An excursion to Wadi Rum cannot be missing from any Jordan travel itinerary.
Wadi Rum is a protected valley in the south of the country, a desert full of unique landscapes, an iconic place. The area, made famous by several films shot on site including Lawrence of Arabia, The Martian and Transformers, has now become a major tourist attraction.
Spending a day and even better a night in Wadi Rum is an unforgettable once in a lifetime experience.
So here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions and our complete guide to organizing a trip to Wadi Rum, Jordan.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- How to get there
- Types of excursion in Wadi Rum
- How much does it cost?
- Where to sleep in Wadi Rum?
- Private tours
- What to do and see
- How to dress
- Is Wadi Rum safe?
HOW TO GET TO WADI RUM
The closest city to Wadi Rum is Aqaba, located to the south on the Red Sea, 70 km away. The relative proximity allows visitors to take a day trip to Wadi Rum from Aqaba. However, we strongly recommend spending at least one night in the desert to fully enjoy the experience.
Also, if like most tourists you land in Jordan in Amman, you’ll have to cross the country from north to south before getting to Wadi Rum. In our opinion it’s better to reach Wadi Rum directly from Petra/Wadi Musa (about 110 km north) and keep the sea of Aqaba as a final destination for relaxation after Wadi Rum.
See our Jordan in 10 days itinerary guide for details on places to visit.
The gateway to the desert is the Wadi Rum Visitor Centre. Here you’ll have to pay the ticket (5 JD) or show your Jordan Pass, which includes entry to the reserve.
A few kilometres further on is Wadi Rum Village, the town where bedouins who accompany visitors to the desert are based. In the village we met Mohammed, manager of the bedouin camp we opted for our stay in Wadi Rum.
HOW LONG TO STAY IN WADI RUM
Here are some ways to enjoy the desert experience. Depending on how much time you have, it’ll be possible to see more or less highlights.
- Half day in Wadi Rum: as mentioned, you can get here from Aqaba or Wadi Musa and take a half-day tour, i.e. a tour of about 4 hours in the morning or in the afternoon. This way you’ll see the essential sights of Wadi Rum, without meals or overnight. We don’t suggest this option, unless you only have very few days to stay in Jordan.
- Full day in Wadi Rum: Arriving in the morning and returning to the hotel in the evening, you’ll have time to see most of the viewpoints in a full-day tour in Wadi Rum, as well as trying some experiences such as a bedouin lunch or sand-boarding.
- One day and one night in Wadi Rum: Staying overnight in a bedouin tent in Wadi Rum is truly extraordinary. Arriving at our camp after seeing the sunset, passing the evening with the bedouins eating zarb, being around the bonfire, spending the night under the starry sky, are all memories we will never forget! This is in our opinion the minimum necessary experience in Wadi Rum.
- Two days and two nights in Wadi Rum: With a two-day tour + overnight you’ll have free time to enjoy the silence in your bedouin camp, take some morning or evening walks in the surroundings (be careful not to get lost!). You’ll get to experience two sunrises and two sunsets, the most special moments of the day when Wadi Rum takes on wonderful colours. You could also ask to be taken to further off-the-beaten-track places, however this will cost you extra.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
So let’s get to the cost of an excursion to Wadi Rum, a not so clear matter before leaving for Jordan.
Browsing sites such as Booking, you’ll find the most diverse offers for overnight stays. From the most expensive martian domes or bubble tents to sleep under the stars, to bargain prices down to €1 a night! This is because by booking a €1 stay, you’ll only be paying for your tent. However, the price does not cover the excursions, nor the meals, nor the transport to reach the bedouin camp.
To avoid having to negotiate for each individual service or finding unexpected final expenses, we recommend that you contact the bedouin managers directly. In fact, they will be the first to text you via e-mail or Whatsapp after your booking, to discuss the available services.
We have chosen a 1 day and 1 night full tour, with all activities included such as transport, breakfast, guide, water and meals, excursions and overnight stay, for the sum of 70 JD each (almost €100). Similarly to Petra, in Wadi Rum too prices are quite high, due to the ever increasing number of visitors in recent years.
Comparing the rates and talking to other tourists, the minimum price that can be found is around 50 JD per person for a complete tour with an overnight stay.
Note that after paying the initial all-inclusive fee, you will not spend more inside the Wadi Rum valley for the next 24 hours.
WHERE TO SLEEP IN WADI RUM?
Below we give you an idea of what to expect from a bedouin camp, and some clarification regarding luxury resorts or bubble tents.
OVERNIGHT IN A BEDOUIN CAMP
There are dozens of bedouin camps within the vast valley of Wadi Rum. These areas are usually sheltered by a rock wall, where a large communal tent in the middle is surrounded by some smaller private ones.
