As soon as you enter this protected area, which contains more than 700 square kilometres of desert wilderness, it’s easy to see why it’s become one of the main tourist destinations in Jordan. Dramatic sandstone and granite mountains are dotted across the sandy landscape, creating narrow canyons and unique rock formations to explore. These mountains glow a fiery red at sunset, and dusk then gives way to a velvety night sky with a show of stars unlike anything I have ever seen.
Perhaps best known in the west for its association with the British officer T.E. Lawrence and the subsequent Lawrence of Arabia film that was shot here, Wadi Rum has built up a reputation in its own right. Rock climbers come to scale the impressive mountains, hikers spend days moving across the desert, and astronomers camp out under the stars with no building or tent between them and the planets.
If you don’t have days to wander around the wilderness, don’t worry – a night at a Bedouin camp and a guided jeep tour give you the opportunity to enjoy the highlights of this stunning landscape, although stay longer if you can.
Entry to Wadi Rum costs 5JD, or free with the Jordan Pass.
Highlights of Wadi Rum
It would be incredibly stupid to attempt to navigate Wadi Rum on your own, so getting a good guide is essential. We chose Wadi Rum Nature Tours and they were absolutely fantastic. It’s a small family business run by a local Bedouin tribe, and I can’t recommend them enough. Radi was very responsive to messages before we arrived, was happy to be flexible around our plans, and organised vegetarian food for us.
Our guide, ex-Jordanian special forces and rock climber extraordinaire Saud, drove us to some beautiful spots and shared lots of knowledge about the area and its history. He even started a small fire in the middle of nowhere and produced a delicious lunch, which was honestly some of the best food we had during our entire Jordan trip. The jeep is open at the back which gives you amazing uninterrupted views of the landscape. Be warned though, once you get up to the faster speeds the wind can get a bit cutting even in warm weather so take a jacket. The ride is also pretty bumpy, so be prepared to hold on tight at points.
Some times we stopped just to get out and look at the view, and other times we would go on a climb or a walk and meet Saud at the other side. We asked before we went if anything was difficult to walk on, and Radi told us there were a few rocks and stones at the bottom of the gorge we would go through. You should know that that doesn’t mean a bit of uneven ground as we thought, but boulders that you need to climb over, so wear the right stuff!
I was pretty proud of myself for climbing the Umm Fruth Bridge (the rest of my family were prevented by vertigo and inappropriate footwear), but if you’re going to attempt it be prepared for the scramble at the top. There’s a short part which is very narrow, and I had to take my backpack off and edge through. The last bit to get on to the bridge is very steep and requires proper hands and knees climbing (I had to basically slide down on my bum when coming back). It is very doable – I am not athletic by any stretch of the imagination – but it isn’t an easy stroll on the flat.
There’s also an option to ride a camel for the last 30 minutes of the tour towards Wadi Rum village. We paid an extra 10JD each for this, and it was good fun, if not a little wobbly!
We were happy for Saud to plan the route based on the time we had, but if there’s specific things you really want to see do some research and let them know in advance. There lots of information and options on their website.
A night in a Bedouin Camp in Wadi Rum
Wadi Rum Nature Tours also provided our accommodation in the desert at a Bedouin campsite. It was perfect for us – remote enough to be a very difference experience, but not roughing it. The tents were very sturdy and even had proper beds inside, and there were plumbed showers and western toilets.
It can get very cold at night even if it’s warm in the day, but they provided lots of blankets. Make sure you go outside after dark – without the light pollution over towns and cities the stars were breathtaking.
We were served a delicious meal which had been cooked in a traditional underground oven, and plenty of tea and water.
We paid 250JD for all five of us, which included the tour, the overnight stay, and breakfast, lunch and dinner. We all felt like this was amazing value, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Wadi Rum Nature Tours to anyone else.
Our schedule meant we had to leave Wadi Rum before sunset, but I would absolutely advise you ensure you can stay. The glimpse we had on the way in was jaw dropping and I imagine that finding a good look out point to watch the colours of the desert change would be a truly special experience.
From Wadi Rum it was four hours in the car to get to our final destination, the Dead Sea.
For a full overview of our road trip through Jordan and to see our route, go here.
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