Wadi Rum Desert
You might be wondering: What's the best time to experience Wadi Rum desert? Get ready for our fascinating insights and let us help you finding your best time to visit this amazing scenic desert landscape as well as a complete Wadi Rum guide (updated 2019!). Here is everyhting you need to know (click the links to jump directly to your desired section):
- Where to Stay (The Best Camps)
- Quick Facts
- Quick Guide (Itinerary)
- History and Facts
- How to Get to Wadi Rum
- What to Do (Activities)
- How to Spend the Night
- Must-Know Tips
March - April - May (Spring)
- Season: Peak season
- Tourists: Medium - high
- Weather: Excellent
In March the temperatures are getting pleasant. Often ranging from 15-20°C (59-68°F). From mid-March to late March it's getting even warmer. However, keep in mind that especially in early March the nights are still cold. Definitely bring additional layer of clothes and a jacket. Later in the month nights are getting warmer and you usually don't extra clothing any more during nighttime. In April and May the average daytime temperatures are climbing and reach around 30°C (86°F).
Are there a lot of tourist crowds? Besides autumn, spring is the most popular time to visit Wadi Rum. It's also the busiest time. However, since you are on a tour in a vast desert during the day, tourist crowds are not a big issue. Except for Wadi Rum Village, which is busier of course as well as hot spots visited during desert tours. Book your accommodation well in advance. Another great thing about spring are the desert flowers which bloom in March/April. It's not unlikely that you'll see gorgeous carpets of purple wildflowers during that time.
June - July - August (Summer)
- Season: Low season
- Tourists: Low
- Weather: Hot - very hot
While in summer the average highs hover around 33°C (91°F) 'only', temperatures can in fact reach 40°C (104°F) and more sometimes. That means it boiling hot at times, especially in July and August. However, you can get lucky as there are days when it's not that hot, even in the summer. On the other hand you could experience heatwaves with extreme temperatures. Even in June there are already days when it gets very hot up to 40°C. For many visitors that's not the time for a pleasant visit. This is why this is low season in Wadi Rum, with the big advantage of having less crowds in Wadi Rum Village and quiet camps.
So, is summer a good time to visit? It depends! First of all, the heat is easier to tolerate than in other regions. Mostly, because it's a dry heat. However, if you're not good with boiling temperatures, don't go in summer. We think it's a great time. Tours in summer take the heat into account: Lunch breaks are longer and in a shady place. If you travel with kids, we'd say choose spring or fall instead. For children it's more difficult to tolerate the heat.
September - October - November (Autumn)
- Season: Peak season
- Tourists: Medium - high
- Weather: Excellent
In September temperatures are still high up to 35°C (95°F). Especially until mid-September some visitors say it's still too hot for them. Towards the end of September it starts to get cooler. Weather wise from mid-September until end of October it's the most pleasant time to visit. Temperatures range from 20 to 30 °C. Although, evenings, mornings and in particular the nights in October are getting a lot cooler with temps ranging from 8 - 12°C (46 - 54°F) Also, there can be a little rain in October.
Is autumn really that great? In general a fall visit is an excellent time with a lot of daylight (8 - 11 hours of sunshine), beautiful clear skies, less dusty wind and fascinating migrating birds. Another big advantage: You can experience sunrise without getting up in the night. Sunrise is between 6 and 6:30 in autumn. From mid-October through November it's also the perfect time for trekking/hiking tours. While you need warm clothes in the evening and morning already in October, it's even cooler in November (about 10°C / 50°F mornings/evenings) but still not as cold as in winter. In general autumn is a busier time tourist wise. That means places like Wadi Rum Village and some popular tour spots can't be enjoyed in solitude.
