Camping Inside Wadi Rum Desert, Jordan
After Petra, Wadi Rum is the most popular site in Jordan – and for very good reason! It is a massive desert in the south of the country with a landscape like Mars. Its unique features really make for an un-earthly experience! But what can you see in Wadi Rum? Is it expensive to camp inside the Wadi Rum desert? We tell you all about it and our own experiences from the desert.
You’ll find everything you need to know to plan a trip to Wadi Rum in Jordan in this blog post. This guide contains details on what to see in Wadi Rum and where to stay, where to eat, getting around in the desert and so much more! We also mention our experiences of spending a night int hemiddle of the desert in a Bedouin Camp.
Our experience of camping in Wadi Rum
For us, visiting Wadi Rum in Jordan has really been one of the most beautiful experiences to date. Undeniably! It showed us a delightful mix of wild nature and culture of the bedouins. After Petra, Wadi Rum is the most popular travel site in the country. And for good reason!
Wadi Rum means “Sand Valley” and is also popularly called as “The Valley of the Moon”. Located in Southern Jordan, this protected desert region is the largest valley in the whole country and it covers over 720 sq. kms – which is huge! It is characterised by beautiful sandstone canyons, gigantic rocks and sand dunes as far as the eye can see. In fact, it might look very familiar to you if you have watched Lawrence of Arabia, The Martian, Transformers 2 and many more blockbusters!
We spent two days and one night camping in Wadi Rum and although it was expensive (as is Jordan), it was worth it. In fact, we’d say it is so unique, that we still recollect our time there vividly, even today.
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Entering Wadi Rum (tickets and camping)
Every visitor must buy a ticket (or present the Jordan Pass) at the visitor centre to enter Wadi Rum. This is at the entrance to Rum village, a small settlement that marks the beginning of the valley. There are a few hotels there to spend the night at comfortably and all the 4×4 jeep tours begin from there. Since we had also opted for an overnight stay, we carried our luggage to the Bedouin Lifestyle Camp. Within minutes, we were on the road with our guide and driving away to explore the amazing treasures of Wadi Rum!
Tip: Safe parking space for rental cars is available in the village. Ask your Camp host and they will find a spot for you for free.
Our first stop in the full-day jeep tour was the famous water spout. This was discovered by T E Lawrence, the famous British soldier who fought during the Arab Revolt of the 1950s. The spring is very tiny and is perched at the top of a sandstone mountain. In the middle of a rather dry desert, it was heartwarming to see so many mountain goats grazing in a wet green patch, so high up. It took us about 30 minutes to climb to the top and although the spring was very small, the panoramic views of the desert are extremely rewarding. There’s also a lonely tree in the vast desert land, located at the base.
In the middle of the desert, built on top of the ruins of an ancient Nabatean water cistern, is Lawrence house. Lawrence of Arabia is said to have camped here during the Arab Revolt. It is a regular spot on the tourist trail, but we didn’t really find it alluring. But, behind the House, we found a little path to walk up on the rocks. It was a little tricky to walk up that path, but worth it – just look at that view point!
Somehow, this spot seemed to have a very over-bearing yet deeply satisfying eect on the minds of many travellers. Its one of those places, where there’s not a soul in sight for endless distances. Its just nature as it is, untouched for centuries.
The Red Sand Dunes of Wadi Rum
There are not too many sand dunes in Wadi Rum, because the desert is more rocky than sandy. But a few sand dunes that have formed on the sides of the sandstone mountains are really big! In fact, some of the dunes are perfect to go sand-boarding too. Most camping or jeep tours carry the sandboards in their vehicles and are free to use. Keep in mind that sand will get into your shoes and clothes so be prepared.
We attempted to sand board down the biggest dune there and enjoyed it for a whole 30 seconds before nose diving into the soft sand! 🙈
Burrah Canyon and Khazali Canyon
The mountains of Wadi Rum offer an amazing experience in the canyons. A narrow path in between towering sandstone walls lights up in different hues of red and orange from the sunlight. Its a very unique experience and perfect for photography. Don’t skip this part of the desert tour, its definitely worth it!
In fact, we spent a good hour climbing up and down in the narror rock cut canyon. Our favourite photo, which has long been the icon of our page was shot here!
Ancient Nabatean Inscriptions of Wadi Rum
Just a couple of kilometres away from Lawrence house, there is a section of the mountain walls that are carved with markings from as early as the 1st century AD. These inscriptions were left behind by the trade caravans that often passed through, while moving around ancient Arabia. Going up towards the north east, the caravans would reach Petra. And by heading southward for just a few tens of kilometres, they would reach Saudi Arabia.
There are also some fascinating rock formations. The guides usually conjure a funny story about these rocks. Like our driver called this one the “chicken rock”!
The Small Arch of Rum Valley
One of the most popular spots in the desert is the Small Arch. The path to the top of the Um Frouth Rock is quite steep, but is not too hard to climb – it takes about ten minutes and you may have to crawl up some sections. But for those who are afraid of heights and have difficulties in climbing, we recommend admiring it from the base. Its not too often that one comes by a natural rock bridge!
There are bigger and more dangerous arches in the desert. Although some are not on the tourist trail, it is possible to climb them.
Dune bashing in the Desert
No visit to a desert is complete without a little bit of 4 wheel drive fun. Right?
