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Wadi Rum is a sandy and rocky desert located in southern Jordan. Cultural heritage paired with impressive red sandstone, rocks, camels and spectacular adventures make Wadi Rum one of the highlights in Jordan.
I’ll show you the best things to see and do in Wadi Rum. You’ll get some useful tips to help you plan your stay.
Wadi Rum Desert
Before we have a look at the things to do in Wadi Rum, let me explain to you some basic facts about this unique place.
Wadi Rum desert consists of a total area of 740-square-meters (280 sq mi). The area consists of a protected area and a few villages around. Wadi Rum is now home to hundreds of Bedouins belonging to various tribes. The Bedouins live in the villages around Wadi Rum, mainly in Rum Village and Disah. Many Bedouin families run a small business offering jeep tours or running a camp. You’ll get to experience a valuable local experience in Wadi Rum, which makes a trip to the Wadi Rum even more memorable.
Things to Do in Wadi Rum
Once the dwelling of Lawrence of Arabia, Wadi Rum has become a popular tourist destination in Jordan. The area has been part of the UNESCO world heritage since 2011 thanks to its impressive nature and history.
Below are the best things to do in Wadi Rum. You can see most of them by joining a jeep tour.
Ancient Rock Inscriptions
The area of Wadi Rum is said to be inhabited for over 12,000 years. Over 20,000 petroglyphs and 20,000 rock inscriptions have been found on the rocks across the desert. The inscriptions date back from various periods across human history. They mainly portrait drawings of humans, animals and camel caravans. You can find well-preserved examples of ancient inscriptions at numerous sites, including the gorges of Khazali Canyon.
Lawrence of Arabia
Wadi Rum was home to T.E. Lawrence during the Arab revolt. Sights such as Lawrence’s House and Lawrence’s Spring allow you to walk in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia.
Lawrence’s Spring is situated on a rock which you can easily climb onto. Till date, there’s fresh water coming from Lawrence’s Spring. The water is led to the foot of the rock and serves as fresh drinking water for the camels. Next to the source of the spring, you can observe some vegetation which makes for a great contrast to the sandstone colors.
The Wadi Rum desert consists of two parts: the first part is a red sand desert, the second part is a white sand desert. In the first part, you’ll get to see several large red sand dunes. The sand dunes next to rocks are usually the highest. Walk until the top to get a great view of the surroundings. You’ll see tiny jeeps driving around in the vast landscapes, surrounded by massive rocks. A truly magical view! Some Bedouin guides carry a snowboard, so you can enjoy sandboarding on the dunes.
The countless smaller sand dunes across the desert are great places to take pictures or to enjoy the sunset.
Wadi Rum is home to countless rock formations. Some of them are rather unspectacular on their own, others really stand out for their shape.
What’s interesting is that every rock is unique and locals actually use them to navigate the desert. As soon as you reach the Visitors’ Center, you’ll see a rock with several “compartments” on your left: the Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Deep inside the desert you’ll find a few iconic rock formations resembling objects, such as the Chicken Rock or the Mushroom Rock.
A popular attraction for adventurers are the rock bridges. These are literally natural bridges connecting two larger rocks. There are three rock bridges which are open for climbing. They differ in height and not all of them are easy to climb.
One rock bridge which is easy to climb and yet makes for a great photo is the Little Bridge. The Little Bridge lives up to its name. With its 4 meters (13 ft) in length, it’s one of the smaller rock bridges in Wadi Rum. It’s quite easy and quick to climb even by inexperienced climbers. If you have a full day in Wadi Rum and would like to get up higher, try the Um Fruth Bridge.
If you love climbing and spend more time in the desert, I recommend an excursion to the Burdah Rock Bridge, located deep in the Wadi Rum desert.
Jordan’s Highest Mountain
You’ll find countless rocks and canyons across the Wadi Rum desert. Most of them are eyecatchers, others are used for climbing. Additionally, Jordan’s highest mountain is also located in Wadi Rum. Jabal Umm ad Dami is 1,854 meters (6,082 ft) in height. It’s located in the extreme south of Wadi Rum, close to the border to Saudi Arabia.
I recommend Jabal Umm ad Dami as part of a full-day excursion if you stay in Wadi Rum for several days, or if you’re visiting a second or third time. Despite the fact that it’s the country’s highest mountain, the climb is quite easy. There are paths up the mountain which aren’t very steep, thus you’ll have the feeling of walking uphill rather than climbing. The best part about Jabal Umm ad Dami is the amazing view. You can see large parts of the Wadi Rum.
Camels are home to the southern parts of Jordan. Naturally, most of them live in the Wadi Rum desert. Riding a camel in the desert is a bucket-list adventure for many. If you’d just like to get the experience of sitting on a camel, you can do so in places like Petra (great picture with the Treasury in the background) and of course in Wadi Rum. The Wadi Rum is a must for anyone seeking the camel trekking experience. Whether you’d like to make a one-hour, half-day, full-day or multi-day excursion, the choice is yours.
Note that camels move quite slowly. My recommendation is as follows: book a 15 to 60-minute camel riding if you’d just like to get the experience, then continue your journey by jeep. That way, you can see more things during your stay.
Most jeep tours and camps are run by local Bedouins. At many of the Wadi Rum camps you can enjoy Bedouin experience. Depending on the season, your jeep tour will end at one of the sunset spots in the desert. After that, you’ll be brought back to the camp where you can enjoy Bedouin music, tea and a local homemade dinner.
If you like Jordanian food (or Middle Eastern food in general), you’re gonna love food in Wadi Rum! Most camps prepare zarb in the evening. Zaarb is a typical Bedouin dish consisting of rice, vegetables and meat, cooked below the sand. The Bedouin experience is one of the highlights of Jordan for those who love to connect with locals and experience culture.
Far away from the big cities, the amount of stars you can see when in Wadi Rum is truly impressive. Enjoy the evening by watching the starry sky. You’ve probably never seen this much of the Milky Way and other constellations.
The best stargazing experience is on days of the new moon. After the new moon the moon shines especially strong which means that you’ll get to see much less stars.
Plan Your Stay
Where is Wadi Rum?
Wadi Rum is located approximately 60 km / 37 mi (1-hour-drive) from Aqaba and 300 km / 185 mi (4-hour-drive) from Amman. The best way to visit Wadi Rum is in combination with Petra. Finally, if you have more time, consider adding further stops to make a road trip through Jordan.
How to get to Wadi Rum?
Most visitors opt to rent a car in order to drive around Jordan. Wadi Rum is easily accessible by car, which can be parked at the free car park in front of the Visitors’ Center. You can explore Wadi Rum by yourself or book a Jeep tour and/or camel or horse ride. Local Bedouin guides are available to show you around the desert. We recommend booking overnight stays in advance to ensure availability. Guides and tours are generally available upon arrival.
Where to stay in Wadi Rum?
You will get the most of your trip by staying overnight. This allows more time to explore the desert and will furthermore bring you an unforgettable cultural experience. Enjoy Bedouin hospitality and traditional food under the impressive starry sky of the desert. There are no stone houses in the protected area of Wadi Rum. Overnight visitors stay in Bedouin camps, which offer accommodation that ranges from basic to luxury.
Note that not all camps and guides offer the same service and experience. Make sure to check out my recommendations for camps in Wadi Rum to get the best experience.
What to pack?
A stay in Wadi Rum – either for one day or several days – will be an unforgettable experience for any Jordan traveler. Since Wadi Rum is a desert area with few shops in the nearby Rum Village, make sure to bring anything you might need during your stay.
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