The desert of Wadi Rum, in Jordan, is one of the world’s most beautiful. It has been eroded for centuries to form beautiful rock formations and dunes wherever you look. Our visit lasted two days, spending a night in an authentic Bedouin camp and making excursions the next day on sunrise with a camel walk, and after breakfast on a jeep ride. In this guide to visit the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan you will find everything you need to know before and during your trip: how to get there, where to sleep, food, how to explore the desert, what to see in Wadi Rum and much more.
- 1 What to see in the desert of Wadi Rum in Jordan
- 2 Important information to plan your trip to the desert of Wadi Rum
- 2.1 Best time to travel to Wadi Rum.
- 2.2 Traveler information for visiting Wadi Rum
- 2.3 How to get to Wadi Rum.
- 2.4 Why travel to Wadi Rum
- 2.5 How to move around the desert of Wadi Rum
- 2.6 Accommodation in Wadi Rum – The Wadi Rum desert camps.
- 2.7 Where to eat in Wadi Rum
- 2.8 Shopping in Wadi Rum
- 2.9 Scams and dangers in Wadi Rum
A little bit of history about the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan
Lawrence of Arabia was a British writer and archaeologist who lived in Jordan during the First World War. He fell in love with Wadi Rum to the point that he built a house to visit the desert every year. About this place he wrote:
“The cliffs ended in domes, a red less hot than the rest of the mountain, rather gray and muted. These domes gave this irresistible place a Byzantine architectural finish: this processional path surpassed anything imagined “
When you reach the desert of Wadi Rum, you will find a show of orange and reddish colors, where huge dunes and rock formations rise. They have been eroded by the passing of the years, forming beautiful and impressive figures in their mountains and hills.
To this day the Bedouins continue to rule and live in these lands, in traditional tents and small villages. They have control of tourism in the area, so they offer both stays in their camps (some more modern and cared for than others) as well as rides on their jeeps, camels, and guided walks. It is a protected area and declared as a world heritage site by Unesco in 2011.
Wadi Rum is 100 kilometers from Petra and 50 kilometers from Aqaba, making it a very accessible destination and increasingly visited by travelers and tourists; but it is so big that you will never see masses of people as the excursions everyone makes will depend entirely on the guide that you have been assigned to. Of course, if you have a special request for something you want to do or want to see, you can always ask your guide. It is in the Bedouin culture to be hospitable, so you will not get a no for an answer if there is a chance to see it or do it.
What to see in the desert of Wadi Rum in Jordan
Here you will basically get to know Wadi Rum according to what your guide deems appropriate, but if you are applied and find locations in advance you can show him/her pictures or tell the names of the places you really want to visit in the Wadi Rum desert.
Not all the places can be spotted on google maps, so we could not put all on our map. But, we leave some as a reference.
How to get around Wadi Rum Desert.
It costs about 15 JD per person for one hour or maximum 60 JD for the entire day. It is better to do it at dawn, for the sake of these animals and for the beautiful colors that you can see reflected in the sand. In general, they pick you up at your camp and from there take a walk around. But, of course, everything will depend on how much you pay.
Depending on the conditions and weather, balloon flights depart at dawn over the Wadi Rum desert. It costs 150 JD per person and lasts between 30 minutes and 1 hour. The flight time will depend on the wind, weather conditions and the number of people flying.
Jeep rides or truck with open pick up:
These are the most traditional and quick way to get to know Wadi Rum if you have little time. In general, the cars are very old but safe. As a reference, a 4-hour tour for 3-4 people costs 35 JD per head.
Hiking and walking:
If you really like to walk, you can do it. This tours usually start at 10:00 am and return at sunset. As a reference, a shared tour for 5 to 8 people costs 20 JD per head, including a bottle of water and lunch.
4×4 motorcycle rides:
We do not have clarity of prices or conditions, but we know that they exist and can be done for half a day or full day.
You can visit this website for reference. If you negotiate prices when you get here you can reach better agreements or conditions.
Main and most popular sites in the Wadi Rum desert
As we told you at the beginning of this post, Lawrence of Arabia was a British soldier and writer who fell in love with the desert of Wadi Rum and built a house here. Today it is completely in ruins and there is only one wall falling apart. The history is more interesting than the place itself so we do not visit it.
