A guide to visiting Wadi Rum – Jordan. Everything you need to know and what to expect when travelling to Jordans famous desert.
About Wadi Rum
Visiting Wadi Rum is something all travellers heading to Jordan should do. The Wadi Rum Visitors Centre is located 115km south Petra (Wadi Musa) and about 70km east of Aqaba. The protected area covers some 183,352 acres and is famous for its red sand dunes, sandstone mountains, valleys, rock formations, natural arches and canyons. The landscape is so dramatic, it has been dubbed ‘the Valley of the Moon’. Wadi Rum has doubled as a film set for many Hollywood films such as The Last Days on Mars, The Martian, Mission to Mars, Red Planet and Lawrence of Arabia.
In 2005, Wadi Rum joined Jordan’s growing list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and has become one of Jordans biggest attractions.
Getting to & from
There are several ways to get to Wadi Rum; Local bus, taxi or hire a car.
Despite its popularity, getting to/from Wadi Rum via public transport can be challenging. The area is serviced by limited local buses from both Petra and Aqaba. There are no direct buses from Amman to Wadi Rum. You will need to connect in Wadi Musa (Petra) or Aqaba.
- From Petra – Wadi Rum: One bus a day, departing 6.00am-6.15am. Ask your hotel in Wadi Musa to book the bus for you and you will be picked up from your hotel. Cost 7JD p/p.
- From Wadi Rum – Petra: One bus a day, departing at 8.30am from Rum Village. Any tour operator in Wadi Rum should be able to help you book this. Cost 7JD p/p.
- From Aqaba – Wadi Rum: Minibuses depart daily, when full. Check with your accommodation on times and frequency as these often change. Cost 5JD
- From Wadi Rum – Aqaba: One bus a day departing at 6.00am. Cost 5JD
The minibuses don’t run on a fixed timetables as such and generally depart when full. It’s best to ask your accommodation or a bus driver for assistance with times in advance.
TIP – If you have luggage, this may be put inside the bus with you, taking up an extra seat. If this is the case, the driver may charge you an extra ticket for this.
Taxis can easily get you to/from Wadi Rum:
- Petra (Wadi Musa) – 40JD-45JD 2hrs
- Aqaba 20JD-25JD 1hr
- Amman 100JD 4hrs
- Aqaba Airport/Israeli border 30JD-35JD 1-1.5hrs
Hire a car
This will give you the most flexibility and can easily be arranged from Amman and Aqaba. For prices, check out Airport Rentals HERE.
What we did
We shared a taxi with 2 other travellers from Wadi Musa to Wadi Rum which cost 40JD in total. We then shared a taxi from Wadi Rum to Aqaba with the same travellers for 25JD total. Our Wadi Rum tour company arranged both taxis for us. The cost of doing this as a group of 4, was the same as taking a bus and being charged a little extra for our luggage. If you book this directly with a taxi driver, be sure to agree on a price in advance.
Best time to visit
Spring: March/April/May – are popular months to visit as the temperatures are pleasant – between 15°c-30°c. Evenings can be cool, so take some layers and a jacket. During spring, desert wildflowers pop up carpeting the desert floor, making it a beautiful time to visit Wadi Rum. Expect bigger crowds at Rum Village, ‘hot spots’ and desert camps.
Autumn: September/October/November – are the most temperate months to visit, therefore the busiest. Daytime temperatures range between 15-30°c. The evenings and nights can still be cool, so pack some layers of clothes. Expect bigger crowds at Rum Village, ‘hot spots’ and desert camps.
Summer: June/July/August – is the hottest time of year and therefore the quietest. Expect fewer tourists. The days are long and hot (up to 40°c) and the evenings are warm. The heat is very dry rather than humid. Many people find the daytime temperatures too hot, so pack clothing that is light and breathable that will also protect you from the sun.
Winter: December/January/February – is the coldest time of year and also quiet. Expect fewer tourists. The days are cool and it can get very cold in the evenings and at night. Average daytime temperatures are around 10°c-15°c whilst temperatures can drop to zero overnight. It can get windy and wet occasionally, however this only happens a couple of times a month. Pack warm comfy clothes for sleeping, along with layers and a jacket for the morning/day.
Visiting Wadi Rum is possible all year round. We visited in mid November which offered perfect day time temperatures, cool nights and smaller crowds.
Wadi Rum tours
Visiting Wadi Rum on a backpackers budget is tricky. It was one occasion where we blew the budget, as the easiest and best way to see the protected area was by booking a tour. We did this with 2 other travellers we met in Amman and Petra. There are a lot of companies to choose from, all offering similar packages.
When visiting Wadi Rum, it’s important to know what your tour includes. If you book with a different company to us, make sure you know what you are paying for. It’s a good idea to compare a few companies and definitely read some reviews. To get the best rate, book with a company directly online or by phone, as opposed to a hotel in Amman. We’ve heard this will cost more.
Choosing a company
After a lot of research, we booked the 2d/2nt Jabel AL Hash Tour with Rum Stars. Of all the companies we looked at, Rum Stars offered an appealing itinerary, competitive prices and had great reviews. We do recommend having 2 full days to explore Wadi Rum, as a 1 day tour only really scratches the surface and you don’t really travel deep into the desert.
Our tour included transport in a jeep, 2 nights accommodations in private fixed tents, English speaking guide, 2 days of touring the desert, all meals and a bucket load of tea! We had a great time and would highly recommend Rum Stars. The campsite consisted of fixed private sleeping tents with linen, blankets and pillows, shared bathrooms/toilets and a communal tent complete with fire and plenty of charging sockets. There was a seperate area for eating and all was serviced by solar powered electricity.
