The Wadi Rum Protected Area is located about 4 hours away from Amman, Jordan’s capital city. The sprawling 74,000 hectare area was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011 and features a desert landscape consisting of narrow gorges, sandstone arches, towering cliffs, caverns, inscriptions, rock carvings and archaeological remains.
Its unique terrain has been used as a backdrop for a whole host of Hollywood movies including Lawrence of Arabia, The Martian, Prometheus, Rogue One and the live action remake of Disney’s Aladdin. The otherworldly landscape attracts visitors from all around the world and you can stay overnight in traditional bedouin camps or luxury glamping tents.
Wadi Rum is an essential stop on a first time visitor’s Jordan itinerary: read on to learn more about Wadi Rum in Jordan, things to do in the desert, how long to stay and my experience staying in a bubble tent.
Need some help planning your Jordan itinerary? Check out even more travel tips and guides here or head on over to read my 7 day Jordan road trip itinerary.
Quick tips for your first trip to Jordan
- The international airport is located in Amman – the Queen Alia International Airport (airport code AMM). Read my Amman city guide here.
- Most visitors will need a visa to enter Jordan, but the good news is that citizens from a large number of countries can buy a visa on arrival in Jordan for 40 JOD (approximately US$56, payable by cash or credit card). Alternatively, if you plan on staying in Jordan for more than 3 nights then you should consider purchasing the Jordan Pass for 70 JOD (approx. US$99).
- The Jordanian Dinar (JOD) is the local currency and the exchange rate is 1 JOD: US$1.4, or 1 JOD: 1.24 Euros. Cash is king, but most hotels and restaurants will accept Visa and Mastercard
- Stay connected by purchasing a SIM card – we went with Umniah at the airport (counters located in the arrivals hall) and paid 11 JOD for 10 GB of data. Most camping sites in Wadi Rum offer wifi (at least in the common areas), but cell signal is spotty in the desert.
- The weather in Jordan does fluctuate through the year. Wadi Rum experiences extreme weather, so be prepared for searing dry and hot days from May to October (> 30 degrees Celsius) and slightly cooler days in winter from November to February.
- In general, tourism numbers in Jordan are manageable – the Wadi Rum camp site where we stayed was fully booked when we visited in May, but the desert itself was extremely uncrowded. During the 4×4 jeep tour in Wadi Rum we crossed paths with perhaps only 2 or 3 other jeeps. The best time to visit Jordan tends to be when the weather is milder from March to May or September to November.
- Arabic is the most spoken language in Jordan, and most people, especially those in hospitality or food & beverage, understand and speak basic English.
More Jordan travel tips: 11 important things to know before you travel to Jordan
How to get to Wadi Rum
From Amman to Wadi Rum, the drive will take approximately 4 hours. From Petra to Wadi Rum, head south and you’ll reach the desert in just over an hour. If you are flying into Aqaba, Wadi Rum is northbound and the drive will take an hour.
The best way to get around Jordan is by rental car: we rented a car through Budget and paid approximately US$30 per day (plus a daily rate for an additional driver). You’ll need to show your local driver’s license (as well as your international license if you have one), and make sure you take a good look at the car with a rental company attendant to make a note of any existing scratches and damage. Tip: take your own photos and videos so you have a timestamped record in the event of any disputes. Click here to check for current car rental rates in Jordan!
Looking for the best prices for rental car companies around the world? Click here to book your rental car ahead of your trip. Bookings can be cancelled or amended if your plans change!
Driving between cities in Jordan is fairly breezy, and the highway and roads between Amman and Wadi Rum are in good condition. You should, however, know that no one seems to follow prescribed speed limits and there are lots of hidden speed bumps and potholes – so keep your eyes on the road! You drive on the right in Jordan (the steering wheel is on the left), and the speed limit tops out at approximately 110 KM/hour.
If you don’t plan on renting a car in Jordan, public transport is somewhat limited though not completely impossible to sort out. You can arrange one-way taxi transfers between Petra, Amman or Aqaba and Wadi Rum, or take local buses. Here is some information on buses to and from Wadi Rum.
What to wear in Wadi Rum
Most people in Jordan are Muslim, and we did not find that Jordan was extremely conservative. You will see that many foreign tourists wear shorts and sleeveless tops in public, but I would recommend that as a sign of respect and cultural sensitivity you are mindful of what you wear in Wadi Rum and Jordan as a whole.