Inscriptions of a caravan of camels on a stone, dating from the Nabetean period (4th century BC).
Jebel Burdah (Arch in the big rock):
Literally an arch between two large rocks. Climbing involves a 4 to 7 hours walk, depending on your experience, so you should take a full day tour to get there.
Jebel Umm Fruth (Arch in the medium rock):
Here climbing takes only 15 minutes and the rock is much smaller.
Red sand dunes:
You can sandboard or climb with caution, it’s a fairly high dune, although not the only one so you can go to others as well.
Seven pillars of wisdom (Seven Pillars of Wisdom):
A large rock with formations in the form of 7 pillars, although many counts only 5. Lawrence of Arabia thus titled his book, so they are very popular.
A narrow canyon with rock inscriptions of the Nabateans.
Siq um al tawaqi:
A rock where the faces of important characters in the history of Jordan are engraved. Here also several scenes from the movie “The Martian” were filmed.
Sunset in Wadi Rum
If you stay on a Wadi Rum desert camp, ask for the sunset time and walk to the highest point you find in the area before the sun sets. The reflection of the sunlight generates beautiful colors. Without a doubt one of the most beautiful sunsets we have seen.
A starry night
During summer, autumn and spring it is very strange to find cloudy nights. In general, the sky is a true spectacle that is worth looking at for some time. Maybe you’ll be tempted to lie down in the sand and just look at the depth of the night, but remember that at this time of the several animals come out to hang around and feed.
Important information to plan your trip to the desert of Wadi Rum
Best time to travel to Wadi Rum.
Summer is between June and August, and you should avoid it if you do not want to tour with temperatures of 45ºC degrees or more.
The best time to travel to Wadi Rum is in the spring and fall, March, April, May, September, October, and November. These months the temperatures are nice and it does not rain much. Between December and February, the temperatures fall with a minimum of 10ºC and maximum of 20ºC, which is very low for a desert.
Traveler information for visiting Wadi Rum
All visitors must register at the visitor center before entering the desert, which is a protected area. Here you will have to pay an entry fee according to the following price list:
- Tourists: 5 JD
- Children up to 12 years old: free.
- Residents and Jordanians: 1 JD
- Students from Jordan: 0.5 JD
Money and ATMS:
There is almost no electricity, so you have to carry cash or pay everything beforehand in the tourist agencies. There are no credit cards in the middle of the desert.
There is no internet connection in most of the Wadi Rum desert camps. Also, there is no cell phone signal in some parts of the desert. The most luxurious camps can offer internet connection. If this is really an issue for you, ask before booking.
For women, it is always advisable to cover shoulders and legs because Bedouins are a culture where your excess of skin showing can be confused with being insinuating to the locals. If you definitely do not want them to look at you, then cover your hair too.
How to get to Wadi Rum.
You can go by yourself or hire a complete package that includes transportation to get to Wadi Rum, the tours through the desert and the accommodation.
From Aqaba, on the south of Jordan, it only takes one hour by car to reach the Visitor Center, the place that serves as an entrance to the desert and where the Bedouins offer their accommodation and tourism services to all visitors. You will find here offer of jeep rides, motorcycles, walks, camel rides, hot air balloon and much more.
If you like to sleep comfortably we recommend finding a good hotel before arriving. In general, the Bedouin desert camps are really basic in comparison to other luxury accommodations with air conditioning.
All the hotels/camps offer an all-inclusive system (picking you up at the visitor center, making the tours and excursions you want, and serving all the meals).
How to get to the Wadi Rum Visitor Center?
A taxi costs approximately 30 dollars in total, and the trips last approximately 1 hour. I completely recommend this alternative if you are traveling as a group of 3 people or more. Remember to negotiate the price before getting into the taxi (a good negotiation price will be to get as low as 20 JD for the whole trip).
If you want to go for the day you can ask the taxi to wait for about 4 hours and take you back to Aqaba when you finish some excursion. This should cost about 40 JD.
If your budget is low, you can take a local bus to Amann or some destination that passes through the desert and ask the driver to drop you off at the intersection with Wadi Rum. From here you can do Auto-Stop to the visitor center which is about 40 minutes away.
There are direct buses to the visitor center, but they leave only early in the morning and do not have a fixed schedule (some say 6:30 am, others 7:30 am), buses leave when they are full. If you want to take this alternative, go to the bus station and ask the day before. During the high season (March to May / September to November) they leave about 3 times a day. The price is 3 JD per person.
