Skip to Content

Judean Desert Tour: a 4WD adventure

My Sunday School teacher while I was growing up defined the wilderness as sand, sand and more sand. Most of the year, that’s a fitting definition. But what I experienced on the Judean Desert Tour with Abraham Tours was unlike anything I could have imagined. Of all the Jeep tours Israel has to offer, I’m glad I had the opportunity to go on this one.

The day begins at the hostel in Jerusalem, where you’ll meet your tour guide for the day and load up into 4WD vehicles. (If Liav and Denette are leading your tour, count your lucky stars! You’re in for a fun day!) Say goodbye to Jerusalem as you head south into the Judean desert.

Want to visit Israel with me? Join me on an Eat, Pray and Fall in Love with Israel Tour, February 29-March 9, 2020. 

A Judean Desert Tour: What to expect on a Jeep tour in Israel

Experience Bedouin hospitality

Once you reach the desert, you’ll see camels, sheep and donkeys, makeshift buildings, and the Bedouin people. The nomadic Bedouins are known for their custom of hospitality, and you’ll have the chance to put that to the test.

Bedouin camp in Judean Desert Jeep trip with Abraham Tours

Bedouin camp in Judean Desert

Stop off at a Bedouin camp, where you’ll wade through the scent of 4-legged nature (read: goat poop) to the hospitality tent. Those same animals making the outside air a bit stinky also make a unique yogurt drink that has a flavor similar to liquid Philadelphia cream cheese.

Experience Bedouin hospitality in Judean Desert

Experience Bedouin hospitality on a Judean Desert tour

As you sip, your guide will regale you with stories and customs of the Bedouins. For example, if you take your shoes off at the Bedouin’s tent, it’s a sign to the host that you’d like to stay for three days. You’ll know whether your wish is granted by the way the host serves your coffee. A full cup means his heart is full, and you should drink the coffee and go. A half cup means your request has been granted. The second half cup is the host’s promise to protect you. And the third half cup is his promise to take care of you should illness befall you. On the third day, you’re required to get up and go, with the promise to pay this kindness forward.

I know that it’s biblical for a man to make the coffee. It says right in the Bible that HEBREWS. (Get it?!) Jokes aside, in the Bedouin culture, only the men make the coffee. And the coffee always has the same three characteristics: strong, black and bitter. Strong — like the man. Black — like the night. Bitter— as the life of marriage. A tour group I traveled with years ago unanimously voted to trade me to the Bedouin for a few camels. Sounds like I dodged a bullet when that deal fell through!

Enjoy the view

Remember that “sand, sand, and more sand” definition of the wilderness? That’s true… most of the time. But every once in a while, conditions line up perfectly and the desert comes alive.

Judean Desert wildflowers

Judean Desert wildflowers

Thanks to an especially rainy winter in the desert, much of the area that’s usually sand became a carpet of wildflowers. We stopped to admire the fields of lupines, camomile and anemone flowers of the Judean Desert. Tour through the native wildflowers covering the sandy desert. It’s sure to prompt squeals of excitement from the tourists and tour guides alike.

Field of wildflowers in Judean Desert Jeep trip with Abraham Tours

Field of wildflowers on Judean Desert Jeep trip with Abraham Tours

Stop for a visit to Facebook’s ancient predecessor… the cistern. Throughout history, the cistern was the place where gossip was shared and relationships are strengthened.

Cistern in Judean Desert

Cistern in Judean Desert

Test the Jeep’s limits as you climb to the highest peak in the area. Tradition says that this is the location of the scapegoat’s release into the wilderness as told in Leviticus. “When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness” (Leviticus 16:20-22). I didn’t see any goats up on the hill, but it is a great spot for photos.

Judean Desert Jeep trip with Abraham Tours

Views of the Judean Desert on an Israel Jeep tour

Mar Saba Monastery

The Mar Saba Monastery has roots dating back 1,500 years and is the largest monastery in the Judean Desert and one of the oldest in the world. At its peak, it housed hundreds of monks, but today there are only around 20 monks in this Greek-Orthodox monastery.

Mar Saba Monastery - Judean Desert Jeep trip with Abraham Tours

Mar Saba Monastery – a 1,500-year-old Greek-Orthodox monastery

Established by Saint Sabas (Mar Saba in Arabic) in the 5th century, the monastery began with a few monks living in seclusion in caves. As time went on, the walled complex was built then subsequently destroyed and rebuilt several times. We enjoyed Turkish and Arabic coffee overlooking the beautiful monastery built into the desert. Since women aren’t allowed inside, this was a perfect way to see the monastery.

Drink Arabic coffee while looking out at the Mar Saba Monastery

Drink Arabic coffee while looking out at the Mar Saba Monastery


Lunch isn’t included on this tour, but you can pick up something cheap and delicious at a roadside rest stop. My pita and falafel cost ₪15. I added a ₪15 freshly-squeezed pomegranate juice for a lunch with all my favorite flavors of Israel.

Falafel and pita for lunch

Falafel and pita for lunch

Visit an aqueduct from Kind Herod

Depending on the time of year you visit, the day may include swimming. If you’re visiting in cooler months, donning a swimsuit is a no-go. Instead, you may take a mini-hike to visit a beautiful waterfall.

Chase waterfalls

Chase waterfalls

Along the way, check out the wildflowers and an aqueduct built during King Herod’s time.

King Herod Aqueduct

Aqueduct built by King Herod

The saying “time flies when you’re having fun” rings true here and the tour is over far too soon. Hop into the 4WD for a trip back to Jerusalem and take the less bumpy path this time. Zip up the highway, through the tunnel with the desert behind you and Jerusalem ahead.

Book your Judean Desert Tour for ₪350 today!

Pin this post!

Judean Desert Tour - Abraham Tours' Israel Jeep Tours bring you into the desert

Adventure in the Judean Desert - A Judean Desert Jeep Tour with Abraham Tours