December - January - February (Winter)
- Season: Low season
- Tourists: Low
- Weather: Cooler but not cold (except during nighttime)
Like summer, winter is low season in Wadi Rum. Which results in quieter hot spots and less busy popular sunset places, which you now can enjoy almost in solitude. Is it cold? Not during the day. It's just cooler with average temps between 10-15°C (50-59°F), which is excellent for tours, in particular hiking/trekking tours. But still, prepare for cold evenings and mornings as well as much colder nights. Alle three months, from December to February, are equally 'cold', with January being slightly cooler. Bring layers of clothes, gloves and a warm jacket (rainproof) for the evenings and nights. Warm blankets are provided by the camp. In the night temps can drop to zero degrees celsius.
Can it rain in winter? Yes, Wadi Rum experiences about 15 days of rain every year and most of them in the winter. However, rain showers are usually not very long. Rainfall which is going on for days is very rare and it's very unlikely hat rain will spoil your visit during winter season. Despite popular opinions, we highly recommend a visit to Wadi Rum in the winter.
It can get very hot in the summer months. However, the heat in Wadi Rum area is more tolerable since it's a dry heat. Unlike in Aqaba for example, where it's getting uncomfortable humid and even hotter. In Petra on the other hand it's slightly cooler due to the higher elevation. From late April throughout May, you may experience 'khamsin' in Wadi Rum. This means hot, dry and dusty winds which may cause heavier sandstorms. Wind, although not as as extreme as 'khamsin', can be present in summer, especially in the afternoon. Good to know for photography are the sunrise and sunset hours: Sunrise and Sunset Times
Avoiding Tourist Crowds
Wadi Rum is still (2018) significantly less busy than Petra for example. However, during spring and fall it gets busy at Wadi Rum Village, as well as at the popular desert hot spot sites. Booking a remote camp (see below) with knowledgeable local guides helps. They can take you to stunning hidden spots, away from all tourists. Also visiting in the low seasons of winter or summer means enjoying even the popular spots in solitude.
'A spectacular scenic desert. Gorgeous, colorful, with impressive mountain ranges! Photos don't do justice!'
There is undoubtedly a certain appeal of dramatic desert landscapes – they call out to adventurers, begging to be explored. Jordan's Wadi Rum desert is certainly one such desert, and it is no wonder that camping in Wadi Rum is one of the most popular activities in Jordan. There is no shortage of visitors who have returned from Wadi Rum desert raving about their adventures in this spectacular place.
Let's start with some facts: It's not just that Wadi Rum is beautiful. It is, of course, with its swirling red sand and impossibly high rock formations that create an almost alien appearance. But it is more than beautiful. It is steeped in history, having been inhabited since Prehistoric times. Numerous ethnic groups have called the desert home, including notably the nomadic and mysterious Nabataeans (of Petra fame), and, more recently, the Bedouins. In fact, more than 600 Bedouins still reside in Wadi Rum Desert, and discovering their culture is one of the highlights of visiting.
It is perhaps no wonder, then, that perhaps cultures most famous wanderer of deserts – Lawrence of Arabia – was based here for some time, further increasing the profile of travel to Wadi Rum. In fact, the movie about his life – and many other films – used the Wadi Rum desert as a backdrop.
Quick Facts (FAQ)
Wadi Rum facts? Wadi Rum tours? Wadi Rum hotels? Wadi Rum by night? We compiled a list of burning question about visiting Wadi Rum. Here are the detailed answers:
- What is Wadi Rum? A desert area in Jordan with no urbanization except the Rum Village with a few shops/houses and the visitor centre.
- Should I stay the night? Yes, definitely! Better are 2 nights. Not convinced? Let us quote what 90% of the visitors say: 'Our only regret was, that we only stayed one night in a Wadi Rum camp!'
- Are there hotels in Wadi Rum? No, you spend the night(s) in one of many (luxury) camps.
- Is this like camping in the wilderness? You can choose. In most camps it's more like staying in comfortable spacious tents/huts with beds, often sofas, air-condition, electricity, even Wifi. Of course, you can always opt to stay in a simpler tent.
- Where are the camps? The camps are either located in Wadi Rum Village or somewhere outside. Some camps are in close proximity, others are up to 10-15 km away.
- Are there toilets and water? Yes, camps usually have European style flush toilets and showers. A few even have private toilets in some tents.
