Discover cliff-clinging monasteries and sacred sights aplenty on a jeep tour through the Judean Desert. After leaving Jerusalem, travel by 7-seater jeep through sandy plains to enjoy photos stops at Mt Azazel and the impressive, yet little-known, Mar Saba Monastery. Hear about the Greek Orthodox monks who live there, and learn about the area's history from a local guide. In the afternoon stop at Ein Prat nature reserve to admire the Wadi Qelt springs and swim or hike.
Board your jeep in the morning, and travel out of Jerusalem into the Judean Desert. As the city traffic gives way to the smooth blond landscape of sand dunes, listen to your guide talk about the places visited on your itinerary.
Your first stop is at the lofty heights of Mt Azazel, a sacred spot where a mountain goat ' or in this case, a scapegoat ' was cast off the cliffs each year to carry away the sins of the people. Soak up the views over the desert, and then carefully travel down into the valley. The terrain is truly off-road here ' a place inhabited by nomads and Bedouin tribes. Look out for their tents and animals, and visit an ancient water hole that's still in use by desert farmers today.
Continue to Mar Saba Monastery, a tucked-away treasure that overlooks a deep ravine. Flanked by rock caves, the Greek Orthodox monastery has the history to match its impressive looks; founded some 1,500 years ago, it is believed to be one of the oldest inhabited monasteries in the world.
Stop for around 20 minutes to view Mar Saba before continuing through the desert. Pass Nabi Musa, an ancient structure believed by Muslims to be the tomb of Moses. After a brief stop to purchase lunch from a shop along the way, travel onward to Ein Prat to enjoy the rest of your afternoon. The nature reserve is made up of several springs and natural pools, which spawn rich vegetation and flowers to an otherwise unflinching desert landscape.
Pay your entrance fee, and then use your time here for a dip in the water or, if the weather is cooler, follow your guide on a valley hike. Trails meander alongside streams and dip between cliffs, allowing for rewarding views over the reserve.
Before leaving, enjoy a coffee with your guide and gaze out at Wadi Qelt, the largest spring inside Ein Prat. From here, make your journey back to Jerusalem to end your tour at the start point.