As the longest continuously inhabited settlement in the world, Jericho is a special place.
Nine thousand years old, the city of Jericho has a wealth of history, architecture, and things to do, but unfortunately many tourists bypass the Palestinian settlement on their way to the Dead Sea (worth visiting in it’s own right of course).
But Jericho city has so much to offer beyond that, and for that reason it has always been a place I’ve brought family and friends to when they’ve visited me previously in Palestine. With many Palestinians in Jericho speaking a good level of English, it’s possible to easily and cheaply move around by taxi with little problem. Plus shared taxis (called a service) travel to Jericho from surrounding West Bank cities, and are cheap and convenient.
Referred to in the Torah as the “city of palm trees”, Jericho remains palm-covered to this day. It’s safe, friendly, has it’s own unique micro-climate due to being 300 meters below sea-level, and is bursting with character.
Here’s my top suggestions for things to do in Jericho, and not one of them includes the Dead Sea!
1: Take the cable car
Jericho is home to a spectacular cable car that takes you up the wonderfully named Mount of Temptation. The views are amazing, allowing you to look over the Dead Sea, Jordan Valley, and biblical Judean hills of Palestine. It’s a breathtaking 1330 meter long cable car stretch, that takes you from Jericho city into the rugged landscape of the Holy Land.
With Jericho being so hot – especially in summer where over 40 degrees Celsius is normal – this is a fantastic way to see the city and surroundings without walking for miles in high temperatures.
2: And while you’re up there – visit the Monastery of Temptation
Clinging on to the mountainside – almost impossibly so – and high above city of Jericho is the stunning Monastery of Temptation, which is most easily visited through taking the cable car.
Built in the 6th century, the site of the monastery is where Jesus is said to have spent 40 days and 40 nights fasting. With a few monks still living in the building’s ancient stone walls, you can get a tour of the site from people who continue to live and worship here. Around the site are many caves that monks used to live in, and having a walk around and seeing them for yourself can really paint a picture of what it was like to be a dedicated individual of faith centuries ago in the Holy Land.
3: See the incredible Hisham’s Palace
The first time I visited Hisham’s Palace I was really surprised by how much of this ancient 8th century site was still standing.
Not only that, I was the only person there.
Spread over 60 hectares of desert terrain, Hisham’s Palace is a huge ancient Islamic complex built by Umayyad Caliph Hisham bin Abdul Malek, who ruled an empire that stretched from the Pyrenees mountain range all the way east to India.
The most striking thing for me, is that many of the mosaics remain almost perfectly intact. Unique, ornate and with much of their original colors, they’re a special sight, and give you a taste of just how grand this palace was in its heyday. The ‘Tree of Life’ mosaic, in particular, is worth the visit alone.
Around 5km outside of Jericho city, a private taxi for 10-15 NIS will get you here. You will probably be asked to pay more, but you should feel free to haggle.
4: Visit the Russian Museum
A quirk of Jericho is the Russian Museum that houses finds from excavations in and around Jericho, as well as loan items from museums in Russia.
However the main attraction is probably the impressive and ancient Sycamore tree in the museum gardens.
That may not sound very exciting, but the 2000-year-old tree (that’s correct, two thousand years old) is so old that it was actually first mentioned in the Bible.
So want to go hug a living thing that was mentioned in the Bible, and then have a rather strange party story to tell? Then go hug this tree!
5: The tomb of Moses
Just a few miles outside of Jericho city is what is believed to be the final resting site of one of religion’s most famous figures –Moses.
An important figure in Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, Moses is believed to lie at Nabi Musa, a small settlement on the ancient Islamic pilgrimage route from Jerusalem to Mecca.
Around ten kilometers south of Jericho, in the remote landscape, lies the shrine (pronounced Maqam al-Nabi Musa in Arabic), where Moses’ body is said to lie. Taxi drivers from Jericho will know the spot, and will be happy to take you, and wait as you go inside.
A visit to the coffin, which sits in the small stone shrine, is a surreal experience.
6: Herod’s Palace
Even though Hisham’s Palace is often sparse with tourists, Herod’s Palace is even less well known, and chances are you can wander this archeological marvel for a couple of hours without meeting another soul.
From the second temple period, Herod the Great built his winter palaces in Jericho because of the warm temperatures here during the winter months.
While the archeological remains are worth a visit in themselves, the surroundings that the complex is built on is beautiful, with views stretching out across the biblical landscape.
Another city of Jericho gem that should be visited.
And after all that, you might as well go and relax from your trip around Jericho at the Dead Sea 😉