- Do I book the camp in advance? Yes, it's highly recommended. Especially for a visit in spring or fall book ahead of time.
- Do I book the tours in advance? You can book day tours or half-day tours in the visitor centre on the spot. No need to book in advance. If you stay overnight you can even easily book the tours with your camp (see below)
- Does my camp offer tours? Yes, almost all camps offer their own tours. Most of them are excellent. You just book the stay at the camp (1 - 2 or 3 nights) online in advance and later when you arrive there, you decide on the tour(s). In the busy seasons you might give them a call or write them an email ahead of time to make sure your desired tour can be organized.
- How do it get to Wadi Rum? Via taxi, bus or rental car (read the big section below for details). The closest town is Aqaba. The historic site of Petra is also fairly close. If you drive with your own (rental) car, you can park at the visitor center in Wadi Rum Village. There is an additional car fee around 35 JOD. You may walk around by yourself and even explore a certain part of Wadi Rum with your car but that's not recommended at all. Read here why: Wadi Rum - Self Guided Hike and via Car
- How do I get to my camp when I arrive in Wadi Rum Village? Just contact your campsite (phone, email, website). They will pick you up at the village. Often, they can even arrange reliable transfer from Aqaba, Amman or Petra. Do not trust anyone else, as there is scam going just outside the village.
Quick Guide (Typical Itinerary)
You could only stay for a day tour only and head back in late afternoon or evening. However, staying at least one night is the best thing you can do there! Please don't listen to those who tell you, that it's not worth staying the night. It is! Why? A) Stargazing! B) Experience the most gorgeous sunset and sunrise! C) Experience a traditional Bedouin camp!
- You book your camp in advance (Wadi Rum camps you'll love - bookmark this link!)
- Your arrive in Jordan (probably Amman) and enjoy your first activities (maybe Petra)
- You drive to Wadi Rum Village (taxi or other, see below)
- You pay the 5 JOD fee for Wadi Rum Protected Area at the visitor center in Rum Village
- Someone from your camp picks you up and drives you to the camp. Alternative: Take a short walk/hike to the camp (great experience! Talk to the camp first if that's safe and possible)
- You spend between 2-3 nights in the camp and choose the tour(s) you prefer: Jeep, camel, hiking, etc.
- You enjoy stargazing at night and the most beautiful sunset and sunrise you've ever seen
- You get back to Wadi Rum Village. From there head back (with a taxi for example, see below) to where you came from or to your next destination.
History and Facts
As mentioned above, while Wadi Rum may look like an inhospitable place, it has in fact been inhabited continuously for thousands of years. Over the years, those who have survived the harsh conditions have etched markings into caves and rocks, which have lasted for millennia. Archaeologists have discovered more than 20,000 such etchings and petroglyphs, with some thought to date back as far as 12,000 years. It is even thought that Wadi Rum was one of the stops along the way as the first modern humans left from Africa.
It is hard to believe that, given the desert's long history, occupation by the mysterious Nabataeans is considered 'recent history'. It is thought that this group, once the most powerful in the region, inhabited Wadi Rum for several hundred years from about the 4th Century BC, leaving behind evidence of their occupation including inscriptions and a beautiful temple that was only discovered in 1933. This temple is thought to pre-date Petra by several hundred years.
The strength of the Nabataean empire quickly declined, however, and by the 5th Century AD they were few and far between, and their influence was minimal having suffered a number of successive defeats. Wadi Rum, however, remained of great importance – garnering a mention in both the Bible and the Quran.
Today, it is the Bedouins who are most closely associated with Wadi Rum Dessert. Many families have lived there for generations, and many of those who live there were literally born in the Wadi Rum camps. You might think that living in such a desolate place might make a person inhospitable – far from it. The Bedouin culture strongly emphasises warm hospitality, which is another part of what makes travel to Wadi Rum so special.
