Ajloun, often spelled Ajloun, is a small town in northern Jordan that is included in many of our tours, as it offers several attractions for travelers, both from a historical and environmental perspective. On this page, we explain where it is located, what to see in Ajloun, and practical information on how to get there.
Ajloun is located in the northernmost part of Jordan, close to Irbid (about 35 km) and not far from the capital, Amman (about 70 km). It belongs to the Ajloun Governorate. It is also not far from the two borders in the area: the King Hussein border crossing with Israel is about 70 km away by road, while the Syrian border is about 45 km away by road.
From an environmental perspective, Ajloun is known for being in the heart of Jordan’s Mediterranean climate, with moderately hot summers and relatively mild winters, and higher levels of precipitation compared to other regions of Jordan.
Its hilly surroundings offer a green landscape that contrasts with the rest of the country, with trees that are also commonly found in many parts of southern Europe, such as strawberry trees or pistachios. That’s why this area is protected as a nature reserve and is highly recommended for travelers who love nature.
It is not clear when Ajloun emerged as a settlement, and some historians associate it with the Moabite king Eglon, mentioned in the Bible, from whom its name may have originated. However, what seems certain is that Ajloun already existed in the 12th century, as evidenced by the remains of a Byzantine church in its famous castle, indicating that it may have been built at some point between the 5th and 7th centuries.
It was this fortress that ultimately gave strategic and military importance to this enclave, which was successively occupied by Ayyubids, Mamluks, and Ottomans. The Ottomans left a more evident mark on the town, as evidenced by their mosque, which was expanded in the 16th century during their dominion over Ajloun.
From that moment on, with external military threats minimized, Ajloun has always played an agricultural role, as historical documents attest to significant production of wine, fruits, and vegetables.
The main monument to see in Ajloun is undoubtedly its castle, also known as Qala’at Ar Rabad. It is located about 3 kilometers west of the city, so you’ll have to figure out transportation, as we explain below.
It is interesting to delve into a really relevant period of Jordan’s history: the offensives and counteroffensives of the Crusaders and Ayyubids in the 12th century. In fact, the castle of Ajloun was built between 1184 and 1193 by a general (and nephew) of Saladin, Izzidin Usama, with the aim of containing the campaigns of Christian soldiers who aspired to reclaim the holy places for their religion. This mountain, the Awf (at an altitude of about 1,250 meters above sea level), occupies a strategic position to monitor the surroundings, specifically the wadis that lead to the Jordan Valley and that could be used by the Crusaders as entry routes from their settlements in the Sea of Galilee.
The castle of Ajloun had seven towers and a security moat more than ten meters deep. Although it was expanded in the early 13th century, it was taken and damaged by other invading enemies, in this case the Mongols, in the mid-13th century. The Mamluks, successors of the Ayyubids, regained control. In subsequent centuries, Ottoman troops were stationed here, but it eventually came under local management. Several earthquakes in the 19th and 20th centuries severely affected the structure, but its current state of conservation has greatly improved thanks to constant restorations.
Today, when all those episodes are just distant and almost mythical stories, what remains for tourists are extraordinary views of the surroundings that convey a sense opposite to the original: peace.
For those who also want to take a stroll through the small town of Ajloun, the most notable monument is its Great Mosque, built by Ayyubids and Mamluks, although its current appearance is mainly due to the Ottoman expansion in the 16th century. This can be seen especially in its spectacular minaret, with a sturdy Turkish style.
On the outskirts of Ajloun, about 5 km from the center, there is another place that may be of interest to travelers interested in Christianity: Anjara. According to tradition, the Holy Family took refuge here, specifically in a cave, on their way back to Galilee after learning that the King of Israel, Herod Archelaus, still intended to take Jesus’ life. Nowadays, the Shrine of Our Lady of the Mountain is a small temple erected in honor of that event, inside of which a commemorative cave is recreated.
If you want to spend more time in Ajloun and discover other places in addition to the castle, there is one activity that stands out above all others: hiking. Surrounding the town is the Ajloun Forest Reserve, one of the most interesting in the country due to its biodiversity and contrast with other Jordanian natural spaces. It is a Mediterranean habitat, with corresponding flora and fauna, where travelers can discover oak trees, pistachios, strawberry trees, carob trees, and other typical trees from southern Europe, for example. With a bit of luck, you may even spot skunks, martens, or even wild boars. Wolves and jackals also inhabit this area, although they are much more elusive.
This natural paradise is well-preserved thanks to the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, which has chosen to protect this area of approximately 1,300 hectares for its environmental value. They have also developed a network of trails to explore the main corners of the reserve, including:
Of course, there are more marked and signposted trails. Some of them are guided and include lunch, with the payment of the corresponding entrance fee. In addition, a branch of the Jordan Trail passes through this area, specifically the section that goes from Ajloun to Fuheis, covering a distance of approximately 60 km.
Ajloun is located very close to Jerash and Amman, so it’s common to include a visit to this place as part of a tour of northern Jordan. The easiest way to get here is by road with a private vehicle, such as a taxi or a bus with its own driver. Here are the approximate distances and durations, including other more distant places in the country:
Public transportation options are limited. JETT company offers a tourist service from Amman that also passes through Jerash, usually with two weekly departures. Another option is microbuses with departures from Amman, Irbid, and Jerash, but it’s a slow and unpredictable solution, as these vehicles only depart when they are full.
On the other hand, if you want to reach Ajloun Castle, you will need to access it with some means of transportation, as it is about 3 kilometers uphill from the city center. There are taxis that offer this service from the city, although you can also drive up to the ticket booth.