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Jordan was on our RTW itinerary because I wanted to see Petra, but there’s so much more to the country beyond this world wonder. One of these incredible, non-Petra sites, is the Wadi Rum Desert. It’s no secret, and is a staple on most Jordan Itineraries. The landscape is exceptional, and there’s a surprising amount of things to do on an afternoon Wadi Rum Jeep tour before heading to your camp for the night. Join us on our once-in-a-lifetime journey through the Wadi Rum Desert, then find my tips for visiting Wadi Rum with kids.
Table Of Contents
– A Short Stop In Aqaba
– Wadi Rum Camp
– Wadi Rum Jeep Tour
– Burdah Rock Bridge
– Khazali Canyon
– Wadi Rum Sand Dunes
– Wadi Rum Bedouin Camp
– Know Before You Go To Wadi Rum
– Where To Stay In Wadi Rum
– How To Get To Wadi Rum
– How To Get Around Wadi Rum
– What It Cost
– Tips For Visiting Wadi Rum With Kids
Crossing The Wadi Araba Border from Israel to Jordan
Our time in Jordan was split into two sections, with a few days in Jerusalem for Easter sandwiched in the middle. We re-entered Jordan at the Wadi Araba border, from Eilat in Israel to Aqaba in Jordan. This was one of my most nerve-racking border crossings from our whole year because I had no idea what to expect! I wasn’t sure if they’d honour our Jordan passes, or if we’d have to pay for a new Visa into Jordan. I’d also read (on the Jordan tourism page) that tourist Visas weren’t issued at this border, so there was a chance we’d get stuck and have to find our way BACK to Jerusalem.
As it turns out, the nerves were for nothing. Nobody seemed to care that we’d already used our Jordan Pass to enter the country, or that the kids only had a “single entry” visa. After a bit of paperwork and shuffling back and forth between a couple different windows, they stamped our papers and let us through. We jumped in a fixed-rate cab and were off to our sea-side hotel in Aqaba for the night, then on to the Wadi Rum Desert.
A Short Stay In Aqaba
To be honest, Aqaba was a bit of a let-down. We initially planned on spending 2 nights so Randy and I could dive, however after hurting my ear diving in Raja Ampat I didn’t think it was a good idea. We could’ve gone snorkeling, but I’d heard that the easily accessible reef wasn’t in great shape, so it didn’t seem like the right thing to do. Instead, we cut our time down to 1 night to have an extra night in Petra. This was the best decision we could’ve made!
The Southern strip of beach, by our hotel, wasn’t amazing. The sand was rocky, there was trash along the shore, and the water wasn’t clear. The kids had a blast splashing around anyways, until Calais stepped on a Sea Urchin and made everyone scared of what might be lurking under the surface! Kacela was scared of urchins to begin with, so this definitely didn’t help matters!
As Randy was carried a screaming Calais back onto shore, one of the men at the hotel sprang into action to help get the 3 pokey tips out of Calais’ foot. He used a tong and coal from one of the hookahs and very carefully used the heat to extract any toxin out of the wound. I guess it must’ve worked, because although she had three black spots on the bottom of her foot for weeks, they never bothered her.
Although Aqaba wasn’t my favourite, it was nice to have a bit of time to sit and relax. We enjoyed chilling on the beach during the warm afternoon, and lounging with a mint tea and hookah on the roof of the hotel after the kids went to bed. Aqaba isn’t a place I’d rush back to, although with one day there we didn’t really give it much of a try! I’d like to go back and dive the Red Sea one day soon, however I think that’ll be on a liveaboard from Egypt!
Wadi Rum Camp
After a decent night’s sleep in Aqaba, we picked up our rental van to continue our Jordanian road-trip. This time, we were headed North to our Wadi Rum Camp.
We arrived at the Wadi Rum Village around lunch time and had a quick snack at the small canteen. We should’ve packed a bit more food because we didn’t want to take the time to eat lunch, we were all too excited to go exploring. After a short debrief over mint tea with our driver/guide, we headed out for our Wadi Rum jeep tour in the desert.
Wadi Rum Jeep Tour
The first stop was Lawrence’s Spring, not far from the Visitor Center. The big draw here wasn’t the spring at all, it was a camel ride, as it was an absolute must-do on our friend’s bucket list. The kids all jumped on a camel while Randy ran behind them to video it all, and Megan and I stayed comfortably in the Jeep! They only walked for about 10min into the desert, but it was enough to satisfy all of them and check it off the list! We chose not to do a camel safari in the evening, but instead were happy with the short little jaunt!