In Wadi Rum, I mostly wore t-shirts and loose pants to cover my shoulders and knees, and wore a hat as well as plenty of sunscreen. I also brought a thin scarf on the jeep desert safari to cover my nose and mouth – the drive can get pretty dusty!
Where to stay in Wadi Rum
Spending the night in a “bubble tent” in Wadi Rum seems to be all the rage. Luxury camps are popping up all over the place, promising visitors a unique experience of glamping in the middle of the desert and stargazing all night long from transparent “pod” tents.
These glamping tents in Wadi Rum are marketed as “Martian Domes”, “Full of Stars” pods, “Bubble Tents” and so on. They vary somewhat in terms of design and size, but all of them aim to create an off-planet experience amid a vast, empty desert. We spent 1 night in one of these luxury glamping tents in Wadi Rum – was it worth it? Read on for the verdict!
There are LOTS of Wadi Rum camps. So many that it makes your head spin. After scouring through dozens upon dozens of hotel listings, we settled on booking the Martian Dome at Sun City Camp, one of the best camps in Wadi Rum. The rooms looked extremely spacious and modern from the photos, each of the tents have en-suite bathrooms (no shared bathrooms for me kthxbye) and guests raved about the warm hospitality and service.
Sun City Camp offers regular Bedouin-style tents for approximately US$200 a night, and the Martian Domes with a transparent panel at the front of the room for around US$300 a night. The rooms are equipped with beds, A/C (100% essential in the desert), a kettle and tea/coffee, a wardrobe, chairs, a small table and an en-suite bathroom.
The Wadi Rum camp has one main air-conditioned dining tent for the busloads of visitors (some are just day trippers who are not staying overnight at the camp) and an open-air outdoor dining area as well. Meals are served buffet-style.
Here’s what you need to know about glamping in Wadi Rum
Yes, you feel like you’re sleeping on Mars, and yes, it’s a unique experience you’re unlikely to replicate elsewhere around the world. Though it was a moonlit night we still saw hundreds of shimmering stars, and once the blazing sun went down the temperature was actually kind of pleasant and mild. The beds are comfortable and there’s something special about falling asleep in the desert.
However, there are a few minor drawbacks you should know first: there aren’t any “luxury” amenities and facilities that you would typically have access to when you’re paying US$300 a night for accommodation, desert tours and excursions cost extra, the bathrooms are fairly bare-bones with no toiletries, and while the dinner buffet is plentiful the food is somewhat mediocre.
There is a transparent panel at the front of the tent designed for stargazing, but you sacrifice privacy for a (somewhat limited) view of the starry night. There are other camps in Wadi Rum that offer tents with a transparent roof, you just have to look around and explore the other options for glamping in Wadi Rum, but don’t expect to be able to sleep in once the sun comes up.
So, what’s the verdict? Our 1 night in Wadi Rum left me feeling slightly conflicted: did the experience and room match the price point? I’m not 100% sure it did. Not in the same way that glamping in South Africa with twice-daily game drives was worth the hefty price tag, or glamping on a tea plantation in Sri Lanka was worth paying US$200-250 a night. The good news is, the reviews are accurate when it comes to the friendliness of the staff: the manager at Sun City Camp is extremely warm and helpful, and you can tell that he takes pride in his work. The camp also supports the Bedouin community and works with local Bedouin guides to run the desert tours.
I would recommend splurging on a glamping tent in Wadi Rum if it’s always been on your to-do list, if you are a desert junkie or if it’s for a special occasion. Otherwise, you might want to consider doing a day trip to Wadi Rum instead from Aqaba or Petra. If you’re sold on sleeping in a bubble tent in Wadi Rum, check out Sun City Camp (one of the first camps to offer transparent domes) or head on over here to see more options.
Things to do in Wadi Rum
There are plenty of things to do in Wadi Rum including rock climbing, hot air balloon rides, and jeep tours. As we only had 1 night in Wadi Rum we opted for a 2 hour desert jeep tour for 35 JOD (approximately US$50). Our Bedouin guide took us out into the desert in an open jeep and drove us to some of the best view points.
Not only did we get to check out the extraordinary sprawling landscape and rock formations, we were shown some ancient rock carvings and stopped to take some extremely silly photos as well.
I would highly recommend that you do a 2 hour Wadi Rum tour (at the very minimum) if you get the chance, and ask your guide if you can stick around in the desert to catch the magical, fiery sunset. The Wadi Rum safari was a definite highlight during our 1 week in Jordan.
Have you spent the night in a desert before? Comment and tell me about it below!
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