One of my favourite days while we were in Jordan, was the day we started with a private tour of Petra and ended late at night with a star gazing show in Wadi Rum desert. This Wadi Rum day trip was mind boggling in a few ways. First, it was a day filled with moment after moment of beautiful scenery. Second, we covered a lot of territory while still feeling like we were soaking up everything that we wanted to see. Third, the day was filled to the brim with absolutely jaw dropping moments like exploring Petra, one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, and then, Wadi Rum, the famous desert of Lawrence of Arabia.
Our Wadi Rum day trip is not for the traveller who has days to linger in Petra or Wadi Rum. It is for the visitor who only has a few days to tour Jordan and has to make the most of it. That was us. My family of 6 – four children aged 14 – 21 years old – only had 6 nights/6 days in Jordan. Like always, I had a long list of everything that I wanted to do and see. I knew it was a ridiculous list in the time that we had. However, ever stubborn, I filled our itinerary with as much as was reasonable. Was it a mistake? Was it too much? It could be for some. However, for me, our Wadi Rum day trip made my list for one of the best days ever.
Wadi Rum Day Trip – Morning
We started our day at 7:30 am in Wadi Musa, the town where the ruins of Petra are found. We had a private two hour tour with a local guide who took us to many of the key sites in Petra. Afterwards, we had about an hour to explore Petra on our own. After that, we had to meet our driver for the 2 hour drive to Wadi Rum.
I have already written two blogs about Petra. First, about our experience exploring Petra the night before with only candle light and the moon guiding us (Petra By Night: Tips For An Amazing Experience). Second, about our amazing private half day tour (Petra Half Day Tour: Was It Enough). I won’t discuss either of these topics again in this blog except to say that we loved these tours and experiences. If you would like tips about what to do or avoid while exploring Petra, I would recommend reviewing them.
Wadi Rum RoadTrip
Just after noon, we left Petra and met our driver to begin our Petra to Wadi Rum day trip. The two hour drive was beautiful. For the first half, we had spectacular views from the side of mountains looking deep into valleys. We passed through small towns and villages and were thrilled to see the day to day lives of locals. We even picked up coffee, falafel and pita in one tiny village for lunch on the fly. The food was amazing – fresh and warm from the oven. The locals were friendly and as curious about us as we were about them.
As we got closer to Wadi Rum, the land began to flatten . Everywhere we looked, there was red sand. Here and there, enormous red craggy mountains seemingly erupted out of the earth. I was mesmerized by the colour, shape of the sand dunes and mountains that seemed to engulf the landscape.
Before entering Wadi Rum Protected Area, we had to visit the Wadi Rum Visitor Centre. This is a modern building just before the main gates to Wadi Rum where entrance tickets to the protected area must be purchased. It is approximately $7 USD per person.
Wadi Rum Protected Area
Wadi Rum Protected Area is 720 square kilometres of desert wilderness in the south of Jordan. Huge mountains of sandstone and granite dramatically emerge from wide sandy valleys, reaching heights of 1700 metres or more. Narrow canyons and fissures cut deep into the mountains. Many conceal petroglyphs, ancient drawings etched by Bedouins over hundreds of years. Bedouin tribes still live among the mountains of Wadi Rum.
Where We Stayed On Our Wadi Rum Day Trip
From the Visitor Centre, we drove another 20 minutes into Wadi Rum Protected Area to our hotel Space Village Luxury Camp.
Wadi Rum has been the back drop for countless films that wish to depict Mars, the red planet. The most recent one was the 2015 movie The Martian, with Matt Damon. Upon arrival at Space Village Luxury Camp, I immediately felt like I had landed in another world.
First off, all I could see for miles and miles was red sand and mountains. Secondly, it was completely untouched. Apart from our camp, I couldn’t see another settlement or other man made building. We were tucked between mountains and dunes. Lastly, I felt like Space Village was set up to feel like a faraway outpost. There was row upon row of large tents lined up perfectly. Wooden pathways connected them to each other and at the top, we found two very large tents. One contained seats, rugs and tables. Here, we hung out, played cards and had tea. The other one was the dining hall. In between the two, was a fire pit and seats where we huddled once the sun went down.
Before arriving at Space Village Luxury Camp, we passed a couple of other tented camps which were not as ideally situated as ours. Some were near roads, some lacked privacy, while others seemed to be part of a larger complex with unattractive buses and cars parking nearby. I would not have been happy there.
We stayed in a standard tent and it was lovely. The beds were large, comfortable with huge thick blankets. Each tent had an ensuite bathroom with full plumbing. It was as nice as any decent modern hotel. Electricity was turned off during the day. Accordingly, it was absolutely sweltering in the tents after 10:00 am. On the flip side, once the sunset, it was freezing. In the evening, each tent had electricity and heat, although the blankets were wonderfully warm. For added luxury, we each received a thick blanket-like robe for our use during our stay.
Three Hour Sunset Jeep Tour
Once we settled in our tent, we left on our three hour sunset desert jeep tour around 3:00 pm. This was an absolutely fantastic and fun way to explore this beautiful part of the world.
Space Village organized two “jeeps” for us and they picked us up from the camp. However, first things first, these were not jeeps! They were small pick up trucks, with open flat bed trunks with benches and cushions added. They were old run down vehicles with limited suspension. The benches were hard and upright and the cushions were thin.
After catching a glimpse of our vehicles, I was a little concerned about how comfortable we were going to be. More worrisome, my husband has a bad back. This was not looking good. However, my fears were mislaid. We split up with three of us in each vehicle. This allowed us to stretch out and find a way to be comfortable. In addition, the actual driving and touring were easy on the body and still very fun and exciting. We drove FAST, but it was largely in straight paths along roads made out of soft sand. There wasn’t any “dune bashing” or crazy amusement park driving.
