Wadi Rum is one of the top attractions in Jordan and for good reason. It is 300 square miles of incredible desert wilderness, packed with interesting sites, natural rock formations and fascinating history. This Wadi Rum guide should hopefully cover everything you need to know to explore this true adventurer’s paradise.
Despite its size, you can see most of the desert sites in one day in Wadi Rum, which surprises most people. Of course, you can choose to spend two days in Wadi Rum, or even longer to explore some of the outdoor activities on offer. But for most visitors who might be planning on a one week itinerary in Jordan, spending one day and one night in Wadi Rum should be enough.
Wadi Rum has become increasingly renowned around the world in the last decade. In particular, this is thanks to the story of T.E Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia. T.E Lawrence was a British officer-turned-author and was based in the area during the Arab Revolt in the early 1900s. You may have heard of the film!
Today, the main residents of Wadi Rum are Bedouins, who typically have a nomadic lifestyle. Now, many of them have taken permanent settlement in an area called Rum Village, which is also the gateway for tourists to Wadi Rum.
Nowadays, Wadi Rum is the perfect destination for adventure lovers. Visitors can explore the magnificent landscape doing activities such as hiking, biking and camel riding. Rock climbing is also a big attraction in Wadi Rum, and people come from all across the world to participate in this here.
Read on to find out everything you need to know to plan a trip to Wadi Rum. I’ll also share information and tips following our time in a Bedouin Camp and a full Wadi Rum one day itinerary.
Guide to Wadi Rum: Essential information
Visiting the desert always sounds quite complicated. It’s so different and far removed from visiting a city for example, or visiting a beach resort. How do I get to the desert? How do I drive in the desert? Is it expensive? Is it a long way? How do I arrange my accommodation?
Well fortunately, all of those things are quite straight forward for visiting Wadi Rum. And once you’re there, the best way to explore Wadi Rum is with a guided jeep tour.
When to go to Wadi Rum?
Wadi Rum has year-round appeal, but is uncomfortably hot during the summer months from June to September. It may be more pleasant to visit from March to May, or September – November. If you visit in the spring months, you’re likely to find the desert alive with wild flowers which is a beautiful contrast to the sands. However, the winter months can be a good bit cooler and the crowds tend to be smaller.
Getting to Wadi Rum
Unlike the Sahara Desert in Morocco where you really do need to join a organised group tour to get there, you actually can visit Wadi Rum fairly independently.
As detailed in my one week Jordan itinerary guide, the very best way to get around the country is by hire car. The roads are fairly straight forward and having the independence of your own car really adds to the adventure. The driving distances from other major attractions in Jordan are as follows: Amman to Wadi Rum: 4hrs (320 km), Petra to Wadi Rum: 1hr 45 (112km), the Dead Sea to Wadi Rum: 4hr20 (310km) or Aqaba to Wadi Rum: 1hr (70km).
If you’re getting around Jordan by public transport, then you can actually take a bus from both Wadi Musa (Petra) and Aqaba to arrive at Rum Village, the entrance to Wadi Rum.
Whether you arrive by public bus, taxi or in your own car, you’ll be required to pay the entrance fee at the gate to Rum Village. It’s useful to know that this entry cost is included in the Jordan Pass.
If you drive to Wadi Rum, you’ll be asked to park your car in the large car park at Rum Village and bring your belongings with you. This car park is free and felt fairly safe.
Getting to a Bedouin Camp
All camps in the Wadi Rum desert pick you up at Rum Village in a 4×4. So no matter what mode of transport you take to Wadi Rum, you won’t be self-driving over the dunes.
Ahead of our visit to Jordan, we arranged to stay at Bedouin Directions. One of the team, Mehedi took care of every aspect of our stay and confirmed someone would be waiting for us with a 4×4 at approximately 6pm.
In early September, 6pm was just before sunset. Our guide picked us up and we found ourselves driving through the desert just as the sun was dipping below the horizon.
When they say the Wadi Rum desert looks like Mars, or something from another planet, it really does. Driving at speed across the desert was a totally otherworldly experience, and like nowhere I’ve seen before. Wadi Rum is even called ‘The Valley of the Moon’ due to the unusual rock formations and rocky moon-like terrain.
Racing through the desert sands in an open 4×4, is an exhilarating (and bumpy) ride. Our guide, Ahmed, was some kind of camel whisperer. As we tore at speed through the desert, all of a sudden he slowed and we realised a group of camels were approaching us. We were told they were making the weekly pilgrimage to the spring to stock up on water. The camels were surprisingly friendly, they all came right up the jeep to give us a sniff and say hello. I really just love camels!
