The brilliantly colored sands and stark rock formations of Jordan’s Wadi Rum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, make this desert wilderness a must-visit for most travelers to Jordan. Signature sights, typically visited by 4WD, include the Burdah Rock Bridge, a natural arch; the Khazali Siq, a narrow canyon; and the scarlet Al Hasany Dunes.
There is a small fee to enter the Wadi Rum protected area. Most visitors arrive either on a tour or to stay in one of the desert camps, which range from basic to luxurious. It is also possible to hire a Bedouin 4WD driver directly on arrival.
Wadi Rum is an essential stop on most multi-day Jordan tours, some of which include a night under the desert stars. At around four hours from Amman, it’s a challenging day trip, and better approached from Aqaba—although many would argue that without a night in the desert you’re missing out. Most Wadi Rum tours explore by 4WD, although some include a short camel ride, and longer camel safaris are also possible. Adventure activities include rock climbing and sandboarding.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Wadi Rum is a must-do for adventurous travelers, as well as anyone who loves photography.
- Don’t forget a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
- A scarf is a great desert accessory to protect against wind-blown sand.
How to Get There
Deep in the south of Jordan, Wadi Rum is about 45 minutes’ drive from Aqaba; guides and camps can generally arrange seats on the minibuses that run the route most of the year. Given that self-driving inside the protected area is only possible in a 4WD with a professional driver to supervise, many will find it easier simply to arrange a Wadi Rum tour that includes round-trip door-to-door transport.
When to Get There
Like other deserts, Wadi Rum can be surprisingly cold on a winter’s night and searingly hot at the height of summer. The tourist peak seasons of spring and fall (mid-March to mid-May and mid-September to mid-November) are also the most convenient times to visit. It’s worth spending the night to appreciate the stillness of the desert and the brilliance of the stars.
Wadi Rum on Film
From Lawrence of Arabia to The Martian, Wadi Rum’s startling colors have long made it a popular film location. The area regularly stands in for Mars, and indeed for other planets: It serves as a setting for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. One desert camp, inspired by The Martian, features domes in the style of the one Matt Damon’s character lived in during the movie.