate as the Temple of Artemis – building materials for subsequent structures! However, standing on top of this ruin, with it’s prominent position on the hillside does provide some great lookout point on the city below. Another decent photo spot.
Built in the 1st century, restored and still in use today with seating for 5000 spectators, the South Theatre sits on a hillside looking down over the rest of the archaeological site. It sits next to the Temple of Zeus.
Like with the Temple of Zeus, climbing up to the upper level of the Colosseum you can get some awesome panoramic shots of the archaeological site, particularly of the Colonnaded Forum.
There are frequent performers milling about this area. On the day I visited there was a guy playing the bagpipes and a drummer. I still stand by my argument that on a bagpipe, any tune, in any country of the world sounds exactly the same. It was no different here at the ruins of Jerash.
Final thoughts on visiting Jerash ruins
This short article really doesn’t do the ruins of Jerash justice. If you have even the slightest bit of interest in ancient civilisations, ruins or just want some beautiful backdrops for photography then Jerash Roman ruins are a certain must if you are in Jordan.
I’m an absolute temple junkie, so this fabulous archaeological site kept me occupied for hours.
They are super easy to get to from the capital so you’d be silly to skip them. Even with just half a day, you will be able to see the main sights. If you are in the capital of Amman for more than a day, be sure to check out the Colosseum and Citadel.
Visiting Jordan? Then you might also be interested in these articles to help plan your trip.
- 10 Days in Jordan: The Perfect Itinerary & Travel Guide
- Visit Petra – 26 Reasons Why Petra Should Be On Your Bucket List
- Wadi Rum Camp – On the Trail of the Bedouin People
- Things To Do In Amman – One Day in Jordan’s Ancient Capital
- What To Wear in Jordan (and what NOT to wear!) + Printable Packing List
- Amman to Petra – 3 Super Easy Ways To Get There
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Have you visited Jerash or even Jordan? or did you find other amazing Roman ruins? Or is there anything I’ve missed off? Let me know, what you think in the comment section below.