Wadi Rum

Wadi Rum: what to see, what to do and other practical information

Together with Petra, Wadi Rum it is probably the most magnetistic destination in Jordan, the one that attracts the most tourists every year. And no wonder: it is a portion of desert that offers everything a traveler can expect: golden sand dunes, rock formations of spectacular beauty, services for adventure activities and much more. On this page we tell you in depth what to see in Wadi Rum, what is its history, how to get here and, most importantly: what to do in Wadi Rum to enjoy an unforgettable experience.

Table of Contents

Where is Wadi Rum and what is its climate

Wadi Rum is a protected nature reserve located in southern Jordan, within the territory of the Aqaba governorate. In fact, that is the most important city in its surroundings, about 60 km from what is considered its ‘gateway’: Shakaria. However, its central point is considered the village of Wadi Rum, often written as Wadi Rum Village, about 70 km from Aqaba and where the paved road ends. About 7 km before reaching that town is the Visitor Center, a must, where tickets are also taken.

It has an area of about 720 km2 (72,000 hectares), so its space is really large and unfathomable on foot. The translation of its name in Aramaic is “high valley” or “elevated valley”, which helps us understand one of its geographical characteristics: its high altitude, at about 1,600 meters above sea level. Its highest point is Jbel um ad Dami, at more than 1,850 meters above sea level.

This, together with its latitude, its very low rainfall regime and other conditions such as its great insolation, leaves us with a typical desert climate: really scorching temperatures during the day in the warm months, to descend sharply at night, becoming absolutely freezing in winter. Therefore, in summer it is essential to have adequate protection against the sun and heat (water, sunscreen, sunglasses, etc.) and in winter it is essential to have thermal clothing and coat, including gloves and hat.

However, there is a peculiarity that is worth highlighting: the existence of SIQS o Rocky canyons create shaded areas, in some cases throughout the day, functioning as authentic microclimatic islands in which to rest from the heat and enjoy the view, as they allow the emergence of an almost miraculous flora of shrubs and trees that seem to grow directly from the rock.

Wadi Rum desert map

A bit of history

Although today it seems a really hostile place for life, where only the courage of the Bedouin people makes them survive, Wadi Rum It was actually a much more human-friendly place from an environmental and climate point of view. And proof of this is the rich history behind it.

Millennia ago, it was an area rich in springs and wells, and in fact the Greeks and Romans spoke of its pine forests, vineyards and olive groves, now disappeared but which allow the visitor to get an idea of how different the landscape was here.

But the best sign, never better said, of the civilizations that lived here or paraded are their petroglyphs (drawings engraved on the stone) and inscriptions on the rock. It is estimated that there are about 30,000, some of which are most fascinating. The first tribes to do so probably came from Arabia, known as Zamudis, who made inscriptions in the Zamudic language, and the Nabataeans took the baton: this people, who had their ‘capital’ in Petra, left here testimonies of their worship of divinities such as Dushara and Allat.

There are also numerous burial mounds in Wadi Rum, indicating that this was not simply a place of passage, but that there were permanent and stable settlements. In addition, the importance of hunting in this nature reserve is demonstrated, as well as the extraction of minerals in the time of King Solomon, for example.

With the passage of centuries and the sharpening of its extreme climate, this place came under the management of the Bedouin tribes, the only ones that have proven capable of surviving in such a harsh environment. They always did it with their nomadic lifestyle, although today they have opted for a more stable and sedentary way, as evidenced by the establishment of some families in the village of Wadi Rum.

Lawrence of Arabia and the Arab Rebellion

But without a doubt, Wadi Rum is so famous today thanks to the ‘promo’ of one of the most successful films in Hollywood: Lawrence of Arabia. The film narrates the participation of Thomas Edward Lawrence in the Arab Rebellion of 1917, a key character in that historical episode for Jordan, although he may have been disproportionately exalted to take advantage of his media and tourist pull.

Be that as it may, this British archaeologist, writer and soldier soon joined the cause promoted by King Hussein bin Ali, whose great aspiration was to create an Arab state independent of the Ottoman Empire. He fought in the armies of Emir Faysal and felt one more (and dressed as such) of that epic that is considered the germ of the later Arab state of Jordan.

His great contribution was, in fact, the book The Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

: although it is an autobiography, it served to make known in the West the ins and outs of the Arab Rebellion. And in some passages of the work are described places of Wadi Rum, who have helped forever unite the name of Thomas Edward Lawrence with this nature reserve.

What to see in Wadi Rum

What to see in Wadi Rum

Contrary to what you might think, there is a lot to see in Wadi Rum. Despite being a desert, the rich history of this place means that there are also corners worth visiting from an archaeological, artistic and ethnological point of view. Not surprisingly, this place was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2011.

