Wadi Kelt is located in the Judean desert, about half an hour’s drive from Jerusalem and close to Jericho. In Arabic ‘wadi’ means a ravine, valley or water channel that is dry year-round, save for the rainy season. Today, much of the wadi is protected land, under the auspices of the Ein Prat nature reserve. Wadi Kelt is one of the largest (and few) sources of running water in the Judean desert; a place of serene beauty, an empty wilderness with a beautiful oasis in its midst. Within the wadi are several springs and ponds, two monasteries and a Royal Winter Palace complex, constructed by Herod the Great.
Ein Prat Nature Reserve
In the reserve are a number of springs, including Ein Prat, Ein Maboa and Ein Kelt. Ein Prat, which is a short walk from the entrance, is the largest in the wadi, and as you walk there you will see small pools of water. The original ‘pump house’ (which historically provided water to East Jerusalem) has now been converted into a tourist center.
Further down, cutting through limestone rocks, canyons, and high cliffs, is Ein Maboa, on the northern side of the stream. There, hikers will find a rectangular pool that empties and refills every few hours. Known as the Dekel (or Palm) Pool, it was built by the British and, at 2.5 meters deep, is a popular place to swim.
The mainspring at the bottom of the wadi is Ein Kelt and, with a waterfall that flows into a natural pool, it is a beautiful place to rest and picnic.
Faran and St. George Monasteries
Wadi Kelt also contains many aqueducts and two monasteries. The Monastery of Faran (also known as the Chariton Monastery) was the first Christian monastery to be established in the Judean desert, in around 330 CE. The Monastery of St. George (also known as Choziba) was built in the 6th century and is located in the lower part of the canyon. Close to Jericho, it has a marvelous look-out point. Since both monasteries are built on the edge of cliffs, they offer visitors spectacular views of the Judean desert.
Visitors may also want to explore the archaeological remains of a Herodian Winter Palace on the northern bank of the wadi. This was once a luxurious complex containing swimming pools, palace gardens, and extensive orchards.
Wadi Kelt’s hiking trails are indicated by red and blue markers - a full day hike is around 10 kms and a shorter version 1-2 km. A certain amount of climbing is involved and it is best to visit between December to March when temperatures are cooler. Visitors should carry plenty of water. Entrance to the park costs 29 NIS and picnic facilities are available inside.