Wadi Rum is a valley cut into the sandstone and granite rock in southwest Jordan. Having been inhabited by many different tribes of people, even since prehistory, there are age-old markings, rock paintings, and other signs left by cultures past. In modern-day Jordan however, the sands of Wadi Rum attract tourists, hikers, and mountain climbers. It is a great place for camel and horse safari or simple day trips from Aqaba or Petra.

Spend a night under the twinkling stars in a secluded Bedouin-style tent in the southwest valley of Wadi Rum, a UNESCO World Heritage protected desert. Rock formations jut out from the ancient sands and natural arches, cliffs, and caverns make it seem like an otherworldly place. Indeed, it has been featured in films as a stand-in location for Mars or the moon.

It is easy to imagine the camel caravans that passed along these routes long ago from Asia, Africa, and across the Middle East. The Bedouins have made the silent deserts and the mountain passes their home and traditionally lived nomadic lives raising livestock. Today they welcome guests with open arms to luxury desert tents, fitted with showers for freshening up after a day exploring the hot sands. Lounge on low plush cushions and seating and when you’re ready to retire, torches, lanterns, and candles light the way back to your sumptuous tent. Chat with new friends under the sparkling desert sky and catch sight of a shooting star dancing across the dark expanse. Drink tea in tiny glasses accompanied by olive oil, zaatar, and pita bread before climbing into a hot air balloon to soar high above the sea of bright orange and pink sand.

Farther afield find a totally different natural world. Take a trip from the desert to an undersea paradise in Aqaba for some of the best diving and snorkeling in the glassy, clear waters of the Red Sea. Vibrant fish of unimaginable beauty dart through this natural aquarium. This is a popular spot for holidays, and a place Queen Rania of Jordan visits with her family. The ancient port city is quiet in comparison to Jordan’s cities, but under the sea it is bustling with activity.