Choosing a Bedouin Camp
The camps can vary in Wadi Rum. We stayed in a traditional and authentic Bedouin camp, but there are some exceptionally cool places opening up all the time. Particularly, the clear bubble tents which are becoming very popular. Although these are far less traditional, they are a pretty unique experience to have in Wadi Rum, Jordan.
There is also an option to spend the night with a Bedouin family in a ‘bayt shacar’, a typical type of tent made from goat hair and sheeps wool. This is a truly immersive experience.
Some of the best places bubble camps to stay in Wadi Rum include:
Spending the night in a Bedouin Camp
I’ve stayed in a Bedouin camp before in the Sahara Desert in Morocco, so I had some idea of what to expect.
What I couldn’t have expected was the amazing location of the Bedouin Directions camp. It was awesome. The camp was surrounded by towering rock faces that created a large circle. This meant the camp was enclosed and in a tucked away location. It was unlike other camps we drove past where we could see the tents and setup from the tracks we were driving on. They seemed to be just plonked in the middle of nowhere, and exposed to all of the elements.
Bedouin tents tend to be square black boxy tents. They offer a reasonable level of home comforts, in that ours had proper beds off the ground and big blankets. It was comfortable and authentic, and very secluded. You don’t actually even need to sleep in the tent – sleeping under the stars is encouraged. The team are happy for you to take your mattresses and blankets outside if you like.
The bathroom in the Bedouin camp was half built into the rocks and had running water showers and toilets, which was impressive. My Sahara Desert camp experience in Morocco definitely did not have this!
Bedouin camps are quite social, and you’ll eat your dinner and breakfast in a large communal area on the floor in a circle. Our Bedouin camp team prepped a delicious Jordanian feast, where the meat was cooked in the typical Bedouin BBQ style called a Zarb. This means being cooked underground in a big hole for about 3 days. To our surprise, they uncovered the hole and pulled out a multi-tiered stand of cooked meat. Impressive!
The staff are quite keen to sing or play the drums with you and that is about as far as the evening entertainment goes. It may also be likely that the night sky will be clear – if so, expect the most dazzling ceiling of star you’ve ever seen. There is so little light pollution that we could see the milky way!
I thought the stars were incredible in the Sahara. I also thought they were unbelievable whilst in Tasmania, Australia. But Jordan offers the most incredible star-gazing I have ever seen. If this is your passion, pick up your photography gear and head here. It’s just something else.
What to Bring to Wadi Rum
If you’re staying over night in Wadi Rum in a Bedouin Camp, you don’t need to bring anything. Everything is provided generally, but I would recommend a torch/flashlight. Also some warm layers for after dark.
For day trips in Wadi Rum, I strongly advise bringing sturdy footwear. I’d also recommend a hat, sun tan lotion, sunglasses and a big wide scarf. Your guide will be able to help arrange it to protect your hair from the wind and sand as you drive over the dunes.
Touring Wadi Rum with a Guide
It’s useful to know that private vehicles aren’t permitted past Rum Village and that a special permit is needed. So whether you go by camel, you hike or prefer a jeep ride, you’ll need a guide to show you around.
As mentioned above, most camps will also be able to arrange a tour or activities for you. Other options are to arrange this in advance, which may also include transport from another location in Jordan such as Amman, Aqaba or Petra.
A few suggestions for tours:
Exploring Wadi Rum – A Full Wadi Rum One Day Itinerary
After your night in the desert and a filling breakfast, head off with your guide at around 7 or 8am to start your full day exploring Wadi Rum. The earlier you depart, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to avoid the crowds.
In Wadi Rum, there are the same 10 or so main attractions or sites that are included on most one day itineraries. The key is asking your guide if you can visit them in a different order to how other tourists might. We enjoyed a full day without crowds, until our final stop, which was the Lawrence Spring. This was by far the busiest spot of our day.
Also, as you can see in the below – the jeeps are not typical 4×4. More like open back trucks with bench style seating and no seatbelts. The trucks can often be quite run down but they tend to take the smoother routes so it’s not like going dune-bashing!
The Top Sites to See in the Wadi Rum Desert
These are the must-see sites for a full one day itinerary in Wadi Rum:
The sand dunes
Unlike the Sahara, the Wadi Rum desert landscape is not dominated by sand dunes. The Wadi Rum desert is made up of the ‘White Desert’ and the ‘Red Desert’, which is where the sand dunes are. It’s interesting to see how the landscape varies between the two.
An unusual attraction to see in Wadi Rum. It is simply a rock, that looks like a mushroom. We enjoyed the shade it offered from the burning summer sun.
One of a number of arches in Wadi Rum that has been carved out by Mother Nature. You can scramble to the top, but you can also enjoy it from lower down too.
