When I heard that the site of Jesus’ baptism was only a 20 minute drive from where I was staying in the Dead Sea, I decided that I needed to see it, despite not being religious (I did grow up Christian). We arranged for our excellent driver to take us to the Baptism site before driving the few hours south to Petra. Since it’s close to the Dead Sea, the baptism site can be visited as day trip from either the Dead Sea or Amman. The entire visit takes about 2 – 2.5 hours, depending on how long you need to wait for the next tour. And, for those looking for information, the site is actually called Bethany Beyond The Jordan. There are signs on the highway leading up to it.
The Jesus Baptism site can only be visited on an official tour with an official guide. As such, the first stop for all tourists is the little visitors center in Bethany Beyond the Jordan. Ticket prices are charged by nationality (I think Jordanian or not) and were inexpensive. We picked up a brochure on our way in, which are in a number of languages. After purchasing our tickets, we waiting for the next tour to start, and, lucky for us, it started about 15 minutes after we arrived. Based on the scheduled listed, pictured below, the tour departs about every 30 minutes. There is plenty of parking at the Visitor’s Center, as well as restrooms and not much else.
The tour starts with a short bus ride (about 10 minutes) from the visitor’s center to the area surrounding the baptism site. The bus ride is short and pretty uneventful. It is also air conditioned. After departing on the bus, patrons walk a few minutes to the first sighting of the Jordan River for pictures! We stayed here for about five minutes, and the guide gave some sort of information. I was more interested in the pretty church in the background.
The second stop is the most important site, the actual Jesus baptism site! And yes, its been verified by many people, including the Pope! Surprising to many, however, the Jordan River no longer runs though this area, so the site is simply a very small bit of water surrounded by a few pillars. There are some modern mosaics near to the site and information regarding the site. I thought this would be a bit more special, but it really wasn’t. Some Spanish ladies on our tour seemed to really enjoy it, video chatting their family to show the site…
The next stop is very close to the Baptism site. It’s the site of an old church that still has some mosaic remnants if you know where to look.
The fourth stop, and my favorite, is the most beautiful Greek Orthodox Church, less than a ten minute walk from the Baptism site. This is officially the St. John the Baptist Church. Guests are welcome to enter the church and take pictures, regardless of religion, and it was really beautiful. Don’t miss the interior! When we visited, one person was selling rosaries and other trinkets, that a few people on our tour purchased to dip in the Jordan River.
The last stop on the tour is a visit to the Jordan River, a very short walk from the Greek Orthodox Church. The Jordan River has a nice set up with a wooden deck leading right up to the river. You can see, and almoooost touch, Israel. Visitors can reach their hands into the Jordan River and there is a bowl of Jordan River water where patrons can have rosaries, etc. blessed. And, don’t be alarmed with the heavily armed soldiers, this is an international border!
And actually, I lied. The final stop is at a gift shop before heading back to the Visitor’s Center. The gift shop was actual good and reasonably priced. It also accepts credit card.
TIPS AND TRICKS FOR VISITING BETHANY BEYOND THE JORDAN
There is no restroom during the entirety of the tour – only at the Visitor’s Center. There is quite a bit of walking on this tour. The land is generally flat but its rocks (not paved) and I think anyone with walking difficulties could have trouble. I recommend brining water and sturdy shoes. Also, people wore whatever – no requirement to have knees and shoulders covered here (though you may feel more comfortable).
STEAL OUR TRIP
Jesus Baptism Site: Bethany Beyond the Jordan. Entrance was about $5 USD. Credit Card accepted. There are toilets and a small stand selling water and soda at the entrance. Guests stop at gift shop at the end of the trip.