A trip to Jordan would not be complete without a Wadi Rum camping trip booked. The Wadi Rum Protected Area, also known as Valley of the Moon, is a vast, barren, desert-like landscape that ranks as one of the best Jordan tourist destinations. The seemingly empty and lifeless area is home to the Bedouin people – nomadic tribes that live in the desert areas of North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Upper Mesopotamia and the Levant.
Wadi Rum camping is an experience of its own – I can’t think of when I’ve felt in awe with every sight I took in – it was an olfactory, visual and aromatic treat with every turn of my head. The 720 km² heart-stopping desert-like valley with its endless monolithic features dotted around the desert and sea of red sands that stretch as far as the eye can see are not something you see in every country. When there are no tourists around, and the jeep is parked, the absolute silence (aside from the occasional gusts of wind) is almost unnatural, eerie that are equally serene and peaceful.
Wadi Rum camping under the stars (literally!) was one of those experiences that make for the perfect conversation starter. If you ask me the one travel destination I would gladly return to, it would be back to Wadi Rum and spending more time exploring this impressive landscape! Solo travellers, couples and families can enjoy this trip and many Wadi Rum accommodations cater to all sorts of budget, travel styles and travel groups.
Why Go Camping in Wadi Rum?
With red sands and massive rock formations (that were once underwater if you can believe it!) and seemingly lifeless environment, you could convince yourself that you’ve landed on Mars. This environment may be familiar to those of you who love action/sci-fi movies in the likes of the Transformer series, or The Martian, as these movies were shot here. As we got to Wadi Rum Village, we passed by a storage area that I was told was where filming cranes / equipment are kept.
Did you know the movie “The Martian” was shot in Wadi Rum and that the cast stayed at the Sun City Camp during filming? With bubble tents and traditional goat-hair Bedouin tents, you have many options to choose from!
Wadi Rum is notoriously temperamental and is a hostile environment with blistering hot daytime and frigid night. The Bedouins have made it their home for thousands of years, and I’ve been told that many return to the desert because they miss being in the desert and sense of calm it exudes.
The best part about the whole camping (or the super unique Wadi Rum glamping) experience is sleeping under the stars in the popular Wadi Rum desert camps inspired by how the Bedouins themselves live. There’s the goat-hair Bedouin tents and Martian-inspired tent and bubble camps. After a long day of exploring the Martian desert wrapped up enjoying a zarb BBQ dinner and
Although the landscape might lead you to think this is a desert and going to be very hot, bring an extra sweater even if you don’t think you need it – the nights are very cold and the days are as warm as it gets! Bring a thicker sweater than you think you might need.
How to Get to Wadi Rum?
Wadi Rum is located in the south of the country – it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country and conveniently only 1-2 hours away from Wadi Musa (Petra). The closest point of entry to Jordan is Aqaba which is the port city by the Red Sea that borders the resort town of Eilat (Israel), another popular tourist site.
Aqaba has an airport so an option to fly to Aqaba from a few outside destinations make sense. Here is a map to show the relative distance between the main destinations and key points of interest.
1. How to go to Wadi Rum from Wadi Musa / Petra – JD7
I arrived in Wadi Rum from Wadi Musa/Petra – a one-hour drive on a tourist bus that costed JD7 (C$14). This bus only departs once everyday, at around 6-6:30am and you need to call the operator ahead of time to reserve your spot. To do this, just ask your hotel or camp operator to make the booking for you.
There’s only 15-20 seats on the local tourist bus so be sure to book ahead of time through your hotel (It’s run locally so the hotel will know who to call). I don’t know if multiple buses run the same route during high season, but our bus was the only one running on the day I went (October 2017)
There’s no confirmation so just be ready to leave at the lobby by around 6AM. The bus then makes its way through Wadi Musa to pick up guests from other hotels. You can take the same bus if you are travelling back to Petra for the same cost. Pick up is at the Wadi Rum Village.
If this is your first time reading this post, you can safely assume that Wadi Musa is Petra. Wadi Musa is essentially the village around Petra where most of the hotels, restaurants and supermarkets are located, so tourists stay in Wadi Musa.
The 1-hour journey wasn’t too impressive or memorable so you are fine to sleep throughout. If taking the tourist bus at this time isn’t possible for you, you can also take a taxi (available in abundance) for around JD45 per vehicle (CAD$90).
2. How to get to Wadi Rum from Aqaba – JD25-30 or JD1-3
Aqaba which borders the resort city of Eilat in Israel is the closest point of interest from Wadi Rum, located only 40km~ away. The easiest way is to hire a private driver which will take you straight to the Wadi Rum Village and/or Wadi Rum Visitor’s Centre. Cost-wise, you’re look at around JD25-30, best if you’re travelling with a group.
Alternatively, there’s an informal shuttle that goes between Amman and Aqaba which costs JD1.50-5 (which I’ve outlined in the opposite route in #3) You can take the bus from Aqaba in the direction of Amman and ask to be dropped off at the Wadi Rum junction.
I actually took this shuttle from Amman to Aqaba which you can read more below.
3. How to get to Wadi Rum from Amman – JD1.50-5
There is a local bus that goes from Amman to Aqaba – I took this bus going to Wadi Musa which continues on to Aqaba passing Wadi Rum, so this would be another stop. I took the bus from the Al Wehdat bus station and since it’s an “informal” bus service, it only leaves once the bus is full. Be prepared to be shuffled around if you’re a solo female traveller (unmarried men and women can’t sit together); there is a small fee for luggage and I think I only paid JD3.5 (CAD$7)
You can also take the JETT Bus from Amman to Wadi Musa/Petra and from Petra take the bus from #1.
4. How to get to Wadi Rum from Israel
You can join a pre-arranged tour (the tour company can organize the entry visa and all transportation) which is a popular option for most since it is very convenient especially with the language barrier. A popular tour operator is Abraham Tours which operates hostels (Abraham hostels), and tours in/around Israel, Egypt and Jordan.
Where to Stay in Wadi Rum
Looking for a luxury camp in Wadi Rum? Whether it be a unique glamping experience, a luxury tent in this Jordanian desert, here are a few options and recommended camps in Wadi Rum!
Luxury // Wadi Rum
A pioneer of the “dome”/bubble tent accommodations where the cast of the move “The Martian” stayed during filming including Western-style amenities and ACBook Here
Luxury // Wadi Rum
Another provider of the highly popular bubble tents located well-within Wadi Rum with many Western-style amenities.Book Here
Luxury // Wadi Rum
Another provider of both the bubble and traditional goat-haired Bedouin tents that are equally popularBook Here
Luxury // Wadi Rum
A luxurious stay in the middle of Wadi Rum in your own private bubble suites overlooking the desert. Book Here
Comfort // Wadi Rum
A luxurious stay in the middle of Wadi Rum in your own private bubble suites overlooking the desert. Book Here
Comfort // Wadi Rum
Another highly-rated bubble suites overlooking the desert with options to book authentic Bedouin-style goat-hair tents
Arriving At the Wadi Rum Visitor Centre and Onwards to Wadi Rum Village
The bus stops at the Wadi Rum Visitor Centre at around 8:30am so you can buy your ticket (JD5/C$10) if you don’t have one. If you have the Jordan Pass then entrance is free, you need to go down, show your pass and get it stamped. There’s also a washroom, souvenir and small food stall where you can grab things before you go on.
Note that the Wadi Rum Visitor Centre is not your final destination so after you get your ticket stamped, go back to the bus.
If you have already made a booking with one of the Wadi Rum Bedouin Camp operators, you will be dropped off at the Wadi Rum Village, exactly in front of their house. If you haven’t made a booking and would like to do so, there are plenty of individual operators who will offer their service for a discounted fee at the Visitor Centre.
These operators are independent and typically not affiliated with a tour / travel company so a good experience may not be their priority. If you’re flying all the way to Jordan, don’t walk away from a great experience to save just a bit of money!
**A note about operators at the Visitor Centre: Although you can go with the individual operators at the Visitor Centre, keep in mind that the experience you will get is unlikely to be as impressive.
They charge less because they may take you on in a lower-quality vehicle (you don’t want things breaking down in the middle of the desert). They may not provide you with as much valuable insights about the history of the desert either. Don’t skimp on this excursion!
From the travel blogs I’ve read about this “wing it” approach, the consensus seems to be to book in advance with an operator (I went with Bedouin Directions owned by a gentleman named Mehedi; I’ve written about my experience here!) I paid JD100 (C$200) for the one-day tour and overnight at the camp.
[UPDATE NOV 10, 2019] I recommended this tour to a friend who did the bivuoac camping for 2 nights and they loved it! Safe to say, Mehedi is one of the best operators in the region.
