How to plan your trip to Wadi Rum and what to do
Wadi Rum may be best known for its connection with British officer T.E. Lawrence, who based his operations here during the Arab Revolt of 1916 – 18. In the 1980s, one of the impressive rock formations in Wadi Rum was named “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom“, about Lawrence’s memoir of the same name, penned in the war’s aftermath.
Lawrence’s exploits have become part of local folklore, and some famous tourist sites are named after him. The government of Jordan declared Wadi Rum a protected area in 1998. Here the landscapes are amazing, sheer cliffs, rock arches, ancient inscriptions and drawings, limitless sand, quiet cool canyons, breath-taking views and the blood-red of approaching night. So any tour of Rum must capture some of this magic to be worthwhile.
Exploring the area and camping in this mountainous desert, under thousands of bright stars, is an unforgettable experience. There are many ways to stay overnight in Wadi Rum, with a different range of Beduin campsites offering day trip, breakfast and dinner.
You can choose from “wild campsites“, with minimum facilities, where you can take your tent, campsites with all facilities to luxury Bedouin-style campsites. Most of these sites are outside the protected area around the village of Disah. There are also some Beduin campsites in Rum Village with showers, toilets, and restaurants nearby, and it is possible to stay in a genuine Bedouin tent in the desert.
The Wadi Rum Visitor Centre is located 10 km before the Rum Village, opposite the Seven Pillars of Wisdom – the mountain named after Lawrence of Arabia’s book. It has all the facilities, information and services, including reception areas, interpretation halls, restaurants and craft shops. Here, you have to pay 5 JD for the protected area ticket, and you can also arrange your desert trip.
There are different trip options, depending on the time you’d like to spend in the desert. I suggest you stretch your desert safari to a full day, but if your time is not a lot, you can choose a 3 / 4 hours trip. You’ll also have the chance to split your trip with a couple of hours riding a camel before going by Jeep.
We slept 2 night in a Bedouin Camp choosing the full day trip, starting around 8.30 am until the sunset. With a 4×4 open vehicle, we visited the most exciting spots throughout this fantastic place.
Our Wadi Rum Tour
First of all, we visited Lawrence’s spring, where Lawrence of Arabia reputedly washed during the Arab Revolt; then Khazali canyon, a narrow fissure in the mountainside, containing many rock inscriptions. The third stop was the fantastic dunes, a large area of dunes piled up against the mountains. It was so fun to climb to the top, sure harder than what we expected because the dune was steep and the sand so soft, but once we got to the crest, the scenery is spectacular.
The fourth stop was Lawrence’s House’s ruins, where the British officer supposedly lived and stored equipment, then the Burdah rock bridge, a spectacular natural rock arch that we climbed up to take a pic on the top. After walking through the Abu Khashaba, a quite deep canyon between high mountains, I had my lunch lied on the sand under a lovely warm sun. The next stop was the funny Mushroom shape Rock, then a fantastic viewpoint over a dune overlooking the desert and finally the Siq Um Tawaqi, a short canyon containing a carving of the head of T. E. Lawrence. Before going back to the campsite, we completed our visit climbed up a rock, enjoying a fantastic view of the setting sun moving behind the desert mountains.
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Need to Know about Wadi Rum
The Wadi Rum desert, as well as Jordan, can be visited at any time of the year. However, the best seasons are spring and autumn to avoid the intense heat of summer. We visited the desert in December, finding temperatures around 20 degrees during the day and significantly lower at night and early in the morning. If you visit Jordan this season, bring some heavier clothing as well.
Wadi Rum lies in the south-western corner of Jordan, 60 kilometres north of the coastal town of Aqaba (1 hr), 320 km south from Amman (4 hrs), driving on the desert highway and 140 km from Petra (2 hrs). Getting there by bus is not so easy, we couldn’t find a direct bus to Disah, so at first, you have to reach Petra or Aqaba (Jett Bus) then take a taxi or a minibus.
From Petra, the minibus leaves early in the morning from Wadi Musa bus station (better asking your hotel) and the taxi should costs around 40 JD, from Aqaba the taxi is around 30 JD, and more minibus rides are starting close to the Police station.
From Rum village, the rides to Petra and Aqaba start early in the morning. If you don’t want to overnight there, you can also arrange a daily tour from Petra and Aqaba (ask your Hotel).
Alternatively, you can book your Jordanian Tours on Viator, a reliable Online Travel Agency which offers different deals and packages.
All the Bedouin camps offer breakfast, dinner and arrange the 4×4 desert trip. We slept at Hasan Zawaideh Camp, close to the road (near Disah) and accessible by car: this atmospheric but straightforward camp is in the undercliff of the escarpment, on the edge of a vast plain. They also have a Bedouin camp in the desert with minimum facilities, 20 minutes drive by 4×4 from the main road. One of the most famous (and expensive) accommodations in Wadi Rum is the Bubble Luxotel, which will allow you to sleep inside a transparent “sphere” and enjoy the fantastic starry sky. The Memories Aicha Luxury camp also offers its customers the opportunity to sleep in “panoramic” suites.
Other Camps: There are many different camps, all very nice and comfortable. Have a look and choose the more suitable for you:
The Wadi Rum protected area covers an area of about 700 square kilometres. Unlike many other deserts where the main attraction is the large sand dunes, the main feature of Wadi Rum is its huge mountains of sandstone and granite, its narrow canyons and natural cavities where ancient cave drawings are engraved, the huge arches natural rocks and, of course, the evidence of the passage of Lawrence of Arabia. The activities within the protected area include the classic day trips by Jeep, camel rides but also the opportunity to practice rock climbing and trekking for several days to explore the remote areas. If you want to experience the desert from the sky while the sunrise is colouring the mountain, don’t miss a ride on the hot air balloon (1hr = 130 JD). Click here to get more info.
If you don’t have much time, it is even possible to organise daily trips through different online agencies such as Viator.com or GetYourGuide.com. Have a look to find some suitable tours/activities for you.
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