Adventures in Wadi Rum – The Red Desert of Jordan
Roaming Nanny contains affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you!). Thanks for reading!
Guest Post by April Blaszak
Taking in the sinking sun, casting an orange hue on everything in sight, a serenity comes over you. A quiet moment of reflection. The never-ending surprise and joy of venturing in Wadi Rum. The calm ending to the day is the perfect way to soak in the adventures of the day. And, as Wadi Rum is an epic place, there’s plenty of adventures to be had.
What is Wadi Rum?
Wadi Rum is a protected area in the south of Jordan. This other worldly landscape with its deep red sand and rock formations transports you far from earth. In fact, it’s been used as Mars in several Hollywood movies. But unexpectedly, Wadi Rum is not all red. In fact, the deeper in you explore, you’ll find yourself in the white desert.
Wadi Rum began under water. It’s hard to imagine, but ions ago the area of Wadi Rum was all water. The sandstone formations were created under water from layers of sediments and ancient sea life. Evidence of its past water life is everywhere in Wadi Rum. White tops to the red rocks show what was above water and what wasn’t. And, on some trails, you’re walking on fossils that give indisputable proof of sea life in the area.
Adventure in Wadi Rum
For those who venture to Jordan, a trip to its southern most area is a must. Here lies the impressive and incredible red desert of Wadi Rum. If you love (or even appreciate) the outdoors, Wadi Rum is an endless play ground full of adventure. With its countless sand dunes and towering rock formations, its an area of abstract beauty. And, there’s many ways and levels of adventure that visitors can revel in the beauty of Wadi Rum.
Hands down, the most traditional form of exploring Wadi Rum is via a 4WD truck. Visitors sit in the open back and take in the views as their guides shuttle them around to different points of interest, which include sand dunes, natural springs, odd shaped rocks, petroglyphs, canyons and arches.
With the wind in your face, traveling around gives you unparalleled views of the ever-changing landscape. You quickly lose all sense of direction as the truck turns around rock formation after rock formation. But you don’t care. It’s all about what you’re seeing. Wadi Rum is place you throw yourself into, where time doesn’t mean anything.
Along the way, you have opportunities to stand atop delicate looking arches testing your nerves. You get a glimpse of early civilization in Wadi Rum by the petroglyphs left behind. Conquer sand dunes (maybe even sand board down one) and walk through canyons. It makes for a memorable day. If you’re lucky, your truck may come upon a herd of camels that’ll come over to say hello. In the open back with the wildlife descending, you feel suddenly on a safari. And, if you go in spring, you see lots of baby camels (and they are just the cutest things you’ll see).
If you do a truck tour, you must stay for the night in one of the many Bedouin camps. The Bedouins have lived on the land for centuries. They know every facet of the place and they’re lucky to call Wadi Rum home. A night in Wadi Rum means a traditional Jordanian dinner (delicious) followed by stories around the fire where you can learn more about life in the desert. There are tours that go into Wadi Rum for a few hours and then depart. But, honestly, you’ll miss out on so much. Not to mention, the night sky in Wadi Rum is unbelievable. It’s not often you see a night sky that full of stars.
For more adventure in Wadi rum, there’s no shortage of amazing trails that you can hike. Though I do use the term “trail” loosely. Many trails are not actual trails that are maintained. Most are routes that the Bedouins have been using since coming to Wadi Rum. And because of that, a guide is required for most of the trails. But the ease of the trails range from walking around the flat valleys of Wadi Rum to those that require no fear.
Two of the more epic trails are Jabal Umm ad Dami and Burdah Rock Bridge. Jabal Umm ad Dami is the tallest mountain in Jordan located near the border with Saudi Arabia. At just over 1800 meters tall, the trail takes you straight up to the top. Quite literally. It’s less than a mile from the trail head to the top. Your guide shows you the “easier” way up to the top which includes some rock scrambling. There’s no defined trail to follow. But when you stop to catch your breath, the views! It’s one of those trails that just keeps getting better and better.
But once at the top, the exhaustive climb is worth it. On the rocky top, 360 views greet you showcasing the beauty and isolation of the desert. All at once you feel on top of the world but yet completely isolated. Only a very weathered Jordanian flag provides you with a sense of place. And you’re reward for conquering the tallest mountain, a picnic! Can you think of the more perfect location for a small picnic?
