When to hike
The Wadi Rum Trail is mostly a wilderness route. From beginning to end, day and night, hikers walk under the big desert skies, exposed to the elements, whatever the weather. Each of Wadi Rum's seasons has its own special character, with every part of the environment, from the climate, to the look of the mountains, the feel of the rock and sand, and the behaviour of living things changing over the year. Hiking is possible at any time if sensible adaptations are made, but generally summer is a season best avoided. Temperatures get uncomfortably and sometimes even hazardously hot when hiking in the sun, although as a highland region 1000m above sea level Wadi Rum still remains markedly cooler than Aqaba, at sea level; sometimes by up to 10 degrees. When planning a journey hikers might also consider the numbers of visitors likely to be encountered. Almost every year since Wadi Rum's tourism began visitor numbers have peaked in April and October; in the decade before 2017, around 23,000 people visited each April, with some years seeing more than 40,000. An average of nearly 20,000 visited in the same period each October and less than 8000 each January. This affects a hike in a real way, especially around popular tourist spots like Jebel Birda; high tourist season means more 4x4s, people and noise in Wadi Rum's famous heartlands. It can be hard to find guides in the peak season and prices increase in camps and hotels too. Wadi Rum's quietest, cheapest months are December, January and February. Other things to consider are religious festivals such as Ramadan; the Islamic holy month of fasting when some guides choose not to work. Guides are often hard to find in Islam's two Eid festivals too, for which upcoming dates are outlined below.
Autumn arrives in mid-September and marks the beginning of the hiking season in Wadi Rum. This is a transitional season; the switchover between the hotter months of summer and the cooler climes of winter. Temperatures become most comfortable for hiking from October and usually remain pleasant in November. Clouds are common in the autumn, throwing a beautiful broken light over the desert. October is the month in which autumn rain is most likely to fall. Autumn brings much better visibility than summer, with the faraway summits of the Sinai often seen from the high peaks of Wadi Rum. Migratory birds might also be seen in flocks numbering the thousands too, all making their age old winter's passage between Eurasia and Africa. Autumn visitor numbers are at their lowest in November.
Spring lasts from March to May and is the most popular season for visiting Wadi Rum. It is a time beloved to the Bedouin too, fabled in old Arabic poetry and awaited eagerly by all, especially after good autumn and winter rains. Dry, dusty plants come to life, covering the desert in meadows of green and colourful wildflowers of pink, yellow and purple. Mobile families of Bedouin search out waterpools and grazing, moving herds towards new pastures. Temperatures are usually comfortable; especially from mid March. As in autumn, migratory birds are often seen overhead making their return journey to Eurasia. Spring's only downside is the seasonal khamasin wind, which usually comes for a few days in April, whipping up dust to turn the skies a deep yellow and limiting visibility to a few hundred metres.
Winter comes in December, lasting until the end of February. These are the coldest months of the whole year and whilst temperatures can be pleasant for hiking, they can drop below freezing at night or on high elevations and during cold snaps. Rain is most likely during winter and if temperatures are low enough it may even fall as snow, blanketing the desert white. The Bedouin celebrate rain - it fills wells, waterpools and rejuvenates plants and trees - but it can also produce flash floods in siqs and canyons; a risk of which all hikers must remain vigilant. Clouds may swirl around the high mountains for days at a time in winter, complicating navigation in some areas. Wadi Rum's quietest period, winter is a harsh season but one of great, inimitable beauty, offering sights rarely seen in other times.
Hiking is best avoided during the summer in Wadi Rum. Temperatures can become scorchingly hot some days, especially in July and August. Visibility is often limited, with the heat producing a haze by the late afternoon, and snakes, scorpions and other desert critters are most active at this time too requiring extra vigilance. Whilst hiking is not impossible, it has to be done carefully, with sensible adaptations made. More water must be carried throughout and walking is best started before dawn, when temperatures are coolest. Good shade should be sought out for several hours around noon, with walking starting again from mid afternoon until sunset. When easier landscapes like plains and wadis are traversed, hiking might also be done at night, under the light of the moon and stars.
Ramadan & the two Eids
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and a holy time of the year for Muslims. It is believed God revealed the first verses of the Quran to the Prophet Mohammed during this time and observant Muslims fast daily, foregoing food, water, cigarettes and all other temptations from sunrise to sunset. Owing to the Islamic calendar – whose months align with new phases of the moon and shift between the seasons – Ramadan falls at a different time each year. Over the next decade, it will fall during the hiking season. A three day holiday called Eid el Sagheer starts the day after Ramadan ends; another three day holiday called Eid el Adha comes about two months later. Many Bedouin fast in Wadi Rum and finding guides for hiking and climbing in Ramadan and the Eids can be hard so check ahead.
EID EL ADHA
2023 March 23-April 21 June 29
2024 March 11-April 9 June 17
2025 March 1-March 30 June 7
2026 February 18-March 19 May 27
2027 February 8 - March 9 May 17
2028 January 27 - February 25 May 4
2029 January 15 - February 13 April 23
2030 January 5 - February 3 April 13
Ramadan & Eid el Adha are forecast to fall on these dates during the coming years. Dates can be predicted to within a few days of accuracy many years in advance but are confirmed with complete certainty only after the sighting of the moon in the days before the festivals begin.