Discover Jordan's Nature & Cultural Heritage


The Jordan Valley also has profound meaning for religious travelers. The area opposite Jericho has been identified for nearly two millennia as the area where Jesus Christ was baptized by John the Baptist. Stunning archaeological discoveries between the Jordan River and Tell el-Kharrar since 1996 have identified this area as biblical ‘Bethany beyond the Jordan’, where John was living when he baptized Jesus.

Tell el-Kharrar’s other name, Tell Mar Elias (‘St. Elijah’s Hill’), is reminiscent of the Prophet Elijah, who ascended from here to heaven. The hillock is now the focal point of the Baptism Site and is covered with the remains of a Byzantine monastery with churches, large baptism pools and a water storage system. Findings from the early 1st century AD confirm the site was inhabited during the lives of Jesus and John the Baptist.

A 3rd century building with a white mosaic pavement has been called an early Christian “prayer hall” if this identification is correct, this may be one of the earliest Christian prayer facilities identified anywhere in the world. Also identified on Elijah’s Hill is the cave where, according to numerous Byzantine pilgrims’ texts, John the Baptist lived and baptized. The Byzantine church built around the cave, and a built water channel emerging from the cave, have been excavated in the last few years and can be now visited.

Closer to the Jordan River are four other Byzantine churches and large pools with an extensive water system. These facilities were mentioned in texts by Byzantine writers, who linked them with the tradition of Jesus’ baptism.