How to Get to Wadi Rum
Wadi Rum desert is located in the south of Jordan, about 60 kilometres east of Aqaba. It is the largest wadi (valley) in Jordan, and covers an area larger than New York City. Many people visit Wadi Rum as part of an organised multi-day tour, however if you are self-guiding it is relatively straightforward to get there from key places including Aqaba, Amman and Petra.
How to get to Wadi Rum from Aqaba
Wadi Rum is located approximately 30 km off of the highway that runs between Aqaba and Amman. It is a well signposted turnoff, so if you are driving your own car, you should have no problems locating it. Simply take the turn, and keep your eyes out for the sign for the visitor's centre (Rum Village).
Taking a taxi is also a good option – a one-way trip costs about JOD30 or you can organise a return trip for 50JOD. If you are going for a daytrip, then organising a return trip is advisable as it eliminates any worry about trying to find a taxi after you've finished exploring.
If you are not driving, things are a little more complex but definitely do-able. To take the bus for just a few Dinars, go to the main Aqaba bus station and take the minibus to Wadi Rum. The departure times are not particularly fixed (especially in low season), so it is recommended to go early and ask the staff when the bus is going to Wadi Rum.
How to get to Wadi Rum from Amman
As mentioned, Wadi Rum is located off of the main highway between Amman and Aqaba, however it is further from Amman – about 321 km in total. Similarly, however, it is easy to self-drive as the roads are very good quality and the turnoff is well sign posted.
While getting a taxi is technically possible, it is very expensive (starting from about 80JOD), unless you have multiple people to share with.
There is no direct bus between Wadi Rum and Amman, however there are minibus services to Aqaba (10JOD) where you can then follow the above directions to Wadi Rum. It is also possible to get off of the bus at the turnoff for Wadi Rum and try to flag a taxi or hitchhike the rest of the way, although this obviously isn't guaranteed.
How to get to Wadi Rum from Petra
Another popular departure point for trips to Wadi Rum is from Petra, Jordan's most famous historical attraction. Wadi Rum is located about 112km from Wadi Musa, the village that is closest to Petra, so it is definitely feasible to travel between the two.
Driving between the two is relatively straightforward, and takes about two hours in total. There is also no shortage of taxis willing to take visitors between the two attractions, and a one-way trip to Wadi Rum from Petra will set you back approximately JOD40 and take two to two-and-a-half hours.
Alternatively, there is a daily minibus service that runs between Wadi Musa and Petra every day. It is only 10JOD per ticket, but be prepared to wake up nice and early to be ready to depart at 6:30am. Your hotel or guesthouse can help you to make a booking on this bus.
What to Do in Wadi Rum
You've arrived at the entrance to Wadi Rum – what now?
Touring Wadi Rum with a Guide
It is highly recommended to get a guide for your time in Wadi Rum. While it is technically possible and permitted for you to take your own car and do a self-guided tour, this is really not advisable for a number of reasons. Firstly, conditions in the desert can be incredibly dangerous if anything unexpected (like an engine fault or wrong turn) happens. Getting lost, in particular, is a big risk as the desert can be extremely disorientating. Secondly, such a big part of Wadi Rum is the history and the culture, and this is difficult to experience without a local showing you around.
Booking a guide? Guides can easily be organised from outside Jordan, or within it once you arrive. In fact, you can even book guided tours at the Wadi Rum visitor centre (in Rum Village) – there is no need to book in advance. There are a multitude of different tours available from a couple of hours to multiple day. TIP: If you stay overnight in one of the many bedouin camps, you're set anyway. The camps usually offer tours of all kinds of tours (4x4 jeep, camel rides, trekking tours, and more). You can decide which tours you take as soon as you arrive in your camp.
There are also many different transport methods available. A jeep is the most efficient, allowing you to cover much of the desert and take in a wider variety of landscapes. On the other hand, riding a camel in Wadi Rum is, while slow, a very unique experience. Camels have been an integral part of Bedouin culture for generations, so a camel is a fitting form of transportation for your adventure!
