Madaba Travel Guide
Not all Biblical sites are in Israel. Palestine also encompassed what is now Jordan. In the city of Madaba, you’ll be within driving distance of where St John the Baptist baptized, and where he died. You can also stand atop the mountain Moses did, gazing into the Promised Land he would never set foot in.
Come check out our Madaba travel guide as we cover the best things to do in Madaba, Palestine.
Start your sightseeing tour of Madaba by touring the Church of St John the Baptist. It takes its name from the prophet who foretold the coming of Jesus in the 1st century AD. According to the Gospel, he said of the Messiah, “I’m not even worthy to…untie the straps of his sandal.”
He would later baptize Jesus in the River Jordan, prior to the start of the latter man’s ministry. Not long after, he met his end at the hands of King Herod. After publicly rebuking him for divorcing his wife to take his brother’s, the royal court sentenced him to death.
In the 19th century, local Christians built the Church of St John the Baptist to honour the saint’s memory. They reused stone that dated from ancient times, giving it a much older feel. Its Roman-style columns are among its most noteworthy architectural features, as are its mosaics.
In the basement, you’ll find the Acropolis Museum. It protects ancient foundations found during the church’s construction, along with a 3,000-year-old well. The church belfry is also climbable, but with long drops, we don’t recommend them for those who fear heights.
Next, make your way over to the Church of Saint George. This Greek Orthodox church’s exterior may not look like much, but its interior houses a truly remarkable treasure. When its constructors were digging the foundation, they unearthed a mosaic.
It turned out to be a map of Palestine, albeit an incomplete one, as raiders destroyed it eons before. Archaeologists dated it to the 6th century AD, making it the oldest in existence. Crowds of tourists come to view the map every day. While church officials permit visitors to attend mass, they prohibit viewings of the map during them.
While in the Madaba area, take a day trip out to the Dead Sea. It is easily reachable from the city, as it is only situated 30 kilometres away. The Dead Sea is the lowest body of water on Earth, as it sits 1,400 feet below sea level. It is also extremely salty, as its waters are almost ten times saltier than the ocean.
As a result, it is famously buoyant. Shots depicting bathers reading the newspaper aren’t stunt shots – the water really is that supportive. When you take a dip, though, do NOT dunk your head. The water’s extreme salinity will teach you an extremely painful lesson if you do.
Stick around for a while if you seek rest and relaxation. You’ll find numerous spas here, each of them taking advantage of the curative properties of the region.
Stand atop the same peak that Moses did millennia ago by visiting Mount Nebo. According to the Old Testament of The Bible, Moses led the Jews out of Egypt. However, fate forced them to wander the wilderness outside Canaan (the Promised Land) for 40 years. God allowed Moses to see it from Mount Nebo, despite the fact he barred him from setting foot there.
At the top of this mountain, you’ll find a shrine to the Biblical leader. Within, you’ll find Byzantine-era mosaics, who were the first to build a memorial here. According to lore, Moses’ followers buried him somewhere on this peak, though, it is not clear where.
While in Madaba, check out Umm ar-Rasas, one of this region’s top fortresses. This fortification existed before the times of the Romans, who used it as a garrison after conquering Palestine. As the years progressed, it passed into Byzantine and then into Umayyad Caliphate hands before its abandonment.
It gained recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004 after years of excavation and reconstruction. Key highlights include a Stylite tower (used for calls to prayer) and mosaics in St Stephen’s Church.
Want to see another amazing fort? When in Madaba, pay a visit to Machaerus. This fortress was important throughout history, as it was sat atop a hill with sweeping 360-degree views. It was also the place where King Herod held St John the Baptist prior to his execution.
Jewish rebels also held this place through much of the First Jewish Revolt against the Romans in the 1st century AD. When the latter party prevailed, they tore it down to its foundations.
Walk through the remains of an ancient town at Madaba Archaeological Park. Archaeologists unearthed this series of Byzantine-era villas and churches in the 1990s. Throughout, you’ll find fine mosaics and the faded forms of what used to be a thriving settlement,