From the ground, this natural arch is high up and far away. But it’s still impressive to know that it is nature’s work. You can hike up to the top, but you need to factor in about 2-3 hours for this climb. From the ground, it is almost so small, you cannot really see it from afar.
The Khazali Canyon
A visit to this canyon is included on most day trips around Wadi Rum. You can see impressive ancient petroglyphs and inscriptions on the walls, but not much else. The climb is impossibly steep and you’d need climbing gear to ascend this.
Throughout the day, our guide also kept pointing out fascinating inscriptions and drawings, all reminders of the ancient Nabatean civilisation that used to occupy the land – so you can see them elsewhere to here.
One of the most popular attractions in Wadi Rum is Lawrence Spring, thanks to the film Lawrence of Arabia. It is also the closest site to the little town ‘Rum Village’ at the entrance to Wadi Rum, so often has the most people. Blink and you might miss the actual spring. Spot the water tank near the entrance of Wadi Shallalah, and you’ll see the spring.
I thought this was the least impressive of the main sites in Wadi Rum.
House of Lawrence
Supposedly the home of Lawrence of Arabia, this Nabatean structure has partly crumbled but is still an interesting stop. It is where he apparently kept weapons during the Great Arab Revolution. There’s a great tea stop here, cute kittens and a wonderful viewpoint from the adjacent rock face.
Abu Khashaba Canyon
Our guide also took us to the most incredible canyon, called Abu Khashaba. It was absolutely amazing and he left us at one side of it and told us to hike through, and he’d meet us the other side. We were a bit confused and wondered for a moment if he had abandoned us and driven off with all our passports…
Anyway, with no other choice, we proceeded to climb across the hot sand into the canyon. We encountered two huge camels, and I wondered if I had finally met my fate.
We were suddenly alone in the middle of a big canyon in the heart of Wadi Rum, with two camels, one of whom had a huge gash across its neck. My mum, being the bravest, walked confidently up ahead and the camels merely turned to stare and watch her pass.
So my dad and I followed suit, expecting at any second for one of them to react. They continued to stare, and stare and stare. Turns out the camels weren’t so interested in us. We were just interrupting them!
Um Frouth Arch
Another natural wonder, this is an arch you can scramble up to quite easily. I loved its shape though and what a moment to stand in the centre of this, with no-one around!
Lunch in the Wadi Rum Desert
I haven’t mentioned one of my favourite parts of the day (and any day after all).. but lunch was pretty special.
Mid-way through the day, our guide pulled the jeep up alongside a towering rock face and lay out a blanket so we could shelter from the sun. By this point, it was probably 36 Celsius. He rustled up a delicious salad and tomato stew on a small fire he made right next to us. Unexpectedly delicious and simple. One of my favourite moments from the whole Jordan adventure.
The Steam Train in Wadi Rum
Did you know there’s an old steam train running through Wadi Rum in Jordan? I didn’t.
It’s called the Hejaz train and is an original train from the Arab Revolt of 1917. It runs on the Hejaz railway tracks built by the Ottomans at the start of the last century.
The track extends into Saudi Arabia and up to Damascus in Syria! I couldn’t believe my eyes.
The train spotting is actually on the road between the Desert Highway and Wadi Rum. You drive past it before/after the Rum Village depending on which way you’re travelling.
As a fan of all things locomotive, I thought this train was especially cool and it sometimes does tourist rides today in the Wadi Rum area, I believe!
Wadi Rum Guide and One Day Itinerary
Overall, our night and day in Wadi Rum was amazing. Wadi Rum is a must-see on any trip to the country. It can easily be included in one week Jordan itinerary.
Wadi Rum was so different to any desert I’d been anywhere else, such as the Sahara and the desert in the UAE.
So this wraps up my complete guide to visiting Wadi Rum, Jordan. I hope this helps you in deciding what to do in the desert and planning a Wadi Rum one day itinerary. As mentioned, we arranged our visit with Bedouin Directions who really helped us put together an amazing itinerary to Wadi Rum.
If you’re planning to visit Wadi Rum with kids, then make sure to check out this guide from the FlashpackingFamily, covering everything you need to know.
We enjoyed the day trip around Wadi Rum by 4×4. However, you can also explore Wadi Rum on multi-day hikes. You can also arrange these trips, as well as shorter day trips to Wadi Rum in advance with GetYourGuide.
I hope this detailed Wadi Rum guide has proved useful and answers all of the questions you might have had ahead of your Jordan trip. If you’re looking for further guides in Jordan, please check out my other blog posts here and check out one week Jordan itinerary here, as well as my detailed guide to Petra.
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Disclaimer: This visit to Wadi Rum in Jordan was entirely paid for by myself. There was no involvement from the tourism board or a hotel. This is an independent guide.
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