Destinations: Middle East

The Jordan Edition – Beyond Petra: Rummaging through the Desert in Wadi Rum

April 17, 2014

Not many people have Jordan at the top of their “Must Visit” list of travel destinations. Those that do usually only have Jordan in their consideration set because of Petra–one of the New 7 Wonders of the World (also where Transformers was filmed)! While I absolutely loved my experience in Petra, I must admit that Wadi Rum actually topped Petra for me. 

Wadi Rum, known as The Valley of the Moon, is the largest, most beautiful valley in Jordan. The only inhabitants in the area are the several thousand villagers and Bedouins, the nomadic Arabs of the desert. Wadi Rum lacks any sort of real infrastructure aside from the Bedouin goat hair tents, leaving the area quite natural and untouched. With the beautiful landscape of sandstone mountains plus the extensive history, Wadi Rum should be a “Must Visit” on everyone’s list of travel destinations! 

So how exactly do you get here and what can you do in Wadi Rum?
First of all, you should definitely pre-book a tour with local guides prior to arrival. This will ensure you have the best itinerary during your stay. I highly recommend Bedouin Directions, currently ranked #2 on Trip Advisor. I organized a trip for 7 of us and contacted numerous local guides. From the get-go Mehedi, owner of Bedouin Directions, was welcoming and very responsive. We only had 1.5 days to spend in Wadi Rum and Mehedi was able to help us create an itinerary that included everything we wanted to do during that time. As you’re working with your tour company on developing an itinerary, here are some things to consider.

How to Get Here
There are three options for getting to Wadi Rum: 1) Drive, 2) Bus, 3) Taxi. The number of people in your party, how much you’re willing to spend, and the amount of flexibility you prefer will determine which mode of transportation you choose. In general, the roads are good and not too busy (aside from Amman, the most busy city of the country) making Jordan a relatively easy country to drive in. For flexibility to explore the country, renting a car is definitely the way to go. More details on timing and costs can be found on Bedouin Directions Page on Transportation

What to Do

Tour of the Desert
The main attraction is… well… the desert! There are amazing rock formations you can scramble and sand dunes galore for you to roll down. Best way to see the desert:

Four Wheel Drive
Least bumpy, but difficult to see everything/take photos from within the vehicle. We opted not to use this mode of transportation.

Open-Air Pickup Truck
A bit of a bumpy ride, but great for photo ops and seeing everything as you drive through the desert. Have a scarf to wrap around your nose/mouth–the ride gets dusty!

Lots of fun… for the first 30-40 minutes. Any more than that and the ride is no longer exciting. Plus your legs/butt start hurting–I speak from personal experience! 

Roll Down Sand Dunes
Sure… you’ll get sand all over (even in your underwear) and you’ll be finding sand in your ear for the next few days, but when will you ever get to roll down such massive sand dunes again?!

Climb and Scramble

There are so many amazing sand structures and boulders to climb and scramble on. Be a kid again and enjoy it!

Stay Overnight in a Bedouin Camp
Eating, drinking, and dancing with the local Bedouins, sleeping in Bedouin tents, and laying under a clear evening sky while star-gazing. What more could you ask for?

What to See

As you plan out your desert tour, be sure to include these highlights in your itinerary!

Lawrence Spring
Walk up through rocks and boulders to find the water plus a lovely fig tree to rest under. The view across the Wadi from here is legendary! 

Khazali Canyon
This canyon is a deep fissure in the mountainside and contains many beautiful ancient rock inscriptions.


Red Sand Dunes
Where the white and red sand meet, this is a beautiful area where you can climb up the sand dune for a breathtaking view at the top. Coming down, you can run and frolick! Or if you’re feeling adventurous, might I suggest rolling down it?

House of Lawrence

As with a lot of ancient history, nobody is certain that this was Lawrence of Arabia’s house. However, there are stories that say he both stayed and/or stored weapons in this Nabataean structure during the Great Arab Revolution. Regardless of what truly happened, this site offers a wonderful view. The house itself is a bunch of rubble, and unimpressive. 

Burdah Arch
The best known site is the Burdah Arch, a natural rock bridge set high up on the mountain approximately 20km from Rum Village and 300m high. Traversing up this mountain requires either climbing/roping or scrambling depending on the route chosen. The view from above is supposed to be magnificent. Since my time was limited, I could not fit in the 4-hours required to make it up and back down. I only got to see the Arch from afar. However, if you have the time and energy, I’d say to do it!

Um Frouth Arch
A much smaller version of Burdah Arch, this natural rock bridge created by many years of water and wind is only 12-15m high. It is a fairly easy climb to the top for those that are not afraid of heights! The bridge itself is quite narrow.

“The Chicken”
A unique 2 legged rock that travelers can scramble up. There is a wonderful view across the red desert to the white desert from here. This is also a great location to watch the sunset! 

Additional Tips
Entrance Fee to Wadi Rum: 5JD per person payable at visitor center.

Parking: If you plan to rent a car, you will reach the visitor center first where you will need to buy your entrance ticket. Then you can drive to the Rum Village where there is a parking lot to leave your vehicle. 

Accommodations: You’re staying in the desert so don’t expect 5-star accommodations! The tents are quite comfortable with mattresses and plenty of warm blankets and there are cold showers to keep you clean. Meals are simple, but delicious. As an example, for dinner we were served Zarb (food cooked under the sand), which included chicken and potatoes. Breakfast was pita with some jams and fruit spreads. Lunch during our desert tour was a delicious seafood stew served with pita, hummus, and fruits. Not heavy and filling, but very tasty.

Length of Stay: This ultimately depends on how much of the area you want to see and what you want to do. I would recommend a minimum of 2 full days. 

Extra Luggage: Bring only what you need into the desert. Your local guide should be able to securely store your extra luggage by the Rum Village.

Have Fun!! This is an amazing experience!

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