With camels checked off the list, we piled back into the bed of the pick-up truck and drove deeper into the desert. The landscape of Wadi Rum is surprisingly varied, with sand dunes, ancient rocks, and slot canyons from a time when water must have flowed through the land. It definitely felt like we’d been transported to another planet. (It was the filming location for the movie The Martian, so it kind of is like another planet!)
Burdah Rock Bridge
Being a bit afraid of heights (alright, I’m completely petrified of heights, especially when my kids are somewhere high!), I was nervous to climb up to Burdah Rock Bridge. But, the kids were so excited to do some climbing that I had to suck it up and join them. The first bit was okay, but once we got up to the Bridge I couldn’t even bring myself to walk across!! Instead I found a safe spot a short distance away to snap pictures (while mildly panicking) and watched them run across with reckless abandon. I’m pretty sure I didn’t actually breathe the whole time and my stomach was completely in knots. I was thoroughly relieved to reach the ground, although it wouldn’t be the last time they climbed something in Wadi Rum that made my head spin!
The canyon was a bit more my style, without any ledges or arches promising certain death from one missed step (maybe I’m over-exaggerating a bit…but I kinda don’t think so!). Looking up, a sliver of sun fought it’s way down the canyon walls, losing the battle long before reaching the canyon floor. Petroglyphs adorned the walls above our heads, also out of reach of the sun’s rays. This left the canyon feeling like it was lost in time, forgotten by everyone, including the sun. Of course, it hadn’t been forgotten by everyone, as evident by the number of tourists also clambering their way along the canyon floor. But, it was a peaceful place, and must have provided important shade and water long before the Wadi Rum Village and desert camps were built.
The kids were in heaven; climbing over rocks, pointing out petroglyphs, and jumping puddles. Being in the shade, away from the intense heat of the day, made it even more enjoyable. It reminded me a bit of the Wadis in Oman, other than the fact that we were walking and not swimming. A little swimming hole at the end would’ve made it absolutely perfect!! That’s probably asking a bit too much though, especially in the desert.
Wadi Rum Sand Dunes
After driving on top of the desert, it was finally time to get our toes in the sand and race down a sand dune. Alright, the kids raced down a sand dune while the adults drank mint tea in the shade and watched!! The kids kept their shoes on because the sand was SO hot. I’m not sure their little feet would’ve managed on the sand barefoot. They came down with shoes full of sand, and giant smiles on their faces. I enjoyed sitting in the little shaded tent watching from afar. Really, it was a win-win for everyone!
Wadi Rum Bedouin Camp
We arrived at our desert camp late in the afternoon. After throwing our things in our tents we had a much-needed snack and (more) mint tea in the dining tent. It didn’t take much time before the kids were itching to go exploring, and more importantly, climbing on the rocks. The three older kids clambered around the hills while Randy and I enjoyed a spectacular sunset over the desert.
Kacela stayed back with Megan, and upon my return I learned that she’d learned the very important skill of rolling a cigarette!! One of the Bedouin guides was rolling one in the cooking tent, and she was interested in what he was doing, so he showed her! You just never know what you’re going to learn in the desert!
Once it got dark everyone slowly made their way into the cooking tent. Our 7-person group made up about half the people there, and it wasn’t long before everyone was chatting in some form of English. There was more mint tea and a Hookah to enjoy while our meal finished cooking in a pit the ground. It was pulled out of the ground and served to a group of rather starving (and tired) people.
The kids crashed quickly, and Randy and I walked out into the desert to admire the stars. Desert stars are one of my most favourite things, there’s nothing quite like them. We were lucky to enjoy a few fantastic star-gazing experiences this year; horseback riding in Kyrgyzstan, on our camel safari in the Thar Desert in India, and now in Wadi Rum. Each one was different from the last, but they were all special in their own unique way.
The sun rose too early the next morning, waking everyone up with it. We enjoyed a big breakfast, then bumped our way back across the desert to the Village. This mini-adventure might have been over, but I was VERY excited for what was coming next!!
Next up: Petra – The Reason Behind My Curiosity About Jordan!
