Ancient Arabia meets a modern beach resort in Aqaba, perched at the northernmost point of the Red Sea. The scene of Lawrence of Arabia's greatest victory during World War I, this bustling seaside oasis also boasts beaches, coral reefs, and a small but interesting “souk” (market), plus great Middle Eastern food. Don't miss the ruins of Petra, which are just two hours away.
What We Love
The Spice Guy: The ever-smiling Mr. Fadel transforms the spice-buying process into a performance worthy of a Food Network show at Al-Baba Spices, near the entrance to the vegetable section of the Aqaba Souk.
The View: Gaze across the gulf toward Israel and Egypt; this is one of the few spots on the planet where you can see three countries at once with the naked eye.
Best Known For
Scuba Diving: Delicate sea horses, moray eels, torpedo rays, hawksbill turtles, and deadly lionfish are just a few of the denizens of the pristine waters off Aqaba. One of the most popular dives is the Cedar Pride, a largely intact Lebanese freighter that sank in 1982.
Day Trips to Petra: Buses transport cruise passengers to Petra, an ancient Nabataean and Roman city tucked into the red-rock gorges of southern Jordan. Named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007, these sprawling ruins are truly awe-inspiring.
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Who It's Best For
Avid Divers: Even the most experienced scuba divers are amazed the first time they explore the coral gardens beneath the Red Sea.
History Buffs: From the recently restored Ottoman fort in Aqaba to the ruins of Petra, 2,000 years of history should be enough to satisfy most armchair time travelers.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Fry Eggs on the Sidewalk: During Aqaba's long, hot summer, triple-digit temperatures are the norm.
Construction Boom: Jordan's vibrant economy has sparked a rash of new hotel, condo, and golf course construction sites along the coast.
Joe Yogerst is a California-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Travel + Leisure.