Wadi Rum: The Perfect Escape to Simplicity

If you’ve seen The Martian and thought you too would like to colonize Mars, you actually don’t need to go as far you’d think. Matt Damon flew out to Wadi Rum, Jordan, which is also the home of the famous Lawrence of Arabia during WWI. There are numerous sites, both historical and geological, but the real jewel is the insight that you gain into the Bedouin culture and lifestyle.

We signed up with Wadi Rum Nomads who are one of the top rated companies because the tours are informative, comfortable, reliable, but mostly because the people who organize it are friendly and open about their lives in the desert. Our guide, Atillah, told us about chasing his pet camels into Saudi Arabia, growing up as one of 30 kids, and hunting. My favorite was about the tiger that once got loose in the desert.

View of the red desert

There’s different trips and varying lengths you can do from riding a camel or jeep for a morning or up to nine days of walking. We opted for a day of visiting all the major sites followed by a night camping under the stars. The walking treks can be intense as it’s hot and climbing sand dunes are much harder then they appear. But, if you still want some of that, you’ll get it. Jeep tours are 95JOD for 1 person or 55JOD if you’re 2-4 people.

Below, are some of the awe inspiring spots that the Nomads team will show you along the way.

  • Lawrence Spring

    Lawrence Spring starts up in the trees

The first stop on the tour ties is connected to Wadi Rum’s most famous story, that of T.E. Lawrence or more famously known as Lawrence of Arabia. The Brit who helped lead the Arab Revolt against the Ottomans in WWI. For the Bedouins, the spring has been a major life force for centuries. Now, the water flows through piping, but you can climb the rocky hillside and simulate what the Bedouins used to have to go through to get a drink. With gorgeous views of the Red Desert ahead of you it’s a great introduction to the beauty and strain of the valley.

  • Khazali Canyon

This quick jaunt is a break from the sun, but also protects ancient Arabic inscriptions and ancient Nabatean hieroglyphics. The mountain appears daunting; however up close it’s a quick walk to see the inscriptions that put into perspective the history and alien nature that desert holds in all its nooks and crannies.

  • Abu Khashaba Canyon

The hardest walk of the day tour, but still a moderate hike. Words don’t really do justice to the experience – walking through the middle of sandstorm, the only respite being a lush oasis encapsulated by a silver haze. The thing I least expected about Wadi Rum (and Jordan, in general) was its palatial size. Unlike pink sand beaches in the Bahamas that are beautiful but manipulated on Instagram, out here everything was bigger and more striking than I’d seen before.

Perspective on the sandstorm
  • Um Fruth Rock Bridge

The most visited locale in the preserve, this bridge is worth the vertigo-inducing climb. It’s also much easier going up then down. However, the view is worth it. A 30 meter climb with nice panoramas, make sure you arrive early as it can be difficult to get a shot of you on your own.

Easier up than down
  • Um Sabatah

    Where most of The Martian was filmed

This dune is the perfect spot to watch the sunset. Some days there will be those elusive watercolor-like skies. However, ours was almost like a negative photograph. There were all the colors of the desert streaming across the ground with white and silver streaking through the sky. A truly unique view, that taught me those cotton candy skies online aren’t the only immaculate sunsets. Weather permitting around here is where you’ll sleep.

Sunset beginning

The full day trip will also bring to a massive red sand dune, which is a bit arduous, but worth it to sand board down; Lawrence of Arabia’s house, where he stayed to endure the tough desert winter, but more interestingly, the home was supposedly built by Nabateans; and also the Little Bridge, which is smaller than Um Froth, but fun to climb around nonetheless.

The most beautiful bit of the evening came after an unexpected disappointment. Weather prevented us from sleeping out under the stars in a bivouac tent, instead we were brought to one of the guide’s uncle’s camp where we were treated to Bedouin music and home cooked food, as we fell asleep beneath the stars or in a makeshift cabin. A magical way to end the night.

Terrible photo of a beautiful starry sky




11 thoughts

  1. We briefly visited Wadi Rum when we came back from Petra area, and I wish we had scheduled more time. Our eager driver took us out into the desert, showing us the hills, the rocks, the railway, and the photos I took there were other-worldly. Petra gets all the press, but this area deserves attention as well.

  2. That view of the red dessert is just spectacular. I love The Martian movie and I had no idea this was filmed in Wadi Rum, Jordan. Thanks to your article, this is now included in my bucket list.

  3. This looks like a great place to check out. I am one not used to hot hot weather but I would battle the conditions to visit places like this. 🙂

  4. It’s an awesome post. Keep posting great photos of the places you’ve been to. It makes me feel like I go to those places too.

  5. There’s something magical about the desert, isn’t there? I just love the barren vistas and the billions of stars that you can see. I’ve heard about Wadi Rum and would love to visit one day! I think it’s so cool how many popular movies have been made in this area.

  6. This tour looks and sounds like a dream! Walking around in that heat and environment must be tough but to me it looks worth it! Such a shame you couldn’t sleep under the stars but the night still sounds pretty great.

  7. We always wanted to go to Jordan. I think the nature there is extraordinary. Sounds and looks like you did a great tour there. The heat can impact the experience though, but I think that’s part of the dessert 🙂

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