Wadi Rum, Jordan: Everything you need to know

Categories Jordan, Middle East, Travel
Wadi Rum Jordan
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With a unique landscape comprising vivid red sand, imposing rock formations and rippled sand dunes, it’s no wonder Wadi Rum was chosen to impersonate the red planet in the 2015 film Martian. Spanning 280 square miles in the southern region of Jordan, the otherworldly desert is a vast protected area that makes for a truly breathtaking backdrop.

From speeding along on the back of a jeep to navigating through hidden canyons and watching the sun disappear over sandstone mountains to stargazing under the clear night sky, a visit to Wadi Rum offers adventure, romance and constant surprises.

Spending the night in a traditional Bedouin camp is one of the biggest draws to the area while other activities include jeep tours, trekking tours and camel rides. This comprehensive travel guide tells you everything you need to know when planning a visit to Wadi Rum.

Wadi Rum Jordan
Sunset at the Sky Tours Camp
Wadi Rum Jordan
Sunset at the Sky Tours Camp
Wadi Rum Jordan
Sunrise at the Sky Tours Camp
Wadi Rum Jordan
Sunrise at the Sky Tours Camp
Wadi Rum Jordan
Wadi Rum Sky Tours Camp
Wadi Rum Jordan
Wadi Rum Jordan
Wadi Rum Jordan
Wadi Rum Jordan

How to get to Wadi Rum and where to park

Located a four-hour drive south of Amman, Wadi Rum is a fair distance from the capital, but the drive there is relatively easy. You simply need to get onto the Desert Highway and head south until you reach the slip road onto Wadi Rum Road just after Rashidiyah, as illustrated on the images below. It is well signposted but if you miss it there is a spot where you can do a U-turn shortly after.

Once you’re on Wadi Rum Road, you continue for about 20 minutes until you reach Wadi Rum Village, passing a police check point and the Visitor Centre along the way. If you have already arranged your tours and camping, do not stop at the Visitor Centre and instead keep driving to the village, where you will meet your guide.

Only the authorised tour operators are allowed to drive in the Wadi Rum protected area, so you’ll need to leave your car in Wadi Rum Village. You can either park in the large car park at the entrance of the village or at your tour operator’s house, as instructed by them on arrival.

Wadi Rum Village
Take the slip road off the Desert Highway onto Wadi Rum Road
Keep driving past the Visitor Centre onto Wadi Rum Village – shown on the map as Wadi Rum Restaurant Park

How to book your Wadi Rum tours and accommodation

With countless campsites and tour operators to choose from, booking your Wadi Rum experience can be a bit of a minefield. It can be difficult to know whether to book your accommodation separately through the likes of Booking.com and then book your tour on arrival or whether to book it all in advance with one company.

Most of the jeep tours on offer cover the same major attractions, and if they don’t feature something you want to see then you can request for it to be added onto the schedule. The campsites, however, differ quite a lot, so it is better to prioritise the camp you want to stay at and then book your tours and accommodation together through that company. This will ensure you get to stay at a quality camp and it will mean you only have to deal with one company rather than two, giving you a better overall price as a result.

A good idea is to utilise sites such as Booking.com to research all the accommodation options, checking reviews and traveller photos, and then once you find one you like, contact them directly through their own company website to book both your accommodation and tours. At this stage, you should be able to discuss customising your trip, confirming the number of nights you want to stay and which tours you want to do.

Most companies are reachable via email and Whatsapp, meaning you can speak on the phone to finalise all the details. If booking directly in this manner, you can expect to pay in cash at the end of your stay.

Where to stay in Wadi Rum

There is a vast number of camps dotted throughout the desert, ranging from luxury offerings to back to basics. Some are located within a five-minute drive from Wadi Rum Village whereas others are hidden deep in the desert. Some boast neighbouring rock formations that are perfect for seeing the sunset while others are haphazardly placed next to a massive pile of black rocks.

It’s therefore important that you research your camp properly, establishing which factors are most important to you. If a private en suite bathroom is a priority, then book the Wadi Rum Luxury Night Camp, but bear in mind that this camp is located very close to the village and is much larger than lots of the more traditional camps.

For those who can survive without the little luxuries, the Wadi Rum Sky Tours and Camp provides a more authentic experience. Located right in the heart of the desert, the camp is surrounded by a number of large rock formations, creating a welcoming, intimate feel. It also has fantastic viewpoints for both sunrise and sunset. There are 11 two-person tents – each with a proper bed inside – two large family tents, a communal dinner tent, and both male and female bathroom facilities consisting of two toilets and one shower respectively. The company also offers a number of jeep tours and hiking tours that feature all the major sights, and some further activities that make the stay extra special include the chance to sandboard off the back of the jeep, a traditional Bedouin BBQ, and the guide playing the lute under the stars in the evenings.

How long to stay in Wadi Rum

Most people choose to stay in Wadi Rum for just one night and one day, which for the majority is more than enough as most of the attractions can be ticked off on a one-day jeep tour. However, if you want to do anything extra like a trekking tour up one of the mountains, you will need to book a second day. Depending on the time of your arrival, for example if you arrive early in the morning before your jeep tour, you might still be able to stay for just one night.

What to pack for Wadi Rum

If you’re visiting in the winter, be sure to pack a few extra layers for the evenings because the desert can get very cold at night. In the summer, however, it remains very warm throughout the night, so you only need to pack one jumper in case you get chilly in the mornings while on the jeep.

Be sure to pack good walking shoes because you will be scrambling up a lot of rock formations and don’t forget your sun protection or hat. White or cream coloured clothes are not advised because the red sand leave marks, and while you should keep your clothes fairly respectable, don’t worry too much about being completely covered up – there will be lots of tourists wearing a broad range of outfits.

Your tour operator should provide all food and drink, which consists of a basic breakfast and lunch, and a traditional hot meal for dinner.

If you have paid in advance, remember to still bring some cash to tip your chef and tour guides.

How much it costs to visit Wadi Rum

You can expect to pay around 130JD/£142 per person for two nights camping, a one-day jeep tour, a hiking tour up Jebel Um Adami mountain, and all food and water for two days. Be sure to bring a little extra to tip your chef and guide.

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✎ Travel writer
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