Most things to see in Wadi Rum They are natural, especially geological, as they are like whimsical formations in granite and sandstone. But there are also man-made ‘works’ worth dwelling on. We group them according to their theme:

  • Rock bridges: they are one of the most recurrent postcards, so you can not miss in this list of things to see in Wadi Rum. They have been created by differential wind erosion, which acts differently in granite and sandstone. The most famous are the Little Rock, the um Fruth and, above all, the Burdah bridge, since its ‘arch’ is about 80 meters above the ground.

  • Siqs
    or cannons: as we said, Wadi Rum has a wide variety of
    and rocky canyons, which can be explored on foot or by camel in a pleasant way thanks to its shade and its greater sensation of freshness in summer. These are the most important:

    • Khazali Canyon: is a fissure that goes into the Jbel Khazali. It has a length of about 150 meters, with great wealth of petroglyphs (ostriches, a woman in childbirth, etc.)
    • Makharas Canyon: Goes Deep into the Seven Pillars of Wisdom
    • Barrah Canyon: one of the longest, as it has a length of about 5 km
    • Khazareh Canyon: Enters the Jbel um Al Ishirn
    • Rakhabat Canyon, inside the same mountain (Jbel um Al Ishirn)
    • um Tawaqi Canyon: famous, among other reasons, for recent rock-cut portraits of Lawrence of Arabia and other characters of the Arab Rebellion
  • Dunes: when someone thinks of the desert, especially a desert as iconic as Wadi Rum, he usually visualizes in his mind large expanses of dunes, that is, ‘seas’ of fine golden sand that take the form of hills or mounds according to the whims of the wind. In Wadi Rum, to be honest, it is not the most common landscape, but there is no shortage of them either. We can highlight those that are created on the Jbel um Ulaydiyya, of a reddish color. It forms a natural slope that can be climbed on foot
  • Archaeological sites and petroglyphs: they are testimonies of the passage and settlement of men from different eras in Wadi Rum. They often concentrate on the ‘friendlier’ parts of the reserve, such as its canyons, but there are also other signs of ancient human life elsewhere. These include:
    • Petroglyphs of Jbel um Al Ishrin, on the western face. They represent animals, but there is also Kufic script
    • Alameleh petroglyphs: they are among the most striking and best preserved, with hunting scenes, camel caravans and Nabataean inscriptions
    • Nabataean temple: located on a hill around the village of Wadi Rum. It is believed that it could have been built in the first centuries BC-I AD, and would be dedicated to the goddess Allat. It may seem like another archaeological site, in which you have to have some imagination to understand what it was, but its importance lies in the fact that it demonstrates the existence of a permanent Nabataean settlement.
    • Lawrence’s House: although theoretically inhabited by Lawrence, little remains of the building, which was built on the ruins of an earlier Nabataean construction
  • Museums and visitable spaces: there is nothing more to see than Wadi Rum It is a place very little modified by man, where modern constructions are practically testimonial, very small. However, there are some small spaces to interpret the environment, which are worth visiting. Especially:
    • Visitor Center Museum: This visitor welcome space features a small museum that tells the human and environmental history of Wadi Rum, with information panels and an explanatory video in a screening room
    • Train station locomotives: time seems to have stopped on these rails, which were part of the only line of the Hijaz railway, an Ottoman project of the early twentieth century. The locomotives and wagons that rest here were restored only to be exhibited to visitors, who can enter them and take some vintage photos.
  • Mountains and viewpoints: scattered throughout the reserve are spectacular mountains that rise towering over the plain. Climbing to its summits or to strategic points halfway up the slope has a prize: the panoramic views of the surroundings. Highlight:
    • Seven Pillars of Wisdom: probably the most iconic mountain in the reserve, as its proximity to the Visitor Center makes everyone see it. In addition, its unique shape, in what looks like a seven-part accordion bellows, earned it the name of Seven Pillars of Wisdom, in honor of the book written by T.E. Lawrence, key to publicizing this place in the West.
    • Jbel Rum: rises more than 1,750 meters above sea level and receives this name because it rises above the main population of the reserve. It is very popular with climbers
    • Jbel um Al Ishrin: very close to the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, it attracts attention because it seems to have 20 domes or domes of rock
    • Jbel Qatar: on its slopes are some of the best viewpoints from which to see Wadi Rum, especially during sunset
  • Fountains and springs: finding water in such an arid place always produces a special feeling. In two points of the reserve you can live this emotion:
    • Ain Shalaaleh or Lawrence Lookout, which owes its name to an evocative description of the British archaeologist and military
    • Ain Abu Aineh: is a channeled natural source that has been used for thousands of years, and still today gives water to camels and other Bedouin animals
Things to do in Wadi Rum

Things to do in Wadi Rum

As you can imagine, there is not only a lot to see in Wadi Rum: there is also a lot What to do. Wadi Rum It is a space with an extraordinary variety of experiences to make you feel in harmony with this overwhelming but welcoming space at the same time.