Tents are simple, basically just a bed and a lamp, but nothing else is needed. The common area has tables and sofas for eating and resting. We suggest choosing a camp with no more than 8-10 tents, in order to have more peace and quietness to enjoy the night.
We personally found our camp tidy and relatively modern considering its location in the middle of the desert. The shared bathrooms were new and clean, there is hot water although you have to be wary of not wasting it. The beds are comfortable enough and heavy blankets are provided for the night.
Having dinner all together eating the typical zarb, and spending the evening around the bonfire hearing stories about the lifestyle of the bedouins were wonderful moments. After dinner it’s easy to find a corner to admire the starry sky, brighter than ever! If you can, get up at sunrise to see the rocks of Wadi Rum turn pink and orange.
The typical Jordanian breakfast includes hummus, hard-boiled eggs, vegetables, fruit, and an endless supply of bedouin tea.
LUXURY TENT OR BUBBLE DOME
Let’s spend a few lines to talk about luxury resorts. These are equipped with places featuring all comforts, incuding the well known bubble tents or domes, which provide a full view of the sky from inside. Here you’ll have air conditioning, a private bathroom, fridge, hair dryer, etc. As very inviting as they look in the pictures, the vast majority of these accommodations are located outside the Wadi Rum reserve.
This is because only the bedouins who have lived here for long time have permission to build within the protected area. Bedouins prefer to offer simple camps, both for economic and cultural reasons, and for logistics.
Instead, the wealthiest private investors create large resorts just outside the conservation area. So you would actually be paying more for it, but you won’t be actually spending the night inside Wadi Rum. Furthermore, we consider it a nonsense to go on an adventure in the desert and then sleep in luxury.
We were very satisfied with the bedouin camp we booked. Even if the amount paid was not negligible, it is money well spent for a once in a lifetime experience!
That’s why we fully recommend the Bedouin Nights Camp. The camp was perfect as were the meals and excursions. The owner Mohammed, the guide Abdullah and the cook are friendly and kind guys, and they speak English well.
WADI RUM PRIVATE TOURS
We were lucky enough to be alone on the jeep during our day tour in November, which is off season. The guide was at our complete disposal and we were able to freely choose how long to stay in each place and where to go earlier or later. A service that is equivalent to a private tour, which would cost around 30-40 JD more per couple. As opposed to a group tour, which can have up to 8 people on the same jeep.
We must clarify that a private tour means a jeep with a driver at your service. Obviously in Wadi Rum you’ll never be completely alone. Each jeep touches the same famous viewpoints, it’s up to the skill/luck/desire of the guide to find the least crowded moment. For more remote places, such as the highest mountain in Wadi Rum or the Burdah Rock arch bridge, you have to pay more to organize a proper tailor-made excursion.
There is also the possibility of entering the Wadi Rum reserve with your own private vehicle. However, payments and special permits are required, as well as a guide who knows the place. We definitely advise going with the locals.
WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN WADI RUM
Here are the most famous viewpoints in Wadi Rum. Regardless of which camp you book, you’ll be offered the same activities during any traditional tour.
Depending on your arrival time at Wadi Rum Village, transport from there to your tent will be arranged. For example, we arrived in the morning, and at 10 A.M. we started our daily tour, seeing all the spots mentioned below until sunset. In the evening we had dinner and stayed overnight, and the next day we left after breakfast to return to our car at 10 again (we left the rental car in Wadi Rum Village, at the Bedouin Nights Camp office).
If you arrive in the afternoon, you’d do the sunset activities and dinner first, and the rest of the activities the following day, returning to Wadi Rum Village 24 hours later. For this reason it’s important to plan your itinerary and speak with the bedouins in advance to organize the times.
PANORAMIC VIEWPOINTS AND ACTIVITIES
- Lawrence Spring: the spring described in the book by General T.E. Lawrence is at the top of a challenging climb. Here a lush green tree sprouts among the rocks, with beautiful views over the valley of Wadi Rum. Lawrence of Arabia is the movie about the vicissitudes of the English general in this region, who contributed to the Arab revolt during the First World War.
- Red Sand Dunes: obviously the dunes in the desert abound, and you too will make a stop at the most scenic ones, with their typical reddish sands. Above the Al Hasany Dunes, the view from the plateau is spectacular.
- Jebel Khazali Canyon: there is no shortage of canyons either among the rocky faces of Wadi Rum. In very narrow Khazali Canyon, Nabataean and Islamic engravings dating back over 2,000 years can be seen. The water deposits prove that rain is not so rare in this desert.
- Nabataean Temples: Shortly after departing the Visitor Centre are the interesting ruins of these Nabataean temples, although they can’t compete with those in Petra.
- Sand-boarding: our tour offered the free chanche to try sandboarding, that we definitely didn’t want to miss! Before going, make sure the activity is included, as some tours charge 10-15 JD for equipment.
