Wadi Rum is a magnificent desert located in southern Jordan, and is one of Jordan’s most popular tourist destinations It is also known as the Valley of the Moon, for good reasons.
Wadi Rum is situated in the southern part of Jordan, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) east of the coastal city of Aqaba. I’ll cover briefly Aqaba (at the border of Jordan, Israel; Saoudi Arabia and Egypt), at the end of the post.
The desert spans over 720 square kilometers (280 square miles) and is characterized by its vast expanse of sand dunes, towering rock formations, and unique red sandstone mountains.
The landscape is often described as otherworldly, resembling the surface of Mars, which has led to its selection as a filming location for several movies, including “Lawrence of Arabia” and “The Martian.”
The textured and soft sand dunes, the cascading rocks, painted with a palette of endless red, the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan s a piece of Mars on Earth
Wadi Rum is home to the Bedouin people, who have inhabited the region for centuries. They have a rich cultural heritage and offer visitors a chance to experience their traditional way of life through Bedouin camps, camel rides, and storytelling.
Wadi Rum offers a range of activities for visitors. Jeep tours are a popular way to explore the desert and its stunning rock formations.
You can also go hiking, rock climbing, or even hot air ballooning.
Wadi Rum is home to various natural and historical sites worth exploring. The post below aims to cover some of the best spots (non-exhaustive of course)
Al Hijaz Steam Train
Before reaching the Wadi Rum visitor center you can take a stop at the Al Hijaz Steam Train
The Railway (used in the Lawrence of Arabia movie) was constructed by the Ottomans in 1900 to facilitate pilgrimages to the Muslim Holy places, Wadi Rum desert, Jordan.
Seven Pillars of Wisdom
The Seven Pillars of Wisdom is a famous rock formation named after T.E. Lawrence’s book, “Seven Pillars of Wisdom,” in which he recounts his experiences during the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire (World War I).
The Seven Pillars of Wisdom is a popular tourist attraction in Wadi Rum. Visitors can explore the area and admire the magnificent rock formations, which change color depending on the sunlight.
This lovely bridge in Khor al Ajram is one of the smaller rock bridges (4-meter span) but clearly a great place to visit and take some pictures.
Don’t hesitate to climb under the bridge to get some nice perspectives.
the small bridge looks bigger then 😊
The place offers gorgeous views over the red sand valley. Among others, you can see well-known mountains like Jabal Rum, Jabal Um Ishrin, and Jabal Khazali.
Khazali Canyon is a narrow sandstone canyon known for its ancient rock inscriptions and unique geological formations.
The canyon is named after the Bedouin tribe Khazali, who historically inhabited the area.
Inside Khazali Canyon, visitors can explore the towering walls and discover rock art that dates back thousands of years. The inscriptions depict various scenes from daily life, wildlife, and possibly even early forms of Arabic script.
Exploring the canyon is like stepping into a living history book, providing insights into the culture and heritage of the ancient civilizations that once roamed the region. The canyon view at the end of the canyon (with some fresh mountain water) is really beautiful.
Clearly a nice spot with a lot of photography opportunities 🤩.
Lawrence Springs (and THE lonely tree)
Known as ‘Ain Abu Aineh’ in Arabic, the spring is where TE Lawrence (the British general who helped the Arabs in their revolt against the Ottoman Empire), stopped to drink and bathe during their journey across the desert.
For generations, Bedouin people (and now tourists) have come to this spot to climb up the rocky slope until they reached the pale fig tree that marks the spring’s origin. Once you reach the spring, views looking out over the valley are spectacular, especially end afternoon.
There is a beautiful and very photogenic lonely tree at the bottom (called “THE Wadi rum tree 😊” ) that is beautiful from uphill…
… as well as when you get back down (yes, I do love that tree 😊 …)
The surrounding mountains make that place really beautiful.
Al Ramal Red Sand Dune, also known as the “Red Dune,” stands out for its vibrant red color, which contrasts beautifully with the surrounding rocky terrain.
It is a popular spot for photography, especially during sunrise and sunset when the colors are particularly striking.
Climbing to the top of the dune allows you to enjoy panoramic 360 degrees views of the desert landscape, creating a memorable experience (and nice pictures potentially)
Many visitors choose to participate in activities such as sandboarding or simply enjoy the serene beauty of the desert up to twilight….
Mushroom Rock is one of the iconic landmarks in the desert valley and is named for its unique resemblance to a mushroom.
The rock formation is created by erosion over time, with a large boulder perched atop a slender pedestal, giving it indeed the appearance of a mushroom cap.
Mushroom Rock attracts many visitors due to its distinct shape and picturesque setting and has become a popular spot for photography. I recommend having a look at night as well if you can organize …
Fruth Rock Arch is one of the many beautiful arches found in Wadi Rum, and it stands out due to its impressive size and distinctive shape.
The arch is formed by centuries of erosion caused by wind and water, creating a natural opening in the rock formation that resembles an archway.
Like for Mushroom Rock, the arch attracts many visitors, and is beautiful at night as well if you can organize a jeep & a driver…
Chicken Rock is a beautiful formation and landscape, just west of Ulm Frouth Rock Arch (near candles Camp)
This is one of my favorite photography spots with the sand dunes and the rocks around.
You can even get some friends posing there 😊
“No name” Arch 😢
That arch, situated southwest of chicken rock is beautiful but does not seem to be identified/named on tourist maps. But is worth having a look.
There is nearby (100 meters ish) another interesting formation.
Panoramic viewpoint sunset
That viewpoint (situated near Rainbow camp) offers amazing perspective, especially during the always colorful sunsets over the Wadi Rum desert and mountains.
Clearly, the feeling to be on Mars’s planet surface is always strong around sunset here.
The mountain chains from there (if you have a telephoto) are really in my view from a different planet…
Big red Sand dune
North of the Umm Rashid canyon, you’ll find the beautiful “Big Red Sand Dune” at the end of the canyon.
This is another great spot not to miss.
Find a sunrise spot … and some camels.
Like for sunset, waking up early is always rewarded by amazing light and colors, wherever you go.
You’ll find many camels going around under the golden morning light.
Yes, I do like shooting camels 😊
..they give some nice perspective on the gorgeous Wadi Rum desert
Find some Herd of Goats …
The Bedouins have obviously many animals in the desert, and they are fun to interact with and photograph.
Keep exploring around …
Of course, it is difficult to be specific on locations so keep going around in that magnificent desert for memories and images of a different world 🤩.
Hot air balloons…
Tours are available in Wadi Rum (but outside the National Park) typically during the early morning when the winds are calm, and the temperatures are cooler.
During a hot air balloon tour in Wadi Rum, you’ll typically board a large balloon basket with a trained pilot. As the balloon takes off, you’ll ascend gently into the sky and enjoy panoramic views of the desert scenery.
Due to the absolute incompetence of our travel agency (long story), to my huge frustration, we could not get into the balloon unfortunately (after a wake up at 3 AM), but following the balloons in a jeep is fun and can provide amazing images as well.
The (very misleading) companies sell two flights in the morning but the second one almost never takes off as, when the first flight land, this is already very close to the limit of the national park that is not allowed so .. make sure you’re formally book on the first flight 😢.
Aqaba is a coastal city located in the southernmost part of Jordan. It is situated on the Gulf of Aqaba, an inlet of the Red Sea. It is known for its beaches, resorts, and vibrant coral reefs so, as it is close to Wadi Rum (less than 1 hour) might be a nice place to recover & relax
There are a few things to discover in the old town if you get out of your resort or the beach 😊
Aqaba Fort or Mamluk Castle is a historic fortress, dating back to the Mamluk period in the 14th century when it was built as a defensive structure to protect the city and its port. Over the years, it has undergone various renovations and additions by different civilizations, including the Ottomans and the Mamluks.
Aqaba Castle is a significant cultural and architectural landmark in Aqaba, and it now serves as a museum showcasing various exhibits and artifacts related to the region’s history and heritage.
Visitors can explore the castle’s different sections, including the central courtyard, towers, and underground chambers.
From the top of the castle, you can also enjoy panoramic views of Aqaba and the Red Sea coastline.
Arab Revolt Plaza,
Near the fort, the Great Arab Revolt Plaza is a huge square that embraces the flag of the Great Arab Revolt, and the house of the Leader of the Arab Revolution, Al Hussein Bin Ali.
Sharif Hussein bin Ali Mosque
The Aqaba Mosque is a prominent and new (2005) religious site, with a blend of modern and traditional Islamic styles design.
Masjid Al Sheikh Zayed,
Nestled in the heart of rosy mountains is Sheikh Zayed, Mosque is an architectural masterpiece inspired by the design of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.
It is really worth having a look inside as well.
So here is my little takeaway from Wadi Rum (and the extension to nearby Aqaba). Of course, the desert has many locations (e/g Burdha Rock Bridge hike) but I hope the sample of images engages you to visit that gorgeous location!
If you’re interested in other parts of gorgeous Jordan, you can read my posts around
the Dead Sea region as well as the Amman region (LINKS TO COME when articles will be published 😊)