Wadi Rum: a trip to Mars on Earth

Wadi Rum is an iconic desert area and UNESCO World Heritage site in Jordan. Many travellers come here for a jeep trip, camel ride and to spend a night in one of the traditional Bedouin camps. With 720 square kilometers, the Wadi Rum is a protected area and is considered as one of the driest and largest deserts in the world. Wadi Rum literally means the ‘Valley of Sand’ or the ‘Roman Valley’ and is also called ‘Valley of the Moon’.

Keep reading this guide as we will tell you more about the majestic Wadi Rum desert, which will help you create your own itinerary.


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Your guide to Wadi Rum
 

How to get to Wadi Rum, Jordan

When we drove from Aqaba to Wadi Rum with our rented car, the landscape turned into rock formations, red desert dunes and soft orange sand on the road. Amazing how quickly the landscape changed in to another world.

It only takes one hour to travel from Aqaba to Wadi Rum and there are many ways to reach the desert. From Amman it will take around 3,5 hours and from Petra it will be 1,5 hours. A convenient way is to arrange a bus tour, get a taxi or hire a car. Public transport is very limited and you are tied to fixed times to get back and forth.

How to  get to Wadi Rum, Jordan

Getting around in Wadi Rum

You can discover Wadi Rum by yourself, but we recommend you to take a (local) guide to get the most out of your trip. A guide can show you the hotspots and will tell you more about this amazing, historical landscape. Especially when you only spend one or two days, we think you will see as much as possible when traveling by jeep. It’s also possible to discover the desert by camel or horse.

You can book different kind of tours at the Wadi Rum visitors centre, desert camps or home stays. To save money while having the ultimate Wadi Rum experience, you can do a hike by yourself. Pin your hotspots with the application Maps.me which also helps you not getting lost. From the Wadi Rum visitors centre, you can follow many hiking trials.

Tip: If you have a Jordan Pass, you don’t have to pay the entrance fee of 5 JOD and children under 12 years are free of charge. The Jordan Pass will give you a lot of benefits during your stay in Jordan.

Discover Mars on Earth

Once you visit this iconic desert, you'll understand why the Wadi Rum is also known as Mars on Earth. Our visit to the Sahara desert in Morocco was already breathtaking, but our visit at Wadi Rum was next level because it has one of the best cosmic views on Earth! Picture this: in addition to red colored sand, you’ll find white sand and every color in between. You’ll experience unbroken silence on sand dunes while walking among the red sandstone canyons.

Fact: Wadi Rum is featured in a lot of movies which kicked off tourism. The area is used for the first time in 1962 for the movie Lawrence of Arabia, after that it is also used for films as Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009), Prometheus (2012), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) and not to be missed: The Martian (2015) starring Matt Damon.

 

Exploring the iconic Wadi Rum

We chose to arrive early in the morning at our desert camp and we immediately felt welcomed in this beautiful and quiet scenery. The desert camp where we stayed organized several kind of tours. We did a 4-hour tour with a 4x4 Toyota jeep and started at the place where The Martian was filmed. From this vantage point, the Wadi Rum opens up before you. Along the way we stopped at many places and we only had to knock on the ceiling of the jeep if we wanted to stop somewhere.

We recommend you to not share a jeep. This gives you the freedom to stop at places off the beaten track and time to wander around the valleys. While exploring the area we realized that these valleys have been formed over thousands of years to become the unique, magical landscape that it is now.

Tip: Layer up! At the end of the day it can be chilly, so don’t forget to bring a jacket and a scarf. Make sure you will pack enough water, food, sunscreen and something to cover your head and eyes during the day.

Exploring the iconic Wadi Rum where The Martian was filmed.

wandering around the Wadi Rum

During our jeep tour we saw the massive development of desert camps since this conflict-free Middle East country is getting more popular every day. So, what are you waiting for? Pack your space suit and discover this magical place like you are an astronaut at Mars on Earth.

At the end of our jeep tour, we wandered around our camp and found a good spot to watch sunset. Make sure you will stand on a mountain with your face to the west for the best twilight experience. When the soft glowing light from the sky is below the horizon, the rock formations turn into fire and the sand is changing into the moon landscape.

Wadi Rum Desert

Stargazing at Wadi Rum

After dinner the people at the camp played some traditional music on their instruments, but we chose to enjoy the sky full of bright stars. What an indescribably beautiful experience! We liked the peaceful atmosphere and saw the stars without using a stargazer. This is possible because there is no light pollution from the cities. Spending the night in Wadi Rum will give you that unique Bedouin experience.

Tip: If you want to spend the night under the stars in the Wadi Rum, we recommend to book at least three months in advance. Due the popularity, dates are often sold out quickly. Look on Booking.com to check the availability and find places with various rates.

 
Stargazing at Wadi Rum
 
 

Where to stay in Wadi Rum

There are many desert camps to spend the night in Wadi Rum: from normal tents to luxurious bubble tents, from Bedouin home stays to camps. You can even sleep under the stars in a cave. We chose to stay at the Hasan Zawaideh Camp to have the ultimate Martian experience and booked a bubble tent, better known as a “Martian Dome”. You probably have seen the bubble tents in travel magazines or on social media.

The Martian Dome at this camp is one of the most unique places to spend the night in Wadi Rum. Each dome is air-conditioned and has a heater for the colder nights. When booking a dome, you also have an own bathroom with a shower and a toilet. From inside the dome you will have a panoramic view of the beautiful desert.

Tip: If you sleep in a Bedouin tent, take precautions by bringing warm clothes for the night.

In comparison to Petra, we liked the fact that Wadi Rum is much less crowded. Wadi Rum is a hidden gem in the Arabian desert and definitely one of the most unique wonders of nature! While walking this iconic desert you realize how small and insignificant we are. It was one of our most out-of-this-world experiences and we would recommend you to visit Wadi Rum when traveling through Jordan.

There are no words to describe the Wadi Rum, the pictures say it all. Let us know what you think about Wadi Rum in the comments!


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