Wadi Rum

  • Wadi Rum - Descending the big dune, Barrah canyon - © William Mackesy
  • Wadi Rum -  - © By Flickr user amerune
  • Wadi Rum - Seven Pillars of Wisdom - © By Flickr user Dale Gillard
  • Wadi Rum -  - © By Flickr user eviljohnius
  • Wadi Rum -  - © By Flickr user amerune
  • Wadi Rum -  - © By Flickr user argenberg
  • Wadi Rum -  - © By Flickr user rpoll
  • Wadi Rum -  - © By Flickr user rpoll
  • Wadi Rum - Bedouin Camp - © By Flickr user rpoll
  • Wadi Rum - camels - © By Flickr user rpoll
  • Wadi Rum -  - © By Flickr user amerune
  • Wadi Rum -  - © By Flickr user Argenberg
  • Wadi Rum -  - © By Flickr user rpoll
  • Wadi Rum - rock bridge - © By Flickr user rpoll
  • Wadi Rum -  - © By Flickr user rpoll
  • Wadi Rum - View From top of Wadi Siq Makhras - © William Mackesy
  • Wadi Rum -  - © William Mackesy
  • Wadi Rum - Above Barrah Canyon - © William Mackesy
  • Wai Rum - Barrah canyon - © William Mackesy
  • Wadi Rum - East of Jebel Um Ishrin - © William Mackesy
  • Wadi Rum - © From the underground oven - © William Mackesy
  • Wadi Rum - Gimme shelter, Siq Um Ishrin - © William Mackesy
  • Wadi Rum - Seven pillars - © William Mackesy
  • Wadi Rum -  - © William Mackesy
  • Wadi Rum -  - © William Mackesy
  • Wadi Rum - Siq Um Ishrin - © William Mackesy
  • Wadi Rum - Siq Um Ishrin, the monstrous eastern wall - © William Mackesy
  • Wadi Rum - Southern end of Jebel Rum at sundown - © William Mackesy
  • Wadi Rum - Wadi Siq Makhras, half way up - © William Mackesy

Key information: Wadi Rum

  • Area romantically (and occasionally imaginatively) made famous by the exploits of TE Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia).
  • Outstanding desert mountain scenery: justly famous combination of vast multi-coloured towers and cliffs looming over red sandy desert.
  • A protected area with a surprisingly rich array of animal and plant life.
  • Fascinating Bedouin history and culture.
  • A huge range of long and short walks, and many opportunities for scrambling and climbing.

Walkopedia rating

(Top 100)
  • Walkopedia rating88
  • Beauty32
  • Natural interest17
  • Human interest5
  • Charisma34
  • Negative points0
  • Total rating88

Vital Statistics

  • Length: Variable
  • Maximum Altitude: 1,754m
  • Level of Difficulty: Variable
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Wadi Rum - View From top of Wadi Siq Makhras - © William Mackesy

WALK SUMMARY

Wadi Rum is famous for its extraordinary scenery and for being a key setting of T.E. Lawrence's account of his involvement with the Arab Rebellion of 1919, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which in turn became David Leans classic film Lawrence of Arabia, parts of which were filmed on location here. But the real draw of Wadi Rum is its unique landscape of shifting red sand surrounding vast massifs and towers, some of which stand approaching 1,000 metres above the desert floor, all striped with an extraordinary variety of colours, which preside over cliffs, wadis, sand dunes and springs. It is so vivid as to seem somehow unreal, as though produced by a set designer just back from a sojourn on Mars.

