Earth : Asia : Middle East : Jordan : Southern Desert : Wadi Rum
Wadi Rum is a spectacularly scenic desert valley (wadi in Arabic) in southern Jordan.
This area of Jordan is quite isolated and largely inhospitable to settled life. The only permanent inhabitants are several thousand Bedouin nomads and villagers. There is no real infrastructure, leaving the area quite unspoilt. Apart from the Bedouin goat hair tents, the only structures are a few concrete shops and houses and the fort headquarters of the Desert Patrol Corps.
T E Lawrence (of Arabia) spent a significant amount of time here during the course of the British-inspired Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War (1914-1918). Fans of the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia will be familiar with the landscape, which is not so much sand dunes as it is a mass of soaring cliffs and sandstone and granite mountains (jebel in Arabic).
Wadi Rum is a short detour from the Desert Highway between Amman and Aqaba. A side road leads to the entrance where you will find the Wadi Rum Visitors Centre, a police office and a lot of potential guides offering camel and 4x4 treks. The cost to enter into Wadi Rum Protected Area is 5 Jordanian Dinars (JD) per person as of June 2011.
Any bus that travels the highway between Aqaba and Petra should be able to drop you at the intersection to Wadi Rum. Once at the intersection, you can hitch hike (common in this part of Jordan, no problem for women alone even) or take another minibus (they seem to turn up quite regularly) to the Visitor's Centre where you can meet your guide. This final leg of the trip shouldn't cost more than 5JD per person.
Direct buses from Aqaba leave two to three times a day during the high season (Spring and Autumn) - the last regular bus leaves at 1pm. During the low season (summer and winter) it is less regular: there is a daily minibus from Wadi Rum Village to Aqaba that leaves at 6:30am, arriving about 7:30am, and this returns when it is full or the driver feels like it.
However, you can simply jump on any bus headed to Amman, Ma'an or Petra and get off at the Wadi Rum Intersection mentioned above. The minibus journey should cost around 3JD per person.
A private taxi from Aqaba will cost you 15-25JD depending on where you are in the city, but will take you to the Visitor's Centre where your guide will meet you. Taxis from the Israeli border will probably cost 20-25 JD.
There is currently one bus per day from Wadi Musa (Petra) that leaves at 6:30AM and costs 5JD. The trip generally takes 1.5 hours and tickets should be booked through your hotel at Petra, it will then collect you from your hotel directly in the morning. The bus stops at the Visitor's Centre and Rum Village and returns to Wadi Musa for visitors travelling on to Petra.
Taxis to and from Petra cost 25-30JD.
Again you also have the option of taking any bus heading to Aqaba and asking to be dropped at the Wadi Rum Intersection (see above).
No bus goes directly to/from Amman, but regular buses head towards Aqaba or Ma'an. Again, you can get off at the Wadi Rum Intersection (see above). Expect to pay not more than 12JD. Service taxis will also stop here for you and are generally quicker than the buses, although be aware that this is not a private taxi, so it will pick up other passengers and make detours as the other passengers require. Service taxis should cost 15-25 JD per person.
Private vehicles are prohibited past of the village of Wadi Rum. If you want to experience the grandeur that the Wadi has to offer, you will need to hire a guided camel or 4-wheel-drive tour. The costs may vary based on the guide, the length of the trip, and your willingness and ability to bargain. You'd get the best price by contacting the local Bedouin directly. A tour including a taxi ride from Petra, 4 hours in Wadi Rum, not including the 5JD/person entrance fee, and a taxi ride to the Israeli border cost 130JD (April 2011). Not cheap. Avoid the scammers in Petra who try to take you for a tour in the desert north to Wadi Rum for 80JD. Ask specifically which sites they visit and whether it's in the reserve or not (there are no such things as "Rum 1" and "Rum 2").
The genuine attraction of Wadi Rum is the desert itself, best seen by four wheel drive or on camel. Some visitors only spend a few hours in the Wadi, but it's definitely worth taking a guided trip of several days duration, staying overnight in Bedouin camps in the desert.
Picking up a guide at the gate is a hit and miss affair and many of the best guides rely mainly on advance bookings. Many of the guides have websites, through which you can arrange your tour. Some camps/guides include:
The Distant Heat Festival is held every summer on the last Thursday of July which features trance and electronica music.
Eat & Drink
The closest thing to a hotel in Wadi Rum is the Rest House in Rum village. It offers very basic accommodation - a matress on the roof - as well as selling food and water. There are several camping options, from a more formal camp ground to riding out into the desert with a Bedouin guide and staying in a traditional Bedouin tent. Expect to pay 25-60 JD for accommodation, transportation and food, depending on the type of tour and number of people. Some campgrounds are:
A scam in the area is that some taxi drivers in Aqaba or other places claim that they can arrange your tour to Wadi Rum. Actually they bring you to Shakariya village which is only a few kilometers away from Wadi Rum visitor centre. And the Bedouin there can also offer the 4WD that drive you around the area just north of Wadi Rum Natural Reserve. The taxi driver profits from the ticket fee that they claim to pay to Wadi Rum and price difference between 4WD in Wadi Rum. The scenery there is also very good, and the area also have something resembling seven pillars of wisdom, the rock bridge in Wadi Rum. But this is not Wadi Rum after all. Some tourists are not even aware that they actually have never been to Wadi Rum after the tour.
In Petra, some try to take you for a tour in the desert north to Wadi Rum for 80JD. Ask specifically which sites they visit and whether it's in the reserve or not (there are no such things as "Rum 1" and "Rum 2").
Just as for getting in, the route out of Wadi Rum involves joining the Desert Highway that runs between Amman and Aqaba. Petra is two hours north, and Aqaba is an hour south, and these are the most common destinations to travel on to after leaving Wadi Rum.
There are public minibuses that run every day, mostly in the morning, or you can get a taxi onwards.
There is a daily minibus from Wadi Rum Village to Aqaba that leaves at 6:30am, arriving about 7:30am, costing 3JD.
A private taxi to Aqaba will cost you 15-25JD depending on where you are heading in the city. Taxis to the Israeli border will probably cost 20-25 JD.
There is daily minibus from the Wadi Rum Visitors Centre to Wadi Musa (Petra) that departs at 8:30am, takes around 2 hours, and costs 5JD per person.
Taxis to and from Petra cost 25-30JD.
No bus goes directly to/from Amman, so your best bet is to head to either Aqaba or Petra and get a bus to Amman from there.