Jericho City

The longest continuously inhabited city in the world… the lowest city in the world… Jericho certainly has a lofty reputation to live up to – this lively and energetic city does so spectacularly. The ancient city is located in an oasis in the hot, dry desert, with plenty of quirky sites and attractions for visitors to drink in. But beware, Jericho can also feel like the hottest place on earth, due to the fact that – at 274.02m below sea level – it has its own microclimate. Located just 10km east of Jerusalem, and very close to the Dead Sea, Jericho is one of the most popular destinations in Palestine and has the restaurants, hotels and facilities to cater for it.

Where many Palestinian towns and villages are yet to realise their tourism potential, Jericho is already capitalising on it, and a small fee is charged for almost every site in the city. These range from the spectacular cable car to the top of Mount Temptation to the new and informative Russian museum and gardens, from the Ein as-Sultan spring to the wonderful archaeological remains of Hisham’s Palace. There is an extremely helpful tourist information centre in the central square, where staff will provide maps and details of all the best sites to see.

Jericho’s relative lack of conflict with Israel has cemented its position as a safe and friendly tourist hot spot over the last few decades. Its claim of being ‘the oldest city in the world’ is not hollow; archaeologists have discovered the remains of at least 20 successive settlements dating back as far as 9000 BCE. The city oozes a sense of the ancient; even the sycamore tree in the gardens of the Russian museum is 2,000 years old and earns a mention in the Bible. The Hebrew Bible also refers to Jericho as the ‘City of Palm Trees’, and the current plantations of luscious palms show that this city is determined to hold on to its epic reputation.

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What To Do

Jericho has a wealth of wonderful attractions to offer visitors, who will feel safe and comfortable in this peaceful – if a little ramshackle – city. The best place to begin a trip to the ‘oldest city in the world’ is at the Tourism Office in the central square, where helpful staff will provide a map with the main destinations circled.

The cable car (telepherique) running up to the top of the Mount of Temptation is the stand-out attraction, and the stunning views of luscious Jericho city in the middle of the dry, open landscape are worth the trip alone. On top of the mountain sits the elegant Greek Orthodox Monastery of Temptation, which is cut miraculously into the hillside.

At the bottom of the mountain you will also find the Tell as-Sultan archaeological park, where excavated remains of the ancient settlements of Jericho can be marvelled at.

Next-door to the Old City site is the Ein as-Sultan spring and park, a small leafy oasis which provides much needed respite from the Jericho sun. Staff will show you the spring itself, an ancient water supply which still supplies the whole of Jericho city with icy, clean water from the mountains.

The remains of Hisham’s Palace are the most outstanding archaeological site in Jericho, if not the whole of the West Bank. Consisting of a palace, an ornate bath network and an agricultural estate, there is also a small museum and plenty of information boards keeping visitors informed throughout the site.

Herod’s Palace is much harder to find, and hence much less visited, but it is worth the trip. The original walls and buildings can be explored for free.

Back in the centre of Jericho is the immaculate Russian museum and park, which has information about both the tradition of Russian pilgrims to the Holy Land and the archaeological excavations of the Byzantine church on the site. In the grounds of the museum is the legendary sycamore tree, over 2,000 years old, which is said to be the same tree mentioned in the Bible. It was climbed by Zacchaeus when Jesus was in town, so that he could watch the Son of God away from the crowds on the street.

Finally, the Spanish gardens are a pleasant place to relax in the evenings when the sun is beginning to set, with a central fountain and a cafe selling cold drinks.

Where To Eat

There are plenty of places to eat in Jericho, from formal tourist diners to classic Palestinian restaurants serving up vast quantities of shawarma, roast chicken, hummus, falafel and salads. There is a cafe at the top of the Mount of Temptation, and also a restaurant in the Ein as-Sultan spring park.

Where To Stay

There is a range of accommodation available in Jericho city, from hotels to youth hostels.