Know Before You Go To Wadi Rum
Where To Stay In Wadi Rum
We stayed at the Wadi Rum Bedouin Tour With A Camp that I found on booking.com, and it was incredible! It was a small, locally owned company and the owner was our Jeep tour guide. There was nothing fancy about it, but it was comfortable and relatively authentic. The tents had all been made in the traditional way, using dyed goat hair, and the location in the desert was incredible. We ate a phenomenal evening meal, and our guide was very flexible coordinating the times when the visitors came and went.
Cost: 70 JD ($130 CAD) for a quadruple tent (40 JD) and a triple tent (30 JD) housing 3 adults and 4 kids. This didn’t include the jeep tour, camel ride, dinner or breakfast.
How To Get To Wadi Rum
There are essentially 2 ways to get to Wad Rum; on a tour, or driving yourself! If you’re driving yourself, the entrance to Wadi Rum is from the North side of the reserve, off Highway 47. It’s about an hour driving north of Aqaba if you’re coming from the South, and closer to an hour and a half from Ma’an if you’re coming from the North. I highly recommend renting a car to make your way around Jordan. It’s reasonably priced, the roads are in great shape, they drive on the right hand side of the road, and it’s simply the easiest way to get to all the sites!
How To Get Around Wadi Rum
- Drive Yourself! It’s possible to drive yourself around Wadi Rum if you don’t want to take a jeep tour. You’ll need to stop at the Visitor Center and get a permit (20JD for the car and 5JD per foreigner at the time of writing, although the entrance fee is included if you have a Jordan Pass), and ensure you stay on the tracks. I’d also suggest only doing this if you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, and experience driving on sand!! Make sure you let out a bunch of air from the tires, and carry a sand ladder with you just in case you get stuck.
- Take a Wadi Rum Jeep Tour organized by your Bedouin Camp. This is the most common way to get around Wadi Rum, and it’s definitely the easiest! You won’t have to worry about driving, getting stuck, or going the wrong direction. Most of the vehicles are 4x4 pick-up trucks with benches along the box and a make-shift canopy over the top providing a bit of protection from the sun. Just don’t expect it to be too comfortable! Remember, bouncing around in the back of the vehicle is half the fun!
What It Cost
For our family of 4, the 24 hour overnight trip to the Wadi Rum Desert cost 124 JD ($248 CAD). This included our Jeep tour, overnight at the Wadi Rum Bedouin Camp, Dinner, Breakfast, and a camel ride in the desert for each girl. This was slightly higher than our daily budget, but worth every penny! Our entrance fee into the Wadi Rum Desert was included in our Jordan Pass, so didn’t require any further money out of pocket. If you don’t have a Jordan Pass, the entrance fee is 5 JD per foreigner (free for kids under 12 yo).
Tips For Visiting Wadi Rum With Kids
- Bring water with you for the afternoon jeep tour. Sure, your guide will likely have some bottled water, but it’s so much better to use your filter water bottle and pack some water yourself.
- Pack a lunch and some snacks in the morning, before leaving for the Wadi Rum Village. There’s not a whole lot to eat at the Visitor Center, and the prices are quite astronomical! You’ll also want the snacks before dinner…we ate dinner at 8pm and without the snacks our kids would’ve been starving!
- Make sure everyone goes to the bathroom before leaving the Wadi Rum Village. There’s facilities until you reach your camp a few hours later, other than the desert of course!
- Pack toilet paper and a small bag to carry it back out (leave only footprints, take only pictures!), just in case someone needs a desert bathroom break.
- Wear hiking sandals, or shoes with no socks! The sand has a tendency to get absolutely everywhere, so socks are really just a nightmare, especially if you have a sensory-sensitive child!
- The afternoon sun is hot and powerful, wear sunscreen and a wide brimmed hat at a minimum.
- The evenings are cool…so make sure to pack everyone a sweater and long pants for the evening.
- Pack an overnight bag for the family and leave the rest of your luggage in your rental car at the visitor centre.
- Put some games and a book in your overnight bag so you have something to do in the dining tent in the evening.
- Pack a headlamp for everyone so you can see to go to the washroom (and from the dining tent back to your sleeping tent) after dark.
- There are showers available at many of the camps, but if you plan on showering do so early, as the water is heated by the sun and there’s a limited supply. Better yet, just plan to not shower for the night you’re in the desert!