5 compelling reasons to visit Ein Gedi

(Image via Flickr by goldberg)

Situated just inland from the shores of the Dead Sea, Ein Gedi is one of the most visited natural tourist sites in Israel – and deservedly so. An oasis amid the Judean Desert, the Ein Gedi Nature Preserve and National Park flows with streams, waterfalls and pools of water. Depending on how much time you have and how fit you are, you can take a short stroll to the first waterfall, enjoy a leisurely hike to a larger waterfall, or do the full trek that traverses the cliff-tops beyond. 

If you’re wondering whether to take the time to visit Ein Gedi on your next trip to Israel, here are five reasons that should convince you.
1. There are lots of ibex here
How often do you get to see ibex in the wild? Ein Gedi is inhabited by desert animals such as ibex, hyrax and Tristram grackle. As you hike, keep your eyes out for these creatures. If you don’t see any, stop off at the enclosure near the entrance to the park to get a close-up of some ibex. There are only about 500 ibex in the Judean Desert, and these comprise approximately half of the ibex population in Israel.
2. The stream flows uninterrupted
Until a few years ago, the stream here was starting to run dry, the waters having been drawn for the agricultural needs of Kibbutz Ein Gedi. But an agreement between the kibbutz and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority had the kibbutz dismantling its pumping facilities so that the water can again flow at a rate of 25 cubic meters per second.
3. King David traversed these same rocks 
The Book of Samuel tells us that David hid in Ein Gedi when he fled from King Saul, who viewed the younger warrior as a threat to his reign. Saul’s servants searched in the “crags of the ibex” to reveal David’s hiding spot, but David outsmarting his unstable ruler.
4. It’s the best place to rinse off Dead Sea minerals
The fresh waterfalls of Ein Gedi are cool and refreshing in the hot desert and a perfect way to wash off all the sulfur, mud and salts that stick to your skin after a float in the Dead Sea. On a summer’s day, you can visit Ein Gedi in a bathing suit and even in the winter, the weather is often mild enough. Otherwise noteworthy nearby sites include Qumran, Masada and the spas of Ein Bokek.
5. There's an amazing ancient synagogue 
The mosaic floor of a synagogue from Roman-Byzantine times has been excavated at Ein Gedi. The community at Ein Gedi was apparently wealthy, because they cultivated and sold the highly lucrative balsam plant, according to incriptions. You can also see the remains of a street and a Jewish ritual bath here.
Nature and archaeology lovers will want to spend a few days in the Dead Sea area, exploring all that the Judean Desert has to offer. The Kibbutz Ein Gedi Country Hotel is an excellent choice, close to the beach and a complimentary spa. The hotel is surrounded by a botanical garden which features a dizzying array of cacti.