It’s back down the way you came. Oddly, it isn’t as hard you thought it would be. And before you know it, you’re back at the truck straining your neck to see where you were only a short hour before. Besides the thrill of the views and tackling the highest spot in Jordan, it’s worth hiking Jabal Umm ad Dami just for the drive to it. Located about a two-hour drive from all the camps in Wadi Rum, you get a true sense of the epic proportions of Wadi Rum.
Hiking to the top of the Burdah Rock Bridge is not for the faint of heart. Or anyone who suffers from vertigo or can’t handle heights. Again, it’s a climb up a Bedouin road along cliff faces to the top of Burdah Rock Bridge. Standing roughly 35 meters above the sand floor of Wadi Rum, Burdah Rock Bridge is one of the highest natural bridges in the world. Due to the complexity of the hike, a guide is required.
And there’s an added plus to hiking in Wadi Rum. Most people come and visit for a day. This means that on a day tour, you’re going to be seeing lots of other tour groups. But when you’re hiking in the more remote areas, civilization vanishes and you’re lucky to see another group during the whole day. That sense of remoteness truly adds to the adventure in Wadi Rum.
If you’re like me, riding a camel harkens back to the days of the early explorers. Crossing unknown deserts in search of some great archeological find, there’s a romantic air around camel trekking. It screams adventure. Well, if you think that way, you’re in luck! As camel trekking is an option in Wadi Rum.
The options range from just an hour sunrise trek to a full day walking around Wadi Rum on a camel. I will say that after first riding a camel in the Sahara Desert, I was extremely hesitant to riding a camel again. I’ll be honest, it’s not the most comfortable thing you’ll do. In fact, it can be painful. And very bumpy. But I thought who can resist a sunrise trek. The sunrise was gorgeous. Seeing Wadi Rum bathed in the early morning light made everything appear even more delicate. Almost like a mirage. But after an hour, I was ready to say adieu to my camel.
So, camel trekking isn’t for everyone. But, if you haven’t done it, I say give it a try. You only live once, right? During my stay in Wadi Rum, I met a couple who spent 6 hours trekking to the camp on a camel. They enjoyed it, feeling like they could just relax into the rhythm of the camel’s step. So, you never know.
And if you’re worried about animal mistreatment, don’t be. The Bedouins of Wadi Rum take great care of their animals treating them with respect. Plus, a guide is with you the entire time leading the camels and keeping them in line (some camels can be a bit mischievous). So all you need to do is sit back and enjoy the ride.
If you’re looking for something a little bit faster than a camel, how about an Arabian horse? Now there’s an adventure in Wadi Rum. These spirited animals are the pride of anyone fortunate enough to posses them. And, several tour companies offer rides through Wadi Rum on horseback. Though I didn’t do this myself, I did see a few people who were starting out. Let’s say that the horses did indeed have spirit. But I envied them a bit. Riding free through the vastness seemed like the perfect way to experience Wadi Rum. You should check with the tour operator to see if previous horse riding is required.
Wadi Rum is quickly becoming a well-known place for rock climbing. With its countless sandstone formations, it’s easy to see why rock climbers are starting to flock to Wadi Rum. There are many well known routes of varying levels. It’s best to hire a guide.
Exploring Wadi Rum on Your Own
Sorry, but this isn’t recommended. Can you? Yes. Should you? No. Wadi Rum is massive. And GPS doesn’t always work once you’re inside the area (and I’ve read that maps are pretty useless too). While driving in Jordan is possible, for driving in Wadi Rum, you need to know how to drive in sandy and rocky conditions. Plus knowing how to change a tire (as flats are common, even on guided tours). Throughout, you see signs saying that if you’re on your own, only you are responsible for your safety. Having an adventure in Wadi Rum is guaranteed when you go with a guide. And no one knows the area better than the Bedouins. Don’t risk your safety and go with a guide. This way you’ll be sure to get out and you’ll learn so much about the area.
Wadi Rum is one of those magical places that stays with you long after you depart. Don’t try to rush through as the area deserves more than just getting a check mark on a bucket list. There’s the sense of adventure in Wadi Rum after every turn. Every rock scrambled. Every camel step. Take the time and dive in. These are memories you won’t ever forget.
April started traveling when she was 19 and hasn't looked back since. 26 countries later she's as excited as ever to journey to a new place (be it 20 miles from her or half way around the world) and discover what she can. Passionate about solo travel, she hopes to inspire others to get out, leave their fear behind, and experience the world. Follow her on Instagram here!