Jerusalem is surrounded on all sides by astoundingly beautiful, and very different terrain, depending on which direction you choose to travel from the holy city.
Many visitors choose to head eastward toward the Dead Sea to experience some of the most astonishing scenery and hikes in the Middle East. Hiking is a revered national Israeli pastime, and the trail system is well developed and generally easy to follow. For an easy family hike, consider a day hike to Wadi Kelt and the St George’s Monastery carved into the side of the wadi.
Remember, you’re in the desert–so even in winter, take plenty of water and a hat. Give this hike a pass if your visit is during the height of the summer, unless you’re conditioned to extremely high temperature conditions.
From Jerusalem, drive out via the tunnel near Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus and in less than half an hour (it’s just 12.5 miles away) you’ll see a brown sign on the left hand side of the road directing you to Wadi Kelt.
A new road was inaugurated in 2010 that makes getting to the trailhead quite painless. The new 2-way road winds down a mile or two into the wadi to a broad parking space with spectacular views. Lock your car, put on a hat, grab some water and head through the archway on the footpath that will take you deep into the wadi and on up to St George’s Monastery, a spectacular structure carved into the cliff.
You’ll be rewarded along the way with a sense of peace and quiet; lush foliage in the river bed; stark and imposing walls of the wadi around you and the knowledge that you’re tracing the steps of Moses, Elijah and Jesus who all walked through this part of the country.
Take the time to climb up to the monastery, where you’ll find impressive icons, a friendly group of monks and clean restrooms.