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Around Jerusalem and the Dead Sea Travel Guide

  • Photo: Aleksandar Todorovic / Shutterstock

Plan Your Around Jerusalem and the Dead Sea Vacation

The Judean Hills that encircle Jerusalem, together with the wilderness that slopes precipitously eastward to the Dead Sea, host an astonishing range of scenery: springs and oases, forests and fields, caves, hiking trails, and impressive archaeological sites such as Masada. West of the city, farmers are coaxing grapes from the valley where David once battled Goliath. The area is becoming more

popular with a wide range of travelers, thanks to its wineries, breweries, and boutique cheese and olive oil producers.

The Judean Desert–Dead Sea area—little changed from when Abraham wandered here with his flocks—contrasts sharply with the lush greenery of the oases of Ein Gedi, Ain Fashkha, and the verdant fields of Jericho. Nomadic Bedouin still herd sheep and goats, though you notice some concessions to modernity: pickup trucks are parked beside camels.

The route along the Dead Sea shore is hemmed in by towering brown cliffs fractured by wadis, or dry riverbeds. Ein Gedi has two of the most spectacular of these wadis, Nahal David and Nahal Arugot. In Ein Bokek, near the southern end of the Dead Sea, you can settle into one of the numerous health and beauty spas that make use of the Dead Sea's saline waters and medicinal mud.

Just to the north is Masada, Herod the Great's mountaintop palace-fortress built over 2,000 years ago, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Overlooking the Dead Sea, the king's extravagant architectural feat still displays ingenious water systems, elaborate frescoes, mosaic floors, and bathhouses. Add the human drama of the last Jewish stand against Rome during the Great Revolt, and it’s easy to understand why this is one of the most visited sights in Israel.

Just south of Jerusalem, Bethlehem is a major site of Christian pilgrimage. The Church of the Nativity, the oldest church in the country, erected in the 4th century, is built over the grotto where Christian tradition holds Jesus was born. The West Bank Palestinian city of almost 40,000 sits on the ancient highway through the rocky Judean Hills. Farmers tend century-old terraces of olives, figs, and grapes all around the ancient city.

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. Ein Gedi This oasis rich in flora, fauna, and archaeology—praised in the Bible for its beauty and today one of Israel's most impressive national parks—offers spectacular hiking near waterfalls and canyons.
  2. Masada The awe-inspiring remains of this mountaintop palace overlooking the Dead Sea recall its history as a retreat for Herod the Great and as the last stand of the Jewish rebels against Rome in AD 73.
  3. Dead Sea At the lowest point on Earth, float effortlessly on one of the world's saltiest bodies of water, renowned for its therapeutic qualities. In Ein Bokek, cover yourself with the mud and check in to some of the most lavish resorts in the country.
  4. Bethlehem Follow in the footsteps of Jesus from the Church of the Nativity to the grotto where Mary nursed him.
  5. Judean Hills wineries Close to Jerusalem, this area is home to more than two dozen wineries that produce some excellent and highly prized wines.

When To Go

When to Go

The Dead Sea region is pleasant between October and April but suffers from searing dry heat during the summer. Beginning the day with a tour...

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