At Wadi Rum, if you opt for a private tour or get lucky with a small size group in a shared 4×4 tour, your guide will offer you the wheel! Most of these are old Toyotas or Fords with a manual gearshift. We drove short distances and enjoyed the unique texture of “road”. It felt great! Afterwards, the guide took control and drove the 4×4 up and down over a few towering dunes. An impromptu roller coaster ride! It was awesome!
Sunset at Wadi Rum
All full-day tours in Wadi Rum end at the campsite as they prepare the tents to spend the night in. If you are not opting for a overnight stay in the desert, then you will be escorted back to the visitor centre. We checked in to our tents, which were fully equipped with a double bed, a lamp and even a plug-point. All the tents share a large common bath facility, but there are a few tents with a private bath as well, but those can be quite pricey.
Since it was already quite cold by evening, our hosts offered us some hot bedouin tea to sip on, while we enjoyed the desert sunset. There was a nice porch outside the camp’s dining hall from where we could admire the best views. But if you want to be a little more adventurous, then there are many little rocks all around, to climb on and enjoy a more elevated experience!
The classic Wadi Rum Dinner
That evening we had a very interesting dinner experience called as Zarb. It is a traditional bedouin way of cooking food in earth ovens. A hole is dug in the ground and a charcoal or woodcoal stove is prepared at the bottom of the pit. A set of barbecue racks containing meats and vegetables are placed inside, covered with a cloth and then the pit is sealed with sand. The food is cooked slowly over the next few hours. It was so delicious!
Dinner is ALWAYS followed by a campre in Wadi Rum and that includes unlimited Bedouin tea and traditional bedouin music, live. Sheesha is also available for a small charge. Usually, the entire crew of the camp gathers around the fire to entertain the guests as they dance and sing in Arabic. And the best part? We snuggled under thick blankets while sitting there, watching the stars and listening to the melodies.
Since it was near-freezing temperatures, the hosts had given us a huge blanket – as heavy as a planet – but it still wasn’t enough to keep us from shivering all night long. But the joy of sleeping out in the middle of a desert was something we really enjoyed! The next morning we were welcomed to a wonderful breakfast spread before we were driven back to the Village. Of all the things we did in Jordan, camping at Wadi Rum denitely trumps as a solid number one!
Other places to see at Wadi Rum and nearby
Burdah Rock bridge is at the top of Burdah canyon. It is a big favourite among rock climbers. You can also hike up Jabal Umm ad Dami, a 1850m mountain in the middle of the desert. If you want to head outside of Wadi Rum, you can go north to Petra. If you head south you can go to Aqaba. Aqaba is a city on the coast of Red Sea and is on the border with Saudi Arabia. From there, you can see how Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia meet at one point. Aqaba is famous for its amazing reefs where once can enjoy free diving spots and snorkelling right off the coast.
How to get to Wadi Rum, Jordan
Wadi Rum is a protected desert, so it is quite safe for travellers. It is about 110 kms from Petra, about 300 kms from the Queen Alia International Airport and only 60 kms from Aqaba (nearest airport). Car parking is easily available at the visitor centre and it is okay to leave your vehicle there overnight. But if you have opted to camp with one of the groups there, they normally let you park at their office inside the village. We did just that. The ticket to Wadi Rum costs JD 5 (~INR 450). If you have a Jordan Pass, the visit is included in it. The village of Wadi Rum has cellular network, but inside the desert it is very unlikely that you’ll be able to make calls. There is no WiFi in the camp.
Where to stay in Wadi Rum, Jordan (Camping)
There are numerous options ranging from a two-hour jeep tour to a full day tour, with an option to add-on the night stay at the camp (or even sleeping-under-the-stars in the warmer months of the year. We opted for the JD 70 (~INR 6,400) per-person-package which we paid for the full-day tour as well as the night stay – and we feel that this is the best way to experience Wadi Rum! There are many camps that operate inside Wadi Rum and each of them oers similar experiences. As clueless as we were initially, we came across a couple of great reviews of Bedouin Lifestyle Camp and the hospitality of Mr. Attallah and his team. So we decided to contact him and give it a try – and we were not disappointed!
There are many glamping options as well. Some of these camps look literally like the Martian glass domes we see in Sci-Fi movies! Very unique and very expensive!
Best time to visit Wadi Rum, Jordan (for camping)
Depending on the time of the year, the weather can be quite harsh – either as unbearably hot or terribly cold. The tourist seasons of March-May and September-November can be very comfortable but may also mean that there could be a crowd. Since we went there in late December, it was very cold at night, but during the day we were actually quite comfortable with only two layers at the most! Since it was the shoulder season, prices for camping and accommodation were cheaper too. Packing right is very important – extremely light clothing for summer and multiple/thicker layers for the winter.
Vegetarian food in Wadi Rum Camping
Vegetarians need not worry at all – the mezze platter has a good variety of vegetarian dishes and they all taste so good (especially Zarb food). We feasted on Hummus, Labneh, Baba ganoug, olive salads, ful (beans) and pita bread. Hot and delicious!
Depending on the type of package you opt for, all meals and snacks may be included. Of course, the bedouin tea, which is exquisite, is on-the-house all day long.
If you have more questions or want to explore Wadi Rum with us, please write to us – we’d be very happy to help!
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Shishira & Navneeth