Day 1 itinerary
After meeting our guide and drinking some tea, we hit the desert in our open backed jeep. On the first day of our tour, we visited several sites and rock formations, which were all pretty cool. These included:
- Ancient ruins of a Nabatean Temple
- Lawrence’s Spring, named after Lawrence of Arabia
- The Jabel Khazali Canyon
- See the Map Stone, an old map etched into stone walls that provided clues to any passers-by as to the direction of the Camel Caravan
- The red sand dunes in Wadi Um Ishrin (option for sand boarding)
- Jebel Anafishiya to admire 2,500 year old Nabatean rock inscriptions
- Lawrence’s House; where legend claims he stayed during the revolt
- Lunch in cliff-side shade in Barrauh Canyon
- The famous Mushroom Stone
- Al Mahama Canyon and walk a self guided trail
- Jebel Burdah rock bridge, the highest natural bridge in the Wadi Rum
- Um Fruth Bridge, approximately 20m high
- Wadi Kashkasheh Canyon to view the most famous mountain in Wadi Rum
- Sunset in the desert with bedouin tea
Our day 1 highlights
1. The Red Sand Dune – The colour of the sand and surrounding sandstone mountains was a beautiful, rich, red colour. The top of the dune offered amazing views of the surrounding area.
2. Um Frouth Rock Bridge – We had fun clambering about 15m up to the top of the bridge. This is one of the most photographed sites in Wadi Rum and for good reason. The views from the top (and bottom) were beautiful.
3. Khor al Ajram Little Rock Bridge – The smaller and less dramatic Little Rock Bridge was also fun to climb.
4. Al Mahama Canyon – We really liked the self guided walk through the canyon. Our guide dropped us off at one end and picked us up at the other end. The canyon was nice to stroll through, with our favourite part being the end.
5. Sipping Bedouin tea as the sunset. Need we say more?
After we drank our tea watching the sun go down, we were driven to our camp where we were treated to a traditional buffet Bedouin dinner. After consuming far too much food and tea we spent some time stargazing at the crystal clear desert sky. We took full advantage of the lack of light and noise pollution, watching shooting stars fly across the sky.
Day 2 itinerary
After an enormous buffet breakfast including freshly cooked flat breads, we set off on our second day of visiting Wadi Rum. The itinerary included:
- 40-minute drive south through the Red Desert to a ridge called Jebel Al Hash
- Hike up Jebel Al Hash for stunning, panoramic views of the desert from the summit
- Walk along the scenic ridge, followed by lunch in the shade with Bedouin tea
- Visit some peculiarly shaped rocks aptly named; Cow Rock/Chicken Rock and nearby sand dunes
- Qatar Spring, a natural spring where you can see the water literally coming out of the rock
- Another desert sunset with Bedouin tea
Our day 2 highlights
1. Jebel Al Hash – At this point we were really remote, with no other tourists around. From the summit, we were able to gaze out to the Saudi Arabian border where the views were incredible.
2. Lunch stops – Our guide picked spots for us to have lunch on both days and while we were eating, he prepared us Bedouin tea.
3. Chicken/Cow Rock – We had a lot of fun here! Our guide challenged Chris to scale the rock, he didn’t hesitate as he’s always up for a challenge! Oozing confidence as he proudly summited the rock, he then found himself in a bit of a pickle. Although the ascent was quite easy, the descent proved to be a little more challenging. Eventually, despite the amusement, our guide had to help get the guy down.
4. Our final sunset sipping Bedouin tea!
When the sun disappeared behind the rocky mountains, we returned to our Bedouin camp where we drank more tea and indulged in another delicious buffet dinner. There was of course more time for stargazing in the evening. After our final night at Rum Stars bedouin camp, we were driven back to the office, where our taxi was waiting to take us to Aqaba.
Entrance to Wadi Rum
Wadi Rum is a protected area and there is a 5JD fee to enter. This is payable at the Visitors Centre. If you have purchased a Joran Pass, your entry is included in the pass. You will need to show your Jordan Pass and passport to validate your entrance. Once you obtain entrance to Wadi Rum, it’s a further 8km drive to Rum Village where the tours commence.
Visiting Wadi Rum without pre-booking a tour
If you don’t want to pre-book a tour, you can make your way to Wadi Rum and book a 4WD excursion at the visitor centre. Prices are fixed and are charged per vehicle, which usually seats six people. As most people visiting Wadi Rum pre-book tours, you may end up being the only one taking this approach and end up paying for the whole jeep yourself. If you’re travelling with a group, then you can easily split the cost.
You can choose individual places you want to visit from one of 2 set routes, or, hire a driver for a day. Expect to pay between 25JD (1hr) – 80JD (8hrs). You will need to take your own food and water and basic supplies can be purchased from Rum Village. If you want to stay a night, this can be arranged at the visitor centre. Just let them know when you are paying your entrance fee and they can organise accommodation. Your driver can drop you off in the evening and pick you up the following morning.
To be honest, we aren’t sure if taking a DIY approach in Wadi Rum would save much money. Personally, having a tour organised with everything included, seemed like the best option for us.
How to pay
There is no ATM at the Visitor Centre or at Rum Village. You will need cash to pay for everything in Wadi Rum, including entrance fees, tours, snacks and tips.
Essential items and packing list
As always, there are some things that you need take when visiting Wadi Rum:
- Small overnight bag. We stored our main backpacks at Rum Stars office
- Good head torch
- Warm jacket, beanie, warm sleeping clothes and layers if travelling in the colder months
- Lightweight, breathable layers for the warmer months
- Hat, sunnies & sunscreen
- Sturdy shoes for walking and climbing rocks
- Enough money to pay for everything
- Passport and Jordan Pass (if you have one)
- Camera/phone and chargers (power sockets usually available in communal tents)
- Spare camera battery
- Lunch, snacks and water if not pre-booking a tour
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