The King’s Highway is one of the oldest trade routes in Jordan–a remarkable fact in the context of this country which lay at the heart of many of the ancient world’s key trade routes. The route, which runs along the mountain plateau above the eastern side of the Great Rift Valley, connected the Biblical kingdoms of Jordan (Edom, Moab and Ammon), hence came the name “King’s Highway.” In the early 2nd century AD, Trajan used this route to build his “Via Nova Trajana”. Trade caravans moving between points in Syria, Asia Minor, the Arabian Peninsula and the Far East, passing on to markets around the Mediterranean, in Egypt and on to Europe used portions of this route. The passage of trade caravans brought prosperity to the inhabitants of lands along the route and, ironically, catastrophes as well. Many battles were waged throughout the millennia for control over the route and thus the trade goods traversing it. The King’s Highway, or key portions thereof, have been used continuously from the Bronze Age right through contemporary times.
The modern route–actually a winding 2-lane rural road rather than a highway–runs from Amman to Aqaba, passing some of the most beautiful towns and splendid scenery in Jordan. The half-way point on the most traveled part of the route from Amman to Petra is the spectacular switchback road which traverses Wadi al-Mujib, sometimes referred to as Jordan’s “Grand Canyon.” Two other major east-west canyons, Wadi al-Wala and Wadi al-Hasa, are also transversed along the King’s Highway by scenic switchback roads. Wadi al-Wala, to the south of Madaba, contains the ruins of the Early Bronze Age urban city of Khirbet Iskander. Wadi al-Hasa, between Karak and Tafila, is a beautiful valley containing several Nabatean sites including Khirbet at-Tannour, as well as the Hamamat Afra hot springs, which enjoys great local popularity due to its reputed curative properties.
The King’s Highway is quite a long drive to attempt in one day, particularly if you want to stop and enjoy some of the ancient ruins and modern natural beauty along the way. We recommend that you let us plan your tour to include bits and pieces of the King’s Highway as you travel around the country.