Another option is to use your own two legs and go on a hike around the desert. There's an almost endless number of paths and itineraries you can take, which are suitable for people of all ages and abilities. These two range from short strolls of an hour or two through to nine-day journeys that take in spectacular views but require a very good level of fitness.
Outdoor enthusiasts and adventure lovers will also find a great selection of experiences and activities. Rock climbing is a popular one in Wadi Rum, and allows you to get a unique perspective on the desert's amazing rock formations. Other popular adventure activities in Wadi Rum include sandboarding and horse-riding.
The Key Sights
While all of the Wadi Rum Desert is beautiful, there are some particular highlights that you might want to add onto your itinerary.
A humble building that's purported to be one of the places where Lawrence of Arabia stayed, or at least passed through, during his time at Wadi Rum. The structure itself is little more than a pile of rubble nowadays, but the Nabataean building it's constructed on top of is also an interesting spot.
Another must for anyone interested in the history of Lawrence of Arabia is the site of Lawrence's Spring, which lies 2km south of the village of Rum and is easy to spot due to the nearby water tank. This is said to have been his main home while in Wadi Rum desert, and the views from this spot are very beautiful.
A lengthy but narrow canyon that is somewhat reminiscent of the siq at Petra, Khaz'ali Canyon's walls are adorned with some amazing etchings and ancient graffiti. It's a wonderful place to take in Wadi Rum's geology, and is also a hotspot for rock climbers who are able to get further inside the canyon.
Located near the Rest House in Wadi Village lies the remains of what was once an impressive and colourful temple. Although the exact date of its construction is one of the many mysteries about the Nabataeans, it is thought that the temple is about 2000 years old.
One of the most impressive examples of ancient petroglyphs can be found not far from the Red Sand Dune area, on the side of a mountain. The carvings, which clearly depict a caravan of camels, are quite mysterious. Historians believe some were made by the Nabataeans, but others are considered Thamudic carvings, who are an equally mysterious group thought to have passed through the Wadi Rum area up to 3,500 years ago.
Um Froth Rock Bridge
One of the many impressive rock formations in the area, the Um Froth Rock Bridge is one of the most photographed spots in Wadi Rum. As the name suggests, it is a naturally formed bridge that is quite a sight amidst the red sand of the Wadi Rum desert. It is a great place to take in the sunset.
How to Spend the Night in Wadi Rum
Although many visitors choose to make a day trip to Wadi Rum, it is highly recommended to stay overnight. Camping in 'luxury' camps with comfortable tents in Wadi Rum is a truly incredible experience. It feels a galaxy away from busy everyday life in the world's cities. It is especially recommended because Wadi Rum at night is spectacular, as stars blanket the night sky and the lack of light pollution makes the views truly mesmerising.
While it is the night sky that is perhaps attraction in Wadi Rum at night, you can also enjoy Bedouin traditions such as music, as well as friendly conversation over delicious tea or a traditional home cooked meal. In some camps, you may be able to sample hookah (tobacco smoked through a waterpipe) or purchase beautiful handicrafts. In the morning, you can let the light from a spectacular sunrise wake you up, or get up ready to catch the amazing views as the sun rises over the stunning landscape. Photographers in particular will love the opportunity to capture these views, which are almost other worldly.
There are a range of options for Wadi Rum camping, to suit every traveller's tastes and budget. Whether you want the true adventure of roughing it in the desert or the luxury of a comfortable glamping experience beneath the stars, you're sure to find something that is suitable. Best of all, all options come with a generous helping of Bedouin hospitality, which is sure to add immeasurably to the experience.
For those who want the true Lawrence of Arabia rustic experience, there are options that will see you sleeping out beneath the stars, with little else to detract from the experience. Staying in a traditional Bedouin camp became very popular. Most of these are run by a family and feature simple to comfortable luxury Bedouin tents that sleep between two and six people, with shared facilities including bathrooms. It's great for those who want the authentic camping experience but would prefer not to sleep in the open air.
