When you think of Jordan, you wouldn’t be alone if you picture deserts first. Many people first think of the big empty deserts and the famous Indiana Jones site of Petra. While in Wadi Rum, which should definitely be on your itinerary, you can camp at a traditional Bedouin site and relax or you can go looking for adventure. I choose adventure! Riding hot air balloons in Wadi Rum might be the most extravagant, and camel rides and jeep safaris are other great options for adventure in Jordan.
Wadi Rum: “the valley of the moon”
Nabateans left traces of their lives here as well as Petra and you can see it in rock carvings, temples, and graffiti. If you’re wondering where to stay for the best Martian experience, this is it! Guess what was just filmed here? The Martian!
Touring around Jordan tends to be more of a “tour” than just wandering around like you would in Europe. From what I saw, most foreigners were on tour groups. These can be pretty exhausting so just remember when the group does something you’re not into you can skip it. Just make sure you save energy for these fun things!
Hot air balloons in Wadi Rum… the greatest adventure in Jordan!
I have always wanted to ride in a hot air balloon! It was ever since I saw photos of Cappadocia, Turkey which is one of the most famous places in the world for riding in a hot air balloon. What makes it so famous are the amazing sandstone structures down below. I did not expect Wadi Rum to have the exact same looking structures! I thought it would be barren and I wasn’t sure what would make the view so spectacular. I was in awe when I saw the area we were going to fly above, the only thing I wish was different is if it were a little less hazy.
I suggest bringing a book along with you. You have to wake up early and drive out to the site but it takes about 30 or 45 minutes to get the hot air balloon all set up. Then again, after you have to wait for them to take it apart and pack it up.
Tip: If you are on a budget keep in mind on the way out you can ride in the back of the truck which is the same type of experience as a pricey desert jeep ride (although you aren’t going to any tourist sites). You could kill two birds with one stone.
Ta-da! It was ready and filling up with hot air. There’s a lot more to it than the Disney movie Up! makes it seem! I was riding next to the “driver” because I was a late booking. He warned me that his spot, and now mine, is the hottest in the balloon. The combo of that, no breakfast and not much to eat the day before, an early wake up, and a windy day made me feel a little light headed as we floated along higher and higher.
Here’s what my view looked like straight down:
Pretty fantastic right? I don’t recall exactly how high up we went, but it was really freakin’ high lol. Another girl also felt sick and we both actually sat down for about 10 minutes. It was about an hour ride. I love heights and adventure like bungee jumping, cliff jumping & canyoning, and hang-gliding, so I’m not sure what got me this time. But man were the views worth it!
Because it was so hot, he gave me an extra hat to wear. I am kind of leaning into the passenger side in this pic while we were on land but in the air, I had to stand all the way to the left and got blasted by heat. I didn’t look at the hat until we landed. I saw it was MICHIGAN and about died laughing. Michigan was my rival in University.
I told the owner that but there was a misunderstanding and he thought I was saying I went to Michigan so he gave me the hat. I didn’t want to say no and be rude, so thanked him. I left it in the back of his truck though so he could keep it. I sent a photo to my family and was immediately labeled a traitor haha!
contact: website: rumballoon.com (this is via their business card, but the URL is down now) email: firstname.lastname@example.org. You absolutely need to book at least two weeks ahead of time! 10 days was not enough and I had to cross my fingers for a cancellation.
If you want to book a tour in Jordan, I suggest checking out this tour from G Adventures, an 8-Day Highlight of Jordan. Book it here for $999. This tour covers all the big highlights and includes a hot air balloon ride and other fun activities. You go by private car and hotels are included. It’s actually a really good price. You can look at their other tours as they have one focused on adventure in the same price range.
Sunset camel ride in Wadi Rum
I am no stranger to a camel ride in the desert, but this time I didn’t drink a giant lassi filled with marijuana ahead of time. I’ve grown up, ya know?
We came to Wadi Rum directly from Petra and I was exhausted. The camel ride was only 1 hour which I was actually really appreciative of. I did a two-day one in Rajasthan in the past and it was rough. Camel rides actually hurt and it’s not uncommon to hear of tourists falling of their camels.
I couldn’t really believe Ben got on one. But then, I also never thought I’d see him on a donkey and that happened. One hour was the perfect amount of time but sadly there was no sunset. It was just really hazy while we were there. We climbed up some rocks half way through to take a few photos.
If you haven’t been on a camel, I don’t really have any tips… you kind of have to just get on one to see what it’s like. They sort of bow down and you get on and when they go up, they go up fast and awkward. They go back down awkward as well and this is when you need to not be too stiff and just go with it. Hold on tight!
If you want to laugh your ass off watch how camels run in this video. When I rode in India my camel helper boy kept making mine run while I was on it. It’s terrifying.
I must give Ben credit for this photo.. because he said so.
Jeep ride to Lawrence of Arabia site
If you aren’t up for camel rides or just want another option, then take a jeep safari. We went after breakfast and did it kind of quickly because we had a car ride ahead of us. You should have about 2 hours for this. There are some attractions that all the Jeep safaris go to which I’ll share below.
Here you can see some of the carvings (just barely over the rock in the middle). I can’t seem to find my picture that I took once I climbed up. I am also looking very camouflaged in this picture! It’s hot and sandy on these rides so definitely bring sunglasses.
This was next to the ancient carvings and no one actually said if this legitimately was a table or if it’s just a coincidence. I think it’s just a coincidence? But we did the tourist shot because, why not?
You can see some Bedouin people in this picture. They are considered nomads and used to ride only by Arabian horse, but these days have 4×4 trucks and more permanent homes. They earn through mostly tourism. They still have that nomad spirit though and know the desert better than anyone!
This was one last stop we made. Look at that view! Just incredible. So, the jeep ride was short and sweet but totally worth it. We also saw the site where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed. I haven’t seen the movie, so it wasn’t that special of a moment for me. I definitely want to see it. Sometimes movies help you get a look at a culture so it’d be cool to see a story about Wadi Rum back in the day. Below are the carvings from the Lawrence of Arabia site, of him.
Where to stay in Wadi Rum…
This is a tricky one. I’m not going to mention my place because I don’t highly recommend it. In fact, from what I’ve heard more people say the group camping sites are mostly the same. I would say either look into a private camping site or stay outside Wadi Rum at a hotel instead of camping.
It’s not that I don’t like camping, but there were 200 people there. They were college-aged kids, drinking, and partying. You can imagine in a Muslim country there isn’t a lot of that allowed in the city, so they really let loose in the desert with no authorities around. There were a few “tourists” and we all kind of went to bed early. They set up a proper DJ with disco lights and everything…
We didn’t see a single star.
I was pretty bummed by this and so was Ben. Also, imagine 200 people in line for a buffet at dinner time. The cottages were okay but you need to bring your own towels and I recommend bringing a sheet too. I guess I just had different expectations. When we arrived there were only 10 people sitting around and we thought we might even sleep in sleeping bags out by the campfire but that was impossible we realized once we came back from our camel ride in the evening and saw all the other people arriving. I think the music went off around midnight. I had to be up for sunset for the hot air balloon ride, so it wasn’t ideal.
Overall, Wadi Rum is an amazing place in the world and I think you’d be crazy to go to Jordan and not check out the desert. If you go through a tour company just mention that you do not want a group campsite and would to be somewhere peaceful and small. So there we go, some adventurous things to do in Jordan! I think hot air balloons in Wadi Rum is a great option if you can choose only one adventure thing to splurge out on.
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