Visitors to Bethany Beyond the Jordan can walk in the footsteps of John the Baptist—where he preached, where he baptized Jesus, and where the first five apostles met. These three events mark the very foundations of Christianity, making this UNESCO World Heritage site in Jordan a must-visit region for modern-day pilgrims.
Situated on the eastern bank of the Jordan River, about 5.5 miles north of the Dead Sea, Bethany Beyond the Jordan consists of two distinct areas: Tell Al-Kharrar, also known as Jabal Mar Elias (Elijah’s Hill) and the area of the churches of Saint John the Baptist near the river. The pristine natural locale includes both Roman and Byzantine remains—including baptismal pools, various houses of worship, a monastery, and caves once inhabited by hermits.
There is significant architectural and historical proof of the area being the actual site where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. Ancient generations of monks, priests, and pilgrims not only visited the site but also lived and worshipped there—with some choosing caves to dwell in. These ancient worshippers (from the 4th–15th century) left behind testimonies of their devotion for present-day pilgrims to contemplate and even helped to inspire future baptismal rituals on the same exact site. Being immersed in the Jordan where the Son of Man was also baptized, is an incomparable experience for Christians.
But Bethany Beyond the Jordan offers even more opportunities for spiritual experiences. When taking a “whirlwind tour” (or longer) of the region, visitors can look up into the sky and imagine what it must have been like for the prophet Elijah to ascend to heaven in a whirlwind. They can also appreciate the preservation of the Zor, the green wilderness along the Jordan River, which has been kept pristine in the spirit of maintaining the original wilderness feeling during the time of Jesus. Maintaining the site’s biblical integrity is just one of the many benefits of the site being designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Also significant about the region is that it’s believed to be the site where Joshua instructed the Israelites to cross the Jordan by following the priests who were transporting the Ark of the Covenant through the river Jordan. In so doing, the priests caused the usually swift waters to stop their flow. “While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firmly on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan” (Joshua 3:17).
The combination of seeing where John the Baptist preached his message of repentance, where the disciples first connected, and where Jesus was baptized—along with the place where Elijah was taken up to Heaven in a fiery chariot—makes visiting Bethany Beyond the Jordan a peaceful and sacred site to visit.
Visit the holy site in Jordan where John the Baptist baptized Jesus, Elijah the Prophet was taken up in a whirlwind in a fiery chariot, and the Israelites crossed over to the Promised Land!