Go Take a Hike… In Israel!

Fraidy at the Banias

4 Great Hike Sites in Israel

One of Israel’s unique qualities is that it’s actually a microcosm of the world. In a country roughly the size of New Jersey, you will find very varied terrain and weather patterns. With deserts and mountains just hours from each other, the enthusiastic hiker can enjoy hikes of all kinds during a short trip to Israel.

During my year of seminary in Israel (many, many years ago…) every tiyul [trip] included a hike or two (or three!). Our tour guide always started out with these rules: Make sure you have “kova, mayim, and matzleimah!” – a hat for the dangerously hot Israeli sun, water so you don’t dehydrate, and of course, the most essential item for any trip: a camera. The guide would also suggest we make sure to take extra film, something most of us don’t have to think about any more.

Here are a few of our favorite hikes:

Banias [pronounced Ban-yas]

Banias1

Our first hike of the year was to the Banias Waterfalls in the Golan. It was a nice, easy hike for a bunch of energetic seminary girls, as it’s just 45 minutes to the waterfalls. I enjoyed it again years later, when I returned with my husband and three month old baby.

Banias2

This is a great hike for a family, as members of all ages can enjoy the scenery without getting tired out along the way. It’s also mostly shady, so you don’t have to worry about the hot sun beating down on your back. The waterfalls themselves are not quite Niagara Falls, but are still worth the hike to see!

(By the way… I lost my baseball cap in the area, so if you happen to see a tan cap with a Tommy Hilfiger logo, please leave a comment below.)

Black Canyon

Black CanyonIf your interests lie more in a true test of endurance, try the Black Canyon Hike. It’s an eight hour hike, plus swimming and rappelling in a canyon river. Sounds challenging? Try doing all that while carrying all your supplies for three days strapped to your back.

My brother tackled this hike with his camp, and the reviews were mixed. While some of the guys loved the thrill and the fun, the rest were ready to kill the tour guide by the end of the trek – after they got some food and sleep, of course!

Ein Gedi

Ein Gedi (1)Ein Gedi is one of the most visited places in Israel. It’s a unique oasis between the Judean Desert and the Dead Sea. With hiking routes and trails for every level of competency, you can choose your route based on the type of challenge you seek. When I went to Ein Gedi with my parents, aunt, uncle and cousins, we decided to take the half-hour trek rather than the one-and-a-half-hour route. Somehow, it still took us three hours to get back to the starting point… and we won’t say who it was that kept everyone waiting.

Great for a family trip, Ein Gedi is nature at its best, offering a view of beautiful wildlife, as well as springs and waterfalls to dip into to cool off from the scorching sun. The sun is so hot that you don’t need to bring along a towel – you’ll be dry minutes after you leave the water!

Ein Gedi (2)My uncle discovered that two small waterfalls, situated right next to each other, flowed with water of different temperatures! Turns out, the sun was beating down on one stream of water, turning it hot. The other, in the shade, offered ice cold water. Kind of like a natural shower, with one faucet for hot and the other for cold!

If you are heading to Ein Gedi, make sure to bring water shoes so you can traipse through the water, as well as plenty of drinking water, a hat, and an optional camera. “Kova, Mayim, Matzleimah!”

Yam l’Yam (Sea to Sea)

yam l'yam hikeYam l’Yam is the name of a hike that spans the width of Israel, typically beginning in Nahariya and ending in Tveria. It is a trek of approximately three days, walking from sunup to sundown. That’s nine to thirteen hours each day! Not only is this hike strenuous, it’s also an exercise in mental stamina.

Do not endeavor this trek unless you are healthy and fit! Quality hiking boots are a must – don’t even think about embarking on this trip without them. Hiking all day with painful blisters is not enjoyable. Be prepared to hike through water as well, so bring a few pairs of socks and a variety of shoes to air out your feet air after sloshing through water.

The best time of year for Yam L’Yam is before Passover (usually around March/April time) when the weather is not too hot or rainy. It can rain though, but this should not pose a problem, as long as you are prepared. Tenting is available, but if you don’t want to sleep in a tent there are sleeping quarters that can be rented out, along the way. There are also areas to buy food.

yam l'yam 2Suggested packing list: pain killers (for sore muscles), baby powder (to dry off your feet), blister tape, shoes that are slightly bigger than your normal size (because your feet will swell), and nail clippers. A proper hiking bag that straps around the waist is also essential. And the most important item of all is a proper map that is waterproof.

One adventurous hiker describes it this way: “Yam L’Yam is gorgeous. The views are incredible, and spending three days surrounded by solid, beautiful nature (with lots of cows) does wonders for the mood. What makes this hike really special is that the view keeps changing. You find yourself leaving a forest for a mountainside, or a trail alongside beautiful rivers. There is nothing like three days of solo meditation (and bonding with friends) to get to know the real you, and get closer to G-d!”

Ready to try out any of these hikes? Check out our GoInspire trips that include these activities and more, on our Upcoming Trips page. Or let us know about your own hiking experiences in the comments section below.

Never miss a post! Subscribe to our email list.

3 Comments on Go Take a Hike… In Israel!

  1. Ein Gedi is a great hike! I did it a few summers ago with a bunch of friends, and we had lots of fun. We managed to get sopping wet, but minutes after we got out of the water we were totally dry! It was great to break up the heat of hiking by dipping into water every so often. The scenery is stunning, too. When we got back to the entrance, we bought ice cream bars – yum!

    A tip: take off any expensive jewelry before getting in to the water. One of my friends lost an earring in the water. We all spent a while searching through the rocks at the bottom of the water, and wonder of wonders – we found it! That was our own miracle in Ein Gedi…

  2. Love the post! I think I saw your missing cap on a flagpole somewhere…! 😉

  3. Great article! I did Yam L’yam too and agree 100% with the author.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *