Wadi Rum, Jordan, an expansive protected nature area approximately 150 mi/240 km south of Amman, has some of the most dramatic scenery in Jordan. If you visit only one nature area or reserve in Jordan, this should be it. You may even recognize its vistas from the film Lawrence of Arabia.
The scenery in Wadi Rum is spectacular—dry riverbeds, a natural rock bridge, 6,000-ft/1,830-m mountains of sandstone and granite, sandy deserts and wind-sculpted black hills accented by pastel-colored sand. This backdrop provides a perfect setting for ibexes (wild goats that look like a hybrid of deer and mountain goat) and hyraxes (they look like cousins to squirrels, although their nearest biological relation is an elephant).
Many prehistoric sites are scattered through the area, particularly the Nabataean sites dating from the fourth century BC and before.
The dramatic landscapes include the Seven Pillars of Wisdom rock formation, named in memory of T. E. Lawrence (also known as Lawrence of Arabia), whose classic book recounts his experiences in the Middle East. Lawrence described Wadi Rum as "vast, echoing and godlike."
The Pillars are visible from a visitors center accessible by a modern paved road. There, visitors will find gift shops, a restaurant and a theater.
Wadi Rum can be seen on a day trip or short camping trip or extended camping and hiking trip (various camping options are available, even Bedouin tents). A range of tours (some with English-speaking guides, some with only a driver who may not speak English) is offered at the visitors center, but it is best to book your trip in advance to be sure of getting what you want. Excursions are offered by Jeep, camel and on foot. Tours by hot-air balloon are also available, offering an impressive view of the area.
Plan at least half a day to explore this dramatic and mystical landscape, but to truly appreciate its beauty you'll need longer. Be sure to take a warm jacket and gloves, especially if you are visiting in the winter. The experience is intended to be rustic, and it is. Most trips there are for one night, and only the essentials are offered. Basic sit-down toilets are available, but showers are rare and offer only cold water.
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