Wadi Rum Tour with Bedouin Directions: Mehedi’s Special Jeep Tour
After enjoying some delicious Bedouin tea at Mehedi’s home in Rum Village (where I met another Canadian father-daughter pair wrapping up their trip), I was introduced to my guide and proceeded to dump my belongings at the back of the Toyota truck and had front-row seat to the desert ahead! I was the only one taking the tour on that day so I had a totally private tour guide and photographer for the entire day.
Among the different Bedouin camp operators, most of the itinerary is identical. You visit around 8-10 different locations, usually in the same order. When it comes to choosing which operator to go with, it comes down to price, comfort level and what kind of extras you might want. It still blows my mind that they know where to go without a GPS or any significant landmarks aside from the occasional tire tracks.
There really isn’t any need to plan your “highlights” in advance – most tours arrive at the same sites and I honestly have no idea how the Bedouin guides navigate the desert without any signpost or landmarks. It’s honestly, very incredible the way they seem to know where they’re going!
I opted for the jeep tour and I’m glad I did! I had done a similar experience in Dubai and knew that I would never be able to walk a long time in the desert. Plus, it gets incredibly hot despite the gusts of wind. Limiting the number of jeeps that go around Wadi Rum is one way to preserve and keep the desert clean, so it is advisable to join groups where possible. The group tours are typically limited to 6-8 people so it’s a nice, intimate group and dates may fill up quickly.
Is Camping in Wadi Rum Safe?
As a solo female traveller I felt Jordan was a safe destination as long as you take the necessary precaution and stay “street smart” – what I mean by this is not accepting free rides/guides/tours etc which is a very common thing to see.
Wadi Rum, given its remoteness and isolated nature, can feel like a daunting and terrifying destination for solo female travellers and although I can’t completely claim it’s 100% safe, I did do everything I could to ensure I was part of a group (even though I was travelling solo) and kept close to the group during the evening as much as possible.
Solo travellers are quite common nowadays in Wadi Rum so no one really bats an eye anymore. Your best bet is always to pre-arrange / get referral from trusted hotel operators and/or join other travel groups.
Points of Interest In Wadi Rum
The Mehedi Special Jeep Tour takes you to the following locations. The order of your Wadi Rum tour might differ depending on the the crowd, and driver.
- Lawrence Spring – camels, Nabatean inscription and a lone fig tree.
- Khazali Canyon – this canyon was used in the filming of Lawrence of Arabia so you can see the drill holes left in the rocks for the cameras during filming.
- Red Sand Dunes – this was an epic hike because climbing the hot sand is like getting a foot massage on crack. You don’t realize how steep the dune is until you get to the top (you can roll down or sandboard down should you choose to).
- Anfishieh Inscriptions Rock – unique camel inscriptions that tells the story of the desert’s previous inhabitants.
- House of Lawrence – supposedly this is the site that T.E. Lawrence used (not confirmed) during the Great Arab Revolution to store weapons. This is the official lunch break – You also do lunch here with other groups.
- Burdah Arch – Stunning natural rock bridge that actually takes 3-4 hours to climb. It’s included more as a “nice to see”. You can do the hike separately for additional fees.
- Jebel Umm Fruth Arch – I call this “the baby” which somewhat resembles the Burdah Arch but totally doable to scramble and hike. It took me about 10 minutes to get up – though it’s incredible steep. Having some rock climbing/bouldering experience is recommended!
- Small Sand Dune
- The “Chicken” Rock – a unique rock that resembles a chicken and is your last stop before going to the sunset spot
- Bedouin Camp – you can enjoy a delicious dinner cooked in zarb (a traditional method of Bedouin cooking involving cooking their food underground in “Earth ovens”
My Experience Going on a Wadi Rum Tour and Martian Camping Tour
After meeting my guide at Mehedi’s home who happens to be Mehedi’s “cousin” I ended up being the only passenger in the jeep. This was then followed by a brief drive towards our first stop. You’ll notice there are a lot of Lawrence reference here which is inspired by T.E. Lawrence, a British officer who took up the the Arab Revolt cause during World War I.
1. Lawrence Spring
Our first stop is the Lawrence Spring, which can be is backdropped by this amazing rock formation. On the ground, you can see a small drinking hole and a lone fig tree which marks the first stop of your day!
2. Khazali Canyon
The second stop is a little further and Khazali Canyon is popular due to being a filming site (you can see the drill holes where they would have placed the camera / tripods) and the amazing inscriptions on the wall. It’s like taking a step back in time!
3. Red Sand Dunes
Not the most impressive name but a popular site for sandboarding that you can do if you choose to! If you prefer to go at it naturally, take off your shoes as the sand will really drag you down. Also try to move quickly / fast because the sand is very, very hot during the day!
The view from the top is quite nice – you can relax for a bit while watching jeeps and visitors mill about!
4. Anfishieh Inscriptions Rock
We saw these rocks from afar and didn’t leave the car but it was spectacularly preserved, so much so that not getting out of the car still showcased the detailed carving of camels and inscriptions.
5. House of Lawrence
Lunch time was located at the “Lawrence House” and multiple tour groups gather here to enjoy lunch together. The lunch is prepared the traditional-style, and there’s an abundance of tea to enjoy.
6. The “Chicken” Rock
This chicken (or mushroom) rock is another interesting rock formation that you will stop by. Not the most exciting stop so you probably don’t need to spend too much time.
7. Siq Umm Tawaqi
This “siq” / valley is a shorter, flatter walk in between these stunning rock formations. It’s a cool, comfortable and decidedly comfortable and peaceful walk. The end of this walk opens up to a vast area from where you would take a short drive to the sunset spot.
8. Jebel Umm Fruth Bridge
One of the final spots of the day, there is this bridge that you can climb up to! The rocks are unbelievably smooth making it very difficult to climb but well-worth the climb!
9. Heading back to the Camp
After about 8-9 hours frolicking in the desert, I really desperately wanted a shower. The cold shower water back at the camp was a welcome relief (cold water in the winter seems like a recipe for disaster, but I’m Canadian!) and it was refreshing to feel clean before enjoying dinner! I joined the other guests in the cozy Bedouin shared tent where we waited for dinner to be served and indulged in conversations.
We proceeded to get ready for bed around 10pm (being in the desert all day takes its toll!) but decided at the last minute to “sleep under the stars”. We pulled our mattress and blankets in the middle of the camp, there were about 5 of us who decided to do this and slept on individual mattresses we pulled from our camp sites lined up side by side. All of us fell asleep under millions of stars twinkling over our heads and I’ll freely admit making a wish or two upon the many shooting stars we saw before drifting off to sleep.
There are still tons more photos I plan on sharing from my trip to Wadi Rum but I hope you enjoy this little preview to the desert!
Camping Under the Stars in Wadi Rum | The Essentials
Where to Stay: I chose to stay overnight at Bedouin Directions and booked ahead of time. I have written a review of my experience on the blog which you can find here! One night stay with the Mehedi Special Jeep tour is JD100. Owner, Mehedi, is an incredible host who ensured every aspect of my experience was well worth the money! He is able to arrange transportation to and from, and his website is a wealth of information for all things Wadi Rum!
When to Go: I chose the autumn season because that felt most comfortable to me. Even so, the day time weather was around 30C or so, but the evening was much cooler. I only had a light sweater on me so it was fine. Do bring a sweater in case you get cold easily. The camp has very thick blankets (can provide you with more if necessary) so it was comfortable wearing just what I had.
How to get there: Please refer to my Bedouin Directions review post and scroll to the bottom section for additional information. You can start your trip in Amman and head south or start from Eilat (Israel)/Aqaba and head North.
Stay tuned to see more of my Jordan and Wadi Rum adventures!
Essential Reading for a Wadi Rum Camping and a trip to Jordan
- Cash is king – always be sure to bring extra dinars and USD/Euros just in case you need to exchange them. ATMs are not very common but black market exchange houses are readily available
- Enjoy the Bedouin tea, especially the unsweetened version!
- Jordan’s Tourism Board website is a fantastic resource to plan your trip – it outlines the entry requirements to enter Jordan, border hours, and embassies for various countries
- Consider getting a Jordan Pass if you plan to stay in Jordan for longer than 4 days/3 nights; here is my review of the Jordan Pass
- If you plan on staying overnight in Amman, consider staying at the Sydney Hotel in downtown Amman where I stayed overnight.
- Here is a sample itinerary I did of my 6-day trip throughout Israel and Jordan
- Discover more of my travels in Jordan and Israel
Where to Next
- Make time to visit Jerash, home of the best and most well-preserved Roman ruins outside of Rome
- Here’s how you to plan your trip to Petra to make the most of your time!
- Here are a couple of female solo-travel approved transportation options to get around Jordan!
- Here’s an updated review of Wadi Rum Bedouin Camping with Bedouin Directions
- Here’s how much it will cost to travel in Jordan