We spent the first two hours of our tour exploring many different parts of Wadi Rum. It was a beautiful and majestic landscape that was completely untouched. We barely saw another vehicle as we drove from place to place. When we stopped to look at rock formations, natural springs, petroglyphs or other significant carvings from ancient Bedouin tribes thousands of years old, we did share that space with other jeeps and their tours. However, except for these moments, we felt very much alone experiencing the desert landscape.
Unfortunately, our guides did not speak English very well. So, we did not learn a lot about the history of the petroglyphs or rock carvings. Nevertheless, we saw unbelievable ancient carvings and spectacular sites, such as Lawrence Spring, Khasali Canyon, Anfishiyeh inscriptions, Lawrence’s House, Small Arch, Um Fruth rock bridge, and the Red Sand Dune. We passed Bedouins on camels, a scene that felt like it could be hundreds of years old, and the occasional Bedouin campsite with children running around. Quite frankly, I’d do it again in a heart beat even without our guides speaking a single word of English. It was just so stunning.
The last hour of our tour, we stopped for tea at a small market to purchase Bedouin souvenirs. My oldest son couldn’t resist and we not only purchased a traditional scarf, we received a lesson on how to wrap it properly on his head. Then, we headed to a spot not far from Space Village to watch the sun slowly set. We got out and walked, climbed onto the hood of the engine, and generally goofed around and had fun. The sunset was magical and serene. A perfect way to end a perfect tour.
Rum Sky Star Gazing Adventure
After dinner, we were collected from Space Village and driven 5 minutes away to the Rum Sky Star Gazing Adventure. This comprised a large tent with lots of foldable chairs, washrooms, and outside, four enormous telescopes all facing into the night sky.
We spent the first 20 minutes inside watching a video teaching us the basics about the planets, the stars, the Milky Way, among other things. Then, we were led outside to begin looking through the telescopes at the stars. Throughout our time outside, we learnt about the stars, the moon, constellations, legends behind them, and ancient ways to use the night sky for navigation. After an hour, we returned to our camp.
I enjoyed our time star gazing. Without any light pollution, I was amazed to see the number and extent of the starry night above us. I really liked using the enormous telescopes and seeing stars and nebulas closer than I had ever seen before. Our guide was incredibly knowledgable and enthusiastic about what we were seeing. For anyone with a passion for astronomy or a desire to learn more about the universe in which we live, then this evening would be perfect for you.
It was a long day . We all struggled to keep focused on the stars, the lecture and the storytelling. Most of our time was spent outside and it was pretty cold out. We wrapped ourselves with warm blankets, which was awesome, except that all we wanted to do after that was go to sleep!
Tips And Expectations For A Successful Wadi Rum Day Trip
Weather and Clothing on the Wadi Rum Day Trip
- It is hot during the day and very cold after sunset. You need to bring appropriate clothing for the weather.
- The weather will limit your activities at Wadi Rum. During the day, it is too hot to spend time in the tent or too much time in direct sunlight. At night, it is very dark and cold.
- I would recommend only wearing closed toe flat comfortable shoes at any time. Running shoes would be fine. Hiking boots would be ideal for comfort, warmth at night, and the best way to prevent sand in your shoes.
- There wasn’t any wifi, TV, or other electronic entertainment devices. Space Village did not offer any other type of evening entertainment. Make sure you bring a book, cards or something else to occupy you after dinner.
- The only alcoholic beverage available was beer. There wasn’t any wine or hard alcohol. All drinks, soda pop and beer, were not included in the cost of accommodation. It was expensive.
- If you stay elsewhere, investigate the site plan of the camp and what is located nearby. One of the nicest parts of our experience at Space Village was the setting. It felt authentic and untouched.
Jeep Tour on the Wadi Rum Day Trip
- On the jeep tour, be prepared for trucks that are run down and guides that do not speak very good English. You might be lucky to get a nice truck and an English speaking guide, but that it isn’t guaranteed.
- If you are a group larger than 4 people and tall or on bigger side, I’d recommend looking into booking two jeeps. It isn’t necessary – we all fit in one vehicle – however it wasn’t as comfortable or enjoyable as it was with two. The cost for each vehicle with driver and guide was $70USD for three hours.
- We did not have any seatbelts or anything except for the basic benches keeping us in the truck. We had to hold on to stabilize ourselves. I felt safe – there weren’t any obstacles on the road and we drove only on flat surfaces. However, objectively, it wasn’t safe. If you have young children, you will need to decide whether you would feel comfortable with this.
- In addition, you should bring a little bit of cash on your desert jeep tour. Most likely, you will end up at a small market and may wish to purchase a trinket or two. They do not accept credit cards.
Rum Sky Star Gazing Adventure
- Tickets cost $25 USD per person, which includes transportation to and from the show unless your camp falls outside the area. Then, transportation is extra.
- Dress warmly. In the event you need a warm blanket, they will provide one.
- This would not be very interesting for young children. It is not dangerous or requires them to sit still or be quiet. However, there really isn’t a lot for them to do, except to listen to the guide about the night sky and gaze for a few seconds at a time into a telescope.
- You need to be able to stand and look into telescopes for approximately an hour. Outside chairs were not offered. After the lecture inside, most of your time is spent outside moving from one telescope to another.
We loved our Wadi Rum day trip. Our Petra half day tour was exceptional. Then, the drive from Petra to Wadi Rum was beautiful. Finally, our time in Wadi Rum – on the jeep tour, staying in our own Bedouin tents at Space Village and the Star Gazing show – made this day unforgettable. If you need to see it all in a short time, then I’d highly recommend this amazing day in Jordan.
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