 
The Wadi Rum Protected Area, a UNESCO protected ecosystem, is a huge stretch of land extending to the Saudi Arabian border. The eponymous valley between its huge cliffs is just one feature of the region, although with justice its most famous one. Wadi Rums UNESCO protection extends not only to the general pristine beauty of the area, but to the customs and lifestyles of its Bedouin inhabitants. Because of this, freedom to visit the area on a whim is restricted. But the need to make arrangments ahead, buy permits, and find guides has kept the area well-preserved against the depredations of mass tourism. A large visitors centre has been built at the park entrance, 8km north of Rum village itself, and plans are afoot to expand this for accommodation, food and trade, but otherwise this area is remarkably isolated, pristine and unchanged, with some basic accommodation at Rum village and occasional campsites nestling at the foot of cliffs.

 
Despite its forbidding landscape, the area has been inhabited and grazed since prehistoric times, and is scattered with the remains of both nomadic-pastoral civilisation and, around the springs, of more settled communities. The ruins of a Nabataean temple at the foot of Jebel Rum and a smattering of horned altars show that it was clearly an important site for the builders of Petra, and it was a stop on the Yemeni Frankincense Route.

 
Although many are now settling in the local villages, the Bedouin culture remains strong, and learning about their ways is one of the fascinations of the area.

 
Wadi Rum is home to a number of species including striped hyena, rock hyrax, the recently reintroduced oryx and, of course, both snakes (the deadly horned viper) and scorpions.

 

The area is composed of gently sloping layers of sandstone on a base of ancient igneous rock, with a harder upper layer slowing the erosion of the great towers.Inside the Protected Area, you can only camp. While the camps are not luxurious, at least one night in the desert is a must and it is generally done with charm and great atmosphere.

 

Tourism does undoubtedly have some negative impact: 4WDs trundle around the better known sites, their tracks everywhere, and (admittedly discreet) camps huddle in sheltered or scenic corners. Although wild, it is not wilderness.

 

There is an endless variety of walks, to suit all tastes and fitness levels. The following walks, and many more, are described in the Cicerone book. At the easiest end is the short walk up to Lawrence's Spring, mentioned, twice, lyrically in the Seven Pillars.


Moderate(ish) walks include:

  • Circling Jebel Makhras (see Wadi Siq Makhras page), home to the Seven Pillars of Wisdom formation.

  • Winding up the spectacular Wadi Siq Makhras, then crossing fine desert to the outstanding Siq Um Ishrin.

  • Traversing stunning Rakabat Canyon in the Jebel um Ishrin massif which forms the eastern wall of Wadi Rum. (This can be added to the previous walk to make a long but amazing day).

  • The magnificent Barrah Canyon.

  • Circling the huge Jebel Rum massif, which is Wadi Rums western wall. A 7 hour circuit, although there are ways of reducing this. See the Cicerone guide and Routes below for more information on this walk.

  • Climbing Jebel um Adaami, Jordons highest mountain, on the Saudi Arabian border.

  • Wadi Salaada.

  • The Jebel abu Khashaba canyon.

If you can, you should get up high to enjoy the outstanding views. There are some reasonably easy clambers, such as the Jebel Ahmaral Shelaali ridge near Lawrences spring and the more distant Jebel um Adaami.

 
Tougher scrambles include:
  • The demanding scramble above Khazali Canyon.

  • Various routes onto Jebel Rum (see Cicerone guidebook).

Wadi Rum is also one of the Worlds finest rock climbing centres.

 
Multi-day walks can be created, wonderful combinations of dramatic hiking and desert camping. Highly recommended.

 
We were in Wadi Rum too late in the year - mid May - for the best walking conditions. Both days we were there got to around 40˚C: unseasonably hot, apparently, but even if the temperature had been a bit less, more than a few hours walking in the morning and late afternoon would have been unthinkable. So, plans had to be modified: a 7 hour walk round Jebel Rum, the biggest massif, was jettisoned, as was a scramble up a ridge to get a big view. Be prepared to be flexible.

Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

See also expedition planning, including our universal expedition checklist. Walkopedia encourages responsible travel.

Books and Maps

Suggest books and maps

 

Books on this walk

Jordan: Walks,Treks, Caves, Climbs and Canyons – Cicerone, by Di Taylor and Tony Howard: you must have this book.

