If you are tired of traditional tours on paved roads, this tour is for you! The Judean Desert cascades in stunningly beautiful biblical landscapes to the area of the Dead Sea. It is dotted with significant archaeological gems, nature reserves and Bedouin settlements. Above all, being close to Jerusalem, its highlights can all be reached in a one-day guided tour, via a 4×4 vehicle.
Are you ready for an adventure?
Tracking Ancient Monastic Cells
Departing from Jerusalem, we first head to Deir Hajla /Gerasimus Monastery. This is one of many Christian monasteries that flourished in the Judean Desert during the Byzantine period.
They served the multitudes of pilgrims eager to reach the baptism site of Jesus, by the Jordan River. This monastery was reactivated in modern times by the Greek-Orthodox Church, like an enclaved oasis.
Furthermore, a 2 mile ride on a dirt road will bring us to the monastic cells of the monastery in the past, known as the Laura of Gerasimus. From here we can also view the Baptism site, Jericho, and Mount Nebo in the distance.
Crawling into a Mystery Tunnel
We will then drive up the steep ascent through the cliffs, into the Achor valley. Among the majestic Dead Sea view that open to us, of the shores of the Dead Sea, we will track Qumran. This site was apparently the center of a unique Jewish monastic movement. They are especially famous for their hidden manuscripts – the Dead Sea Scrolls. One of them, the Copper Scroll, describes hidden treasures in 60 different locations. This fascinating “treasure map” has led quite a few expeditions to dig in different sites in hope to find any of the treasures. One of the locations was excavated some years ago in the heart of the Judean Desert – the Hyrcania Secret Tunnel. Sadly, it didn’t yield any finds, but it still fascinates the imagination. Why was it dug so deep? By whom? With headlamps we will crawl into one of the two tunnels and try to figure this out.
Viewing an Isolated Grand Monastery
After a Bedouin style tea break, we return to follow the desert trails. Ascending through rough terrain above the Achor valley, we will finally reach the iconic viewpoint of Mar Saba Monastery. About 1,500 years ago, monk Sabas settled in a cave at this site. His fame led many to join him, and eventually a monastic complex developed here. Unlike most other monasteries, Mar Saba Monastery was never abandoned. It also contains a significant Christian library. The breathtaking views of the monastery and the desert is also a great place also for a lunch break.
Following lunch, we continue climbing to the highest viewpoint in the Judean Desert – Jabel Muntar. By Jewish tradition this is the place where a goat was thrown to its death every year, on Yom Kippur, as atonement for God.
We then return to paved roads in the industrial zone of Eastern Jerusalem, and possibly visit the Monastery of Euthymius. Finally, we head up, back to Jerusalem, and greet it from the Mount of Olives Viewpoint. Mixing with pilgrim groups, we have an additional viewpoint to admire this city that emerges out of the Judean Desert, and became a religious focal point for most of Western Cultures.
A great way to end an unforgettable day!
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