Some proposals require a special physical form, since they are adventure sports, but in other cases they are suitable for all types of travelers. This is a list of proposals what to do in Wadi Rum, very popular among its visitors.

  • 4×4 excursions and motor vehicles: it is the fastest way to move from one place to another in the reserve. But at the same time, it is an experience in itself, especially if it is vehicles associated with the adrenaline of speed and off-road, such as quads
  • Camel excursions: it is not exactly a fast means, but it is the most traditional of all, as it has been (and still is) used by the Bedouins since time immemorial. It is a good option to move around the reserve without fatigue, although a route of more than 4 hours can be somewhat uncomfortable
  • Horseback riding: another option to move in a sustainable and traditional way around Wadi Rum. However, it is required to have some experience in horse riding
  • Hiking trails: despite probably being the slowest and most tiring option, it is the best to reach the most remote corners of Wadi Rum. However, it is advisable to be well equipped and be farsighted, especially on very hot days. It is also advisable to have a guide to help with orientation, calculation of times and places what to see in Wadi Rum
  • Climbing: The almost perfect and vertical walls are a challenge (and a dream) for the most traveled climbers. It is advisable to have expert monitors who indicate which are the routes to travel. You can also practice a less technical modality: scrambling, although it is advisable not to underestimate the danger of promotions
  • Hot Air Balloons: Wadi Rum is one of the few places where you can take a balloon ride in Jordan. And besides, it’s probably the best place to do it. Observing the immensity of the desert and the capricious geological formations are an activity difficult to forget. Walks usually last 2 hours
  • Meditation experiences: Few places are as inspiring in the world as a desert. And Wadi Rum It brings it all together for a complete meditation experience. Hand in hand with monitors specialized in spiritual exercises, participants absorb the energy of the environment, where silence reigns and the stillness necessary to find oneself
  • Camping in Bedouin tents: anywhere else in the world, staying overnight is simply a physiological procedure necessary to rest. But in Wadi Rum It is another attraction of the trip, since it allows the traveler to feel like a Bedouin more. The experience is more enriching if, in addition, traditional Bedouin activities are carried out: tea and typical desert food, music performances, etc.
  • Stargazing: Thanks to virtually zero light pollution and almost always cloud-clear skies, stargazing is one of the best things to do in Wadi Rum
How to get to Wadi Rum

How to get to Wadi Rum

Tourism has put Wadi Rum on the front page, so it is easy to get here with private transport from other parts of the country, despite the very small number of inhabitants who live in this place and its surroundings.

For those who want to get to Wadi Rum as soon as possible from another country, the fastest is to fly to Aqaba: this Jordanian city located on the shores of the Red Sea has its own international airport, mainly with charter and seasonal flights, and is about 75 km from Wadi Rum Village, which is about an hour’s drive. Aqaba, by the way, can also be reached by boat: by private catamarans from Taba and by ferry from Nuweiba, both cities in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

Many more air routes, especially regular ones, offer the Queen Alia International Airport of Amman, although its distance from this nature reserve is much greater: almost 300 km, which is about 3 and a half hours by road. This is a list of places, distances and routes that will serve as an orientation if you are going to schedule your trip on your own:

  • Aqaba: 70 km, 1 hour
  • Wadi Musa (Petra): 115 km, 2 hours
  • Shobak: 150 km, 2 hours
  • Karak: 260 km, 3 hours and 15 minutes
  • Madaba: 300 km, 3 hours and 45 minutes
  • Dead Sea (Swemeh): 340 km, 4 hours
  • Amman: 320 km, 4 hours
  • Jerash: 360 km, 4 and a half hours
  • East Desert Castles: 400 km, 4 and a half hours

As far as public transport is concerned, the only viable option is the bus: JETT includes Wadi Rum in its route network, connecting it with Petra (Wadi Musa) and Aqaba. Beyond that, an independent traveler can only arrange a taxi from Aqaba.

Minibuses leaving Aqaba and heading north on
the Desert Road and
King’s Roads do not usually reach the heart of the Wadi Rum reserve, but simply stop at the Rashidiyah junction.

As we have said before, there is a train station in Wadi Rum, but the trains that are parked there are only locomotives and museum cars: they do not transport passengers, they do not even move to carry goods.

Other practical information

In Wadi Rum There is a modern visitor center that is multifaceted: here you can buy the ticket to access the nature reserve, receive information, arrange excursions, manage accommodation in the reserve, hire guides, eat in its restaurant, buy local crafts in its shop or visit its museum, which includes a small cinema where a documentary is projected. It also has public toilets.

A few kilometers before reaching this point, in Shakaria, is the police station that serves the area. Meanwhile, the nearest petrol station is outside the perimeter of the nature reserve, on the road linking Shakaria to Disah.

Plan your trip to Wadi Rum

Disfruta de Wadi Rum
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Very cheap flights
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Hire Wifi or phone
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