Wadi Rum is a vast, surreal desert landscape in southern Jordan that has been featured in a lot of famous Hollywood movie sets.
Exploring these Mars-like valleys by jeep reminded me a bit of the state of Utah and its epic red canyons and mesas, and in this case you also get a free dose of world history and culture along the way.
It seems like everyone is going to Jordan these days to see Petra, but if you take a day or two to swing by Wadi Rum you won’t regret it. It’s one of the best adventures you can have in this part of the world!
History Of Wadi Rum
The valleys and canyons of Wadi Rum have been settled by humans for thousands of years.
It’s an area well known for being used by Lawrence of Arabia in the Arab Revolt during World War I, and there are lots of carvings and ruins in Wadi Rum dedicated to T.E. Lawrence.
No man can live this life and emerge unchanged. He will carry… the imprint of the desert… and he will have within him the yearning to return. For this cruel land can cast a spell which no temperate clime can match.
It’s easy to see why it’s been a filming location for epic sci-fi movies like Transformers, The Martian, Star Wars, and of course the 1962 movie Lawrence of Arabia.
Doesn’t it just look like something right out of a Star Wars set?
Day Tours To Wadi Rum
First of all, if you’re on a tight schedule and want to skip the extra steps involved in arranging your own trip to Wadi Rum, or if you’d rather do all of it with a vetted tour company, there are options for that.
Viator has a number of high rated companies that offer prearranged day tours to Wadi Rum, with pickup and dropoff included.
If you’d rather make your own arrangements and do everything yourself (which is ultimately cheaper), then that’s covered next.
How To Get To Wadi Rum
There’s no airport at Wadi Rum, so international flights to Jordan will generally go to Queen Alia International Airport (AMM) in Amman.
You can make the journey by rental car, private taxi, or bus (recommended).
• From Amman
It’s a 5-6 hour drive from Amman to Wadi Rum.
Private taxi is the easiest route but costs at least 100 JD (~$140 USD) one way.
You can also take the JETT bus (costs 9 JD) from Amman to Aqaba and get off at the Wadi Rum intersection. The turnoff is well marked on the highway.
To go in the opposite direction, take a taxi to Aqaba (costs 25 JD and 1 hour) and then take the JETT bus (9 JD) from Aqaba to 7th Circle in Amman. Here is the bus schedule on their website.
• From Petra
It’s a 1.5 hour drive from Petra to Wadi Rum.
Private taxi will cost about 35 JD (~$50 USD) per way.
There is also one minibus per day that leaves Petra at 6:00 AM and costs 7 JD. You can book this through your Petra hotel and they will pick you up there. The same bus makes the trip back from Wadi Rum at 8:00 or 9:00 AM.
• From Aqaba
It’s a 1 hour drive from Aqaba to Wadi Rum.
Private taxi will cost about 30 JD (~$40 USD) per way.
You can also take a bus from the Aqaba bus station headed to Amman or Petra (3 JD) and get off at the Wadi Rum intersection. The buses run north every hour from 7:00 AM – 3:00 PM.
Map Of Wadi Rum
Here’s a detailed map of Wadi Rum, courtesy of the Jordanian Tourism official website.
The total protected area is 275 square miles (720 sq km), so it’s a lot of ground to cover!
The best way to get around is by 4×4. More on that next.
How To Get Around
• By Jeep
The standard way to get around Wadi Rum is in a jeep or other 4×4 vehicle.
My tour was actually in an Isuzu pickup truck, but close enough. The jeep tours last 2, 3, 4, or 5 hours. If you only do a one day trip to Wadi Rum, I would recommend the longest possible tour (4 or 5 hours).
The driver will take you around to all of the main sights and explain what they are, and you’ll have a chance to walk around and explore them on foot too.
• By Camel
Camels are the ships of the desert, and Wadi Rum is the perfect place to get those epic camel riding photo ops you’ve always wanted. Camelback is also more quiet and leisurely than the jeep rides.
The only downside is that camels are pretty slow, and the canyons are too big and spread out to cover very efficiently like this, so I wouldn’t recommend the full day camel tour unless you have more than one day to spend in Wadi Rum.
With that said, you can also do shorter 1-hour camel rides for about 15 JD (~$20 USD).
• By Foot
Hiking tours are possible, especially in the cooler months, but I don’t think it’s ideal.
You won’t see anything extra by walking, and again, the canyons are very big and spread out so this won’t be an efficient way to explore unless you have plenty of spare time in Jordan.
- Adults: 5 JD (~$7 USD)
- Kids: Free (under 12)
- Jordan Pass: Free
This is a special fee charged per person to visit Wadi Rum since it’s a protected area.
If you hold a Jordan Pass (highly recommended for most visitors!), then you don’t have to pay this fee.
There’s no strict dress code at Wadi Rum, since it’s not a temple or religious monument.
With that said, Jordanian culture is relatively conservative, so wearing modest clothing in public is a good idea.