Lonely Planet: Jordan by Hugh Finlay

Other books

The Seven Pillars of Wisdom – T E Lawrence’s famous but at times ponderous account of the 1919 Arab Revolt, including much on the Wadi Rum area.

Jordan Jubilee – Ruth Caswell; or in various shops in-country

Maps

There are generally NO large-scale maps of Jordan readily available. Amazing but true. A large-scale map of the central areas of Wadi Rum can be bought in bookshops.

Stanfords: www.stanfords.co.uk.  An excellent (and user-friendly) online specialist source of worldwide maps (it is also good for guidebooks).

 

Best times to walk/weather

Best times to walk

Early Spring and Autumn’s clear, sunny days and moderate temperatures make that period the best time to visit. March and the first half of April are said to be best, and you should find some flowers briefly in bloom.

 

Weather

Wadi Rum has a desert climate, with very little rainfall. Summers see fierce temperatures (into the 40°s), which are not conducive to enjoyable hiking. Beware rain in winter/spring: though not a problem in itself, even a small fall can render gorges vulnerable to flash floods.

 

For detailed weather information, have a look at: www.worldweather.org or www.bbc.co.uk/weather/world/country-guides

 

Getting there/transport/permits/fees

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Royal Jordanian, the national airline, flies to Amman from numerous destinations worldwide. British Airways, BMI, Air France, KLM and Lufthansa also operate routes to the capital.

A visa is needed to enter Jordan: you can obtain single entry visas – valid for one month from any port of entry (except the King Hussein Bridge at the Jordan/Israel border), costing about ten Jordanian Dinars.

Those on organised expeditions are likely to be transported from arranged departure points, usually Amman airport.

Many visitors hire a car and driver, which is still (as of 2010) a surprising cheap option. You can get to Petra by bus.

Permits to enter Wadi Rum need to be purchased before entering, from the Visitors’ Centre. Check the necessary requirements in advance.

Route(s)

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See “Walk Summary” above.

 

Possible problems, health, other warnings

  • Heat and strong sun. Carry enough water and protect yourself.
  • Heights: can be dangerous here; none of the climbs on to the rocky massifs would suits those who have difficulties with heights.
  • Canyon dangers: canyons can be lethal, particularly as a result of flash floods. Assess and prepare for all risks on those walks involving canyons or potentially wet siqs. In particular, check the weather carefully and don’t go after rain or if it is possible.
  • Dangerous animals, including snakes and scorpions. Take all appropriate precautions.
  • This is remote country: help may be hard to get if things go wrong.
  • Health risks: you may not get prompt medical help of a standard available elsewhere should you become ill.  Potential problems include insect born diseases – and water-born, a problem because of a lack of safe drinking water.  Come prepared, including getting all appropriate inoculations/medications.
  • Stability: as of 2010, Jordon has been safe and stable for years. But the region is inherently unstable, so check the current position. 

See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.

 

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and problems of any sort can arise on any walk. Many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks and possible problems. This website cannot, and  does not purport to, identify all actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk or to a country in general. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

 

Make sure you have appropriate insurance.

 

Guided or independent?

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The first question is: how do you plan to get about, generally? Public buses cover many places, but don’t go to Wadi Rum or out-of-the-way sites. Many people hire taxis or cars, or cars with drivers, still a relatively good value option and one which can add huge benefits in local know-how.

 

And: do you make your own arrangements (perfectly doable especially if you have a helpful driver), or use a travel company? The latter will add cost but will simplify the process.

 

We used Petra Tours to arrange our 8-day expedition. They are a large and reputable local firm and, while not walking specialists, made generally very satisfactory arrangements to fit the detailed plans we gave them. We were lucky to get the delightful and kind Ahmed Tahoon (mob. (+926) 799249146) as a driver (you can ask for him specifically): knowledgeable and happy to expand on any subject. 