The price rounds the 35 JD from Petra to the Wadi Rum visitor center. The trip lasts 2 hours or a little longer if you want to stop in some places to see the landscape, which is highly recommended.
It leaves every day at 6:30 from the Wadi Musa bus station. You can also ask your hotel to schedule a pick-up there as well (they will charge you a little more, ask for the price before accepting). The price is 7 JD, but if there are few passengers, they can charge more just to make the trip more profitable.
You can also hitchhike at the Wadi Rum intersection (40 minutes from the visitor center) and take any bus from Petra to Aqaba. You should ask to be dropped off in the Wadi Rum intersection.
There are no direct buses to Wadi Rum, so you can take one to Aqaba and ask to be dropped off at the intersection. Then you can hitchhike to the visitor center (about 40 minutes from the intersection) or wait for a public taxi to pass (they charge 10 to 12 JD for the trip just for being a tourist).
Why travel to Wadi Rum
Know the desert, marvel at its beautiful rock formations and dunes in an arid landscape.
It is also recommended to do camel rides during the sunrise. These animals have carried people and packages for centuries, and it is also deeply rooted in the Bedouin culture to take good care and not mistreat them. We recommend it more than in countries like Egypt and Morocco, where they are often mistreated and forced to take people for hours without rest.
How to move around the desert of Wadi Rum
The desert is huge, so walking is almost unthinkable if it is not with a guide. You can take these alternatives to move around it:
Rent your own car in Aqaba or in Amman, the main cities of Jordan. If you want to see the desert it must have some kind of traction. We recommend you to always follow other tourist cars and not venture alone, it is easy to get lost because there are no streets or maps. The drivers are guided by reference points that after years of living here know well.
The easiest way, and with many alternatives for all tastes. You can go through the desert of Wadi Rum on a camel, on a 4-wheeled motorcycle, in a jeep, in a truck with an open pick-up and even in a hot air balloon.
Venturing with a tourist guide chosen in the visitor center can be very good or very bad, not everyone speaks good English and will take you wherever they deem appropriate. In general, the best guides have reservations from days before, which you can manage with your own hotel or through recommended web pages.
Accommodation in Wadi Rum – The Wadi Rum desert camps.
The desert is huge and in all its extension, very separated from each other, there are Bedouin camps willing to receive tourists. You have all the alternatives to sleep in Wadi Rum, from luxury camps with closed air-conditioned tents to original Bedouin tents, where they just leave some mattresses on the floor and you can spend the night practically star gazing.
In general, all accommodation in Wadi Rum includes breakfast and dinner, where they serve traditional dishes of the area and you only pay for drinks.
If you like comfort and cleanliness, I recommend you not to trust the tours that leave everything ready in advance, choosing the accommodation. You can book yourself accommodation looking for recommendations and experiences online.
They all will offer you the tours and excursions and you will have complete freedom to choose what to do. We went with a pre-buy excursion tour from Eilat, in Israel, and it was not good at all, although the guide was very nice.
Where to eat in Wadi Rum
In the visitor center, you can buy some simple dishes and drinks. There are also a couple of shops in the village of Wadi Rum. It is common that all accommodations and Wadi Rum desert camps include breakfast and dinner in their price; while lunch is included in the tours and excursions.
Traditional Bedouin dishes are served. Usually chicken or goat cooked under the desert sand in basins. It comes with vegetables and many condiments, giving a delicious smell and flavor.
You will also be forced to try the Bedouin tea. It is a tradition to always offer it to everyone who visits their homes or territories. Is very sweet and is served hot.
Shopping in Wadi Rum
If you take a tour there is no doubt that at some point you will be taken to a store where you can buy souvenirs. But, truly, there are few alternatives and in general, the offer is based on hand-packed creams, condiments and herbs that you can not always take back to your country.
Scams and dangers in Wadi Rum
Robberies in camps, which in general are open. Make sure all your things are secured and lock up the tent and your suitcase.
If you are a woman, remember to cover your shoulders and legs if you do not want to feel observed by men. There have been cases in which the Bedouins and Jordanians think that you are provoking them and insinuate themselves, so be careful with what you are talking about, not getting too close and not making them think you are looking for more than a good conversation.