For those who come to Wadi Rum seeking culture, a homestay with a Bedouin family may be an excellent option. By staying in an authentic Bedouin home, you will see what real life is like in Wadi Rum, as well as experience warm hospitality and probably leave with newfound friends. Most Bedouin homes are very simple and you're likely to be sleeping on the floor, however the hospitality and cultural exchange more than makes up for it.
Wadi Rum is the perfect glamping destination and those who appreciate the luxurious things in life will find a good selection of comfortable and glamorous lodgings. Today, visitors to Wadi Rum can certainly find conveniences like air-conditioning and stylish décor, without losing the quintessential desert camping experience.
On the other hand, if camping just isn't your idea of a good way to spend your holiday, it is easy to get back to Aqaba for the evening. The coastal city of Aqaba has over 77,000 residents and a great selection of hotels from comfortable guesthouses to five-star beachfront resorts.
Must-Know Tips for Wadi Rum
To ensure that your Wadi Rum tour is everything you hoped (and more), here are some tips to have the best possible time in this spectacular part of Jordan.
- Guided Tours: When planning your trip to Wadi Rum, consider using a local guide, instead of doing some self-guided activity (which is not recommended anyway). If you stay in one the camps, you'll be able to choose one of their tours with great local guides. Usually the camp owners and their teammates have lived in the area since birth. That means they are excellent guides. If you only plan a day tour only, you can select a tour/guide once you are in the visitor centre (Rum Village). By choosing well-regarded local guides, you can ensure that the local community who live in, love and care for Wadi Rum see most of the benefit. Plus, they will have unique insight into the landscape, history and culture which adds a lot to your trip.
- Wadi Rum Village (+Scams): This is the place where you arrive first. Always listen to your camp host (email/WhatsApp them before). Nobody(!) from your camp is staying outside the village and will ask for money. The only thing you do at the visitor center: Pay the 5 JOD entrance fee for the protected area and get picked up by your camp host. That's it! If you got there by (own) rental car, then there is an additional parking fee. Beware: Any person asking for money or pretending to be someone from a camp or tour operator outside the village is trying to scam you!
- 2-3 Days: Although it is tempting to combine Petra and Wadi Rum into a one-day trip (and it is technically possible), try to avoid this if at all possible. Both of these sites are magnificent and deserving of a whole day (at least) each – you're unlikely to truly enjoy and appreciate either if you're racing between them. For most travellers, one or two nights camping in Wadi Rum is perfect.
- Sun and Heat: Even if you're visiting at a cooler time of year, don't forget to be sun smart. The sun in Wadi Rum desert can be formidable, and the heat coming off the sand is intense. Make sure to bring plenty of water to stay hydrated (it will also be available at the camps), apply plenty of sunscreen and reapply every two hours (or more if you burn easily) and wear loose fitting clothing that covers your arms and legs. Sunglasses and a hat are also a must for enjoying the desert and avoiding any sun damage. It's also recommended to wear sturdy shoes or boots for walking over the dunes.
- Cold Nights: On the other hand, Wadi Rum can get very cold overnight, even when it has been hot during the day. It may be tempting to leave the jacket or cardigan out of your suitcase when you see the daytime temperatures, but they do drop considerably overnight. Definitely bring some warm clothes depending on the season (read our monthly guide above).
- Water: As with all deserts and much of Jordan, water is a precious and limited resource in Wadi Rum. In fact, water needs to be trucked into the desert and it is best to limit the damage caused by this. Try to conserve it as much as possible so as to make sure that generations to come can enjoy beautiful Wadi Rum by having short showers and turning taps off when brushing your teeth. In addition, due to the lack of water, some Bedouin tents do not use sheets and other linens, as they require a lot of additional washing. If this bothers you, you can bring a large scarf or sleeping bag for a comfortable nights' sleep.
- Photography: Finally, you'll almost certainly want to take photos to remind you of your time in Wadi Rum. The whole area is a photographer's paradise – but make sure if you bring a DSLR or similar camera, you prepare for the sand so it doesn't become a nightmare since sand can be fatal to lenses. For most travellers, a simple phone camera should be sufficient and is easy to carry.