Less than an hour’s drive from the busy and noisy center of Jerusalem hides an amazing natural gem. There, you’ll find serene desert silence, disturbed only by the sound of water rushing through a gorge.
Wadi Qelt is a stream that runs from the northwestern slopes of the Judaean Desert just outside Jerusalem and down to the city of Jericho. It’s one of the biggest and only sources of running water in the Judean Desert.
The area has a long human history. Look around, and you’ll be able to spot the ruins of the ancient aqueducts that once delivered precious water to Jericho.
The aqueduct ruins aren’t the only traces of the past you’ll find there, as this place has attracted monks since the early days of Christianity. The Monastery of Faran (also known as the Chariton Monastery), located along the upper section of the canyon, was the first Christian monastery to be built in the Judean Desert around 330 CE. The Monastery of St. George of Choziba, located within the lower section of the canyon, is a sixth-century complex, complete with an old chapel and gardens. Both monasteries are built hanging on the cliffs of the canyon, creating an amazing sight to behold.
Once you’re done soaking in all the area’s history, you can cool off by literally soaking in its waters. The various waterfalls and pools within the gorge provide ample swimming opportunities.
Know Before You Go
The Wadi can be visited in a variety of ways to suit all tastes and skill levels. You can just visit one of the monasteries, with or without a short walk along the canyon. Or, you can take a short walk and swim/picnic near one of the pools. Lastly, you can take a real hike to combine everything together. There are several hiking routes that range from five to 20 kilometers.