Visiting Wadi Rum, Jordan was up there in my top 3 things to do in Jordan, along with exploring Petra and floating in the Dead Sea. But I felt quite overwhelmed whilst planning our journey and itinerary in Wadi Rum, however, it ended up being really straight forward.
Its 300 square miles of land has got to be one of the world’s most incredible desert, and is actually a Protected Zone in Jordan, but don’t let its size be overwhelming. It’s surprisingly manageable, even in a 1 day, 2 days or 3!
Wadi Rum has become increasingly famous, thanks to the story of T.E Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia. He was a British officer-turned-author who was based in the area during the Arab Revolt in the early 1900s. You may have heard of the film..
Wadi Rum is a real adventure lover’s paradise, with hiking, biking and camel riding all options. We also saw people doing some pretty intense climbing, and apparently people come from all across the world to participate in this here in Wadi Rum.
Ahead of our visit to Jordan, we got in touch with the lovely Mehedi at Bedouin Directions and he took care of every aspect of our stay. Read on to find out about our stay in the incredible Wadi Rum camp and our day exploring the rugged desert landscape.
Getting there and arriving at a camp
We were advised to arrive at 6pm, which in early September, was just before sunset. We parked the car for free in a reasonably safe car parking area in the Rum Village. 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 it looks like Mars, or something from another planet, people really mean it. It was a totally otherworldly experience, and like nowhere I’ve seen before. Wadi Rum is even called ‘The Valley of the Moon’ for its unusual rock formations and rocky moon-like terrain.
Racing through the desert sands in an open 4×4, it was 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!
I’ve stayed in a Bedouin camp before, so I had some idea of the style but I couldn’t have expected the amazing location of the Bedouin Directions camp. Surrounded by towering rock faces in a large circle, it was an enclosed and tucked away location, unlike other camps we drove past. They seemed to be just plonked in the middle of nowhere, and exposed to all of the elements.
The tents were square black boxy tents, similar to those all over Wadi Rum. Ours had proper beds and big blankets, and that was it. 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 camp is happy for you to take your mattresses and blankets outside.
The bathroom was half built into the rocks and had running water showers and toilets, which was impressive. Certainly my Sahara Desert camp experience in Morocco did not have this!
We enjoyed some time to relax, and for me – well I just chased the kittens around.
The three camp staff, all local Bedouins with the heavy kohl eyeliner on, prepared a delicious Jordanian feast. The meat was cooked in the typical Bedouin BBQ style called a Zarb. The food is cooked under the ground in a big hole for about 3 days. To our surprise, they uncovered the hole and pulled out a tiered stand of cooking meat. Impressive!
We ate in a larger communal tent, around a fire with the other guests. We had quite a quite camp, with just two people from Finland, and two from Spain with us.
Wow. Just wow. I wish I had the camera equipment and skill to capture the stars we saw that evening. The guys said we should follow them out across the sand and across some giant boulders. We took our blankets and stopped to lie down, and my jaw just dropped. The Milky Way stretched out across the sky. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, and my ears to the silence, I realised I was looking up one of the most incredible scenes I would ever see in my life.
I thought the stars were incredible in the Sahara. I also thought they were unbelievable whilst in Tasmania, Australia. But actually, Jordan by far 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.
Exploring Wadi Rum – a full day itinerary and what to do in the desert
After a restful night’s sleep (total silence except for desert foxes!), our wonderful guide popped us in the back of the jeep the following morning.
We asked to leave a little earlier (at 8am) and what a great idea that was. The desert stretched out in front of us, with no other jeeps on the horizon. No other tourists at all.
In Wadi Rum, there are the same 10 or so sites that are included on most day itineraries. The key is asking to visit them in a different order to how other tourists might. We found the final stop, the Lawrence Spring as by far the most busy location through the day.
These are the must-see sites for a full day itinerary in Wadi Rum:
- The sand-dunes.
The Wadi Rum desert is not like the Sahara, in that its landscape is not dominated by sand dunes. However, they’re still dotted around and are of a red sand colour. The Wadi Rum desert is made up of the ‘White Desert’ and the ‘Red Desert’ and you’ll see how the landscape varies between the two.
A funny attraction, because it is a rock, that simply 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 have 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
So this canyon is included on most day trips, but is almost entirely inaccessible. 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 area’s most well-known sites, 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 naturally had the most people around it. Blink and you might miss the actual spring. Probably the least impressive of the all day’s sites.
House of Lawrence
Supposedly the home to 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.
8. Abu Khashaba canyon
Our guide also took us to the most amazing 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 end. Nice and vague.
Anyway, we proceeded to climb across the hot sand into the canyon. Met by two huge camels, I found myself actually quite scared.
Suddenly alone in the middle of a big canyon, 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 they weren’t so interested in us. We were just interrupting them.
It’s treasured moments like these that make you really appreciate a place.
9. Um Frouth Arch
Another natural wonder, this is an arch you can scramble up to quite easily. I love its frame though and what a moment to stand in the centre of this, with no-one around!
We enjoyed the tour by jeep, but hiking is a very popular option and Bedouin Directions can arrange 1-3 day hikes in the mountains and across the desert. They can also arrange camel rides and journeys too.
I haven’t mentioned one of my favourite parts of the day (and any day after all).. but lunch was pretty special.
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 Al Hijaz train and is an original from the Arab Revolt of 1917, running 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.
This wasn’t actually included in our guided visit to Wadi Rum, but was actually on the road between the Desert Highway and Wadi Rum. It is before/after the Rum Village depending on which way you’re travelling.
As a lover of all things locomotive, I thought this was especially cool and it sometimes does tourist rides today in the Wadi Rum area, I believe!
Wadi Rum, Jordan – Planning an itinerary and what to do in the desert
Overall, a journey into Wadi Rum was amazing and I highly recommend incorporating it into any Jordan itinerary.
It was so different to any desert I’d been anywhere else, such as the Sahara and the desert in the UAE.
This is my complete guide to visiting Wadi Rum, Jordan and I hope this helps you in deciding what to do in the desert and planning a Wadi Rum itinerary. As mentioned, we arranged our visit with Bedouin Directions who really helped us put together an amazing itinerary to Wadi Rum.
I hope it has proved useful and answered all of the questions you might have had ahead of your trip.
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