- Abu Khashaba Canyon: In this opening between the rocks some rare trees grow in the desert. The crossing takes about 20 minutes, at the end of the canyon are the dunes where we tried sand-boarding.
- Small Arch: the first of the two rock arches to see during the excursion in Wadi Rum. Climbing here doesn’t require much effort, but the views are outstanding. Here we were also served lunch in a bedouin tent.
- Lawrence House: these are the remains of a building where Lawrence of Arabia slept during his expedition in the valley. The view from the mountain next to it is remarkable.
- Mushroom Rock: a curious mushroom-shaped rock. From a nearby vantage point it’s possible to see the border between the red desert and the white desert, where the sand changes its hue.
- Umm Fruth Rock Bridge: The most photographed rock bridge in Wadi Rum. A stunning formation where a flat stone connects two high peaks, forming a 20-metre-high bridge. Expect a queue to climb up, watch out for the steep slopes. Be patient and have your guide take your picture once at the top.
- Burdah Rock Bridge: the most impressive rock formation in Wadi Rum, standing almost 80 metres above from the ground. Only specific tours that last multiple days reach this point, because to get there a long trek of over 4 hours is required!
- Al-Hash Mountain: This is the highest peak in Wadi Rum, at 1,734 metres of height. It is located in the south of the valley, away from the other viewpoints. For this point too you’d need customised tours with overnight stays in the area. Such excursions start from 100 JD per person.
- Sunset: Sunset was an unforgettable stop. Our guide Abdullah took us to a secluded place where there were only two other jeeps. We climbed the rocks and were even served a cup of Jordanian tea, for a memorable sunset!
- Camel ride: even in Wadi Rum as in Petra you can take a scenic camel ride. It’s usually offered at 15-20 JD, and you can negotiate the time of day you prefer. Usually the area for the ride is close to the Visitor Centre for logistical reasons.
TIP: The Journey Trough 1916 activity is a free Wadi Rum train excursion that must be booked in advance with the Jordan Pass. Read more here in our Jordan Pass article.
HOW TO DRESS IN WADI RUM?
Summers are very hot in Wadi Rum, with temperatures easily over 35°C under a scorching sun. Winters are milder, sometimes below 20°C by day. Being a desert there’s always a temperature difference of at least 15 degrees in the evening!
Our night in November was quite chilly, but we were prepared with a jacket, cap and tracksuit, plus the bed had heavy blankets. During the day, you warm up quickly by climbing the dunes and rocks of Wadi Rum. However, between the various sections on the jeep you can feel the fresh air.
As with the rest of Jordan, you need long but light clothes, a puffer jacket and a kefiah to protect yourself from the sun. Always carry water and sunscreen!
IS WADI RUM SAFE?
Absolutely yes. Spending 24 hours with the bedouins, we never felt in danger. On the contrary, they made us feel at ease right away. All bedouins know each other, they chat and joke when they meet in Wadi Rum. Ultimately it’s like a great outdoor workplace for them, an incredible place that is also their home.
The important thing is not to go too far and avoid getting lost. The only potentially risky moments are due to the number of tourists who can get impatient at the lookouts, above all at the Umm Fruth Rock Bridge.
In fact, to go up you have to climb a rather steep wall and face an exposed passage. There we met impolite and selfish people who, just to save thirty seconds, risk jeopardizing the safety of others.
As always, keep your eyes peeled and be patient.
Here ends our guide to everything you need to know to organize an excursion to Wadi Rum. If you have any further questions, write us in the comments below!
PLAN YOUR TRIP TO JORDAN HERE
- Jordan Pass included attractions and how it works
- Dead Sea best beaches and free swimming
- How to visit Petra in 2-3 days: maps&tips
WHERE TO SLEEP IN WADI RUM/AQABA
- Bedouin Nights Camp: sheltered location, 8-10 tents and modern bathrooms, kind staff, great food and tours.
- Wadi Rum Quiet Village Camp: small sized and in a quiet area, suggested as an alternative.
- Sea View Hotel Aqaba: our hotel for the following night in Aqaba, excellent value for money.
HOW TO GET AROUND
- Car: getting to Wadi Rum with your rental car is ideal. International car rental companies are at Queen Alia Airport, slightly more expensive than the Jordanian ones which have offices 10-15 minutes away and pick you up at the airport. The cheapest options start at $25/day, petrol costs around $1.60 per litre. With an additional 20-30$ per day on average it is possible to hire a driver for your trip to Jordan.
Check out your options for renting a car in Jordan here (we suggest Auto Nation).
- Tours: if you can’t spend the night, here’s a Wadi Rum day tour from Aqaba.
- Never leave home without a reliable travel insurance. Better safe than sorry! Request a quote with World Nomads here. Get up to 20% off for A Million Travels readers with Heymondo insurance at this link.
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