That would mean something that covers your knees and shoulders.
Best Things To Do & See In Wadi Rum
The best part of Wadi Rum would have to be the huge mountains and canyons you can see in all directions, but there are also some smaller landmarks to check out too.
This is not a complete list of every single canyon, rock, and interesting thing to see at Wadi Rum, but these are just some of the highlights to look for.
One day is enough time to see most of the places on this list, but maybe not all of them, so you’ll want to prioritize the things that look most appealing to you.
• Siq Um Tawaqi
This is a narrow canyon with impressive walls and rock formations, along with some old carvings in the rock.
It’s a short, easy walk through the canyon, but the sheer scale makes you feel tiny.
• Lawrence’s Face
These are some funny carvings of Lawrence of Arabia’s face in the Siq.
They’re very obvious and you’ll pass them on your way through the canyon.
• Anfashieh Inscriptions
These stick figures are old petroglyphs carved by nomadic tribes. You can see big camels, baby camels, camels with riders, children, tools, weapons, and other such things.
The drawings are on a rock wall above the ground, so if you want to take an up close pic like this then you’ll have to climb some boulders.
• Lawrence’s House
These are the old ruins of a house where T.E. Lawrence is supposed to have stayed and stored weapons during his expeditions. It’s not anything impressive, but the historical significance makes it interesting.
If you climb to the top of the rocks, there’s a good view of the surroundings and a bunch of rock cairns on top.
• Burdah Bridge
This is a huge natural rock bridge. You’ll need a guide to hike to the top with you, it’s moderately difficult and takes several hours. Not recommended if you’re scared of heights!
• Burrah Canyon
This is a very narrow canyon that becomes almost as tight as a slot canyon in some spots. The purplish hue of colors in dim lighting looks similar to the Siq at Petra.
• Um Frouth Rock Bridge
This is a cool rock bridge similar to the arches you might see in Utah. There’s a path to climb to the top and walk out on the bridge. Just be careful, because it’s higher than it looks, and sandstone can be slippery.
• Little Bridge
This is another natural bridge made of bright orange rock. It’s a quick climb to the top, and you get some amazing 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains.
• Mushroom Rock
This is a big mushroom shaped rock great for photo ops. Sadly, this is one item I missed on my Wadi Rum tour, but the pictures of it look awesome.
• Seven Pillars Of Wisdom
This is a huge, dramatic rock formation named after Lawrence’s 1922 autobiography of the same name. It’s one of the first landmarks you see when you enter Wadi Rum.
Camping At Wadi Rum
If you want to spend more time in Wadi Rum and see the starry skies over the desert, there are dozens of Bedouin companies that offer tent camping for as low as 10 JD (~$15 USD) with free breakfast.
So is camping here worthwhile? I decided to pass. It’s longer than I wanted to stay, and I hate to pay for camping. I also had some reservations about how safe it is.
Don’t get me wrong, Jordan is a safe country and all, and most of the people are friendly and harmless. I’d encourage you to visit. But camping in the middle of nowhere leaves you very vulnerable — the ISIS Morocco backpacker beheadings come to mind.
I may be spoiled for camping though, because in the US we can do it for free in many places. And you can have a gun around in case of problems. I had one scary night in Washington state where I had to point a gun at a drug crazed guy screaming at the top of his lungs and trying to get into my tent at 4 AM.
With that said, I noticed many tourists camping in Wadi Rum when I was there, and I’ve never heard of any bad stories at all from people who have done it. I’m sure it’s a cool and unique experience!
If you feel comfortable with it, then go for it!
Where I Stayed
I stayed at Rocky Mountain Hotel near Petra for 26 JD ($37 USD) per night, and it was a pretty good bargain compared to the other hotels I've tried in this area (Jordan is not the cheapest country to travel).
Rocky Mountain is a 20 minute walk to Petra, or you can use the hotel's daily shuttle service. Jane, the hotel owner lady, was kind enough to drive me to Petra herself and pick me up later. She's a New Zealander and obviously works very hard.
The hotel also helped me arrange my Wadi Rum jeep tour from Petra. All in all, it was just what I needed, and the staff were very helpful with arranging transfers, meals, and other things.
Is Jordan Safe?
Yes, I think so.
Nowhere in the world is completely safe, but Jordan is a stable country that gets millions of tourists per year.
Terrorist attacks are possible, but that’s true anywhere. They don’t seem to be any more common in Jordan.
In the age of terrorism I would avoid crowds whenever possible while traveling here, but again, that’s a basic safety tip that goes for just about anywhere nowadays.
Personally, I would rate Jordan much safer than Egypt. But I survived and enjoyed both! 🙂
Best Time To Visit
Wadi Rum is good any month of the year, but the best time to visit is in the spring (March – May) or fall (September – November).
In the middle of summer, it can be very hot — up to 93 F (34 C). I went in early October and it was pleasant, especially when driving around in the breezy vehicle.