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Desert Vistas and Camel Races in Wadi Rum

Wadi Rum in Jordan is a great adventure destination. From petroglyphs to stunning rock arches, there’s a lot to see and do. 

Thoughts of the desert always evoke a sense of mystery, of camels and caravans winding among Asian countries and their sand dunes and between surprise oases, ancient spice trade routes, and yes, Lawrence of Arabia. Wadi Rum  has all of these elements and it’s no wonder why UNESCO inscribed it as a world heritage site in 2011.

When reading up on Jordan, Wadi Rum is listed as a must-see, but we still debated whether or not to go. We were under the impression that tourists had to take an overnight tour, spending the night in the desert. As romantic as a night sleeping under the stars with a crackling camp fire sounds, we were traveling in the middle of winter, and we didn’t relish the idea of freezing and shivering in our sleeping bags all through the night.  We’d already seen in Amman and Petra how much the temperature changes from day to night. No thank you.

Wadi Rum in Jordan is the ultimate camping trip!

The desert gets incredibly cold once the sun goes down, so cold.  Upon further research, though, we realized that we could drive ourselves straight to the Wadi Rum Visitor’s Center and contract a jeep and driver for the day.  It was extremely simple to do, and there were plenty of drivers ready to take us on our adventure.

Petroglyps in Wadi Rum.

We all piled into the rough and ready 4X4 jeep.  It was obvious at first glance that this particular jeep was a battle hardened veteran of the desert.  With dents, cracks, scrapes, and sand everywhere we knew that we were in for an adventure.

Stunning vistas of red rock and desert defines Wadi Rum.

Our driver, Ahmed, was a scrappy 21 year old who had already been carting tourists around for a couple of years and had lived in the area his whole life.  He didn’t have a strong command of English, but he did know all the names of the sites, and even though he was quiet and assuming we felt it was fitting for the stark landscape.

Desert flora, caves, arches, and lots of sand.

We opted for the full day tour; arriving at the center around 10:00 and being assured that we would see the sunset over the dunes.  Our first stop was Lawrence’s spring where you can see some rock inscriptions.  Pretty much everywhere you go, Lawrence is named. 

According to his own writing, he went to Wadi Rum no less than six times, but where exactly he was has been up for debate since.  Suffice it to say, he was there…somewhere and it is entirely plausible that at least one of those “authentic” sites we shared his footsteps.

Wadi Rum becomes magical as the sun begins to set.

With gentle winds constantly keeping our hair in our eyes, we scrambled up weather beaten rock faces, climbed shifting sand dunes, gaped at Nabatean and Bedouin rock carvings, hiked through a dry canyon or two, and enjoyed our bumpy views of this amazing area.

An arch in Wadi Rum.

Towards the end of the day, we were driving towards the village of Rum not far from the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and we saw a group of Bedouins bringing their camels home.  Boy, were they moving!  They were in a flat out race with the jeep.  An adrenalin rush, we all had huge smiles on our faces as we pulled up to the last set of dunes, to watch the sunset.

Grafitti in Wadi Rum.

A full and exciting visit, we would definitely go back and spend more time in the desert of Wadi Rum, but we were glad not to be staying the night since we never took our fleeces off because it was chilly even during the day.

Boys racing their camels back home for the night.

Practical Information for Wadi Rum

Getting there:  Definitely driving yourself to Wadi Rum is the most convenient. It is only a couple hours between Petra and Wadi Rum, and it’s a very easy drive.  There are buses from both Petra and Aqaba.  The Petra bus is on-demand only, and will only go when it is at capacity.  Set this up with your hotel beforehand.

The best tour to Wadi Rum is this one. It picks you up, takes you there, and does all the hard work for you.

What to wear:  Hiking, and being sand pelted all day long, you will want to wear long pants, long sleeves, and good hiking boots.  Even though we took a jeep tour, we did plenty of hiking and climbing.

Tips: Bring water!  It’s dry, dry, dry.  Make sure to stay at least as long as the sunset.  It’s worth it!

We were on our way continuing our Jordan trip. Next up was the castles, Jerash, the Dana Reserve, and Umm er-Rasas.

Have you been to Wadi Rum?  What was your desert experience?

Author Bio: Jim Vail, is a travel, food, and video creator and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 15 years. For many years he lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands, and he’s visited over 90 countries.

rhonda albom

Friday 17th of April 2015

Wadi Rum and Petra have been the top of my bucket list for a very long time. We haven't made it to Jordan yet. My desert experiences were in Oman, Morocco and Arizona.

Corinne Vail

Friday 17th of April 2015

Rhonda, You and the girls will absolutely love it! Go!

Traveling Rockhopper

Friday 17th of April 2015

Great pictures!

Corinne Vail

Friday 17th of April 2015

Rockhopper, Thanks a million!

Kristin Henning

Thursday 16th of April 2015

Nice! We gaped at those very same petroglyphs. We loved the place so much we went back to stay overnight in a Bedouin camp-mostly to see the night sky. Turned out to be cloudy, but it was still a great experience.

Corinne Vail

Friday 17th of April 2015

Kris, Wadi Rum is pretty special!