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CENTRAL WADI QELT
From Ein Fawwar to the Monastery of St. George
Distance and Time: 7.0km / 4 – 5 hours
Grade: Moderate / challenging. Some scrambling, and some short, steep climbs. Rocky uneven terrain. Some muddy sections in winter or early spring.
Beginning near Jerusalem, the Wadi Qelt descends through the desert to the east and deepens into a spectacular canyon before emerging in the Jordan River Valley near Jericho. The valley forms a remote and secretive passage between these two ancient cities, and has been used by armies, monks, and smugglers for thousands of years. In the lower reaches of the valley, below the monastery of St. George, there are still hermits living in isolated caves in the side of the gorge. It is among the best known and most spectacular hikes in the West Bank, but remains a wild and challenging walk.
From the spring at Ein Fawwar, the trail follows the streambed through the reeds before climbing out of the valley across a spectacular rock bridge. Expect some scrambling around the rocks in this first hour of the walk. Descending again into the gorge, you arrive at the pools and waterfalls of Ein Qelt, which is a fabulous place to swim. From here the path follows the line of an ancient aqueduct, dropping towards the Byzantine monastery of Saint George, from where a steep climb will bring you back to the road. Alternatively, you can continue for another couple of hours down into Jericho.
LOWER WADI QELT
From the Monastery of St. George to Jericho
Distance and Time: 4km / 1.5 - 2 hours
Grade: Moderate / Easy. A winding, up-and-down desert path along the side of the canyon.
From the monastery the trail contours along the northern side of the valley. After about an hour, you pass Wadi Qelt’s last inhabited hermitage – a cave built into the side of the cliffs that is home to an elderly Greek-speaking monk from Macedonia, and to a tradition that goes back as far as the fourth century. Soon after the hermitage the canyon opens out in the Jordan River Valley, and the trail arrives at the ruins of King Herod’s winter palace on the edge of Jericho.
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