The Stunning Red-Rocked Filming Location You Should Visit In The Middle East

Cinema has often turned our gaze to exotic and stunning locations around the world. However, few places have ignited the imagination of filmmakers and travelers quite like Wadi Rum in Jordan. This approximately 183,000-acre expanse of red sandstone is so transcendent that it seems almost alien in its beauty. If you've ever dreamed of being on another planet, Wadi Rum might be the closest you'll ever come to it on Earth. It served as the backdrop for films like "The Martian" (2015) and "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" (2019), to depict the desolate landscapes of Mars and a galaxy far, far away.

Wadi Rum is the largest "wadi," or river valley, in Jordan, and also a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. The most striking quality is its rust-red landscape, colored by iron oxide and carved over millions of years by tectonic plate movements, harsh winds, relentless floods, and patterns of geological evolution. The towering monoliths, vast deserts, and intricate rock formations create a panorama that is simply breathtaking. No wonder this place is often called the "Valley of the Moon." 

Despite the arid climate and landscape, Wadi Rum housed 12,000 years of human occupation. There are over 25,000 petroglyphs, 20,000 inscriptions, and 154 archeological sites that show evidence of human beings engaging in pastoral, agricultural, and urban activity in the area from the Neolithic to the Nabataean eras and beyond. With writing in Thamudic, Nabataean, and various Arabic scripts, Wadi Rum is an inspiring testament to epochs of human evolution. 

Desert adventures and hospitality in Wadi Rum

Wadi Rum offers a myriad of activities for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers. You can explore the landscape by camel treks or Jeep tours that take guests to ancient sites, narrow canyons, and landmarks like the Burdah Rock Bridge. For the more adrenaline-inclined, climbing the towering sandstone formations provides unmatched panoramic views from the summits of Jabal Ramm (5,689 feet) and Jabal Umm ad Dami (6,083 feet, Jordan's highest peak).

One of the highlights of the Wadi Rum experience is spending a night with a local Bedouin family. The Bedouins have been the custodians of the desert for generations, and their connection to the land is unparalleled. As the evening settles, you'll be welcomed into their tents, sip on traditional tea, listen to ancient tales, and watch the landscape transform as the sun sets. Stargazing in the crystal-clear desert skies at night unveils a breathtaking expanse of planets and galaxies.

After exploring the rugged beauty of Wadi Rum, a different kind of experience awaits. The Dead Sea, the lowest elevation point on Earth and one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world, is just a short journey away. Renowned for its therapeutic properties, the mineral-rich waters and mud are believed to offer numerous health benefits. Nothing except some bacteria lifeforms can live in the sea, hence the name. No need for swimming either — the high density keeps everyone effortlessly afloat in the water (just try not to get it in your eyes).

When and how to visit Wadi Rum

The best time to visit Wadi Rum depends on your tolerance of extremes. The weather varies greatly between the seasons and even times of day. Summers are scorchingly hot, peaking at 104 degrees and cooling to 64 at night, making it less popular among tourists. Winters are cold, overcast, and sometimes rainy. Spring is a special time; you can witness wildflowers blooming over the desert valleys. Although it's warm in the day and cool in the evening, spring brings some rain — even sandstorms! Autumn is considered the best time to visit, with around 8 to 11 hours of daily sunshine and temperatures of 68 to 89 during the day and 46 to 60 at night.

Even though Wadi Rum is relatively remote, it's simple to get there. The best and safest way is with an organized tour. These tours depart from major cities such as Aqaba, Petra, Ammam, or Eilat (on the Israeli side). You can also rent a car from within Jordan, allowing you to make other interesting stops along the way. Entrance to the Wadi Rum Protected Area is $7 in United States currency.

If you're seeking an unexpected Middle Eastern destination that offers both adventure and introspection, set your sights on Wadi Rum in Jordan. This is a journey into nature's unparalleled majesty, a deep dive into ancient culture, and an embrace of desert beauty. Amid the rust-red rocks and vast sweeping dunes, you'll feel like you've stepped into an otherworldly cinematic masterpiece.