 

There is a multitude of other Jordan tour organizers, including the following:

You can also visit Wadi Rum on Headwater’s excellent-looking Jordan trip, travelling the length of the country and including some leisurely and more strenuous (optional) walks through its stunning landscapes.

As regards Wadi Rum specifically, you have to have a guide with a 4WD vehicle to get into Wadi Rum. Though drivers/guides can be found on the ground it’s advisable to book ahead. Use a reputable tour company which will make sensible local arrangements, or try one of the local firms recommended here. Bear in mind that hotels in Petra (Wadi Musa) are not allowed to organize excursions to Wadi Rum. If you book through them, you will very likely be taken to an area of desert further north, and never set foot in Rum at all.

While some of the walks are easy and can be done on your own, many should be done with an experienced local walking guide.

Local firms (who can deal with all aspects of walking here, including transport, camping and guides) include:

 

Accommodation

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The only option in Wadi Rum is camping, at a cost, in designated sites. These tend to be basic, but are comfortable and atmospheric and can be done with great charm, and it is said that one can also pitch one’s own tent on payment of a fee.

See “Guided/Supported” above.

Hostelbookers usually has a good selection of cheaper-end accommodation.

 

Other information and tips

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Bring a sleeping bag liner, which you may find useful.

 

Look up from the visitors’ centre. The huge cliff facing it across the desert is the famous “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”, named after Lawrence’s book.

Tipping: a delicate subject. Guides, drivers etc do not necessarily earn high wages as they are expected to get good tips. So, if you get decent service, you should err on the side of generosity. Regard it as a cost to plan for. 

 

Useful websites and information

There are many websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.

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Other things to do in the area

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Other walks

Petra: astonishing ancient city built into and hidden by a network of cliffs and gorges.

100km guided walks to Petra, or 50km to Aqaba, afford spectacular vistas across desert and terrain so bizarre and barren that it is easy to understand how Petra managed to get entirely lost to the outside world for the best part of 400 years.

Jordon has a huge variety of great walks: there is likely to be a good walk within range, where ever you may be. The Cicerone book has a multitude of ideas. Have a look at Dana, Wadi Mujib and Ajloun areas.

Other activities

Various street festivals are organised throughout Jordan in the summer months. The festival celebrating the end of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, is a particularly special occasion.

 

Jordan is crammed with historical and archaeological marvels: particularly recommended, the Roman ruins at Jerash, in the North, and Crusader castle at Al-Karak.

 

Aqaba has plentiful hotels and famous Red Sea diving and snorkeling.

 

The Dead Sea: via several hotels and spas can often be organized on day-trips and shuttles from Amman. As well as its historical significance, the Dead Sea is renowned for its healing effects.

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

COMMUNITY COMMENTS AND PHOTOS

Name: Nathan Holderhead
Posted on: 15/11/2012
In Wadi Rum a great camp to base yourself from is the Bedouin Expedition Camp http://www.bedouinexpedition.com Once there you can simply choose what sandstone hill/small mountain you want to climb each day. Once you get to the visitor centre at the entrance of Wadi Rum Protected Area just simply ring 0779312344 from inside Jordan or if you want to plan beforehand +9620779312344 from outside Jordan. The camp also has Jeep, Camel, Climbing and Hot Air Balloon Tours. You can sleep in Bedouin Tents, under the stars or in a cave!!! When you want to leave Wadi Rum they can organise a bus to Petra or taxi to Aqaba. The camp is in the World Heritage Protected Area and is very stunning. Their office is in the small town where you can buy water and food. There is free wifi in their office which you can use if you need to. All tours will start from the office so you have time to get yourself organised. Using this company will ensure you have a peaceful, safe and hassle free time in Wadi Rum.


Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

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Wadi Rum - Seven Pillars of Wisdom - ©By Flickr user Dale Gillard

OTHER ACCOUNTS
share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

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Wadi Rum -  - ©By Flickr user eviljohnius...
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