Wadi Dragot, probably the most challenging and spectacular canyon in the Judean Desert
Away from a bustling and never sleeping Tel Aviv and from the prayers rising to the sky from the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, deep in the Judean Desert, winding its way towards The Dead Sea, lies the most scenic and challenging canyon in Israel, Wadi Dragot or Wadi Darga. Nature was particularly generous with the deserts of Israel because for millennia was continuously carving deep hidden valleys, where rapid waterfalls were creating natural pools and high dry falls. Life was thriving in those places and even now a very rich flora and fauna can be found despite the dryness around. Amazingly, this magnificent place is lesser known to travellers since most of Israel tourism is a religious one and not too many dare to search thoroughly the desert. Although lesser known to the foreign tourist seems to be popular among Israelis in search for some adrenaline rush because this particular trail is difficult and spectacular at the same time. I can’t say I knew about it either, but somehow, the choices I made during this trip took me right in the vicinity of this astonishing place.
I wanted to have a hiking trip through the deserts of Israel since I have been there for the fist time and I was visiting the Dead Sea. I do not know what attracted me the most back then. Could have been the fact that it felt like descending into the depths of the Earth. Or maybe the steepness of the surrounding walls which were daring me to come and see their hidden valleys. Or probably the fascinating phenomenon of the Rift Valley that made the formation of the Dead Sea possible. The entire zone is like an open Geology book which seems to reveal in its features the secrets of the Earth.
I came prepared to be amazed but, the entire experience proved to be unexpectedly wonderful.
it was a conscious choice, it was the cheapest and the breakfast included sounded perfect to me. I was not even curious to see where it was or to see the surroundings because I was thinking that I will do it the moment I will be there. Right now I can say it was the perfect choice because it brought me so close to Wadi Dragot
What I did not know back then was that besides being spectacular and difficult Wadi Dragot is one of the five largest canyons 43 km, 200m deep, descending from sea level to minus 400 in a series of falls up to 10 m each.
From that perspective, Metzoke Dragot Hostel was the perfect located. Up on the cliff, overlooking the Dead Sea and the Moab Mountains is close to the wadi and is the ideal lookout for some spectacular sunrises.
My adventure started with a sunrise marking the beginning of discovering of terra incognita. A fascinating land which attracted for millennia so many people with its mysterious beauty.But the beauty of the desert was not the main reason, people were seeing for refuge or to retreat from the world as well, and the desert proved to be the perfect place to do it. My quest, in this case, was to understand the desert by exploring it. I did not know anything about the surroundings but I decided to walk blindingly around and see what I can found. The moment I acknowledge that there are some caves in the vicinity I knew then that this is what I need to see. To some, this might sound strange but to me, it was perfectly normal. I wanted to discover by myself, without any influence, just to let my intuition lead me. Well, the intuition took me to see Wadi Dragot/Nahal Dragot or Wadi Darga
From Metzoke Dragot Hostel, I followed an unpaved road through the desert which according to #GoogleMaps was taking me to some caves. I had absolutely no idea what was I going to find, all I knew, was that whatever I might find it will be perfect.
After 2 km walk, I left the road following a path descending into a deep valley. To me, it seemed like I was entering a spectacular world that I was not aware of its existence. The descent proved not to be an easy one and despite its difficulty, I continued attracted by the beauty of the steep walls surrounding me. I did not know where I was going, only assuming and I decided to continue as much as possible to see what lies ahead of me. What I did not know at that time was that what I was seeing was Wadi Dragot.
The descent was steep and I kept on thinking that what I am descending now I have to climb back later when I return, and it is not going to be an easy one. Despite being aware of trail`s difficulty on m way back, I continued drawn by my curiosity. It was not about caves anymore. I was mesmerised by the beauty of this newly found canyon.
The path was narrow going above the dried river bed, there was such silence and right then nothing else mattered to me. I was totally absorbed by what I was seeing.
After 10 minutes walk a sign showed me that the caves were close. Actually, the cave was few meters above the path. The Murabaa`at caves were discovered by Beduins in 1947 and among other artefacts from Bronze Age, some scrolls were found as well.
The access to the cave is not an easy one, took me three failed attempts to climb till I found the metal rails which are fixed in the rock to facilitate the climbing.
The dry riverbed caught my attention, I was very tempted to continue on it and to try and exit at the Dead Sea. This route is quite difficult though and long, it can take up to 6 hours and I did not have 6 hours for it. Also, it needs to have the right equipment in this case rope because along the path natural pools of water needs to be crossed while rappelling down on walls up to 10 meters high.
The trail is one of the most challenging trails and must be done preferably early Spring, necessitates lots of strength but in the end, it can be rewarding because is really spectacular.
Wadi Dragot is winding its way towards the Dead Sea and its curves hide many challenges. It can be dangerous in the rainy season and ironically the lack of water can kill you as well. If you decide to try this trail in April you need more than 2 litres of water. This is one of the reasons I did not continue my exploration, I haven’t taken enough water with me and the heat was melting me literally. I was craving for some shadow, but I would return any time to do that trail because there are still so many things to be discovered…