Recently, a work meeting I attend annually was held in Jerusalem. Since I was getting an all-expenses-paid trip I added a few days to my stay and was able to spend a day exploring three sites near Jerusalem - Masada, Ein Gedi, and the Dead Sea - with Abraham Tours.
Our tour was really just a ride to these places and entrance to the private beach area at the Dead Sea. It was completely self-guided which was actually nice. The driver mentioned a few places as we passed, but once we got to the sites we could do what we wanted until it was time to leave.
After leaving Masada (which you can read about here) we went to Ein Gedi nature reserve and national park. Here's where we were:
According to the Israel Nature and Parks Authority website, "The combination of En Gedi's location and its fresh water sources allow a wide variety of plant and animal species to thrive side by side". Indeed, while it was still very hot outside, the water features of the park seemed like quite the oasis after leaving the dry plateau of Masada.
Ein Gedi is also mentioned in the Bible. Around 1000 BC, En Gedi served as one of the main places of refuge for David as he fled from Saul. More here.
We were only on-site for about 1.5 hours but we made it up Wadi David to David's Fall. You can see a full map of the park here (click for a larger view):
There were numerous waterfalls, dragonflies, and lots of green.
Along the way we saw quite a few Rock Hyrax which are the cutest little rodent-looking creatures (they are actually more closely related to elephants than rodents!).
|Rock Hyrax (Procavia capensis)|
|Nubian Ibex (Capra nubiana)|
Our Dead Sea stop was at Neve Midbar beach. It's a private beach (meaning, you have to pay to get in). They have locker rooms, showers, a bar with refreshments and a little shop where you can buy Dead Sea products. Down by the water there are plastic lawn chairs and umbrellas (which were much appreciated considering the extreme heat!).
We had about1.5 hours at the Sea but you wouldn't want to swim much anyway. The water is almost 10 times saltier than the ocean! Our guide advised us not to get it on our faces (it would burn eyes, nose and mouth). Even my legs which I'd shaved the night before were on fire! But it was cool to float around a bit (it really is effortless) and my colleague got the classic photo reading a newspaper on the Dea Sea.
I also decided to cover myself with Dead Sea mud since I may never return. Good times!
I was very happy with the tour. It was a great way to get out into the Judean desert and see some sites near Jerusalem without much effort on my part.
Check out my Israel Flickr set for more photos from my trip.