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Israel. West Bank. Wadi Kelt. Saint George Monastery. (Photo by: Frassineti Mimmo/AGF/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Photo by: AGF

AGF

Adventure and Exploration in Israel’s Ancient Deserts

By: Lucy Sherriff

Israel is a country packed full of history and culture. Head out on an adventure to discover ancient ruins, crumbling monasteries, and lush oases.

January 22, 2020

Israel is a country packed full of history and culture, and brimming with opportunities to discover ancient ruins, crumbling monasteries, and lush oases.

It’s an expensive country to get around, though, and so the best option is to hire a private guide who can show you the secrets of the desert, and explain the mind-boggling geo-political landscape.

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ISRAEL - APRIL 13: View of the Dead Sea from the fortress of Masada, Israel. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

Photo by: DEA / ARCHIVIO J. LANGE

DEA / ARCHIVIO J. LANGE

Hike through Wadi Qelt, a biblical valley featuring a river that runs towards the Dead Sea, and around half an hour from Jerusalem. Home to a unique variety of flora and fauna, Wadi Qelt is the name of both the gorge and the stream that flows through it. It’s one of the biggest and only sources of running water in the Judean Desert, and is fed by several streams, including Ein Qelt, which boasts a beautiful waterfall cascading into a natural pool. The hike will take you past the ruins of ancient aqueducts that carried water to Jericho in bygone times, as well as Faran monastery, the first to be built in the Judean Desert in the 3rd century.

After the trek, head to the Dead Sea, but instead of doing the usual bobbing on the surface, hire a kayak to cross the salt lake, which is the lowest point on earth. Keep your eyes peeled for the myriad of wildlife that surround the Dead Sea; everything from ibex and jackals to foxes and leopards. But it’s not just the wildlife that is awe-inspiring; the stunning salt crystal formations and milky-blue tinge of the lake, surrounded by desert mountains, are picture perfect and provide a truly moving experience.

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Large eroded hills of Sede Boqer, the Wilderness of Zin, in Negev desert, southern Israel. (Photo by © Richard T. Nowitz/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Photo by: Richard Nowitz Photography

Richard Nowitz Photography

If you want to get back on land, try your hand at sand boarding on the dunes of Shivta, in the Negev Desert. Laze on a Bedouin-style set-up and drink traditional herbal tea before ascending to the summit of one of the dunes, and gliding down the powder-like sand as the sun sets over the desert. Or, if you’re feeling really adventurous, head there at night, where spotlights light up the dunes and sand vipers and scorpions venture out into the still night. Similar to snowboarding, it’s a novel way to experience the desert, and the sport is growing worldwide.

Back on the road, opt for an adventure cycling tour with a local expert guide around Northern Israel, starting from Tel Aviv and headed to the ‘Tuscany of Israel’, the Amikam region, known for its groves of olives, wine grapes and fruit. Heading into Rehania, and onward to the monasteries of Mount Tabor, a historic site of a legendary battle, and the site of the transfiguration of Jesus. The tour culminates in a refreshing dip in the crystal clear pools of the Gan Hashlosha National Park, fed by a natural spring. Some believe the park is the real-world location of the garden of Eden, and, with its natural Jacuzzi and water a balmy 82F all year round, with lush greenery and palm trees, its not hard to see why.

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