Nestled within the awe-inspiring Judean desert lie some of the world’s oldest and most remarkable monasteries. Only a brief 30-minute drive to the east of Jerusalem, this arid expanse is often referred to as “The Desert of the Holy City”. With over 60 monasteries and approximately 10,000 monks, the Judean desert played a pivotal role in the monasticism movement during the Byzantine Era and the nascent era of Christianity.
The journey from Jerusalem into the Judean desert is a spectacle in itself, offering a stark contrast from the urban landscape to the vast open barren land. As we venture forth, we will rapidly descend from an elevation of 800 meters above sea level in Jerusalem to 440 meters below sea level, approaching the Dead Sea – the earth’s lowest point.
Our tour will begin in the Ein Prat nature reserve, or Wadi Kelt, where we will indulge in the verdant oasis and cool natural spring. We will take a brief hike to discover the impressive cliffhanging Faran Monastery, the first monastery founded in the Judean Desert by St. Chariton around 330 CE.
Our next stop will be the impressive Deir Hajla Monastery, also known as the Monastery of Saint Gerasimos, which was the first monastery in the Jericho valley during the Byzantine era.
We will then proceed to the baptismal site on the banks of the Jordan River, known as Qasr al-Yahud, where tradition holds that John the Baptist baptized Jesus. According to tradition, this is also the very place where the Israelites entered the Promised Land and where the prophet Elijah ascended to the heavens amidst a powerful storm.
If time permits, we will partake in an authentic Bedouin coffee ceremony at a Bedouin camp and learn about the Jahalin tribe, their desert lifestyle, and cultural practices.
En route back, we will pause at the vantage point of the magnificent St. George Monastery, which is perched on a stunning cliff.
This tour can be combined with a visit to a private beach at the Dead Sea and a 4X4 safari to the Mar Saba Monastery and Nabi Musa, further enhancing your experience in the desert.