Looming ominously atop a rocky outcrop overlooking the area, the crusader castle of Karak is one of the largest and most impressive castles in Jordan.

Spanning across seven levels, some of which are buried deep inside the earth, the castle is a huge testament to the ingenuity of the Crusader architecture and offers an interesting and well-preserved glimpse into the behaviours, traditions and habits of the time.

Having selected the location for its clear views down across Wadi Karak all the way to the Dead Sea, the Crusaders of the first crusade began building work on the castle in 1142. When the second crusade came to the Holy Land, Reynald of Chatillon took over the castle and ruled with a notorious cruelty and ruthlessness that eventually brought about the downfall of the castle during the at the Battle of Hattin in 1187.

With the European Crusaders finally defeated, the castle was rebuilt and occupied by the Ayyubids, the Mamlukes and then the Ottomans, remaining a place of rebellion, siege and political activism.

Today the architecture still presents elements of the European, Byzantine and Arabic occupation and the large scale of the building means visitors can easily spend up to 2 or 3 hours exploring the dark rooms, huge walls, ruined battlements, dank dungeons and gloomy vaulted passageways.

Make sure not to miss the vertigo inducing views, the fascinating museum offering an in-depth history of the castle and area.