Wadi Rum is reminiscent of the Arabian Nights tales. It should. Here was filmed the live-action version “Aladdin”. Wadi Rum is more than just a genie in a lamp. It has played an important role in the history of the country and is full of adventure. This ultimate guide to Wadi Rum outlines the best things to do and see during a trip.

What is Wadi Rum?

Wadi Rum is a protected region and UNESCO World Heritage Site located in southern Jordan. It is 278 square miles in size, roughly equivalent to the area of New York City. Wadi Rum is a spectacular place to visit during the day. The sands are a maroon color and the rock formations look like ships in a dusty ocean. Its nickname Valley of the Moon is well-deserved at night. The valley offers incredible stargazing.

Over 20,000 petroglyphs show that people have been living in Wadi Rum since nearly 12,000 BC. T.E. Lawrence, also known as Lawrence of Arabia or Lawrence the Arabian, used Wadi Rum as the base for his Great Arab Revolt. You might still see some nomadic Bedouins here, on a 4×4 or camel ride.

Wadi Rum is known for its sands and rock formations in Mars colors. Teresa Bitler.

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Wadi Rum is featured in many films because of its unique landscape. The backdrop of the 1963 Academy Award-winning Best Picture “Lawrence of Arabia” was filmed in Wadi Rum.

Wadi Rum: Things to Do

Wadi Rum is a combination of adventure and culture. Wear layers to keep warm and apply sunscreen regularly on exposed skin. Bring cash for tip guides and impromptu activities.

4×4 Tour

Wadi Rum is best experienced on a 4×4 tour. Book online or at your overnight camp. The majority of tours include a visit to the dunes, Khazali Canyon and its petroglyphs. Most end with a sunset stop. You may also be able to see Lawrence’s Springs Um Frouth Bridge – a natural rock arched.

Wadi Rum is best experienced on a 4×4 tour. Photo by Teresa Bitler.

Prepare yourself for a rough ride if you decide to go. The benches that line the pick-up bed are usually used to seat passengers. A cloth draped over metal poles can provide some shade. But don’t rely on it. The pick-ups begin the tour by off-roading across the sand. The ride was bumpy, but I didn’t feel in danger. If you have back pain, don’t go.

Camel Ride

You can book a camel ride for the full day to see some of the same sites as a 4×4 trip. You can also take a brief camel ride to get a feel for the experience. Some Bedouin guides lead multi-day treks if you are feeling particularly adventurous.

I took a camel ride at sunrise to watch the sunrise. After seeing others get on and off of camels, the day before I wasn’t sure I wanted go. But I’m glad that I went. As the sun rose we drank tea made by our Bedouin guide. It was a magical experience.

My Wadi Rum trip was not complete without a sunrise camel ride. Photo by Teresa Bitler.

Nevertheless, I am glad that my ride was brief. I could not have spent hours riding a camel. It’s not something I would do again. The entire time, I was acutely aware of the height I was above the ground and the fragility of the spine.

Stargazing

Wadi Rum offers excellent stargazing because there is minimal light pollution. Stargazing programs are available at most overnight camps for an additional fee. Ask when you check-in. These programs include a 4×4 drive into the desert where the guide will set up a high power telescope.

I decided not to stargaze in Wadi Rum. The full moon was expensive and late, but it was worth the trip. Although I could see objects through a telescope, my naked eyes would not have allowed me to see nearly as much. Before you go stargazing, I recommend checking the lunar calendar because the camp offers optimal viewing conditions.

Many 4×4 excursions end with an opportunity to view the sunset. Photo by Teresa Bitler.

Wadi Rum Other Activities

Hiking During the cooler months you can hike around Wadi Rum. It is best to hire a guide because the trails can be difficult to locate and there are not many landmarks. Your 4×4 guide may be able coordinate a quick hike into your adventure if you let him know in advance.

Sandboarding Some 4×4 tour packages include sandboarding at dunes. If your camp does not offer excursions, you can arrange one through them. Some guides bring sleds so you can slide down instead of standing.

Hot Air Ballooning: There are several camps that can arrange hot-air balloon rides. The balloons are usually inflated at sunrise and the entire experience can last up to three hours. Balloons fly over the desert for about 30 minutes.

On a camel ride in the early morning, guests drink tea while watching the sunrise. Photo by Teresa Bitler

What to do in Wadi Rum?

Wadi Rum is home to dozens of Bedouin Camps, and more are on their way. The camps range from low-cost Bedouin-run options to luxury accommodations. They all have some things in common. They all have toilets, running water and beds. They’re also all-inclusive, and they serve traditional Jordanian cuisine. They also offer some kind of entertainment every night, from music to storytelling and even smoking shisha or drinking tea.

Accommodations range from Bedouin tents that have little more than a mattress to luxury bubble domes. Geodesic bubbles domes are very popular but I wasn’t impressed. I could not see much when I opened the curtains of my bubble dome, especially with the condensation on plastic. Next time, I’ll choose a tent with more luxury.

Some camps in Wadirum offer bubble tents. Photo by Teresa Bitler.

Also, I will pay attention to the amenities. Some camps have yoga classes and hiking trails all around them. In some camps, you can take cooking classes. No matter what you’re looking for, make sure the tent or bubble you choose has heating and air conditioning.

How To Get To Wadi Rum

Wadi Rum can be reached by car in four hours from Amman, and an hour from Aqaba. You can also get there via bus if you don’t own a vehicle. Spend at least four hours in Wadi Rum on a 4×4 adventure. But I would recommend staying the night. You can then enjoy the sunset as well as Bedouin hospitality.

Do not miss out on the chance to ride a camel in Wadi Rum. Photo by Teresa Bitler

Wadi Rum is open all year round. Prepare to sweat from June through September when temperatures are above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. In January, daily temperatures average 58 degrees. Even in milder months like March, April and November, the temperature can change from hot to cold in just a couple of hours.

Wadi Rum is a must-see no matter when you decide to visit Jordan. It’s worth traveling from Amman, Aqaba or Jordan to see the landscapes here and get to know Bedouins. If I had the chance to go back, I would. If you are looking for the Ultimate guide to 2 days anywhere or planning a trip in the Middle East let Wander with Wonder serve as your guide.